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Football: UL officially accepts bid to fourth-straight New Orleans Bowl

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, December 4, 2014


The UL football team accepts a bid to the Ragin’ Cajuns fourth-straight New Orleans Bowl. Chad Washington, Gannett Louisiana




It never gets old.

Such was the sentiment for those from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team who received news Wednesday night that has been widely anticipated for more than three weeks now.

The Ragin’ Cajuns received their invitation for a fourth straight appearance in the New Orleans Bowl, which this year will be played Dec. 20 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

"Being in there in New Orleans in the ‘Dome, it feels so comfortable to me," senior running back Alonzo Harris said. "It feels comfortable to our team. We’re accustomed to it – but we won’t get complacent."

"Just making it to a bowl game is a blessing," senior receiver James Butler added. "There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it."

After not having played in a postseason game since a 1970 Grantland Rice Bowl loss to Tennessee State in Baton Rouge, the Cajuns were thrilled to go to the New Orleans Bowl in 2011.

Going there three straight times previously, and winning it all three times, doesn’t lessen at all the excitement this time around, UL coach Mark Hudspeth suggested.

"I think it’s a great fit. It’s been a great fit," he said.

"Not to say we wouldn’t be interested in going to any other bowl, because going to a bowl is a reward, it’s an honor, and we’d be honored to go to any bowl.

"It’s just so happens the New Orleans Bowl is (in) a great city, and a place that our fans love to visit," Hudspeth added. "And it’s just happens you get to play in the Superdome, and it just so happens that this bowl has turned into, to me, one of the better bowls in the country."

New Orleans Bowl officials presented UL’s bid during halftime of the Cajun basketball team’s win over Jackson State on Wednesday at the Cajundome.

With his players gathered around him at halfcourt, and fans standing to watch, Hudspeth said, "We proudly accept."

"Just seeing those players out there right then – it rejuvenated me, to be honest with you," UL athletic director Scott Farmer said. "It’s been quite a four years, and I’m very proud of the accomplishments of those young men and the program. Things are going in the right direction."

"It’s so much excitement with the fans," New Orleans Bowl rep Paul Valteau added. "We look forward to doing it. It’s almost become habit for us."

The invite came four days after the Cajuns closed their 2014 season at 8-4 with a 42-23 win at Troy last Saturday.

It has been in the works, however, for quite some time now.

UL has been taking priority ticket orders for the New Orleans Bowl since Nov. 24 – the deadline for that closed last Friday – and New Orleans Bowl executive director Billy Ferrante said a few days prior to then that having the Cajuns back in New Orleans for a fourth straight time is not just palatable but more like a "delicacy."

The Cajuns, in other words, were the New Orleans Bowl’s first Sun Belt Conference choice since becoming bowl-eligible with a Nov. 8 victory at New Mexico State.

UL’s stellar attendance record in New Orleans is the reason for that.

The Cajuns beat San Diego State in 2011, East Carolina in 2012 and Tulane in 2013 – all in front of announced crowds in excess of 42,000, including 54,728 last year.

WANNA GO?: UL accepting orders for bowl tickets

Average attendance in those three games: 48,679.

"It’s a great opportunity for us to help grow our game," Ferrante said, "and we’ve really taken great strides the last three years in doing that."

UL’s opponent this year remains uncertain, and may not be known until Sunday.

LAST SEASON: Cajuns beat Tulane to win third straight New Orleans Bowl

Average attendance in those three games: 48,679.

UL’s opponent this year remains uncertain, and may not be known until Sunday.

Possibilities include Nevada and Utah State from the Mountain West and Rice from Conference USA, among others.

Public presentation of UL’s postseason invite was delayed for a few days while the Cajuns, the Sun Belt and the New Orleans Bowl waited for the NCAA to rule on SBC-champion Georgia Southern’s attempt to be declared bowl-eligible.

RELATED LINK: New Orleans hungry for Cajuns return

Possibilities include Nevada, Utah State Fresno State from the Mountain West and Rice from Conference USA, among others.

In addition to UL, Sun Belt Conference teams receiving invites Wednesday were Arkansas State, which is headed to the GoDaddy Bowl for a fourth straight time, and South Alabama, which was invited to the new Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.

WHAT TO EXPECT: New Orleans Bowl undergoing several changes in 2014