The Motor City Bowl was rechristened Wednesday as the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, with the Detroit-based pizza chain stepping up to sponsor the college football bowl game as two of the region's beleaguered automakers step down.

"What can go better with football than pizza?" said Little Caesars Enterprises Inc. president David Scrivano at a news conference Wednesday unveiling the title sponsorship and name change.

The bowl began at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1997 and, since 2002, has been played at Detroit's Ford Field. It tries to pit a team from the Mid-American Conference against a team from the Big Ten and has a television contract with ESPN through the 2014 season.

This year's game will be played Dec. 26 at Ford Field.

Chrysler and General Motors, traditional backers of the bowl, have cut back sponsorships in an effort to save money. Both automakers reorganized under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year.

Auburn Hills-based Chrysler dropped out of the bowl last year, and Detroit-based GM dropped the bowl this year "to no one's surprise," said Ken Hoffman, the bowl's chairman and executive director.

Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. remains a sponsor, Hoffman said, though details still are being worked out.

Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesars and owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, said Wednesday that bowl organizers approached him earlier in the summer about sponsoring the game.

"It's a sporting event and we need sporting events. It picks our community up to no end, with all the great colleges we have in this state and the professional teams that we have," Ilitch said. "Thank God for 'em, especially at times that are rough right now."

Organizers also announced Wednesday that former University of Michigan coach Lloyd Carr will become president of the bowl's board of directors. He joins Hoffman and former Michigan State University coach George Perles, CEO of the bowl, in the event's leadership.