The Orange Bowl has long been one of the biggest college football bowl games in the United States. Its history, reputation, and prestige make it one of the New Year’s Six – one of the top six college bowl games. For nearly a century, the Orange Bowl game has attracted some of the best football teams, players, and coaches, and made lasting memories. Since first debuting on TV in the 1950s, the Orange Bowl has been a must-watch game for gridiron fans. The games played at the Orange Bowl are legendary, and there is nothing like cheering your team on as they try to win the title at one of the most storied bowl games in college football.
There have been 85 Orange Bowl games played to date. The game’s future remains bright, with further National Championship semifinal contests to be played. While the future of the game is set, its past is extremely colorful, with teams fighting to reach the traditional New Year’s Day game.
The Orange Bowl’s roots were planted over 2,700 miles (ca. 4,345 kilometers) away in Pasadena, California. The Tournament of Roses Parade was first held in 1890 to showcase the beautiful weather and landscapes of the Southern California town. Just over a decade later, organizers added a football game to the festivities of the Tournament of Roses Parade. The game’s addition to the parade in 1902, made the Rose Bowl the oldest college football bowl game – thus the reason iconic ABC commentator Keith Jackson called it, “the Granddaddy of them all.”
In 1926, the city of Miami decided to showcase the south Florida city with a parade and festival of its own. Initially called the Fiesta of the American Tropics, the event differed slightly from the one in Pasadena. Rather than build a game around a parade, Miami built a parade around a college football game.
After the first game, the idea of the Fiesta died out, but was revived in 1932 with the Festival of Palms Bowl. The game is the direct precursor of the modern-day Orange Bowl. The original game featured the University of Miami taking on an at-large team. Three years later, the bowl game was revamped with a new format and name. Now called the Orange Bowl, the game featured two at-large teams and Miami was no longer guaranteed a place – although they would feature prominently in future appearances.
Who won the first game?
The Bucknell Bison were invited to play the first-ever Orange Bowl in 1935. Their opponents were the Miami Hurricanes. At the time, both universities played independently and were at-large teams invited to compete. Bucknell was 7-2-2 going into the game on New Year’s Day, while Miami was 5-2-1.
Bison’s coach Hook Mylin and the university took their time to decide on whether to play the game. After accepting the invitation to play, Mylin and company brought along 280 gallons (ca. 1,060 liters) of water. The team feared the Miami heat would cause dehydration. It must have worked, as Bucknell went on to win the game 26-0.
What was the first televised game?
Nearly two decades after Bucknell thrashed Miami in the Orange Bowl, the first game was televised to a national audience. On January 1, 1953, the Syracuse Orangemen played the Alabama Crimson Tide at Burdine Stadium (Miami Field) in Miami. After a close first quarter in which Alabama lead 7-6, the game quickly became a nightmare for Syracuse. They gave up 54 points over the next three quarters while failing to score. Alabama won the first televised Orange Bowl, 61-6.
Until 1965, the Orange Bowl had been played entirely in the daytime. On New Year’s Day 1965, the game made its prime-time debut. Alabama once again appeared in the game, taking on the Texas Longhorns. Despite going 10-0 in the regular season, the Crimson Tide fell 21-17. Texas fought off a late Alabama rally to win the first nationally telecast college football game played at night. The Longhorns stopped Joe Namath on a fourth down late in the game, tackling the quarterback just short of the goal line. Namath made history the following day by signing with the New York Jets for $400,000.
Since the game was established, it has been played at just two stadiums. Although the naming rights and monikers of the venues have changed, they are essentially the same two grounds to host games. The Orange Bowl’s original home was Burdine Stadium, later renamed Miami Field and then the Orange Bowl. The stadium was originally named after Roger Burdine, a prominent figure in the Miami community.
The stadium was officially opened in 1937 and hosted Orange Bowl games until January 1996, when the game was moved to the home of the Miami Dolphins. Since the mid-1990s, Orange Bowl games have been played at the Hard Rock Stadium, which is also where the Miami Hurricanes play home games. The original Orange Bowl was sadly demolished in 2008.
Who are the winningest teams in Orange Bowl history?
For years, the Orange Bowl had a tie-in with the old Big 8 Conference. The 1980s saw some of the best teams ever produced in the Midwest descend on Miami for the game on New Year’s Day. The Big 8 recorded the most appearances by a conference with 42 before the conference evolved into the Big 12.
Former Big 8, and now Big 12, and soon-to-be SEC team, the Oklahoma Sooners have appeared in more Orange Bowls than any other team. The Sooners have appeared in 20 Orange Bowls, registering a 12-8 record. The Nebraska Cornhuskers have appeared in 17 Orange Bowls, making them second in most appearances in the game. Nebraska has an 8-9 record all-time in Orange Bowl games.
What about the Miami Hurricanes? The team which appeared in the first-ever Orange Bowl in 1935 is tied for third in most appearances with 10. The Hurricanes have a record of 6-4 all-time. The Hurricanes won the 1984 Orange Bowl to claim their first National Championship. Miami stopped a Nebraska two-point conversion with less than a minute left to claim the win 31 – 30. The 1984 Orange Bowl is considered the greatest college football game ever played.
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