Monday, Dec. 21, 1998 | 11:24 a.m.
Inviting San Diego State and North Carolina to Las Vegas Bowl VII turned out to be a win-win situation for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Or was it a wind-wind situation?
Despite playing the game with strong winds howling between 43 and 47 mph, San Diego State made good on its promise to bring about 10,000 fans to the game. And Ron Curry-led North Carolina, which took home a sloppy 20-13 victory, gave the game a much-needed national flavor.
And for the second year in a row, Las Vegas made a very positive impression on a newcomer from a major conference.
A year earlier, Oregon went home very satisfied following its 41-13 victory over Air Force and conveyed those pleasant memories to its Pac-10 Conference brethren, many of whom have had their fill of week-long stays in places like El Paso.
So although the wind-chilled crowd was announced at just 21,429 at Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas Bowl VII Executive Director Rossi Ralenkotter had plenty of reason to smile after this one.
"It's been really great," Ralenkotter, who is also vice president of marketing for LVCVA, said.
"We're really impressed with the turnout of San Diego State and North Carolina. ... ESPN has indicated to us that it's a good east-west matchup, so we're looking for good television numbers, too.
"Last year with the Pac-10, Oregon came in and all year talked about the game and the experience they had in Las Vegas to all the other schools in the conference," Ralenkotter said.
"The same thing is going to happen to the ACC now. We've gotten great comments back from the administration and the fans and the players about their experience here. This game is really building momentum now."
Ralenkotter wasn't blowing smoke. North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour, whose school was playing in its seventh consecutive bowl game, called the Las Vegas Bowl "as good as any bowl we've been too."
Asked if he would recommend the Las Vegas Bowl to other ACC schools who had a chance to attend, Baddour replied, "Absolutely. We would encourage it. We would recommend it favorably to anybody."
Baddour said the only possible drawback to the Las Vegas Bowl could be its early pre-Christmas date, which could conflict with final exams at some schools.
"We got a good break on that," he said. "But I like the four days (the teams are in town), I like the fact that we could come in and get done what we needed to do, and also the fact we could get the kids home for Christmas.
"(The LVCVA) did a great job," Baddour continued. "They were very hospitable. I know our guys really enjoyed it. I thought the (Friday) luncheon was especially well done and well organized and created a lot of excitement for the game."
So where does the bowl go from here?
"We still have one more year left (with the WAC) on the contract," Ralenkotter said.
"There's a clause in there that if the conference broke up in any way that we'd renegotiate. That's what we're doing right now. In addition, we've had some discussions with the Mountain West Conference (which UNLV joins next fall) about future involvement, possibly starting in 1999.
"We've also had discussions with some other conferences. So we think the future of the game is very bright."
Ralenkotter said among the future options the Las Vegas Bowl Committee is considering are the possibilities of boosting the per-team payout from the current $800,000 and also moving the game back later in the bowl season.
"There's been some discussion about (larger payouts)," Ralenkotter said.
"We've also had some discussions with ESPN about the date and placing it on ESPN vs. ESPN2. We're looking at the full bowl calendar. In our negotiations with some of the other conferences, there has been an indication about timing because of final exams and so forth. We've been talking with hotel properties about different dates and how they'd work. We're really going to reassess everything at the first of the year.
"This has been a great, great game for us. The amount of national exposure (for Las Vegas) has been very good. It really is accomplishing what we want to achieve as far as marketing Las Vegas."
NOTES: Curry more than lived up to his billing as the nation's top prep football prospect of 1997, earning game offensive MVP honors. The 6-2, 200-pound freshman quarterback from Hampton, Va., played just three series on offense as senior Oscar Davenport started the game at quarterback. But Curry made the most of his time on the field, rushing for a game-high 93 yards on 10 carries, including a spectacular 48-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first quarter that put the Tar Heels ahead to stay, 12-7. But Curry's biggest play may have been a touchdown-saving tackle on San Diego State linebacker Joseph Tuipala at the Carolina 22 with 1:24 left following a fumble by Tar Heel running back Anthony Saunders. "Curry got me," Tuipala, the game's defensive MVP, said. "He was just there. I hoped that I could run through him but he made the tackle." ... San Diego State coach Ted Tollner on Curry: "He's as good an athlete as any I've seen. His change of direction and acceleration is top of the line." ... Both teams finished the season with 7-5 records.