March 14, 2006
When the next four-year Bowl Championship Series football contract comes into play starting with the 2006 season, the University of Notre Dame will have the opportunity to play one time each during that four-year window in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, the Toyota Gator Bowl, the Vitalis Sun Bowl and the Houston Bowl.
These options, which cover the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons, are based in part on BIG EAST Conference relationships with the Toyota Gator Bowl, the Vitalis Sun Bowl and the Houston Bowl. For those four years, Notre Dame continues as part of the BIG EAST's secondary bowl package for those seasons in which it is not selected for a BCS game.
On that basis, Notre Dame most recently played in the Toyota Gator Bowl following the 1998 and 2002 seasons and in the Insight Bowl (in Phoenix, Ariz.) following the 2004 season.
The Toyota Gator Bowl, played on New Year's Day in Jacksonville, Fla., features an Atlantic Coast Conference squad as the host team that twice in four years will face a Big 12 Conference opponent and twice will meet a BIG EAST team or Notre Dame.
Similarly, the Vitalis Sun Bowl, played on New Year's Eve afternoon in El Paso, Texas, will feature a Pacific-10 Conference team as its host squad - with a Big 12 opponent in two of those years and a BIG EAST or Notre Dame team in the other two.
The alternating-selection agreement between the Gator and Sun Bowls is believed to be the first partnership of its kind in postseason bowl history.
The BIG EAST relationship with the Houston Bowl begins in 2006 and will feature a BIG EAST team against a team from the Big 12 Conference each of the next four years. The game will be played annually on Dec. 31 in Reliant Stadium in Houston.
The AT&T Cotton Bowl, played on New Year's Day in Dallas, Texas, normally features teams from the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conferences - but the new, four-year Cotton Bowl/SEC agreement permits the Cotton Bowl to select Notre Dame once in the next four years in place of an SEC team.
"As much as we would hope our football program will be good enough in any given year to play in a Bowl Championship Series game, if that doesn't happen we will have a series of extremely viable options in excellent locations against opponents from major conferences," said Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White.
"Notre Dame has a great history with the Cotton Bowl, and we've had excellent experiences in Jacksonville twice in recent years. In addition, the potential opportunities to play in El Paso and Houston would take us into a state in which we have a sizeable alumni presence and in which we expect to continue to have a major recruiting presence."