Notre Dame going bowling again

Updated: November 29, 2004, 9:26 AM ET
Associated Press

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish accepted an invitation Sunday to play in the Insight Bowl in Phoenix against a Pac-10 team on Dec. 28.

Coach Tyrone Willingham said the Irish (6-5) wanted to play in the best bowl available.

"For us that has to be our focus, to get on the field and see if we can find some way to be successful," he said.

The Irish accepted the bid to the bowl with a $750,000 payout a day after losing to Southern California for a third straight season, this time by 31 points. Willingham said the Irish welcome the chance to end the season on a positive note.

"It makes the winter a lot easier if you finish on a high note as opposed to finishing on a losing note with that losing taste in your mouth," he said. "Even though our season should provide great motivation for us during the winter because it was a season we didn't reach our expectations, but you like to go in doing anything feeling good about what you're doing."

The opponent is supposed to be the fourth- or fifth-place Pac-10 team. Whether No. 4 California (4-1) earns a Bowl Championship Series berth will affect who the Irish play, as will USC's game against UCLA. The Irish could face Arizona State (8-2), UCLA (6-4) or Oregon State (6-5).

Minnesota:The Gophers will play in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31, Minnesota's third straight postseason appearance and fifth in the last six years under coach Glen Mason.

It's not what they ultimately wanted, however, after starting the season 5-0 and reaching as high as No. 13 in both major polls. They finished 6-5 overall, 3-5 and in eighth place in the Big Ten.

Minnesota will play a Southeastern Conference opponent still to be determined in Nashville, Tenn., at noon ET on ESPN. The Gophers beat Arkansas 29-14 in the 2002 Music City Bowl.

"It's going to be a formidable opponent," athletic director Joel Maturi said Sunday. "People are talking about Alabama, they are talking about Florida. If it's either of those programs, there's certainly storied tradition."

Memphis: The Tigers will accept an invitation to play in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Dec. 22.

The university released a statement Sunday that said the Tigers will sign a contract Monday with the GMAC Bowl.

Their opponent, a representative of the Mid-America Conference, will be announced later this week. GMAC Bowl selection committee chairman Murray Cape said four MAC teams -- Toledo, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois and Miami of Ohio -- are possible opponents.

It will be the second straight bowl appearance for the Tigers (8-3, 5-3 Conference USA) following a 32-year drought. Last year, Memphis beat North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles will face Sun Belt Conference champion North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 14.

Southern Miss (6-4, 5-3 Conference USA) accepted an invitation to the game after becoming bowl eligible with a 26-21 win over Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday. The Golden Eagles will play in a bowl game for the seventh time in eight years. It will be the Golden Eagles' first trip to the New Orleans Bowl.

North Texas (7-4, 7-0) clinched its fourth consecutive Sun Belt title and its fourth trip to the New Orleans Bowl on Nov. 13 with a 51-29 win over Idaho.

Alabama-Birmingham: The Blazers accepted an invitation to play in the Dec. 24 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, the team's first-ever trip to a postseason bowl.

The announcement came after Saturday's 26-21 loss to Southern Mississippi.

UAB (7-4, 5-3 Conference USA), will meet an opponent still to be determined.

"This first bowl game for our program is special, not only for our current players, but also for all the other guys from past years who played a part in getting us started," coach/athletic director Watson Brown said in a statement.

The team, with intercollegiate play since 1991, has played at the Division I-A level only since 1996.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats were invited to play in the Fort Worth Bowl, a day after losing 70-7 to Louisville (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today; No. 7 AP).

The bowl, played on Dec. 23, is one of five affiliated with Conference USA. A Big 12 team normally would get the other invitation, but the bowl-eligible schools have locked up bids already.

Bowl officials are negotiating with the Atlantic Coast, Big East and Mid-American conferences for another opponent.

Cincinnati (6-5) rallied from a 2-4 start to earn its fourth bowl appearance in the last five seasons.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press