Cardinals accept Gator Bowl invitation

17th-ranked Louisville is headed to the 61st Annual Toyota Gator Bowl January 2,2006 in Jacksonville, Florida.

While the final seconds ticked away in 17th-ranked Louisville's 41-17 victory over Syracuse on Saturday, Gator Bowl Chairman Mike Hartley, who attended the Cardinals final home game of the year, indicated that the official invitation to play in the January 2nd bowl game would arrive on Monday and arrive it did.

"It is our pleasure and honor to officially invite the University of Louisville Cardinals to represent the Big East Conference in the 2006 Toyota Gator Bowl," said Hartley via teleconference prior to the weekly Bobby Petrino press conference.

"To have the ability to go down to Jacksonville and represent our university is really a dream come true," said U of L Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich following the invitation.

While the opponent from the ACC has yet to be determined, Hartley said that there is plenty of enthusiasm in hosting the Cardinals in the tradition rich event.

"Louisville hasn't been here before and we are anxious to bring them in," said Hartley. "I got a little taste of that on Saturday night and they have some terrific fans. We are very excited about having the Cardinals here."

"Besides being a terrific football team, with a great tradition building there, they have a fan base that I witnessed on Saturday night that I was excited about coming back and telling our folks about," he continued. "Louisville is going to provide a wonderful game for us. They are going to be here a lot of years in the future, so this is a start of a great relationship."

Tom Jurich & Bobby Petrino accept
Gator Bowl invite on Monday
The appearance in the Gator Bowl will mark the eighth consecutive bowl game for the Louisville program, which is tied for the sixth longest streak in the nation. Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino said that once a spot in a BCS game was out of reach that the teams post season focus shifted towards the Gator Bowl.

"We are certainly fired up about it," said Petrino. "I know our players will be excited. It was something that was, after we lost the West Virginia game, was one of our goals."

With ticket sales already ahead of pace and an allotment of 12,500 headed to each participating school, Hartley all but guaranteed a sold out Gator Bowl.

"We certainly anticipate that a team like Louisville will easily reach their 12,500," said Hartley. "We are looking forward to having another close to a sellout, if not a sellout. I can assure you that Alltel Stadium will be virtually full on January 2nd."

The announcement of Louisville's opponent will made following the ACC's championship game, which is also being held at Alltell Stadium in Jacksonville, this Saturday.

"We are not going to announce a team on the ACC side until following that game," Hartley explained. "We want to let that championship process play out and then look at our options on Sunday morning and then make the announcement [on Monday]. Basically it's three teams that we are interested in. Of course Virginia Tech is still a possibility, a highly-ranked Miami team and we are also considering Georgia Tech."

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