NEW YORK, NY -- Oklahoma could have been playing Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl if an agreement between the teams, their conferences and the Orange and Fiesta bowls had been approved by BCS officials, according to an SI.com report.
The Sooners, the champs of the Big 12, are set to play Big East champion West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, their second consecutive trip to the Bowl Championship Series game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
The Orange Bowl will match Virginia Tech, the Atlantic Coast Conference champions, and Kansas out of the Big 12 on Jan. 2 in Miami.
There's a clause in the BCS bylaws - which has never been invoked - that allows the commissioners to "adjust the pairings ... after the completion of the selection process."
Among the factors that can be considered are "whether the same team will be playing in the same bowl game for two consecutive years" (Oklahoma played Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl) and "whether alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans."
SI.com reported late Monday night that Oklahoma athletic director Joseph Castiglione contacted Fiesta Bowl officials after the Sooners won the Big 12 title on Dec. 1 about the possibility of using that clause to get OU matched up against the highest-ranked team available.
"If we weren't going to be in the 1 vs. 2 game, we wanted to know if there was a possibility to play the highest-ranked team out there," Castiglione told SI.com. "At that point, we didn't know which team that would be."
The Sooners finished third in the BCS standings behind Ohio State and LSU. The Buckeyes and Tigers will play in New Orleans on Jan. 7 in the BCS national championship. Virginia Tech was fourth.
The ACC champ is contractually committed to play in the Orange Bowl if it does not qualify for the championship game. The Big 12 champion is tied to the Fiesta Bowl.
According to SI.com, after the pairings were set on Dec. 2, but before they were made public, the Orange and Fiesta bowls agreed to swap Kansas and Oklahoma, with the approval of all the teams and leagues involved in those two games.
The alterations failed to gain approval from all the conference commissioners who oversee the BCS and the original pairings remained.
"There was a lengthy discussion, I made my case for it, and others made a case against it. It didn't prevail," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe told SI.com. "I don't necessarily agree, but I respect the views of those who were against it."
Southeastern Conference commissioner and BCS coordinator Mike Slive told SI.com, "There weren't such compelling circumstances as to merit a change."