The Sugar Bowl, which was first played in 1935, is held annually in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Rose Bowl, which was originally held in 1902 and has been played annually since 1916, is the oldest college football bowl game in the United States. The Sugar Bowl and two other bowl contests, the Sun and Orange, share the honor of being the second-oldest NCAA bowls.
With one exception, the Sugar Bowl has been held at the Superdome since 1975. In 2006 due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the event was hosted by Atlanta, Georgia, and held at the Georgia Dome. Since 2007, Allstate Insurance has sponsored the game with past sponsors being Nokia (1996- 2006) and USF&G Financial Services (1987- 1995). The Sugar Bowl, which is part of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), is one of the premiere post-season college football contests in the nation. Each team participating in the event garners a payout of $17 million.
As is the case with many contemporary bowl games, the Sugar Bowl is associated with a specific conference. This bowl offers a berth to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship club. However, if the winner of the SEC crown is chosen to participate in the BCS National Championship Game, which has been the case since 2006, the Sugar Bowl committee may invite an at-large team to participate. Each year that the SEC title team has not been available, the bowl committee has chosen to invite another SEC club. This contest has featured a SEC team each year since 2000- 2001. The other participant is also a nationally prominent at-large team, making the Sugar Bowl one of the premiere bowl games in the nation.
The Sugar Bowl was the brain thrust of newspaper publisher Colonel James M Thomson and sports editor Fred Digby. Thomson, who ran the New Orleans Item, and Digby first proposed the idea of a football game held in New Orleans on New Year’s Day in 1927. Digby, who suggested that the contest be called the Sugar Bowl, then took up the torch on his own as every year he put forth the idea that a football game should be played on January 1 in the warm climes of The Big Easy. After eight years, in 1935, the initial Sugar Bowl was played at Tulane Stadium, which had been built the year prior. That first Sugar Bowl saw Tulane beat Temple 20 -14.
In 1969, ABC Sports televised the game for the first time and continued to do so for the next 40 years. Since 2007, the Sugar Bowl has been broadcast by Fox Sports. However, Fox was outbid by ESPN for the 2010- 2011 television rights.
In 1948, the bowl instituted its Most Valuable Player Award. Named the Miller-Digby Award, after Warren V, Miller, who fostered the creation of the bowl in 1934 and 1935, and original Sugar Bowl proponent and founder Fred Digby, the honor has gone to an array of prominent and talented players, including Steve Spurrier (QB, Florida 1966), Ken Stabler (QB, Alabama, 1967), Hershel Walker (RB, Georgia, 1981), Dan Marino (QB, Pittsburgh, 1982) and Jerome Bettis (RB, Notre Dame, 1992). Since 1939, 14 Heisman Trophy winners have played in the Sugar Bowl including Tony Dorsett (RB, Pittsburgh, 1977), Vinny Testaverde (QB, Miami, 1986) and Bo Jackson (RB, Auburn, 1984). Hershel Walker is the only Heisman recipient to make three appearances. The former Georgia Star played in the Sugar Bowl from 1981- 1983. Two other Heisman Trophy honorees have played in two Sugar Bowls. LSU running back Billy Cannon appeared in the 1959 and 1960 bowls and Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel played in the 1995 and 1997 contests.
Sugar Bowl records include most total plays in a BCS game: 97 in the LSU versus Illinois contest on January 2, 2002 and most combined total rushing yards in a BCS game: 606 as West Virginia (382) met Georgia (224) on January 2, 2006. The most points scored came when Florida tallied 52 against Florida State on January 2, 1997.
Individual records include most total yards and most passing yards: 427 total and 444 passing by Rohan Davey when LSU met Illinois in 2002. The highest number of rushing yards came in the West Virginia- Georgia game as Steve Slaton ran for 204 yards on 26 attempts in 2006. Josh Reed holds the Sugar Bowl mark for most receiving yards as he caught 14 passes for 239 yards during the 2002 LSU versus Illinois game. And on defense, the most tackles were recorded in 1978 during the Ohio State – Alabama contest when Tom Cousineau made 20 stops.
The Sugar Bowl not only possesses a long and storied tradition; it also continues to be one of the most respected college football classics of the bowl season. Each year the Sugar Bowl attracts some of the finest talent on the NCAA gridiron.