Location: The Batter Up Pancake House in Fresno, California.
Date: Saturday morning, December 4, 2010 around 9:00am.
Scenario: Jim McVay, Chief Executive for the Outback Bowl selection committee, Rick Catlett, President of the Gator Bowl, and John Junker of the Insight Bowl are in town to watch Illinois play its final game of the season against Fresno State.
[sitting in a booth ordering breakfast all alone is Rick Catlett of the Gator Bowl]
Rick Catlett: ...I'll have a Cuban coffee and a Hispanic Omelet...that is what they call it out here, right?
[John Junker of the Insight and Fiesta Bowl Executive Committee interupts]
John Junker: ...Mexican Omelet. Don't be a damn fool Rick.
Rick Catlett: Well if it isn't John Junker. I wondered if I might see you this weekend.
John Junker: Well, didn't want to come to be honest with ya. But the pancakes at this place will knock the pants off a hobo. They call it a Mexican Omelet Jim. They call it that everywhere. I'm darn sure.
Sweetheart, I'll have that Berry Happy to Meet Ya Stack and a steak. Cook it rare if you please. Oh, and a tall icy tomato juice with a lime or a lemon. Whichever suits ya. And I'd be tickled if you could find me some Tabasco and a pepper shaker? Thank ya kindly.
Rick Catlett: All you need is some...
John Junker: Got it right here.
[pats his jacket vest pocket]
Polish and potato. An ‘ol boy I met in Tucson used to do a fair bit of business in Czechoslovakia and he swore there ain't no hangover if the stuff is made from potatoes and he told me the best taters are in Poland. I've been doing it that way ever since.
[up walks Jim McVay of the Outback Bowl]
Jim McVay: Now, I would never waste bad vodka on a gator.
Rick Catlett: Funny Jim.
Jim McVay: John, how's the steak here?
John Junker: I'm sure it's fine but I'd focus on the pancakes here Jim.
Jim McVay: Gotta have a steak. I do believe it's in the contract.
John Junker: Well, I'll be. Now why would the Outback Bowl be in Fresno? Did the Big Ten set you up to this? Otherwise, it makes no sense for the 'ol boy with first choice.
Jim McVay: Makes a ton of sense if you like a big fat Cab and a rare steak at a 3-star Michelin in the Diamond District. I'm driving to wine country after the game to meet Sir Outback. He's got a house there. We've got a lot to consider.
John Junker: I'd say not. Let me give you some advice son. Take those Paterno boys. This might be it.
Rick Catlett: He said he's coming back Junker.
John Junker: Son, this is college football. We may have a playoff next year. You'd be wise to live with a sense of urgency. Ain't no guarantees in this business, never has been and especially these damn days. Hell, TCU just joined the Big Goddamn East. That make any sense to you? South Florida, UConn and TCU all in one conference? Course it don't. I'd take Paterno in a Tokyo minute, and if you get feisty and not fruity Paterno at the press conference, then you'll get the ratings you want, and their fans always travel. I love them boys, you invite them and then just sit back and count the do re me.
Rick Catlett: Funny, I thought you would've suggested Iowa.
John Junker: I love Iowa just fine. Fans travel like hell and they'll drink them some beer and they're always in for seconds on nachos. Tons of ‘em in the Canyon State too, but this ain't about me. This is about Jim's decision now isn't it?
Jim McVay: We like Penn State a lot. They're on the table. Of course they are. But if we get ‘Bama we're not going the rematch route.
John Junker: Alabamie? Ha! You got a better chance of seeing that Newton boy on a Wheaties box than gettin a hold of them. Now, you might get you some cock!
[laughs, then laughs again]
Rick Catlett: Yeah McVey, didn't you have cock a couple of years ago? Not enough for you?
Jim McVay: Real funny gentlemen. I would be fine with the ‘Ol Ball Coach. He's got a really nice team this year. I think they might win this weekend too. Maybe you're right about Bama. Maybe they go Cap One or Cotton Bowl. We'll see.
Rick Catlett: Junker, you got any interest, serious interest, in the Illini?
John Junker: Not really. To be real honest with ya, this here is just a good will trip. Don't want any team thinking we don't respect ‘em. Never know, next year Illinois could be this year's Michigan State. To be honest with ya, we're looking at Michigan. Not exactly sure why, but we are all the same.
Rick Catlett: Don't get too attached.
John Junker: I figured as much. But let me warn ya, they're a wild card. Could be a home run, could be a pop out. If I were picking in your spot, I'd get me something a bit more predictable-I'd get me a Hawkeye. Better bet, better fans, better team really.
Rick Catlett: Yeah? Michigan's the winningest team in history. That not reliable enough for you?
John Junker: Well, first off, that Rodriguez fella better not buy any green bananas. He was quoting Bible verses and Josh Groban lyrics at his team banquet. So I think it's a matter of days, if not hours. Then you got yourself a search and, well, I don't particularly like invitin any teams in turmoil, transition or confusion. Takes away from the marketing of the game. Yep, that there team is a clusterfuck I believe. Pardon my Spanglish.
Rick Catlett: Then why on earth are you looking at them?
John Junker: I got a sick sense of humor.
Well, I run the Fiesta too as you may recall and we'll need them boys once they get a real coach. So call it a mission of mercy.
Jim McVay: It sounds like a mission of deception to me. Reactance psychology to be precise. Rick, I think Junker wants the Wolverines and I get it. I really do. Believe it or not, they're on the table for us as well. They had good TV ratings this year. They're down about the coach up there but you've got to figure that fan base is starved for a bowl game. It's been a few years. Large alumni base too.
Rick Catlett: So McVay, you'd take Michigan over Iowa or Penn State then?
Jim McVay: Maybe.
Rick Catlett: And Junker? Who you taking?
John Junker: Well ain't that precious? You know we select after you boys.
Rick Catlett: Oh, right.
Well, Michigan is interesting and I'm serious about that. If Rodriguez gets a vote of confidence and hires a new defensive coordinator or just dumps the one he has, that fan base might be plenty energized. Robinson is a local draw. That is a young team and...shit, who am I kidding. We're taking Iowa or Penn State. We need the money. This is the worst economy in Jacksonville is 35 years.
John Junker: What in tarnation is reactance psychology?
Jim McVay: It's a fancy way of saying "reverse psychology."
John Junker: Wouldn't know about that stuff. Sent my middle boy to a couch doctor, and he came back a sissy. So I don't really like that stuff. But since you're using science and all, I guess you know why I'm really in Fresno then?
[waves down the waitress]
Sweetheart, I'd love me another one of them tomato juices with the lemon.
Jim McVay: Junker, you've been doing this too long. I gotta go rent a car.
Rick Catlett: Junker, all I can say is thank God we select before you do.
John Junker: Boys, good news! I got some Polish vodka left. But only for one of you.