The International Bowl had contracts with the Big East and Mid-American Conferences that allowed them to select one team from each conference to participate in their annual game. By virtue of being the Big East champion Cincinnati was awarded an automatic Bowl Championship Series berth; they would play in the 2009 Orange Bowl. The Gator Bowl and Sun Bowl shared the second pick of Big East teams; after the Gator Bowl opted to select Big 12 member Nebraska and the Sun Bowl learned that they would not be allowed to select Notre Dame, Pittsburghreceived the Sun Bowl invitation. The Meineke Car Care Bowl, which had the third selection, picked West Virginia. The fourth, fifth, and sixth selections of Big East teams belonged collectively to the International Bowl, PapaJohns.com Bowl, and St. Petersburg Bowl, which, in consultation with the Big East, decided which schools were the best fit for each bowl. There were three remaining bowl-eligible Big East teams: Connecticut, Rutgers, and South Florida. The previous season, Rutgers had played in the International Bowl and South Florida had appeared in the PapaJohns.com Bowl; bowls in general dislike inviting the same team in consecutive years, on the theory that fans are less likely to want to travel to the same destination they were at the year before. Additionally, the St. Petersburg Bowl, in its inaugural year, sought to have local team South Florida play in their game to drive local attendance. Therefore, the teams were apportioned among the bowls as follows: South Florida to the St. Petersburg Bowl, Rutgers to the PapaJohns.com Bowl, and Connecticut to the International Bowl.On December 7, 2008, UConn formally accepted the bowl invitation, the third in their history.
Buffalo accepted an invitation to the International Bowl following their victory over then-undefeated Ball State in the 2008 MAC Championship Game. Although in past years the MAC champion had been invited to the Motor City Bowl, Buffalo preferred to go to the International Bowl due to Toronto being closer to the school than Detroit, the home of the Motor City Bowl. The game marked the first bowl for the Bulls after their first MAC Championship since moving to Division I-A[Note 1] and joining the MAC in 199
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