Liberty Bowl wants Arkansas, but SEC will have final say

Arkansas linebacker Bret Harris (left) and fullback John Durmon carry off the Liberty Bowl trophy following the Razorbacks' overtime win over East Carolina on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010, at Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

— Bowl destinations will be announced in eight days and Arkansas will be heading to Memphis, Tennessee, if Liberty Bowl officials get their way.

Two Liberty Bowl representatives, executive director Steve Ehrhart and associate executive director Harold Graeter, were in attendance at the Razorbacks' 28-3 win over Missouri on Friday. It was the third time in four weeks that Graeter has watched Arkansas in person, having also attended games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

The bowl has made overtures that it wants Arkansas to represent the Southeastern Conference in the game against the Big 12. It distributed booklets to Arkansas officials outlining bowl-week events and reasons the game would be a good fit for the Razorbacks.

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Reader poll

Of likely bowl games for Arkansas, which do you prefer?

  • Belk 7%
  • Liberty 43%
  • Music City 22%
  • TaxSlayer 12%
  • Texas 16%

6625 total votes.

Among them: The Memphis metro area has produced the second-most SEC signees among cities with an SEC-affiliated bowl since 2006, and Arkansas has a strong alumni and booster base in the city.

The Razorbacks have played in the game four times, most recently in January 2010 when the bowl had its second-largest attendance for a game between Arkansas and East Carolina.

The 57th Liberty Bowl will be played on the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016.

The Big 12 representative for the Liberty Bowl will likely be the winner of a game between Kansas State and West Virginia next week.

The Wildcats, who play winless Kansas today, must win their final two games to reach six wins. West Virginia played in the Liberty Bowl last season and is already bowl-eligible.

Texas Tech, a team predicted by some to play in Memphis, is expected to be sent to the Texas Bowl in Houston. The Liberty Bowl gets the Big 12's fourth-best team that does not make the college football playoff's six bowl games.

While the Razorbacks are the Liberty Bowl's choice to represent the SEC, it will be up to the SEC office as to whether Arkansas actually plays in the game. The league assigns bowl designations after consultation with bowl officials and bowl-eligible programs.

Mark Womack, SEC executive associate commissioner, said earlier this week a variety of factors go into how bowl game assignments are made. Among them are regional proximity, the length of time between a team playing in a particular bowl and whether the game would be a rematch of a game played earlier in the season.

Other factors include future schedules. For instance Tennessee was a favorite for the Music City Bowl last season, but the Volunteers didn't play there because they were scheduled to open this season with a game at the same stadium in which the bowl is played.

It's unclear which factors carry the most weight in deciding games.

In speaking to representatives from multiple bowls, Arkansas will play in one of the SEC's "group of six" bowl games barring something unforeseen. The Razorbacks are 7-5 overall and finished 5-3 in league play, which will tie for at least third and possibly second in the SEC West.

In addition to the Liberty, other group of six games include the Texas Bowl in Houston; Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee; Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida; TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida; and Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Birmingham Bowl and Independence Bowl select after the group of six. The Birmingham Bowl is expected to get Auburn.

The league has 10 bowl affiliations, but the Independence Bowl will be without an SEC team unless Kentucky beats Louisville today or Alabama does not make the college football playoff.

An Independence Bowl representative was at the Arkansas-Missouri game in case the Tigers beat the Razorbacks to become bowl-eligible. Arkansas is not expected to play at the bowl game in Shreveport, Louisiana.