Colorado Springs, Colo. -- The Mountain West Conference has renewed its contract with the AXA Liberty Bowl and the Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl . The MWC will continue to send its champion to Memphis for the next three seasons (2002, 2003, 2004), while the league has also extended its contract with the Las Vegas Bowl through the 2004 season.
"The relationship with the AXA Liberty Bowl has been very important to the development of football in the Mountain West Conference," said Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson. "The annual opportunity for two Top 25 teams to meet in the bowl has given us great latitude and advantages in regular-season scheduling. The rich tradition of the bowl makes it a most appealing destination for our champion."
The champion of the Mountain West Conference will play against the champion of Conference USA, making the AXA Liberty Bowl the only non-BCS bowl game to feature conference champions.
"Our mission is to showcase Memphis and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to the entire country," said AXA Liberty Bowl Executive Director Steve Ehrhart. "The best way to achieve that is to have nationally ranked conference champions compete in the AXA Liberty Bowl."
"The Mountain West features some of the most entertaining and elite football programs in the country and we're pleased to show fans from the western part of the U.S. what Memphis has to offer," added Ehrhart.
"By continuing our partnership with the Mountain West, the AXA Liberty Bowl is able to feature teams that win their way to Memphis each year. The AXA Liberty Bowl is about winners and we're excited to continue that tradition," said Ehrhart.
Since partnering with the MWC prior to the 1999 season, attendance at the AXA Liberty Bowl has increased 13 percent over the three-year period.
The Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl announced it has entered into a two-year agreement with the Pac-10 Conference. The bowl also extended its agreement with the Mountain West Conference (MWC) for an additional three years.
The post-season football showcase, to be played this year on Wednesday, Dec. 25 in Las Vegas, will feature the Pac 10's fifth selection and the second selection from the MWC. The game will be televised live on ESPN. The start time is to be determined.
The Las Vegas Bowl has played host to a Pac-10 representative on two occasions. In 1997, the University of Oregon defeated the Air Force Academy, then a member of the Western Athletic Conference, by a score of 41-13. In last year's game, the University of Utah of the Mountain West Conference defeated USC by a score of 10-6, before a record paid attendance of 30,894 and a national television audience on ABC.
The second selection from the MWC has appeared in the Las Vegas Bowl since the conference's inception in 1999. Including last year's victory by the University of Utah, the MWC representative has won all three games. In 2000, UNLV defeated the University of Arkansas by a score of 31-14 in Las Vegas Bowl IX. Utah also appeared in the 1999 game, recording a 17-16 victory over Fresno State in the eighth edition of the Las Vegas Bowl. The Sega Sports Las Vegas Bowl will be played at the 40,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium. Each team will receive an $800,000 payout.
The Mountain West Conference boasts a 6-3 bowl record through its first three seasons. Its bowl winning percentage of .667 ranks as the third highest in the nation since 1999. The MWC has sent three teams onto the post-season each of its three years, with five of the eight member institutions playing in bowl games.