Sugar Bowl

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The 84th Sugar Bowl gets underway this evening in New Orleans.  The winner will play in the national championship game one week from tonight.

First played in 1935, the Sugar, Orange and Sun Bowls are the second oldest bowl games in the country behind the Granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl.

Born in the depths of The Great Depression, the Sugar Bowl has survived a World War and Hurricane Katrina.

The idea for the game was first hatched by Colonel James Thompson, publisher of the New Orleans Item.  Backed by sports editor Fred Digby, the game came to fruition in 1934 when Warren V. Miller put the idea into action.

The inaugural game was played January 1, 1935, when undefeated Tulane beat Temple – the only undefeated team from the North — 20-14, before 22,026 spectators.

The game was played at Tulane Stadium after the university had donated their venue for the contest.  Admission was $ 1.50 and each school received $ 27,800 from gate receipts [tonight’s teams will each receive a $ 4 million payout].

The Sugar Bowl quickly became so popular that 14,000 seats were added in the north end of Tulane Stadium.  The venue, which was the site of Tom Dempsey’s record-setting 63-yard field goal in 1970 and hosted three of the first nine Super Bowls, eventually expanded to accommodate over 80,000 fans.

In 1975, the game moved to the 73,000-seat Superdome – less than four miles away – and has remained there since.

Historically played on New Year’s Day, the Sugar has hosted five New Year’s Eve editions, including the 1973 contest, where number-three Notre Dame beat top-ranked Alabama, 24-23, in what many consider the greatest Sugar Bowl game ever played.

The Sugar Bowl has a long-standing – albeit not exclusive – relationship with the Southeast Conference [SEC].  The game featured an SEC team in all but four of its first 60 editions and an SEC team played every Sugar Bowl but one between 1950 and 1995.

SEC teams have appeared in the Sugar Bowl 76 times, while independents have played in 26.  The Pac-12 has never appeared in the Sugar.

Alabama has made the most appearances [15] and has gone 8-7.  LSU is next with 13 Sugar Bowl visits and the Tigers have gone 6-7 in New Orleans.  Georgia Tech has the best overall Sugar Bowl record, as the Yellow Jackets are undefeated in four trips to the Bayou.

In the 1936 Sugar Bowl, TCU topped LSU, 3-2.  Six years later, Fordham downed Missouri, 2-0, in the lowest-scoring affair in Sugar Bowl history.  The most points ever scored in a Sugar Bowl came in 1997, when Florida drubbed top-ranked Florida State, 52-20.

Along with the Rose, Cotton, Fiesta, Peach, and Orange Bowls, the Sugar is now one of the New Year’s Six – the top six Division I FBS bowl games.  These half-dozen games rotate hosting [every three years] the two semifinal games which determine the two teams that will meet in the College Football Playoff title game.

One of the most-anticipated games of every season, several of the biggest names in college football history have competed in the Sugar Bowl.  The game has featured 17 Heisman Trophy winners and 93 players who went on the be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Many legendary coaches have graced the sidelines of the Sugar, including Bear BryantWoody Hayes, Tom Osborne, Pop Warner and Bo Schembechler.  In all, 48 hall-of-famers have coached in the Sugar Bowl.

The Sugar Bowl has featured the number one team in the nation 15 times, yet the top-ranked team has only won seven of those contests.  The game has matched the two top-ranked teams in the land on three occasions, including the 1983 classic, when Joe Paterno won his first national championship, at Penn State.

The Miller-Digby Award goes to the Sugar Bowl’s most outstanding player.  The trophy was initially established as a memorial to Warren Miller, the first president of the bowl.  Following the death of Fred Digby in 1959, the award’s name was changed to honor both Sugar Bowl pioneers.

Past recipients of the Miller-Digby Award include Bobby Layne, Ken Stabler, Archie Manning, Hershel Walker, Dan Marino, Bo Jackson and Tim Tebow.

Tonight top-ranked Clemson plays number-four Alabama in the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.  Kickoff is scheduled for 8:45 pm ET on ESPN.