CREATION OF THE BOWL
Recognizing that the San Francisco Giants occupy AT&T Park about 85 days each year, the franchise in 1999 established a new entity, Giants Enterprises, to develop non-baseball uses for the ballpark. During construction of the venue, the Giants discovered that the turf surface was large enough to accommodate a football field, and plans were put in motion to bring the pigskin to AT&T Park.
In January of 2000, Giants Enterprises president Pat Gallagher, working closely with John Marks (president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau) and Gary Cavalli (a 30-year veteran of the professional and collegiate sports industry), launched an effort to establish a college bowl game in the City by the Bay.
With a spectacular new venue, a host city ranked as one of the world's top tourist destinations, and the resources of the Giants, many key elements were already in place. And the prospect of bringing tens of thousands of fans from participating schools to San Francisco during the traditionally slow period between Christmas and New Year's sparked tremendous enthusiasm from the mayor's office and hospitality industry.
Cavalli and Gallagher filed an application with the NCAA and began to cultivate relationships with television networks, football conferences, and prospective corporate sponsors. At the same time, AT&T Park began to build a reputation as a legitimate football venue. The first football game played at the ballpark, the 76th Annual East West Shrine Game, took place on January 13, 2001. Later that year, the XFL's San Francisco Demons moved into the facility and became the most successful franchise in the short-lived league.
A number of broadcast networks and conferences around the country expressed interest in a bowl game in San Francisco. The Bowl opted to partner with the Big East and Mountain West Conferences, which made early commitments to the new venture, and ESPN, which embraced the concept of a post-season game in prime time on New Year's Eve. A nonprofit entity, the San Francisco Bowl Game Association, was formed to promote and oversee the game, with Marks as its first president. Giants Enterprises was retained to provide game operations and management services, with Cavalli as executive director.
Armed with four-year agreements with the two conferences, along with a seven-year commitment from ESPN, Cavalli and Gallagher appeared before the NCAA Post-season Football Committee on April 30, 2002. Two days later, the NCAA granted initial certification to the new San Francisco Bowl, culminating a two-and-a-half year effort.
In early November 2002, Diamond of California came aboard as title sponsor, providing a solid financial foundation for the Bowl's future.