A very sunny deal

Cincinnati denied USF a berth in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl. by beating East Carolina in the final week of the season, but the Bulls might not be as unlucky this year. At the very least, two Bulls’ fans will be spending Christmas in Honolulu.

USF announced a partnership in conjunction with ESPN on Tuesday to promote the 2003 Hawaii Bowl sponsored by Sheraton Hotels. USF will promote the game on its TV and radio networks, while Sheraton will provide a five-night stay for the game and round-trip airfare for two on Continental Airlines. ConAgra Foods sponsored last year’s game when Tulane beat Hawaii. Sheraton became the bowl’s sponsor in August.

“What we did was contact all the Conference USA teams, knowing that one of them will come to Hawaii,” said Cynthia Rankin, director of public relations for Sheraton Hotels in Waikiki. “We offered to give them a trip to Hawaii, and they sent us proposals on how they would promote the game.”

Fans can sign up to win the trip at the USF Marketing & Promotions tent at the south patio of Raymond James Stadium when USF plays its final home game against UAB on Nov. 22. The Blazers are one of four other C-USA schools, including TCU, Louisville and Tulane, sponsoring similar contests.

ESPN Regional, which has a branch on campus, helped in part to negotiate the deal. ESPN Regional also owns and operates the Hawaii Bowl, selecting the teams that will appear in the game. The C-USA champion is bound to the Liberty Bowl against the Mountain West champion, while the league’s runner-up plays in the GMAC Bowl against the No. 2 team from the Mid-American Conference. The Hawaii Bowl, Fort Worth Bowl and New Orleans Bowl get the No. 3-5 teams with a preference given to location.

As of Monday, all four of ESPN.com’s experts have USF going to a bowl game. Two of them have USF pegged for the GMAC Bowl against Bowling Green, which the Bulls beat 29-7 at Raymond James Stadium a year ago. USF sits third in C-USA at 4-2, behind the two teams in the league it lost to — TCU (9-0, 6-0 in C-USA) and Southern Miss (6-3, 5-0). One other prediction has USF in the Fort Worth Bowl opposite Kansas, while the last one slots the Bulls in New Orleans playing North Texas, the Sun Belt champion.

In order to make a bowl USF must win versus UAB, and defeat Memphis on the road Nov. 29.