May 20, 1999
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson and AXA/Equitable Liberty Bowl Executive Director Steve Ehrhart announced today a three-year agreement that will match the champions of the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA in the Memphis bowl game beginning in 1999. This year's game will be played on December 31, 1999, at 4 p.m. (CST) and be televised on ESPN.
"The Mountain West Conference looks forward to developing a relationship with the AXA/Equitable Liberty Bowl," stated Thompson. "To have the champion of our inaugural football season assured a berth in such a traditional bowl is a tribute to our coaches and the institutions that make up the Mountain West Conference."
AXA is the world's largest insurer/asset manager. The Equitable is one of the nation's leading providers of financial services. AXA/Equitable has been the Liberty Bowl's corporate title sponsor since 1997.
The 1999 edition of the AXA/Equitable Liberty Bowl will mark the first time in its 41-year history that a guaranteed match-up of conference champions takes place. The bowl game paid out $1.2 million to each participant in 1998 and foresees a similar pay out in 1999.
Mountain West Conference universities are no strangers to the Liberty Bowl, with six appearances in the bowl's history. Air Force has visited Memphis the most of any MWC team, with four straight appearances from 1989-92. The Falcons went 2-2 in those contests, defeating Ohio State in 1990 (23-11) and Mississippi State in 1991 (38-15), while falling to Mississippi in the other two outings in 1989 (42-29) and 1992 (13-0). Brigham Young and Utah have also participated in the Liberty Bowl. The Utes defeated West Virginia (32-6) in 1964, while the Cougars fell to an undefeated Tulane team (41-27) in 1998.
The bowl agreement is another positive step for the Mountain West Conference as it prepares for its official "Launch" date of July 1, 1999. In February, the league signed a seven-year agreement with ESPN giving the network exclusive national and regional television rights to MWC football and basketball games. Beginning in 1999, ESPN will produce 19-23 football games annually, with minimums of two games on ABC, four games on ESPN, five games on ESPN2 and eight games syndicated on ESPN Regional (ERT). MWC institutions will also be featured a minimum of three times on ESPN's Thursday Night Game of the Week.
The members of the Mountain West Conference are the Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, Colorado State University, University of New Mexico, San Diego State University, UNLV, University of Utah and the University of Wyoming.