The Bobcats' 2012 season isn't over yet.
The Ohio University football team accepted a bid to play in the 2012 AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl on Sunday night. It will be the fourth-straight bowl game appearance for Ohio (8-4, 4-4 Mid-American Conferece) and the fifth in the last seven seasons.
Ohio will face Louisiana-Monroe (8-4) in the Independence Bowl, held in Shreveport, La., on Friday, Dec. 28 at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast live by ESPN.
Ohio coach Frank Solich said Sunday, through a released statement, that his team was thrilled to participate. Ohio has lost four of it last five games this season, and there was some speculation that the Bobcats may be on the outside when it came to selection Sunday.
"For over 25 years this has been one of the premier bowl games in the country and I couldn't be happier for our team," Solich said. "Louisiana-Monroe has had a very good season and we're certain that this game will be a great matchup."
Ohio has never appeared in the Independence Bowl. The Bobcats are 1-5 all-time in bowl games, and claimed the program's first bowl win last December with a 24-23 win over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The bowl game will be the first in program history for UL-Monroe, which accepted its invite to the game on Saturday. The Warhawks will be playing less than two hours from their home campus. It's a fitting end to the season for UL-Monroe, which posted a winning season for the first time in 19 years as a FBS program.
The Independence Bowl is normally contracted to fill its games with representatives from the SEC and ACC conferences. But with a lack of available teams from those two leagues, bowl organizers cut deals with the MAC and the Sun Belt Conference. The estimated per team payout from the bowl is expected to be $1.15 million, which would make it the most lucrative bowl Ohio has ever played in. It is unknown at this time whether the payout will remain the same or if the figure was specific to representatives from the SEC and ACC.
It will be the second time in three seasons Ohio has finished the year in Louisiana. Ohio also played in the 2010 New Orleans Bowl against another Sun Belt foe in Troy.
"I've been to this bowl several times and it will be a great experience for our student-athletes and fans," said Ohio Director of Atheltics Jim Schaus. "With this being our fourth-consecutive bowl game, this shows that our football program is continuing to build toward a successful future."
Ohio started the season 7-0, and crested at No. 23 in the country in the national polls and Bowl Championship Series standings. But injuries dogged the team all season, and the Bobcats fell off the pace down the stretch when they lost four of their final five games.
The Warhawks, coached by Todd Berry, also started their season with a flouris as they upended then No. 8 Arkansas in the season opener. UL-Monroe finished 6-2 and tied for second in the Sun Belt.
"These are two dynamic football teams that will be a great addition to the long list of great teams that have played in the Independence Bowl," Independence Bowl Chairman Jack Andres said.
Selection Sunday was another banner day for the MAC, in what has become the conference's best football season to day. For the first time ever, a MAC team was selected to take part in one of the five BCS Bowl games as Northern Illinois will face Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 2013.
All seven bowl-eligible MAC teams were given bowl invitations on Sunday. The seven bowl games is a new record for the conference, which has had five bowl teams on four different occasions. The MAC was 4-1 in five bowl games a year ago, and is 7-3 in its last 10 bowl games overall.
Besides Ohio and Northern Illinois, Kent State (GoDaddy.com Bowl), Toledo (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl), Ball State (Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, Bowling Green (Military Bowl) and Central Michigan (Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl) accepted bowl invitations.
"The commitment of the student-athletes to excel has earned them this opportunity," said Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. "I am very exited for our bowl lineup and I look forward to watching the MAC teams compete this bowl season."
The 2012 season ended on a strong note for the MAC as both Northern Illinois (No. 15) and Kent State (No. 25) ended the year ranked in the BCS Standings. Four different MAC teams hav ebeen ranked nationally by the BCS, AP, or USA Today Coaches polls this season — NIU, Kent State, Toledo and Ohio.
The MAC also set a record with 16 non-conference wins against FBS foes, including eight wins against teams from BCS automatic qualifying conferences — Penn State, Iowa, Indiana from the Big Ten; Cincinnati, Rutgers, South Florida and UConn from the Big East, and Kansas from the Big XII.