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Dick Harmon: Las Vegas Bowl will extend invitation to Cougars today

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 2:35 p.m. MDT

PROVO — BYU will go to a bowl game for the first time since 2001 when Las Vegas Bowl officials announce this morning that the Cougars are officially the Mountain West Conference representative in the Dec. 22 game in Sam Boyd Stadium.
BYU will hold a press conference today at 11 a.m. (MT) at Legends Grille in the new Student Athlete Building. BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall, athletics director Tom Holmoe, as well as selected student-athletes will be in attendance.
The 6-5 Cougars nearly received the Las Vegas Bowl invitation Saturday following the Cougars' overtime loss to Utah. But executive director of the Las Vegas Bowl, Tina Kunzer-Murphy, left LaVell Edwards Stadium with MWC commissioner Craig Thompson at the end of the game without extending an invitation because of the Cougars' loss.
The Cougars, who finished second in the MWC with a 5-3 record, have never played in the Las Vegas Bowl. Sources at BYU confirmed Monday the Cougar Club, anticipating an invitation to the Las Vegas Bowl, has obtained a ticket allotment of 7,500 premium tickets to the game, which will be held back for club members when a general ticket sale goes on through campus outlets as early as today or Wednesday morning.
Sources in Las Vegas confirmed Monday the bowl would officially invite BYU today, giving BYU momentum to sell tickets through the Thanksgiving holiday, even though an opponent is unknown.
Contacted Monday, Kunzer-Murphy said she expected to know the status of the bowl today, but could not comment specifically about any possible opponents.
"I've fielded a lot of phone calls (Monday) and I hope you understand, but we will not be making any comment on the bowl participants (Monday)," she said.
BYU is expected to play the No. 5 team in the Pac-10, but that league may not qualify enough teams. If No. 8 Oregon at 10-1 makes a BCS bowl, that will move up other Pac-10 schools, and Arizona State, which is favored over Arizona this weekend, would likely go to the Insight Bowl. The Pac-10 would then send other bowl-eligible members to the Sun Bowl and Holiday Bowl, with No. 1 USC and Oregon in BCS slots.
The Las Vegas Bowl could then pit the Cougars against an at-large team from another conference, possibly the WAC, Mid-American Conference or ACC, which has nine members qualified and only six bowl slots guaranteed.
CBSSportsline.com has Miami of Ohio playing BYU in Las Vegas, while ESPN.com lists BYU and Cal in Las Vegas.
"I am looking forward to playing in a bowl game and I think we have earned it, worked hard as a team, overcome adversity this season and showed we are a bowl-worthy program," BYU quarterback John Beck told reporters on Saturday.
In an interesting twist Monday, a possible rematch of BYU and Utah was on the table in Las Vegas as various key parties and committee members seriously discussed it. According to one source close to the negotiations, both Utah and BYU officials turned down the idea.
The Las Vegas Bowl needs to sell more than 29,000 tickets to this year's game in order to keep its bowl charter with the NCAA. The Cougars drew an estimated 10,000 fans to a road game against UNLV earlier this year.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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