The Liberty Bowl was finally able to get an agreement with the SEC (which it desperately wanted - there's money in those fans' pockets) and kept its tie-in to CUSA. This is pretty much what I expected - the only alternative that would meet the SEC's desire for a BCS-conference matchup was the Big East #4, and no bowl would want to risk the chance that the fourth BCS team might be bowl-eligible.
A lot (too much, in my opinion) has been made in the press and on fan-boards about that clause that says an SEC team won't have to play an intrastate rival. The CUSA fans are all upset because they think that was something imposed by the SEC. All parties involved say it was actually proposed by the Liberty Bowl to "grease the skids" for getting the contract done without having to deal with issues between a few specific schools.
The fact is, the issue between Alabama and UAB or Ole Miss and Southern Miss won't ever come up, and pretty much nobody else cares. The agreement between bowls and conferences just ties some conference team to a bowl. When it comes down to invitations the bowls and teams are the ones who offer and accept invitations and the conference office doesn't have much to say about it except to agree to waive that clause in cases where, say, Tennessee or Vanderbilt doesn't have a problem playing Memphis in the bowl game.
The "pecking order" for bowls vis-a-vis the SEC is:
There's no contractually obligated order for the bowls associated with 3/4/5 or 6/7/8 picks, so the bowls and teams are free to work things out. For instance, in 2004 Tennessee wasn't in the Cotton Bowl because of its conference finish, it was because any of the Florida bowls would have been a rematch of previous years matchups in those bowls.
I think the same will be true of the Independence/Liberty/Music City. Any team that doesn't want to play a CUSA team (or Big 12 or ACC) team will wind up in a different bowl. The "Alabama doesn't want to play UAB" reason is just as valid as "Alabama would rather send its fans to Nashville". All in all, the agreement is set up so that "getting what's best for all parties" is an available option.
|Bowl|| 2005 |
| 2006 |
|Sugar||14.4||SEC #1||vs||BCS at-large|
|Fiesta||14.4||Big 12 #1||vs||BCS at-large|
|Orange||14.4||ACC #1 |
or Big East #1
|Rose||14.4||Big Ten Champ||vs||Pac 10 Champ|
|Capital One||5.125||Big Ten #2||vs||SEC #2|
|Cotton||3||Big 12 #2||vs||SEC #3/4/5|
|Outback||2.75||Big Ten #3||vs||SEC #3/4/5|
|Peach||2.15||ACC #3||vs||SEC #3/4/5|
|Holiday||2||Big 12 #3||vs||Pac 10 #2|
|Champs Sports||0.85||Big Ten #4/5||vs||ACC #6/7/8||~$2M|
|Gator||1.825||ACC #2||vs||Big East #2 |
or Big 12 #4
|Alamo||1.55||Big Ten #4/5||vs||Big 12 #4/5|
|Sun||1.5||Big 12 #r4/5 |
or Big East #2
|vs||Pac 10 #3|
|Liberty||1.35||CUSA #1||vs||SEC #6/7/8||$1.5M|
|Independence||1.2||SEC #6/7/8||vs||Big 12 #7|
|Las Vegas||0.8||MW #1||vs||Pac 10 #4/5||$1M+|
|Music City||0.78||ACC #4?||vs||SEC #6/7/8|
|Meineke Car Care||0.75||ACC #5?||vs||Big East #3|
|Emerald||0.75||Pac 10 #4/5||vs||ACC #6/7/8|
|MPC||0.75||WAC #1/2||vs||ACC #6/7/8|
|Insight||0.75||Big 12 #6||vs||Big Ten #6|
|Ft. Worth||0.75||Mtn West 1/2/3||vs||CUSA|
|Poinsettia||0.75||Mtn West 3||vs||?|
|GMAC||0.75||CUSA||vs||MAC or WAC|
|New Orleans||0.75||CUSA||vs||Sun Belt Champ|