CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- AS MARSHALL enters its ninth Conference USA season, consider that it is the final time the league will send a team (presumably the league champion) to the Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl at Memphis.
Or so we are led to believe.
Conference USA's weekly notes begin the league's bowl synopsis thusly: "Conference USA has guaranteed spots in six games during the 2013 season. The AutoZone Liberty Bowl has the top selection of C-USA teams and the league also will send teams to ..."
C-USA declares its opponent in the Liberty to be an "SEC or American selection," the latter referring to the American Athletic Conference (I jokingly call it the "Ack!")
The "Ack's" release goes through its bowl situation, declaring, "The American also has longstanding deals with the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., and the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla."
And ... "The conference additionally has an agreement with the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn. The American will send teams to two of those three games in the 2013 season."
Two paragraphs later: "If an American team is chosen for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the conference's representative would face either the Conference USA champion or an opponent from the Southeastern Conference."
Well, isn't that special?
So what sayeth the SEC, who has about 23 bowl berths to juggle? In its large, sideways chart of all bowls, it lists the Liberty as "C-USA/American vs. SEC."
Uh, oh. The ghost of 2011 is running in my mind. That's the year a beyond-bizarre format was concocted to boot the C-USA champ - with both finalists in the top 25, mind you - to the curb.
Remember this? If the SEC had eight eligible bowl teams, the Liberty would be C-USA vs. Big East. If the SEC had nine, SEC vs. Big East. If the SEC had 10, SEC vs. C-USA.
Instead of league champion Southern Mississippi taking its rightful spot at Memphis, we were treated to Cincinnati vs. Vanderzzzzzz ...(Gosh, that bowl was so much better when the C-USA champ played the Mountain West champ, wasn't it?)
For the love of the few things that are holy in college football, please tell me there is no repeat. I didn't get the straightest answer Friday afternoon out of Memphis.
Ron Higgins, the bowl's media liaison, assured me the bowl's relationship with Conference USA would remain intact this season, but was unfamiliar with the 2011 scenario. He referred me to associated executive director Harold Graeter, who did not return my call.
In Huntington, athletic director Mike Hamrick said, "I am under the impression that whoever is the champion of Conference USA will be playing in the Liberty Bowl. That's my impression."
He's seen crazier things happen, though.
Marshall has to win me over, but the Herd is favored by some to win the league. Wouldn't it be just that program's luck to do so in the last year of C-USA's "relationship" with Liberty Bowl, only to get jobbed?
Next year, this won't be an issue, as the New Bowl Order begins and the Liberty Bowl tells Conference USA to go pound sand. I guess C-USA will do so, in Boca Raton or the Bahamas.
Herd fans can adapt, right?
During Marshall's off week, coach Doc Holliday talked about the trials and tribulations of recruiting today's athletes.
As you know, Holliday has specialized in recruiting south Florida, but the following statement applies anywhere in the country.