It’s official.

The formal announcement comes Monday evening, but UL officials confirmed Saturday night that the Ragin’ Cajun football squad will officially accept a bid to the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

A media advisory sent out Saturday evening during the Beryl Shipley Classic basketball tournament at the Cajundome said that UL will hold a bowl invitation pep rally at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the indoor practice facility in the athletic complex.

“It’s a tremendous day for the Ragin’ Cajuns and our football program,” says director of athletics Scott Farmer. “I think it’s one of the biggest days in the history of our athletic department.”

The New Orleans Bowl, which will have a Louisiana team playing for the first time in the event’s 11-year history, is slated for Saturday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The bid extension became a formality late Saturday afternoon when Arkansas State finished off a 45-19 victory over Middle Tennessee. The Red Wolves locked up no worse than a share of the Sun Belt Conference title with the win, which improved ASU to 7-0 in league play and 9-2 overall.

Shortly after that game, the Red Wolves accepted an invitation to the Bowl scheduled Jan. 8 in Mobile, Ala. The conference’s agreement with the New Orleans and GoDaddy bowls requires the league champion to be accommodated in a bowl game before any other invitations are extended.

Ironically, ASU’s last bowl-game appearance was in Lafayette, when the 2005 New Orleans Bowl was moved from the Superdome to Cajun Field in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Farmer said the UL ticket staff had already received nearly 6,000 reservations for bowl-game tickets, and those making reservations will begin receiving ticket confirmations on Monday. The announcement of official sale of New Orleans Bowl tickets through the UL ticket office is expected Sunday or Monday morning.

All fans are invited to take part in Monday’s bowl-invitation pep rally. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and a season highlight video will be shown just after 5:30 p.m. Farmer and UL president Dr. E. Joseph Savoie will speak just prior to the official invitation at 6:05 p.m., and Cajun coach Mark Hudspeth will speak immediately after the invitation.

The Cajuns are 8-3 heading into a non-conference season finale at Arizona Saturday. UL will be making its first-ever Division I bowl appearance and its first in any kind of postseason game since the 1970 Grantland Rice Bowl when the Cajuns were playing in the NCAA’s College Division.

“This is really a testament to the fans who have been with us for 41 years,” Farmer says. “It’s been so long, and a lot of people out there have put a lot of sweat and tears into making this a reality.”

The Cajuns will face a Conference USA team in the New Orleans Bowl — if one is available. C-USA has six bowl bids — the Liberty Bowl for its league champion along with the New Orleans, Ticket City, Armed Forces, Hawaii and St. Petersburg bowls — and has only four bowl-eligible teams entering Saturday’s night games.

Three others could become bowl-eligible depending on next weekend’s results, but C-USA member Houston could still qualify for a BCS bowl game if the Cougars finish off a perfect 12-0 season at Tulsa on Friday. If that happens, C-USA would wind up with seven bowl spots and may not have enough tams to fill those obligations, leaving at least one of those bowls open to an at-large selection.

“We’re just excited to be playing in a bowl game,” Farmer said. “We’ll line up and play whoever’s on the other sideline.”

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