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Sun Belt offered bowls cash to take conference's teams

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

Western Kentucky went 8-4, but won't be bowling. (USATSI)
Western Kentucky went 8-4, but won't be bowling. (USATSI)
The good news for the Sun Belt : seven of its eight teams -- every one but FBS newcomers Georgia State -- finished the season bowl eligible. The bad news: a surplus of eligible teams in the FBS's other nine conferences meant that only two of those seven teams (co-champions UL-Lafayette and Arkansas State) will actually play in a bowl.

But according to Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson, it's not for lack of trying. Benson issued a statement on the league website Sunday discussing the bowl selection process, and revealing that he had offered to directly pay two bowls to give Sun Belt teams a home.

Benson writes:

With seven bowl eligible teams from the Sun Belt along with a number of teams from other conferences in the at-large pool, we have known for several weeks that it was going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to place all of the bowl eligible teams from the Sun Belt into bowls that had open spots.

And during the past several weeks, I have been in discussions and negotiations with all the bowls that might be open. Specifically, the Sun Belt targeted the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl and Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl and was in negotiations with both up until final decisions were made.

The Sun Belt Conference Presidents and Chancellors authorized me two weeks ago to use Sun Belt funds at my discretion to entice both bowls to take a Sun Belt team. As a result, the Sun Belt made very significant financial offers to both bowls that clearly exceeded anything the Sun Belt has done in previous years.

If the 6-6 likes of South Alabama and Texas State could likely see the handwriting on the wall, the exclusion was much more painful for other Sun Belt teams, most notably Western Kentucky . The Hilltoppers finished 8-4 in their first year under Bobby Petrino, with wins over bowl-bound Navy and Arkansas State and the SEC's Kentucky.

If there's no silver lining for the Hilltopper seniors -- including Antonio Andrews, the national leader in all-purpose yardage -- there might be one for the conference as a whole, thanks to new games like the Montgomery, Ala. Camellia Bowl that will offer the Sun Belt new postseason slots.

But for now, the best the league had to offer was cash -- and it wasn't quite enough.

 
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