Liberty Bowl to get SEC team starting in '06

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Liberty Bowl has announced a four-year agreement to match a Southeastern Conference team with the Conference USA champion in the annual postseason football game in Memphis, beginning in 2006.

C-USA has sent its champion to the Liberty Bowl since 1996, when the league began football competition. The bowl's agreement with the Mountain West Conference expired last year, so C-USA has an open selection for this year's game on Dec. 31.

The Liberty Bowl, with Memphis-based AutoZone as its primary sponsor, has featured SEC teams 23 times over the years.

"This is definitely a red-letter day for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl," said Steve Ehrhart, the bowl's executive director. "We have a rich history with the SEC that dates back to the inaugural Liberty Bowl in 1959."

Mississippi made the latest SEC appearance in the Liberty Bowl, defeating Air Force 13-0 in 1992.

Alabama's Bear Bryant ended his coaching career at the Liberty Bowl in 1982, leading the Crimson Tide to a 21-15 victory over Illinois.

How the SEC will select its Liberty Bowl participants was not disclosed. But all parties have mutually agreed that there will be no rematches of regular season games or intrastate match-ups over the course of the agreement.