Gamecocks Accept Liberty Bowl Bid

South Carolina officially accepted a bid to play in the Liberty Bowl Sunday evening. The game will be played in Memphis, Tennessee on December 29 against the Houston Cougars, the Conference USA Champions.

The announcement means Gamecock fans can begin refining their imitations of Patrick Henry ("Give me Liberty or give me Beale Street" has a nice ring to it, no?) and Elvis. While many fans would have preferred heading to Nashville for the Music City Bowl, Athletic Director Eric Hyman feels like the Liberty Bowl is a good fit for Carolina. "The fans that I have been associated with have had a fantastic time there," Hyman said. He previously went to the Liberty Bowl with TCU in 2002. He acknowledged that some fans are concerned about the distance to Memphis, a nearly 10 hour drive, but said that he doesn't expect it to be a problem. "Obviously we'd like to have a bowl game that's just an hour away, but geographically it doesn't work that way." He noted that Carolina sold more tickets to the Independence Bowl, a 13 hour drive, than any team other than LSU.

Steve Ehrhart, Executive Director of the Liberty Bowl, said that Gamecock fans can expect first class treatment in Memphis. "We're going to roll out the red carpet to the University and to everybody associated," he said, adding that Beale Street is "one of the finest entertainment districts in the country. We have a great setup in the downtown area for the entire Gamecock community."

Ehrhart said the Liberty Bowl has had its eye on the Gamecocks for the entire year. He scouted Carolina in the season opener against Mississippi State. The Liberty Bowl identified the Gamecocks as a program on the rise, and the presence of Steve Spurrier gave added clout. "We want to be a part of South Carolina's gain," Ehrhart said.

Coach Steve Spurrier was unable to attend the press conference, because he was in Florida on a recruiting trip. However, he called in to briefly offer his thoughts on the Liberty Bowl. "We're looking forward to coming to Memphis and playing in the Liberty Bowl," he said. He said that playing well in the bowl game would act as a springboard toward next season, when his goals are higher. He will begin holding players accountable for those goals in the Liberty Bowl, saying, "They all know they are playing for a spot next year."

The Liberty Bowl has hosted the Gamecocks once before. In 1988, Indiana defeated Carolina 34-10 behind game MVP Dave Shnell and a dominating offense. Wide receiver Rob Turner had a bowl-record 182 yards in that game as the Hoosiers rolled up a record 575 yards of total offense. Carolina had little such luck on offense, being held to 3 yards rushing and 88 total yards, the fewest in Liberty Bowl history. The game is best remembered by the Gamecock fans in attendance for frigid temperatures.

Spurrier has never played or coached in the Liberty Bowl before. However, he has been to the stadium before. He recalled that he went 1-1 against the Memphis Showboats in the USFL.

Carolina will be making the first trip to Memphis by an SEC team since Ole Miss played in the Liberty Bowl in 1992. Before that, SEC teams were a staple of the Liberty Bowl, appearing in the inaugural game and 18 of the first 33 games. This year is the first year of a four-year deal to place an SEC team in Memphis. Each participant will receive $1.7 million from the Liberty Bowl. That money goes to the SEC to be redistributed, and Carolina will receive $1,040,000. Carolina will also receive a travel stipend of approximately $121,200.

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