BERKELEY — The Emerald Bowl wants Cal. The question is whether the Bears want the Emerald Bowl.
There are signs that Cal's players would prefer a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl over the prospect of playing in a game just across the Bay Bridge. The Emerald Bowl is at AT&T Park on Dec. 27.
The Bears are in fourth place in the Pac-10 with one game remaining. They can finish no worse than in a tie for fourth.
The Las Vegas Bowl and Emerald Bowl share the No. 4 and No. 5 finishers in the conference, with the first pick trading off each year. The Las Vegas Bowl has the first choice this year, but Emerald Bowl executive director Gary Cavalli has been working with Las Vegas officials to ensure Cal plays in San Francisco.
Las Vegas Bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said Tuesday that she and Cavalli are "pretty close to coming to some agreement."
"I totally understand why he'd like to have Cal at his place," Kunzer-Murphy said. "We had a great time when Cal was down here (in 2005). They've always been in our sights, if they're around the fourth or fifth spot. We just think the world of them. But I understand the economics of things."
Several Cal players feel that it would be a better bowl experience to travel to a new location rather than play in San Francisco. If the Bears do play in the Emerald Bowl, they will stay in a San Francisco hotel but practice at Memorial Stadium.
"A lot of us want to go to the Vegas Bowl," Cal wide receiver Jeremy Ross said. "That's kind of the talk right now, going to the Vegas Bowl. Vegas has been the talk of the town."
Ross said some Cal players were rooting for Oregon to beat Oregon State on Saturday, which actually dropped the Bears from third to fourth in the conference standings but also knocked them out of the Holiday Bowl, which is played in San Diego.
"I know a lot of people wanted to be higher up and possibly go to the Holiday Bowl," he said. "But a lot of people wanted to go to Vegas as well. A lot of people weren't too disappointed. I'm not going to lie to you."
While linebacker Zack Follett said he'd be fine going to the Emerald Bowl, he did lament the fact that the Bears wouldn't be changing venues to hold practices.
"The worst thing about it is we're going to stay in one place to practice the whole time," he said. "It's going to be like a month of camp again. You usually go somewhere else and practice for a week."
Cal coach Jeff Tedford said it would be convenient for the Bears to be able to practice at home, and added that school administrators and the Emerald Bowl would do everything possible to make sure the players had a memorable experience.
"If we do stay home, I know we'll make it a good experience for them," Tedford said. "They'll stay in the city, they'll stay in the hotel. It will feel like a bowl game to them."
The Bears still have to wrap up the regular season first, and they have to do so by making sure they don't sleepwalk against Washington, which enters the game 0-11.
The Huskies are in danger of becoming the first Pac-10 team to go 0-12, and coach Tyrone Willingham, who already has been fired, will be coaching his last game.
"They will be very motivated," Tedford said. "They will be hungry."
Note: Center Alex Mack, fullback Zach Smith, left guard Mark Boskovich and linebacker Mike Mohamed were named Pac-10 All-Academic first team. Left tackle Mitchell Schwartz and fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou earned honorable mention.
Contact Jonathan Okanes at firstname.lastname@example.org.