And it took a bit longer than expected for interim Hurricanes coach Jeff Stoutland to get to El Paso for the traditional bowl game news conference Thursday. After a delay in Dallas, Stoutland said he was rushing to find another flight when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.
"I'm looking out the window of the plane and from underneath the plane comes a worker with a belt and other things," Stoutland said. "He's got a Notre Dame ski cap. ... We haven't even gotten on a plane and it's already on here."
Sun Bowl officials said they are excited for the matchup between the old rivals.
"This is as good as it gets, guys," Sun Bowl Association football selection committee chairman John Folmer said.
The teams haven't played since 1990 and Notre Dame leads the all-time series 15-7-1, though the two schools have never met in a bowl. Over the summer, the schools said they will resume their spirited and often fierce regular-season series with three games beginning in 2012 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The series dates to the 1950s but it was during the 1980s, when Miami became a national power, that the rivalry got some spice. Great games, top rankings, pushing and shoving - all were part of the showdowns.
Stoutland was tabbed as interim coach one day after Miami fired Randy Shannon and he will be facing Brian Kelly, whose team went 7-5 in his first season as coach of the Fighting Irish.
Both coaches are excited about the matchup.
"I think people, obviously, are harkening back to the times of Lou Holtz and Jimmy Johnson and those great teams that had great players," Kelly said.
Added Stoutland: "It's been 20 years. A lot of people wanted this to happen for a long time."
Stoutland said the last few weeks have been a roller coaster.
"I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't exciting," Stoutland said. "I've never been a head coach before. It's my first opportunity, I've had, to do all this type of stuff. Usually I'm locked in a room doing film work, breaking film down ...
"Although, it is bittersweet. We did lose our head football coach, who we're all very close to. He's one of my best friends and the players love him. So that part was hard, to be honest with you, but I also think that brings the team closer together."
Kelly said his players would be tackling in full pads during practices as they prepare for the nation's second-ranked pass defense.
"We'll be banging around a little bit, there's no question," Kelly said. "This is not going to be a, 'Let's just show up to the bowl game and see what happens.' Our preparation will be intense, we'll add some tackling to it. I haven't done it in other games."
The bowl is sponsored by Hyundai Motor America.