PROVO — BYU has already secured a bowl bid for the 2011 college football season.

The Cougars, entering their inaugural season as an independent, have agreed to play in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at the conclusion of the year if they are bowl eligible and not picked to play in a BCS game. It would mark BYU's first appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The 2011 Armed Forces Bowl will be played in Dallas, at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium, on Dec. 30. The Cougars would play a Conference USA opponent. The game will be televised on ESPN with a 10 a.m. (MST) kickoff.

"We are pleased to announce the relationship with the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "When we announced our football program was going independent, we recognized it would be a challenge given the timing to secure a bowl affiliation for 2011.

"As an institution, we have a lot respect for the service academies and the individuals who protect our country. We are privileged to participate in a game that honors the men and women of our armed forces."

The Cougars have two regular-season games scheduled in the Lone Star State this season — a Sept. 10 contest in Austin against Texas, and a Oct. 28 showdown with TCU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

"We are extremely pleased to have an opportunity to host BYU as one of our bowl participants in 2011," said Brant B. Ringler, executive director of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. "Our goal is to attract schools with a national presence to help us honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. BYU is a nationally recognized institution with an outstanding fan base."

The Cougars now have bowl tie-ins for the next three seasons. BYU previously reached agreements to play in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in 2012 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco in 2013.

The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl is owned and operated by ESPN Regional Television. The game recognizes all five branches of the military and in the past has included fan-fest areas showcasing military hardware and flyovers.

Bell Helicopter became the title sponsor of the bowl game in 2006. Prior to that it was known as the Fort Worth Bowl.