The Heart of Dallas Bowl and the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl are the likely destinations for North Texas in the wake of Rice’s win over Marshall in the Conference USA title game, an official with knowledge of the situation said late Saturday afternoon.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl will be played at 11 a.m. New Year’s Day at the Cotton Bowl with a C-USA representative facing a team from the Big Ten.
A team from the Mountain West is slated to play in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth at 10:45 a.m. Dec. 30 against Navy, which is 7-4 heading into a season-ending game against Army on Saturday.
UNT was still waiting on word as to where it is headed as of Saturday afternoon.
ESPN Regional Television runs both the Heart of Dallas and Armed Forces bowls.
Brant Ringler, the executive director of the Heart of Dallas Bowl, said last week that there was a possibility that a C-USA team could play in Fort Worth as part of a trade agreement.
Ringler and Derek Inouchi, the media relations director of the Hawaii Bowl, which also is affiliated with C-USA, said they believed the most likely scenario late in the week was for UNT and Rice to play in the Heart of Dallas and Hawaii bowls.
The teams’ destinations hinged on the outcome of the C-USA title game.
Rice was taken out of the mix when it beat Marshall 41-24 in the title game and accepted a bid to the Liberty Bowl.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl’s matchup was dependent not only on what happened in the C-USA title game, but also on the Big Ten title game between Ohio State and Michigan State that took place Saturday night.
Ohio State was ranked second behind Florida State in this week’s Bowl Championship Series standings, while Michigan State was 10th. The outcome of the Big Ten title game was significant in terms of UNT’s destination and potential bowl matchup because it affected the number of Big Ten teams receiving bids to BCS bowls.
The Big Ten has eight bowl-eligible teams and seven bowl slots outside the BCS. The league could send multiple teams to the BCS and not have enough teams to fill all seven of its other bowl slots.
“We are also waiting on the Big Ten,” Ringler said late this week of the Heart of Dallas Bowl’s plans. “If Michigan State wins, that could open up some scenarios.”
A source with knowledge of the situation said the Heart of Dallas Bowl would wait to announce its pairing until it knew which Big Ten teams would be available.
That could push an announcement back to today. The BCS Selection Show will air at 7:30 tonight on ESPN, though most bowl matchups would have been set late Saturday and early today.
The Heart of Dallas Bowl announced Wednesday that it will have a teleconference today with the head coaches and athletic directors from the two schools selected to play in the game.
UNT coaches and officials said throughout the final weeks of the regular season that they are just happy to be headed to a bowl game for the first time since 2004 after a breakout season.
The Mean Green finished 8-4 after winning six of its last seven games in its third season under Dan McCarney.
“It’s a waiting game,” UNT athletic director Rick Villarreal said last week. “We are prepared to take our team somewhere and have a great experience.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.