Friday, May 21, 1999

C-USA, Mountain West champs to play in Liberty Bowl

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Conference USA football champion now has a postseason date with the champion of the new Mountain West Conference in the AXA/Equitable Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

        This year's game will be played 5 p.m. Dec. 31 and televised live on ESPN. The payout: $1.2 million for each team, plus the Equitable Foundation will donate $1,000 to the general scholarship fund of each of the winning team's league members.

        The University of Cincinnati is a member of Conference USA.

        “I think overall it's a credible move for the conference and the champion of the Liberty Bowl because it pits us against another champion, and that's good,” UC football coach Rick Minter said. “It makes it a more marketable game.”

        Last year, the C-USA winner (Tulane) met an at-large team in the Liberty Bowl. That turned out to be Brigham Young, which won the Western Athletic Conference Pacific Divi sion but was the No.2 team overall in the league.

        The previous two seasons, the C-USA champion met a team from the Big East — fourth-place Pittsburgh in 1997 and tri-champion Syracuse in 1998.

        The Mountain West Conference consists of Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah and Wyoming.

        “We have not even played a football game, we've not had our first kickoff and to be in a prestigious bowl like the Equitable Liberty Bowl ... we're just thrilled to death,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Thursday.

        The new league has a three-year deal with the Liberty Bowl, and C-USA has three years remaining on its contract.

        Conference USA is aligned with three bowl games: The Liberty (first-place team), the new Mobile, Ala., Bowl (second place) and the Humanitarian Bowl (at-large).

        “It puts us in a strong position, I believe, to become part of the BCS (Bowl Championship Series),” said Terry Little, vice president of the Equitable Group. “It's just a win-win for everybody.”

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