Coming off its best football season in history, the Mid-American Conference took another significant step for its football programs with today's announcement of a four-year agreement between the Motor City Bowl and the Big Ten Conference.
"This is a tremendous development for the Mid-American Conference," MAC Commissioner Rick Chryst said. "The opportunity to join with the premier conference in the country, in the heart of our geographies, is a great thing. The growth of this game in five short years, and the stature and caliber of all the partners involved, is truly remarkable."
The agreement will place a seventh bowl-eligible team from the Big Ten into the Motor City Bowl against the No. 1 or No. 2 team from the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The agreement begins with the upcoming 2002 season and runs through 2005.
"This is a very exciting announcement for every member of the Mid-American Conference," Marshall football coach Bob Pruett said. "Our league and the Big Ten share the same geographic region, it is only natural that the two leagues come together in a bowl game. It will be a great showcase for teams from both leagues."
The 2002 Motor City Bowl will be televised by ESPN on December 26 at 5 p.m. EST. The bowl game is expected to be played in Ford Field, the new home of the Detroit Lions, which is scheduled to open later this summer. The Detroit area is located in close proximity to most MAC and Big Ten schools, making the drive a one-day trip for the fans of both conferences.
"This is the absolute best thing that could happen to the Motor City Bowl, the Mid-American Conference, the city of Detroit and the great state of Michigan," Ken Hoffman, Executive Director of the Bowl, said. "And the ones who created the environment to allow this to happen are Ford, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors. They are the heroes. They are the ones who said 'let's do what's best for Detroit and the state of Michigan.'"
"The Big Ten Conference is extremely pleased to announce our partnership with the Mid-American Conference and the Motor City Bowl," Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said. "With the outstanding support of alumni and fans in the Detroit area, this game is a natural fit for a Big Ten team. The Big Ten's relationship with the MAC has produced many exciting regular season games over the years. Now, our teams will have the opportunity to replicate that excitement in the post-season atmosphere at an outstanding venue like Ford Field."
MAC teams have produced an overall 5-1 bowl record since 1997 and a 4-1 record in the Motor City Bowl. Last year the MAC featured two teams ranked in the final national polls. The feat by the MAC marked the first time since the creation of the Bowl Championship Series that a conference outside the BCS had multiple teams ranked in the top 25 in either the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches (Marshall No. 21 and Toledo No. 22) or Associated Press (Toledo No. 23) poll.
The MAC also adds the University of Central Florida this year, thus balancing the league with two seven-team divisions. UCF will compete in the East Division with Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, Marshall, Miami and Ohio. Bowling Green, formerly in the East, will move to the West Division to join Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan.
This year there are 10 regular season games featuring a MAC team versus a Big Ten opponent. Over the last five years (between 1997 and 2001), there were 40 regular-season meetings between MAC and Big Ten teams.