It was the worst kept secret in Columbia.
Glen Krupica, executive director of the Independence Bowl, made official what many Missouri fans knew to be true for the past few weeks.
Krupica, with MU coach Gary Pinkel and Associate Athletic Director Ed Stewart sitting next to him, announced the Tigers’ bowl destination Sunday in front of a large crowd in the Tiger Lounge at Memorial Stadium. Missouri will play Arkansas at the Independence Bowl at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 in Shreveport, La.
Each team will receive a $1.2 million payout for its appearance.
Krupica said his bowl had been waiting to get the Tigers for longer than the past few weeks.
“We’ve had great interest in Missouri for quite awhile,” Krupica said. “It doesn’t stand just the last five or six weeks, really it’s about the last five or six years.”
Missouri hasn’t played in a bowl since 1998. Ironically, the Independence Bowl was hot on the trail of the Tigers that year, but it missed out when the Insight.com Bowl grabbed them first.
The opportunity to play in the Independence Bowl might not seem as glamorous as playing in the Orange Bowl , but historically the Independence Bowl has proved to be an early proving ground for teams on the rise.
Defensive back Terrence Curry said he didn’t worry as much about the destination as the steps the program has taken this season.
“Everything we do is toward a bowl game,” Curry said. “It is so big for the program to have the young guys see what it’s like and hopefully they will stay hungry every year and keep going to higher heights.”
Virginia Tech played in Shreveport in 1993, four years before appearing in the National Championship game.
In 1999, Oklahoma lost to Mississippi in the Independence Bowl, a year before winning the national championship.
Krupica said he sees Missouri as a team on the rise, much like the Hokies and Sooners before it.
“We think Mizzou is that type of program that we are very fortunate to catch on the way up,” Krupica said. “We think they will be up there for a long time.”
A flurry of wild activity in the Bowl Championship Series rankings and conference championship games confused MU’s bowl situation some.
Kansas State’s 35-7 win against formerly unbeaten Oklahoma knocked Texas out of the BCS picture and landed the Wildcats in the Fiesta Bowl.
The bowl shakeup didn’t reach as far as the Tigers, though. Krupica said MU was almost a sure thing for Shreveport before Sunday, but the selection committee has to wait for the completion of Saturday night’s Southeastern Conference Championship game.
After LSU ensured it would be the only BCS representative from the SEC with a 34-13 win against Georgia, it became clearer where Missouri’s opponent would come from.
The speculation for the past two months centered on a Missouri-Arkansas matchup, a game the bordering states haven’t seen since 1963. Both teams head to Shreveport with an 8-4 record.
Aside from the historical aspects of playing the Razorbacks, Pinkel said going to a bowl is something his team hopes is only the beginning of something big.
“We have made progress and my players have worked extremely hard,” Pinkel said. “I’ve asked an awful lot of my players and my staff in the three years that we’ve been here, and it is nice to see it pay off a little bit.
“I am very happy for my players to get the experience.”