Connecticut extended its football season Sunday into a sixth month, accepting a bid to play Mid-American Conference champion Buffalo in January in the International Bowl.
The Huskies, who played their first game against Hofstra on Aug. 28, finished the regular season at 7-5 and were 3-4 in the Big East after losing 34-10 Saturday to Pittsburgh.
The game will be played at noon on Jan. 3 in Toronto's Rogers Centre. It will be UConn's second consecutive bowl appearance and third in the past five seasons. The Huskies lost to Wake Forest in last season's Meineke Bowl after winning the 2004 Motor City Bowl against Toledo.
"For the overall good of the program, it's a significant step to be in back-to-back bowls," said coach Randy Edsall. "When you take a look at where we were and where we are right now...I just want to give the kids a lot of credit for doing what they've done."
The Huskies have been bowl eligible four times in their seven seasons as a bowl subdivision program.
Buffalo (8-5) beat Ball State 42-24 Friday night, earning the Mid-American Conference title and the program's first bowl bid since joining college football's top tier of teams in 1999.
Jeff Hathaway, UConn's athletic director, said he got the phone call inviting UConn to the bowl Sunday morning during the closing prayer at church.
"It's a weekly routine, not praying for the bowl game, but going to Mass," he said.
Hathaway said UConn will receive $1 million from the Big East for making the game and another $103,000 in travel expenses. He said the combined funds should allow the school to break even after paying for the trip.
The Huskies plan to fly into Buffalo and bus to Toronto on Dec. 30, avoiding the necessity of making sure everyone has a passport for the trip.
Edsall said the team will take a break for finals, and will start practicing on Dec. 15. They will take another break on Dec. 23 for Christmas and start up again on the 27th.
He said the extra month will help the Huskies prepare not only for the bowl game, but to get a head start on next season.
"You get more practice time with those kids than you would if you were playing in a bowl game on the 20th (of December) or the 27th or whatever, especially with the finals schedule," Edsall said. "That's one thing that I'm excited about. We're going to get a chance to work with these young kids and do a lot more with them."
UConn has been allocated 10,000 tickets for the game, which is being played the same day as home games for the school's second-ranked men's basketball team and the top-ranked women's basketball team. But Hathaway said he believes a trip to the bowl will be attractive to UConn fans, in part because it falls on the Saturday of a long holiday weekend, and is a 10-hour drive from campus.
"You can head up there on Friday afternoon and be back and not miss any time at work," he said. "I think it's going to work good for our fans."