For Louisiana Tech, an invitation to play in the Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., is a sweet reward at the end of a tough, three-year climb out of Division I-AA and into the ranks of major-college football.
But it is a reward for which Tech appears to have labored as long and as hard off the field as the players did on the field.
"Our young men have won eight games, and we have a head football coach that has done an incredible job in three years," said athletic director Jerry Stovall, who has been in his post just three weeks.
Joe Raymond Peace and the Bulldogs have improved from 4-7 in 1988, their first year in Division I-A, to 5-4-1 last year to 8-3 this year, including an admirable performance in a two-point loss to a ranked Auburn team.
"It [the bowl invitation] is unofficial until Saturday," said Peace. "But if it's offered, we will be thrilled to death to be there. It is a tribute to our coaches and our players.
"It is something our coaches and players have been pointing to since spring practice -- to be a winning team and go to a postseason bowl."
But Tech officials have had to work hard, too, convincing the Independence Bowl committee to invite a local team and forsake all those out-of-state visitors and their traveler's checks.
"The major question has always been, 'Do they have people who will come and stay a day or two?' " said Stovall, who played for the St. Louis Cardinals and served as head coach at Louisiana State.
"Well, we have 10,000 alumni in Shreveport alone. There are more ways to spend money than on hotel rooms. We plan to have our people out in force in that community," he said from Ruston, La., 70 miles from the 50,000-seat Independence Bowl.
"We are the only university in Louisiana to play in a bowl game. We will make sure the state knows that."
The Times in Shreveport reported in today's editions that each team agreed to purchase 15,000 tickets with a portion of the $500,000 guarantee in an effort to assuage the bowl committee's economic concerns.
Louisiana Tech owes a tip of the hat to Baylor for opening the door to the Independence. Bears head coach Grant Teaff informed Independence Bowl people yesterday that Baylor would not accept their invitation, because the team is hoping to win the Southwest Conference outright and go to the Mobil Cotton Bowl as the host team.
Because the Independence Bowl is played Dec. 15, officials could not afford to wait until Dec. 1 to know which teams would participate.
Temple (6-4) and South Carolina (5-5 with a game left tonight against West Virginia) also were discarded as Independence Bowl participants, making way for Louisiana Tech and Maryland. Temple, a city school, does not draw well for its home games and would not be expected to bring a big crowd to Louisiana.
"Temple went right down to the wire," said Cecil Lloyd, president of the Shreveport Sports Foundation, the bowl's organizer. "But we looked at the toughness of schedule, and Maryland had the edge. Beating Virginia last week really put them over the edge."
"We knew we were getting down to the nitty-gritty," said Charles Theokas, Temple's athletic director. "And, to be frank, Maryland was not really in the mix. I was surprised Maryland came away with it. The big win over Virginia certainly helped them.
"Certainly we would have been a far stronger team than either of the teams they picked," said Theokas.
Maryland is expected to be stronger in the stands.
"All indications are that the people there are excited and will bring a representative crowd," said Brant Goyne, president of the Independence Bowl committee.
Louisiana Tech at a glance
Site: Ruston, La.
Coach: Joe Raymond Peace.
Coach's record: 3 years, 17-14-1.
School enrollment: 10,200.
Colors: Red and blue.
Offensive system: Multiple set from Pro.
Defensive system: 4-3 with charging fronts.
Most famous former players: QB Terry Bradshaw, WR Roger Carr.
1990 record: 8-3.
Game-by-game 17 at East Carolina 27
51 at McNeese State 3
21 at W. Michigan 27
40 Arkansas State 7
24 SW Louisiana 10
14 at Auburn 16
35 at Tulsa 21
31 S.F. Austin 22
31 at NE Louisiana 7
36 Akron 15
31 Colorado State 30