Oldest College Bowl Games

10 Oldest College Bowl Games

College bowl games are pretty much a staple of American life. The first bowl games emerged not long after American football started to increase in popularity. Most of these early bowl games aren’t around, but the Rose Bowl has been going strong for over 100 years! The other bowl games have been played annually for several decades.

10. Fiesta Bowl

Year Established: 1971
Location:  Glendale, Arizona
Venue:  State Farm Stadium
Title Sponsor:  PlayStation
Payout:  $4 Million per team

Fiesta Bowlphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Fiesta Bowl was started in 1971 because the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) was upset when its champions were not invited to any bowl games. Initially, the Fiesta Bowl guaranteed an invite for the WAC’s winner. This tie-in to the WAC ended in 1978 when Arizona and Arizona State moved to the then-Pac-10 conference (now the Pac-12).

Since 2014, the Fiesta Bowl has become a member of College Football Playoff (CFP) and is the youngest of the six CFP bowls.

Did You Know?

Along with some of the other bowl games, the Fiesta Bowl holds an annual parade before the game. The Fiesta Bowl Parade was started in 1973.

9. Peach Bowl

Year Established: 1968
Location:  Atlanta, Georgia
Venue:  Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Title Sponsor:  Chick-fil-A
Payout:  $4 Million per team

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Peach Bowl, officially the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl has been around since 1968 and is played in Atlanta, Georgia (“The Peach State”). Originally, the Peach Bowl was held as fundraising event for the Lions Club of Georgia. Like a few of the other bowl games on this list, the Peach Bowl wasn’t popular right away.

Eventually, the Peach Bowl picked up steam and its now one of the six College Football Playoff bowl games. Since 1997, the Peach Bowl has been sponsored by Chick-fil-A.

Did You Know?

The Peach Bowl is one of the most competitive bowl games, with 53 percent of its games being decided by a touchdown or less.

8. Liberty Bowl

Year Established: 1959
Location:  Memphis, Tennessee
Venue:  Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Title Sponsor:  AutoZone
Payout:  $4.7 Million (total)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Liberty Bowl was created in 1959 by A. F. “Bud” Dudley, a former Villanova athletic director, in Philadelphia. The history of Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell were the inspiration for the Liberty Bowl’s name and logo.

After five years in Philadelphia, the Liberty Bowl was moved to Atlantic City. The Liberty Bowl remained there until the game was move to its current home in Memphis in 1965. Since then, the Liberty Bowl has been played in the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, formerly the Memphis Memorial Stadium.

Did You Know?

While the Liberty Bowl was in Atlantic City, the game was played in Atlantic City’s Convention Hall, making it the first major bowl game played indoors.

7. Citrus Bowl

Year Established: 1947
Location:  Orlando, Florida
Venue:  Camping World Stadium
Title Sponsor:  Vrbo
Payout:  $8,224,578 (total)

Citrus Bowlphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Citrus Bowl has been played annually since 1947 when the game’s sponsors, members of Elks Lodge #1079 of Orlando, each put up $100 to fund initial expenses. Like the other bowl games, the Citrus Bowl has had many transformations and was previously known as the Tangerine Bowl and the Florida Citrus Bowl. Since 1993, the the bowl has hosted top teams from the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences. The Citrus bowl is the largest of the non-College Football Playoff (CFP) bowls.

Did You Know?

Almost every Citrus Bowl since 1985 has featured two teams ranked in the NCAA’s Top 25.

6. Gator Bowl

Year Established: 1946
Location:  Jacksonville, Florida
Venue:  TIAA Bank Field
Title Sponsor:  TaxSlayer
Payout:  $5.35 Million (total)

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Gator Bowl, officially called the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, got off to a slow start in 1946 after many people had tried to organize a Jacksonville bowl game for many years. For the first few years, the Gator Bowl did not attract many fans and the games went undersold. By the fourth Gator Bowl, things picked up and tens of thousands of people showed up to the game. The Gator Bowl has since grown into one of the most popular non-championship bowl games.

Did You Know?

In 1955, the Gator Bowl was the first college bowl game to be broadcast on national television.

5. Cotton Bowl Classic

Year Established: 1937
Location:  Arlington, Texas
Venue:  AT&T Stadium
Title Sponsor:  Goodyear
Payout:  $6 Million per team

Cotton Bowlphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Cotton Bowl Classic dates back to 1937 when Texas oil tycoon J. Curtis Sanford came up with the idea of a Texas bowl game and decided to finance the game himself. Sanford guaranteed that each team that played at his Cotton Bowl would receive $10,000.

In the past, the Cotton Bowl hosted the champion of the Southwest Conference (SWC) against a team invited from elsewhere in the country. After the SWC was disbanded in 1996, the Cotton Bowl was played between a runner-up from the Big 12 Conference and a Southeastern Conference team. Since 2014, the Cotton Bowl has been one of the six bowls in the College Football Playoff (CFP).

Did You Know?

Until 2010, the Cotton Bowl Classic was played at its namesake stadium in Dallas, the Cotton Bowl, which first opened in 1930.

4. Sun Bowl

Year Established: 1935
Location:  El Paso, Texas
Venue:  Sun Bowl Stadium
Title Sponsor:  Kellog’s
Payout:  $4.55 Million (total)

Sun Bowlphoto source: Flickr via Visit El Paso

The first Sun Bowl – which was also played on January 1, 1935 like the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl — was held as a fundraising event for an El Paso service club and was played between high school teams. The following year, the Sun Bowl became a college bowl game.

The Sun Bowl is the oldest postseason bowl game and is not played as a championship. Since 2011, the bowl has been contested between teams from the Pac-12 Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Did You Know?

In 2019, Kellog’s became the title sponsor of the Sun Bowl and officially the game is now called the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in honor of Kellog’s famous Frosted Flakes mascot.

3. Sugar Bowl

Year Established: 1935
Location:  New Orleans, Louisiana
Venue:  Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Title Sponsor:  Allstate
Payout:  $4 Million per team

Sugar Bowlphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

After the success of the Rose Bowl and the Festival of Palms Bowl (predecessor of the Orange Bowl), Colonel James M. Thomson, publisher of the New Orleans Item, and Sports Editor Fred Digby wanted New Orleans to have a New Year’s Day football game of its own. For the next few years, Digby tried to garner support and finally in 1935, New Orleans was ready to host the first Sugar Bowl.

Since then, the Sugar Bowl has been held annually in New Orleans (except for in 2006 when the game had to be moved to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia because of the extensive damage of Hurricane Katrina).

Did You Know?

There actually is a “Sugar Bowl,” which is a solid silver trophy made in 1830 that was gifted to the New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association by the Waldhorn Company, Inc. in 1935. This silver trophy is featured all over the Sugar Bowl as its logo and the Sugar Bowl trophy (it’s a replica of the real Sugar Bowl).

2. Orange Bowl

Year Established: 1935
Location:  Miami Gardens, Florida
Venue:  Hard Rock Stadium
Title Sponsor:  Capital One
Payout:  $35 million per conference

Orange Bowlphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Along with the Sugar Bowl and the Sun Bowl, the Orange Bowl is the second oldest bowl game in the U.S. All three of these bowl games were first played on January 1, 1935 and are still around today. The Orange Bowl is one of the New Year’s Six games, the top bowl games for the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. Currently, the Orange Bowl is sponsored by Capital One and played at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Did You Know?

Technically, the Orange Bowl has been around since 1932, but the first few games known as the Festival of Palms Bowl, are not recognized as official bowl games by the NCAA because one team was guaranteed a spot in the game regardless of record.

1. Rose Bowl

Year Established: 1902; played annually since 1916
Location:  Pasadena, California
Venue:  Rose Bowl
Title Sponsor:  Northwestern Mutual
Payout:  $35 Million per conference (around $4 Million per team)

Rose Bowlphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Rose Bowl, aptly nicknamed “The Granddaddy of Them All,” was first played in 1902, making it the oldest college bowl game in the United States. While the football was played at the first Rose Bowl tournament in 1902, it was removed from the tournament’s roster for over a decade. Football was permanently added back to the Rose Bowl in 1916 and even with this date, the Rose Bowl is still the oldest operating bowl game.

Today, the Rose Bowl is the most popular of the college bowl games and serves as the championship game between the Big Ten and Pac – 12 conferences.

Did You Know?

The reason football was removed from the Rose Bowl after 1902 was because the game was a complete blowout. Roman-style chariot races and ostrich races replaced football for 14 years.


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