Jan. 2, 2007
MIAMI (AP) - Reaching the Orange Bowl was just the first step for Louisville's Bobby Petrino and Wake Forest's Jim Grobe. The new goal is getting back here.
Both coaches said in the days leading up to Tuesday night's game - the first Bowl Championship Series appearance for either school - that it would mark the beginning, not the ending, of the construction of their programs.
"I'm not sure that we can actually tell what it means for our future," Grobe said. "I think it certainly bodes well. We've never had a problem selling Wake Forest. We've got one of the best schools in the country. I don't know that we've ever lost a parent in recruiting. Moms and dads want their kids to come to Wake Forest.
"The problem for us has always been selling football, that kids can come to Wake Forest and do all the things they dream about on the football field," he added, "and I think now that we've won an ACC championship and we're in the Orange Bowl, that's going to be obviously a much easier sell."
Petrino's Cardinals have been considered one of the Big East's premier programs ever since they joined the revamped league two seasons ago.
"I certainly believe we have the respect that we've been trying to earn now for the last two years," Petrino said.
THE KING AND THE GREATEST: In a game lacking any real star power, two of the sports world's iconic figures gave the pregame festivities a much-needed jolt.
Golf legend Arnold Palmer, a Wake Forest graduate, and former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, a Louisville native, served as honorary captains along with Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.
Palmer and Ali were driven out to midfield in golf carts, with the two greats exchanging handshakes. Wade then supported Ali, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, during the coin flip.
Ali shook noticeably but remained on his feet during the ceremony while the crowd chanted his name and camera lights flashed all over the stadium.
NO COMMISH: Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese hasn't been able to enjoy his conference's outstanding bowl season.
Tranghese has been sick and has stayed in his Rhode Island home, according to Big East associate commissioner John Paquette.
The way the Big East is playing so far this bowl season - the conference was 3-0 heading into the Orange Bowl - maybe Tranghese should spend the holidays at home every year.
"We may be starting a new tradition," Paquette said with a laugh.
FEELING AT HOME: Petrino said during the week that he wanted Louisville supporters to make it feel like a home game for the Cardinals, and the fans obliged by creating a large sea of red-and-white in the stands.
Louisville sold over 35,000 tickets - double its allotment - and easily won the pregame cheering contest. Petrino hoped the friendly environment would remind his players of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, where the Cardinals have won 18 straight, the second-longest streak in the country.
Wake Forest, one of the smallest schools in NCAA Division I-A, acquitted itself nicely. The Demon Deacons sold their allotment of 17,500 tickets, not bad for a school with an undergraduate enrollment of around 4,000.
Still, despite being classified as a sellout, there were plenty of empty orange seats in the upper deck in the moments after kickoff. A soggy afternoon had some fans in the parking lot wearing plastic bags as protective covering.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Miami contributed to this report.