UL’s football team will continue its association with the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl for a second straight year — if they win their home finale Saturday — and the official announcement may come as early as Saturday night.
Multiple media reports on Wednesday indicated a repeat trip to the Crescent City is in the works for the Ragin’ Cajuns, who are 6-4 heading into their home finale Saturday against South Alabama at Cajun Field.
Meanwhile, a source with knowledge of the situation said that New Orleans Bowl officials have discussed the possibility of the official bid being awarded following Saturday’s 4 p.m. game, should the Cajuns defeat the Jaguars.
UL Athletics Director Scott Farmer will neither confirm nor deny that a bid is imminent, but then rolls out a scenario — one that was reportedly discussed in Tuesday meetings and phone conversations with UL President E. Joseph Savoie and Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson — that would have the Cajuns returning to the Crescent City for a second straight year. The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl is scheduled for Dec. 22 at 11 a.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I’d love to talk to whoever’s ready to extend that bid,” Farmer jokes.
But Farmer did say he had responded affirmatively when Benson asked him about accepting a bowl bid without knowing the opponent — much like the Cajuns did last year when they were publicly invited to the New Orleans Bowl well before eventual opponent San Diego State. Farmer reportedly spoke with Benson about the possibility of announcing a bowl bid, presumably in New Orleans, on Monday of next week.
“We’d like to have as much time as possible to sell tickets,” Farmer says. “It takes time to physically sell 20,000 tickets, and having that extra week would be a big help with that.”
UL sold 18,862 tickets through the Cajuns’ ticket office for last year’s New Orleans Bowl, by far the highest total by any school in the game’s history. Last year’s game, which the Cajuns won 32-30 on Brett Baer’s 50-yard field goal at the final horn, drew 42,481 fans, topping the game’s previous attendance record by 12,253.
Last year, the bowl extended its official invitation to the Cajuns on the Monday before a season-ending Nov. 26 non-conference game at Arizona. This year, UL plays a conference road game to end the season, on Dec. 1 at Florida Atlantic after Saturday’s home finale.
Unless Troy upsets Middle Tennessee this Saturday, the Sun Belt champion will be determined on that same Dec. 1 date when Middle Tennessee travels to face Arkansas State. Both teams have one conference loss this year.
Farmer’s scenario — barring a Troy upset this week — has the MTSU-ASU winner going to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against the contracted Conference USA champion, giving that game two conference champions. The Liberty is slotted for the No. 8 or 9 team from the SEC, but that spot will likely not be filled unless Ole Miss (5-6) beats Mississippi State in Saturday night’s Egg Bowl game.
“That’s two teams, one of them an hour and a half away and the other 3 1/2 hours away,” Farmer says of the Liberty Bowl inviting ASU or MTSU.
Farmer had the MTSU-ASU loser slotted into the Mobile-based GoDaddy.com Bowl, which has a contracted tie-in with the Sun Belt. “I think they’d take either one of those in a heartbeat,” he says.
That would seemingly open New Orleans for the Ragin’ Cajuns, just like last year when UL finished third in the Sun Belt race.
“We have to win first,” Farmer adds, “but that gets teams in bowls that fans could easily travel to. If that’s what happens, we’d certainly like as much time as possible to sell tickets.”