In 1902, Michigan and Stanford battled it out in the first-ever collegiate bowl at the Tournament of Roses. 8,000 fans gathered at Tournament Park in Pasadena, California to watch the game but the large turnout did not guarantee the success of the bowl. The Wolverines proved too much for the Cardinal to handle, and after three miserable quarters and a scoring deficit of 49-0, Stanford captain Ralph Fisher approached the Wolverine bench and offered to concede the game. The University of Michigan consented, and the game ended with 8 minutes left to play.
Fearing that such a lopsided match-up would not appeal to fans on an annual basis, the tournament association opted to substitute chariot races in place of the post-parade football game. The races were more evenly matched, yet they failed to attract the crowds and profits unique to the bowl.
14 years after Michigan blanked Stanford, the tournament association decided to reinstate the college football bowl as a Tournament of Roses attraction. In 1916, Washington State beat Brown 14-0 in front of a rain soaked crowd of 7000 spectators, marking the true beginning of the Rose Bowl.
As the game grew in popularity, the stadium grew in size. A horse-shoe shaped venue seating 57,000 was constructed in Pasadena's Arroyo Seco area, and in 1923 the first football game was played at the new "Rose Bowl". In 1928 and again in 1932, the stadium capacity was expanded to accommodate the growing crowds.
Between 1935 and 1937, football fans witnessed the first major boom in college bowls. The Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Sun Bowl all joined the line-up, extending the New Year's football tradition across the country. Surviving for more than 60 years, each of these games has enhanced the bowl tradition and contributed to the allure of college football.
What once began as a singular post-parade exhibition game has evolved into a multi-game, month long celebration of college football. Players, universities and fans have created a new environment surrounding bowls, with the events and opportunities associated with each particular game creating a unique experience for the players and spectators involved.Current Contributions
In recent years, the bowl system has come under fire from critics who argue that too many bowls have cluttered the college football landscape. But those who have participated in a bowl game would beg to differ, including players who experience a lifetime of memories and fans who create mini-holidays out of each bowl, gathering in front of televisions or taking road trips to cheer on their favorite teams, all while donned head to toe in the colors of the team they support.
Multiple games also allow a growing number of teams to share in the excitement of bowl games. This year, 28 games will be played over the course of a 25-day period. 56 schools will be represented across the country, and thousands of student-athletes, coaches, administrators, performers, alumni, and fans will share in the unforgettable bowl game experience.
In addition to giving fans a reason to celebrate, bowls provide participating schools and host communities something to cheer about. This year, 28 bowl games will distribute nearly $200 million to NCAA schools. More than $1.1 billion has been paid out to NCAA schools participating in bowl games in the past 10 years, and bowls will conservatively contribute more than $1.9 billion over the next ten years. Collectively, bowl games generate an estimated $875 million worth of economic impact and exposure to their host communities each year, and many bowl games contribute in excess of $100,000 annually to charitable causes and host camps for disadvantaged youth.