Notre Dame to face Maimi in the Sun Bowl

Published 7:19 pm Sunday, December 5, 2010

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – For the first time in history, Notre Dame is headed to the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Notre Dame (7-5) meets Atlantic Coast Conference representative Miami (7-5) in the 77th annual Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

It’s the second bowl appearance for the Irish in the last three seasons (following their Sheraton Hawaii Bowl victory two years ago) and their fifth in the last seven years.

Site of the game is 50,426-seat Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas, on the UTEP campus. CBS Sports will nationally televise the game (for the 43rd year) at (2:15 p.m.), and Sports USA Radio Network also will carry the game.

The Irish and Hurricanes face off for the 24th time, with the two teams meeting for the first time since 1990. Notre Dame holds a 15-7-1 series lead – with the Irish winning two of the last three meetings (both at Notre Dame Stadium in 1988 and 1990) and the two teams splitting 13 contests (6-6-1) in Miami. Notre Dame also won an international matchup with a 40-15 victory over the ‘Canes in 1979 in Tokyo, Japan, in the Mirage Bowl (final regular-season game).

Notre Dame will be making its 30th bowl appearance overall – its first in the Sun Bowl – and its eighth in the state of Texas (seven previous Cotton Bowl appearances and a 5-2 mark in those Dallas contests). The Irish stand 14-15 in postseason play and had lost nine straight bowl games until their record-setting 49-21 victory over Hawaii in the 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu.

This marks Notre Dame’s fifth bowl game against a current member of the ACC – after a 19-18 win over Boston College in the 1983 Liberty Bowl, followed by losses to Florida State in the 1996 Orange Bowl (31-26) and losses to Georgia Tech (35-28) and North Carolina State (28-6) in the 1999 and 2003 Gator Bowls.

Miami will be making its 34th postseason appearance (18-15 record) – its third in the state of Texas after previously playing in the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston in 1967 (losing 31-21 to Colorado) and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas following the 1990 season (defeated Texas 46-3).

Notre Dame will be the designated visiting team in the game. The Irish will be filling the side of the matchup designated for the Pacific-10 Conference, since the Pac-10 did not fill all its bowl slots.

Notre Dame’s Sun Bowl ticket allotment is on sale now. Tickets are $40 each and can be ordered by calling the Notre Dame Athletic Department Ticket Office at (574) 631-7356 or by visiting VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Discover are accepted forms of payment online and over the phone. There is a $20 charge per order for trackable FedEx delivery service to ensure receipt during the busy holiday season. A personalized email has been sent to alumni, benefactors, parents, friends, faculty and staff with an address on file at the Notre Dame Ticket Office for priority seating purposes. A student ticket sale will be held Dec. 9. Tickets may also be purchased in person beginning tomorrow at 9 a.m., at the Purcell Pavilion ticket office located between gates 8 and 10 of the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame in 2010 enjoyed one of its strongest regular-season finishes in years under first-year head coach Brian Kelly. The Irish were a perfect 3-0 in November (defeating an 8-1 and No. 15-ranked Utah team, a 6-4 Army squad and a 7-4 USC team). That late-season success marks the first time the Irish have gone undefeated in November since a 4-0 mark in 2005 and contrasts the past two years (1-4 in ’08 and 0-4 in ’09).

Notre Dame in 2010 played more bowl-eligible football teams (.500 record or better) at 11 than anyone else in the country (only Purdue among the dozen Irish opponents finished below the .500 mark at 4-8).

Notre Dame’s No. 1 ranking in the NCAA strength-of-schedule standings is its highest since a No. 1 ranking in 1995. The current .650 winning percentage of Irish opponents makes for its strongest schedule faced in 21 years – since a .655 percentage when Notre Dame finished No. 1 in the toughest-schedule derby in 1989. The Irish have a long history of playing challenging schedules – with Notre Dame ranking (since the NCAA began this rating in 1977) first in 1978, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1995 and 2010; third in 1986, 1999, 2003; and fourth in 1979 and 1990. That makes for 11 top-four finishes in that category in the 34 years the NCAA has calculated these numbers.

Kelly, in his 20th season as a collegiate head coach, owns a 13-5 postseason record. That includes an 11-4 mark in NCAA Division II playoffs during his tenure at Grand Valley State (national championships in 2002 and 2003). Kelly’s Cincinnati teams defeated Western Michigan 27-24 in the International Bowl following the 2006 season (just after taking the Bearcat job), defeated Southern Mississippi 31-21 in the Bowl in 2007 and then fell 20-7 in 2008 to Virginia Tech in the Bowl Championship Series FedEx Orange Bowl. Last year, Kelly coached his Cincinnati team to a 12-0 record and an invitation to the Allstate Sugar Bowl, but he did not coach that game after accepting the job at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is scheduled to play Miami again in a regular-season game in 2012 (Oct. 6) at Soldier Field in Chicago. Then, the two teams will play a home-and-home series in 2016 (at Notre Dame) and 2017 (at Miami).