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The Thrifty Car Rental Holiday Bowl is one of three bowls being considered as the fourth bowl in an alliance involving the Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls.

The other two vying for the coveted fourth spot are the Florida Citrus and Fiesta.Holiday Bowl Executive Director John Reid said Thursday afternoon that the San Diego-based bowl is probably a longshot "because of the payout involved. they want a $3 million payout (per team)," he said. The Holiday Bowl now pays out $1.2 million per team.

The Florida Citrus is probably the frontrunner and Reid said he'd heard the Citrus Bowl was confident it could come up with a plan to guarantee the $3 million. The Fiesta Bowl lost its sponsor - Sunkist - and became mired in controversy last year over the rejection by Arizona voters of the Martin Luther King holiday.

Reid said talks are ongoing with the other bowls and ESPN (which televises the Holiday Bowl) and Thrifty Car Rental about the proposal.

The impetus of the alliance is a result of pressure to avoid a national playoff system and come up with a championship game based on the existing bowl structure.

Reid believes poor pairings in some major bowls last year - like Virginia-Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl - spurred action this year. If the alliance is agreed to, it would go into effect with the 1992 bowls.

The Orange, Sugar and Cotton bowls have agreed to form an alliance involving Notre Dame and the Atlantic Coast and Big East conferences.

"We are all intent on moving forward with due diligent speed," Harper Davidson, Orange Bowl president, told the Associated Press Thursday. "We've got this thing this far. We want to do everything correctly. We're all on the same track. We want all this resolved."

The proposal matches the highest-ranked team from among the ACC (which now includes Florida State) and Big East (which now includes Miami) champions and Notre Dame against the top-ranked conference champions from the Southwest in the Cotton Bowl, the Southeastern in the Sugar Bowl and the Big Eight in the Orange Bowl.

The second- and third-ranked teams from each of the two groups would match accordingly.

The fourth bowl also would be part of the coalition and would invite two at-large teams, allowing the alliance to cover most national championship possibilities (although if the Holiday Bowl is involved the Western Athletic Conference champion would be part of the mix since by contract the WAC champion goes to the Holiday bowl).

Davidson said the identity of the fourth bowl is "the biggest hurdle or issue we have left to determine."

Davidson said the coalition also is making sure that if a proposal is drawn up, it is legally sound.