Big East gets a four-year bowl bid

It didn’t take long for a Bowl game to come USF’s way. Just weeks after being officially inducted into the Big East, a first-of-its-kind collaboration has made a difference — a beneficial one — to the new league of the Bulls.

The Big East and Big 12 Conferences, along with the University of Notre Dame, announced Thursday they have created a partnership that assures a bowl bid for the teams in those conferences that will be held in cooperation with the Toyota Gator Bowl and the Vitalis Sun Bowl over a four-year period.

“The Big East Conference has a consistent and successful history of being unique and entrepreneurial,” Big East commissioner Michael Tranghese said in a statement. “This bowl partnership concept is the latest example of that innovation and illustrates the efforts of our membership to provide our fans with an expanded postseason bowl menu. This group of five — Big East Conference, Big 12 Conference, University of Notre Dame, Toyota Gator Bowl and Vitalis Sun Bowl — had the foresight to realize that we could accomplish more collectively than we could as individual entities, a trend that I think is clearly good for the future of college athletics.”

The Toyota Gator Bowl will continue to be played on New Year’s Day in Jacksonville, while the Vitalis Sun Bowl will again be played on New Year’s Eve in El Paso, Texas and televised by CBS. The specifics of team selection are still being discussed.

The proposed plan will give the Gator Bowl the option of taking the Big East’s No. 2 team or the Big 12’s No. 3 team, while the ACC will select the opponent, as will Pac-10 Conference, for the Sun Bowl.

The new deal is a structured plan to avoid repetitive match-ups, as each conference will have two bids each for the Gator and Sun Bowls over the next four years.

“Texas just finished playing in the Holiday Bowl for the third time in four years, and we had West Virginia back-to-back, and it’s just nuts to do that,” Gator Bowl President Rick Catlett told the Associated Press. “It’s an attempt to put new teams in and to create match-ups beneficial to the games and for the fans.”

Notre Dame, as an independent team, would pool itself from the Big East selections and not interfere with the Big 12’s decision.

John Heisler, Notre Dame’s senior associate athletic director, told the AP, “We want to make sure that we’ve got a home in any year we’re not in a BCS game. We want to make sure we have a place to go that makes sense.”

The agreement, which is pending the approval of the Big 12 board of directors, begins in the 2006 regular season.