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Marshall notebook: C-USA lines up six bowl deals from 2014-19

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - What Conference USA may lack in postseason prestige after this season, it will make up for in tourist destinations.

Marshall fans may want to save up and get their passports now, for a trip to the Bahamas is a possibility for 2014 and beyond.

That's not part of the new C-USA bowl lineup, but it's getting there. Officially, the league announced six affiliations for 2014-19 Tuesday, guaranteeing four places per postseason.

The "split" games are the Heart of Dallas Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl, the latter in nearby Fort Worth, Texas. The league will play in one of the bowls every year, and play in each three times in the six-year span.

A similar arrangement will apply to the Hawaii Bowl and the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg. In both cases, there is no particular order set for each particular year, at least for now.

The league has a guaranteed spot for all six years in the New Orleans Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. Four of the above bowls are owned by ESPN Television, which is expected to announce a purchase of the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

With those six affiliations signed, C-USA is looking to add more guaranteed games for its 14-team league (13 in 2014).

An expansion of the bowl system - yes, beyond the current 35 - is in motion, C-USA assistant commissioner Russ Anderson confirmed Tuesday. ESPN reported that two new bowls are certain for 2014. One would be played at Boca Raton at Florida Atlantic's 29,000-seat stadium, and the other would take place about 180 miles southeast of Boca - over the Atlantic Ocean in the Bahamas.

This isn't coming out of the blue, or the deep blue sea. "We've been a part of the basketball tournament every year," Anderson said, referring to the Battle 4 Atlantis. "The possibility of the bowl game came out of that." Texas-El Paso is playing in the third edition of the hoops tournament, taking place at the Atlantis Resort.

The bowl would be played at the 15,000-seat Thomas Robinson Stadium, a multipurpose venue generally used for soccer and track and field. It would be the first bowl outside the United States since the International Bowl in Toronto folded after the 2010 season.

The two new bowls would be the 37th and 38th games in the jam-packed bowl roster. That could be 39 if the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit is revived. (The Detroit Lions are launching a Big Ten-hosted bowl at Ford Field, one that was believed to be replacing the former Motor City Bowl.)

At New Orleans, C-USA will still take on a team from the Sun Belt, and likely will draw a Mountain West team in New Mexico. The Hawaii Bowl is expected to take the Mountain West Conference, with Hawaii hosting if eligible; the St. Petersburg game is expected to bring a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference or the American Athletic Conference.

The Fort Worth and Dallas games, the latter played in the Cotton Bowl, are reportedly pitting C-USA against a team from the Big Ten or Big 12. While the C-USA champion might be a good fit here, Anderson said that champion won't go to a designated bowl as such, but will be given the most fitting matchup possible.

C-USA also will have a backup agreement with the Advocare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., filling any vacancy left by the ACC or Southeastern Conference.

This season, C-USA is wrapping up its current bowl agreements, and will see its champion play in the Liberty Bowl for the final time. The league is also sending teams to New Orleans, St. Petersburg and Dallas, plus the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md.

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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