Tried and true

The older the better when it comes to non-BCS bowl games

Updated: January 4, 2011, 4:22 PM ET
ESPN SportsTravel staff

• Quick clicks: Sun Bowl | Liberty Bowl | Capital One Bowl | Gator Bowl | Cotton Bowl


Photo gallery: Oldest non-BCS bowls Photo Gallery

As the bowl season extends into January, our interests are largely dominated by the big five BCS bowls. It's all about top-ranked teams and determining a national champion ... but it's also about tradition. To be sure, the Bowl Championship Series games are among our oldest; only the Fiesta Bowl originated after 1935.

Stamp your Passport

If you've been to bowl games you know the significance and the passion. Now you can chronicle the experience with ESPN Passport, a free resource to keep your personal sports history. Log all the venues and games you've been to, then see how your attendance record stacks up versus others. Click here to learn more … then declare you were there!

And of course it's why they get all the love.

We're here now to give props to the five oldest non-BCS bowls, all of which are at least 50 years old. Talk about old school.

Indeed, sports tourists, as you gear up to hit the road and represent your schools at the gridiron, here are brief histories of the Sun Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Gator Bowl, Capital One Bowl and Liberty Bowl, as culled from their official websites and media guides.

And as you make final travel preparations, be sure to check in to ESPN Sports Passport if you're going and to log your memories from past bowls that you've seen.


Sun Bowl

Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
Notre Dame vs. Miami, Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET, CBS

What began in 1935 with El Paso's top high school talent staged at a prep field graduated to a college competition the following year. Today it is Sun City's No. 1 national attraction.

The talent that has graced the field includes Ara Parseghian, Merlin Olsen, Tony Dorsett, Barry Sanders, Carson Palmer and LaDainian Tomlinson, while coaches Sammy Baugh, Tom Osborne and Barry Switzer have paced the sidelines.

By 1938 the game had moved to 15,000-seat Kidd Field on what is now the campus of University of Texas at El Paso, and the Sun Bowl Traveling Trophy was first presented. It wasn't until 1957 that the bowl hosted a top-20 team, when No. 17 George Washington lost to the home cooking of Texas Western (now UTEP).

The 30,000-capacity Sun Bowl Stadium became the game's venue in 1963, as Oregon defeated SMU. UTEP topped Mississippi in 1967 as the new stadium enjoyed its first sellout. The next year a national TV audience discovered the Sun Bowl as Auburn blasted Arizona; CBS brought in its top broadcasting duo in Lindsey Nelson and Frank Gifford, and has televised the game ever since.

1970 saw two ranked teams in the Sun Bowl for the first time, with No. 13 Georgia Tech upending No. 19 Texas Tech. A weird weather phenomenon in 1974's "Fog Bowl" resulted in steam rising from the gridiron as the sun's rays melted overnight frost; and Mississippi State snowballed over North Carolina. A 20,000-seat stadium expansion was completed in 1982. In 1986 the Sun Bowl became the first to be commercially sponsored, when John Hancock Financial Services agreed to a five-year obligation.

Tomlinson-led TCU upset Palmer and USC in 1998. UCLA beat Northwestern 50-38 in the bowl's highest scoring affair in 2005, followed three years later by Oregon State's 3-0 victory over Pittsburgh, the lowest point total since a scoreless tie in 1940. And earlier this year CBS re-upped its TV commitment through 2013, extending the longest-running broadcasting agreement.



Liberty Bowl

Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.
Georgia vs. No. 25 Central Florida, Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Memphis became the host city in 1965, six years after the bowl debuted on Dec. 19, 1959, in Philadelphia. Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is named in honor of the football classic with its roots in the North.

Paul "Bear" Bryant got his bowl game start as a coach at that inaugural Liberty Bowl in Philly, as his Alabama team was shut out in a loss to Penn State. The man with the houndstooth hat would be tied closely to the bowl after that and bring three more teams. Bryant coached his final game in the 1982 Liberty Bowl, announcing his retirement before the Crimson Tide beat Illinois. More than 1,000 members of the media covered the game. He died unexpectedly less than a month later.

Early on, in Philly, when it was the only cold-weather bowl, the game was hurt by poor attendance. A year before moving the series permanently to Tennessee, bowl founder Ambrose F. "Bud" Dudley was persuaded by Atlantic City powers to play in Convention Hall there in what would be the first indoor bowl game.

Among "the legends" celebrated on the Liberty Bowl website are: Ernie Davis (Syracuse, 1961); Terry Baker (Oregon State, 1962); Archie Manning (Ole Miss, 1968); Randy White (Maryland, 1974); Lawrence Taylor (North Carolina, 1977); Kellen Winslow (Missouri, 1980); Doug Flutie (Boston College, 1983); Bo Jackson (Auburn, 1984); Donovan McNabb (Syracuse, 1996); Antowain Smith (Houston, 1996); Bear Bryant (Alabama, 1959, 1969, 1976, 1982); Lou Holtz (NC State, 1973); Tom Osborne (Nebraska, 1977); Joe Paterno (Penn State, 1979); Johnny Majors (Tennessee, 1986); and LaVell Edwards (BYU, 1998).

Bobby Anderson rushed for a bowl-record 254 yards for Colorado in a 1969 win over Alabama. Down by 10, Nebraska rallied to beat North Carolina with two fourth-quarter touchdowns in 1977. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the bowl began their continuing partnership in 1993. Tulane completed an undefeated season in 1998 with a victory against BYU. And the 2004 tilt was the first to pit a pair of top-10 teams, as No. 7 Louisville outlasted No. 10 Boise State 44-40 in the bowl's highest-scoring edition.



Capital One Bowl

Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
No. 16 Alabama vs. No. 9 Michigan State, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

What began in 1947 as the Tangerine Bowl under the management of the Elks Club to benefit disabled children, now boasts the highest payout of all non-BCS games, at $9.2 million.

Catawba beat Maryville in that inaugural New Year's Day bowl in what was then called Greater Orlando Stadium. (Since then the lower portion of what is now Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium has remained unchanged.) Five years later, Stetson, yes, the Hatters, staged the bowl's greatest upset by toppling Arkansas State. Lou Holtz's William & Mary team made a game of it until halftime against Toledo in 1970, but the Rockets would prevail and extend their winning streak to 23 games.

Auburn in 1982 won its first bowl game in eight years as freshman Bo Jackson rushed for two touchdowns, while Boston College sophomore QB Doug Flutie passed for two TDs. The Florida Citrus Bowl was the game's new name in 1983, when Reggie White and Tennessee knocked off Boomer Esiason and Maryland. NBC provided the first major network broadcast in 1984 as Florida State and Georgia dueled to a tie.

Second-ranked Georgia Tech turned back Nebraska for a share of the national championship (with Colorado) in 1991. In a thrilling finale against Ohio State in 1995, Alabama scored the deciding touchdown with just more than a minute left. In 2000, Michigan State beat Florida on a field goal at the final gun. And two years after it became the Capital One Bowl, Iowa beat LSU in 2005 with a 56-yard touchdown pass on the game's last play.



Gator Bowl

EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
No. 21 Mississippi State vs. Michigan, Jan. 1, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

A bowl game notion drummed up by Jacksonville businessmen in 1945 was realized Jan. 1, 1946, when Wake Forest and South Carolina each received $10,000 for participating in the inaugural Gator Bowl, won by the Demon Deacons at Fairfield Stadium. The payout to each of this season's participants is $2.5 million.

In 1955 the bowl was the first to be telecast coast-to-coast, as CBS viewers saw Vanderbilt dismantle Auburn.

Heisman Trophy recipients George Rogers, Pat Sullivan, Earl Campbell and John David Crow have played in the bowl, as have other football greats Dan Marino, Thurman Thomas, Archie Manning, Larry Csonka and Peyton Manning. Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier and Vince Dooley have brought teams.

One of football's most memorable incidents of sideline rage transpired in the 1978 game between Ohio State and Clemson, when coaching legend Woody Hayes lost his cool -- and his job -- by punching an opposing player, as summarized by the Florida Times-Union. Hayes put a forearm to the chin of Charlie Bauman after the nose guard intercepted a pass with less than 2 minutes left to seal a victory for the Tigers. Hayes resigned the next morning in Jacksonville.

The original 7,600-capacity stadium was renamed the Gator Bowl in the late 1940s and served as host venue until 1993, when it was razed to make room for its new home, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. (During construction, the 1994 bowl was played in Gainesville, Fla.) The facility is now called EverBank Field and seats 73,000.



Cotton Bowl

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
No. 11 LSU vs. No. 17 Texas A&M, Jan. 7, 8 p.m. ET, FOX

When you think of Texas, gushers may come to mind, and Dallas oilman J. Curtis Sanford "struck it rich" by creating the Cotton Bowl Classic in January 1936. The State Fair of Texas in Dallas agreed to the rental of its stadium soon after, and the following New Year's Day TCU topped Marquette in front of 17,000 fans at the inaugural bowl game.

The payout to each team in that first game was $10,000. Today's seating capacity at the host venue is 75,815, and the Jan. 7 payout will total $7.15 million, divided between the Big 12 and Southeastern conferences that each year send representative teams to vie for the trophy. Overall, the Cotton Bowl Classic has contributed more than $175 million to higher education through its participating institutions.

At one point Cotton Bowl officials weighed an option to join the Bowl Championship Series, but they eventually decided to remain outside the "Big Four" games.

After its long tenure at Fair Park's stadium, the game will be hosted for the second time at Cowboys Stadium.

Of course there have been many memorable moments, but the one that leads "The Classics" segment of the Cotton Bowl media guide is Jim Brown's heroics:

In what may have been his greatest game, Jim Brown ran through, over and around TCU defenders in the 1957 Classic. He rallied Syracuse from an early 14-0 deficit, then fueled another fierce comeback in the fourth quarter. Brown was simply unstoppable, scoring three times on runs of one, two and four yards and rushed for 132 yards. He also booted three PATs and recorded five tackles.

Brown would go on to NFL fame, but the final score of the 1957 tilt isn't remembered quite as fondly by the Orangemen, as the Horned Frogs prevailed 28-27.