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A short history of bowl relocation

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Bowl are like people: sometimes they need to move to a new town and change their name!

Getty Images/Banner Society Illustration

Bowl games often feel like landmarks, temporally and geographically. We start the new year with the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. We spend Christmas Eve watching the Hawaii Bowl. We turn our televisions to the Holiday Bowl because we’ve run out of things to discuss with our relatives beyond “hey, San Diego looks nice, doesn’t it?”

But bowls don’t always stay in one place. Nearly a quarter of the current postseason games have, either temporarily or permanently, been moved from their original home cities. (This list only includes moves of at least fifty miles and doesn’t include things like “in 2019 the Cotton Bowl hosted a hockey game instead of the First Responder Bowl or the actual Cotton Bowl, which hasn’t been played there in some time.”)

TEMPORARY MOVERS

1942: The Rose Bowl was originally canceled at the Army’s recommendation due to concerns about crowd safety after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which took place less than a month before the game. But Duke, which had already been announced as a participant, offered to host the game, and that’s how Oregon State made their first Rose Bowl appearance - and got, to date, their only Rose Bowl win - in North Carolina.

1973: The Citrus - then the Tangerine - Bowl couldn’t host the game bearing its name because it was in the middle of serious renovations. 7-4 Florida hadn’t been to a bowl game in a few years, but they had a stadium that wasn’t all that far from Orlando. So fate brought these two entities together to give college football what it needed: a Miami (Ohio) team finishing an undefeated season by beating the Gators at their home field.

1994: With the Gator Bowl (again, the stadium) mostly torn down to prepare for the arrival of the expansion Jaguars a year later, Gainesville once again served as the pull-out couch for a Florida city in need of a place to crash. The Gators themselves, however, were already booked in the Sugar Bowl, so the home locker room got a very, very strange tenant instead: the Tennessee Volunteers.

This is why it’s simultaneously true that Peyton Manning never beat Florida but also got a win in Gainesville.

2006: After Hurricane Katrina damaged the Superdome in August 2005, the Sugar Bowl was moved to the Georgia Dome. This was very convenient for the SEC participant, the Georgia Bulldogs, until they lost to West Virginia. Fortunately, nothing embarrassing or stressful ever happened for Georgia in Atlanta ever again!

PERMANENT MOVERS

1964: The Liberty Bowl moved from its birthplace of Philadelphia to Atlantic City and became the first major college football game played indoors. AstroTurf wasn’t in widespread use yet, so the organizers put grass on top of burlap on top of concrete and kept lights running constantly to keep the grass alive. Oh, and the convention hall where the game was played wasn’t big enough for full end zones, so those got shortened from 10 feet deep to eight.

1965: The Liberty Bowl decided living in Atlantic City was a bad idea and moved to Memphis for good.

1986: In what was maybe more of a divorce than a relocation, the College Football Hall of Fame wanted to continue hosting a bowl (as it had since 1977) but decided that bowl should be in Tampa, not Birmingham. The Hall started up what will later become the Outback Bowl in 1986, and its old partner game continued as the All-American Bowl in Birmingham before folding in 1991.

1992: A similar split happened with the Big West, the MAC, and the California Bowl. The conferences elected to continue matching their champions in a bowl game, which they moved to Vegas. The California Bowl, unable to find a sponsor to replace the mighty wealth of the California Raisin Advisory Board, lost its NCAA certification.

2000: What is now the beloved Cheez-It Bowl was once the Copper Bowl, and it was played in Tucson, not Phoenix. When the organization that runs the Fiesta Bowl acquired this game in 1997, it had two years left on its Tucson contract, and the Fiesta squad wasn’t interested in an extension. This is how the local paper felt about the bowl’s departure.

Arizona Daily Star, April 29, 2000

2001: The current Camping World Bowl started in Miami in 1990 to showcase two examples of American ingenuity - Joe Robbie Stadium and Blockbuster Video. But once the sponsorship changed to CarQuest Auto Parts and the Orange Bowl got permission to use the stadium for their game as well, the game’s profile dipped. Citrus Bowl organizers took it over and moved it to Orlando.

2017: Remember that bowl game where Memphis and BYU got in a big ole fight? That was the Miami Beach Bowl, created and operated by the AAC for three years before they sold it to ESPN, who moved it to Frisco and renamed it.

FUTURE MOVERS(?)

20??: The average temperature in late December Boston is right around freezing. The American Athletic Conference, having lost UConn to independence, has no teams in New England; the ACC has Boston College. Yet these two have decided to align themselves with the Fenway Bowl, which gets started in 2020. Call it a hunch, but I think we are one or two poorly attended and brutally cold Tulsa-Miami games away from this bowl pulling up stakes and becoming (spins wheel) the Reno Bowl.