College football teams battle all season long in hopes of making it to the postseason. Coaches, players, and fans sit in anticipation as Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit announce which bowl game their team made.
Every football fan has certain bowl games on their bucket list, like the Rose Bowl. But what happens when your team plays in the Gasparilla Bowl, for example? You quickly Google the game’s location, and you are probably wondering where this game got its name. You will discover that most bowl game names carry a deeper meaning. So just what are college football bowl games named after? They originate from people, historical events, structures, and more.
College Football Bowl Game Name Origins
The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, hosts the Alamo Bowl, a postseason bowl game that pits a Big 12 team against a Pac-12 team. This bowl game name derives from the city’s Spanish fortress, the Alamo, and the logo replicates the famous landmark.
Frustrations ran high following the 1968 and 1969 college football seasons because Western Athletic Conference Champions Wyoming (‘68) and Arizona State (‘69) failed to receive a bowl game bid. As a result, a new postseason game was created so that the WAC champion secured an invite to a bowl game. After years of turmoil, the bowl game obtained approval in 1971. A five-person committee, including Arizona governor Jack Williams, determined the title in a bowl game name contest. The chosen name was the Fiesta Bowl.
From its conception, this bowl game, played in the Phoenix, Arizona area, has featured some of the top teams in the country. Since 1992, it has even been part of bowl game organizations that determine the national champion, including the Bowl Coalition (1992-1994), Bowl Alliance (1995-1997), Bowl Championship Series (1998-2013), and the College Football Playoff (2014-present).
Gasparilla? What is that?
Gasparilla is the nickname for the Spanish pirate, José Gaspar, meaning “little Gaspar.” Legend has it that he roamed the Tampa Bay area in the late 18th century and inhabited Gasparilla Island. He terrorized ships, stole treasure, and imprisoned crew members. However, this story is just a myth. There is no physical documentation or evidence that he existed. As a nod to the mythical José Gaspar, the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl renamed itself the Gasparilla Bowl in 2017, and Tampa Bay created the Gasparilla Pirate Festival in his honor.
This bowl game began in 2008 and has always been played in Tampa Bay, Florida. However, the football game moved in 2018 to Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneer mascot references the pirates who frequented Florida’s coast during the 17th century. If your team makes it to this game, there will be no lack of Pirate-themed elements. In fact, this NFL stadium contains a gigantic 100-foot-long pirate ship. But, be warned. If you stand alone on the ship’s deck, Gaspar might snatch you and drag you to the depths of the ocean.
The origin of the Independence Bowl relates to a significant event in America’s history. On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson and 55 men signed the Declaration of Independence. This historic document declared the United States’ independence from Great Britain, and every 4th of July, Americans celebrate their freedom on Independence Day.
Two hundred years later, the birth of a nation was not the only thing Americans were celebrating, but also the emergence of a new college football bowl game: The Independence Bowl. Established in 1976, the Independence Bowl obtained its name in honor of the nation’s bicentennial.
Shreveport, Louisiana, is the host city of the Independence Bowl. Initially, State Fair Stadium hosted this game, but the stadium changed its name in 1982 to Independence Stadium in honor of the bowl game.
The AutoZone Liberty Bowl is rooted in history. From 1959 to 1964, teams played in Philadelphia, where the Liberty Bell lives in Independence Hall, hence the bowl name. Financial reasons relocated the 1964 game to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where it became the first Division Ⅰ bowl game played indoors. After a rough period in the northern U.S., the bowl game’s committee searched for a new home.
The City of Memphis noticed the Liberty Bowl’s poor attendance and built the Memphis Memorial Stadium in 1965 to draw the bowl game to Tennessee. The plan worked because the game transferred to its permanent location in Memphis that same year. Due to the game’s massive success, the stadium’s name changed to the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in December 1975. This name lasted for 47 years until 2022, when it changed to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
The Liberty Bowl is the seventh-oldest college football bowl game and one of the most patriotic bowl games. Throughout 63 years, the game has spotlighted four Heisman Trophy winners and coaching legends such as Paul “Bear” Bryant, Lou Holtz, Tom Osborne, Steve Spurrier, and Bill Snyder.
Another feature that makes this bowl game stand out is its partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The hospital’s Memphis headquarters are only six miles from Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. Advertisements for the hospital play throughout the broadcast, encouraging people to donate, and the Liberty Bowl’s logo has St. Jude written on it.
If you visit New Orleans, Louisiana, you must try the famous beignets at Cafe du Monde. They are deep-fried doughnuts sprinkled with heaps of confectioners sugar. French Acadians introduced these creations to Louisiana in the 18th century. Around that same time, Étienne de Boré produced the first granulated sugar in Louisiana and made sugar cane a profitable crop. From there, Louisiana’s sugar business boomed.
In 1927, the New Orleans Item’s publisher Col. James M. Thomson and sports editor Fred Digby proposed that two teams play a New Orleans football classic on New Year’s Day. They dubbed their game the “Sugar Bowl” after Louisiana led the nation in sugar production. Digby persisted even though the idea received years of rejection. Finally, on January 1, 1935, Tulane defeated Temple 20-14 in the first Sugar Bowl. Fun fact: Audubon Park is where de Boré developed granulated sugar and was the original site of the Sugar Bowl Stadium.
Nowadays, the Sugar Bowl plays at Caesar’s Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints. Overall, this bowl game is one many fans and teams strive to play at because it is a part of the College Football Playoff and the New Year’s Six, a term used to describe six elite bowl games that play on and around New Year’s Day.
This blog was inspired by a question at Pub Quiz and Stump! Trivia by Sporcle games across the country on May 18, 2022. That question was: What college football bowl game in San Antonio, Texas, since 1993 is named after a nearby landmark?
As you now know, the answer was the Alamo Bowl.
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