I-Bowl officials’ foresight helps turn Plan B into Grade A opportunity

Just when it looked as if bad luck would again strike the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl, foresight and a lack of drama – for once — on selection day left Shreveport with a massive opportunity and the 11th-oldest bowl game with a matchup that’s darn-near perfect.

Houston will face fellow I-Bowl first-timer Louisiana-Lafayette at Independence Stadium at 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23.

When the dust settled from last year’s BYU-UAB I-Bowl affair, much of the hype for the 2022 game was focused on Army. The Black Knights, set to make their first of two appearances (other comes in 2024) under the current bowl agreement, were the only part of the matchup we (thought we) knew. 

As a military community, you can understand the locals’ excitement at Army’s first appearance in Shreveport since 1996.

However, as the 2022 college football season progressed it was clear Army, for just the second time since 2015, may not get the required six victories to qualify for a postseason game.

The Black Knights didn’t get to six and, last week, a waiver to play in a bowl was denied by the NCAA. Par for the course for the I-Bowl, which has had its fair share of bad luck over the past decade-plus.

Thankfully, bowl officials were on top of their game. Talks with the Sun Belt about a backup agreement began in July. In the end, a midseason deal was struck, which proved golden Sunday.

“We couldn’t have imagined we weren’t going to have Army and that this would come into play and somehow get us a Louisiana team,” 2022 bowl chairman Rob Rubel told The Journal.

The Cougars-Ragin’ Cajuns showdown might just reflect what the Independence Bowl needs to be when the national brands are unavailable.

Louisiana-Lafayette’s fanbase has proven its affection for the postseason. The Cajuns, winners of 40 games in the past four seasons, traveled well to New Orleans for a bowl for what seemed to be a decade straight. But no matter the date or the kickoff time, plenty of red infiltrated the Big Easy.

Now, it’s just a three-hour drive to support the Cajuns (6-6) and first-year head coach Michael Desormeaux. Their appearance will mean the I-Bowl will have hosted every FBS program in Louisiana at least once over its 46 years.

Meanwhile, Houston (7-5), less than four hours away, is another popular regional program. But the Cougars, ranked in the preseason Top 25, are a little different. They hold some national appeal with three seasons of at least 12 victories and three trips inside the Top 10 in the past 11 years.

“Today is a big day for us,” Rubel said.

Sometimes Plan B just happens to offer a Grade A opportunity.

The table is set for Shreveport. We just need a heap of local support and help from Mother Nature.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun and really good for the community,” I-Bowl executive director Missy Setters said. “The date plays well. You can come to the game, spend the night before and go to the game or you can stay another night and be home in time for Christmas Eve.”

Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com