The first Holiday Bowl was played on December 22, 1978, with Navy beating BYU 23- 16. The home of the Holiday Bowl, which is sponsored by Pacific Life, is Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA. Originally, the game had a tie-in to the Western Athletic Conference. In 1997, that connection was terminated. From 1986 through 1994, it also had a tie-in to the Big Ten Conference.
In its present configuration, the Holiday Bowl pits the third-place Big 12 team against the second-place Pac-12 club. Past sponsors include Sea World (1986-1990), Thrifty Car Rental (1991-1994), Plymouth (1995-1997) and Culligan (1998-2001). Pacific Life Insurance Company came on board in 2002. Each school that plays in the Holiday Bowl receives $2,300,000.
The San Diego Bowl Game Association (SDGA) oversees both the Holiday Bowl, which has been in existence for 31 years, and the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Together, the two bowl games generate over $51 million of revenue for the San Diego area. The mission of the SDGA, which is a not-for-profit organization, is to "generate tourism, exposure, economic benefit and civic pride for San Diego and its citizens by presenting the nation's most exciting and entertaining bowl games and festivals of events." The organization is overseen by a volunteer board of directors and includes a paid staff of about a dozen people. Community volunteers and interns also work in helping to produce the bowl events.
Originally, the Holiday Bowl was played in the week just before Christmas. In 1986, the decision was made to play the game closer to January 1. Since that time the Holiday Bowl has been switched to being played from between December 27 through December 30.
In the 31-year history of the game, there has never been a shutout. In fact, the least points scored were 10 by the Texas A&M Aggies in 2006. Ironically, the Aggies also hold the record for most points scored: 65 in 1990. In that game, their opponent, the BYU Cougars, put just 14 points on the board. The Cougars are partial record holders for Most Points Scored by Both Teams (91: BYU vs SMU, 1980) and Fewest Points Scored by Both Teams (26: Iowa vs BYU, 1991).
Individual records include most rushing touchdowns in one game by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders. He set the record in 1988 with five. The record for most touchdown receptions goes to Clay Brown of BYU who caught three in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. Ohio State's Raymont Harris holds the record for most yards rushing. He garnered 235 yards in 1993. The record for most completions and most yards passing goes to BYU's Ty Detmer, who completed 42 of 59 passes for 576 yards. The QB who has thrown the most picks in the Holiday Bowl is Chris Simms of Texas who tossed four. The mark for most receptions and receiving yards was set in 2008 by OSU's Dez Bryant. Bryant caught 13 passes and accumulated 168 yards.
BYU, a team that seems to occupy a lot of space in the Holiday Bowl record books, has played in the longest and shortest Holiday Bowls. In 1989, they met Penn State in a contest that went four hours and 17 minutes. That game had the third most penalties by both teams: 20. The first Holiday Bowl, which was held in 1978, was the shortest. That time the BYU opponent was Navy. That game went just two hours and fifty minutes. In 2005 when Oklahoma played Oregon, the attendance record was set at 65,416. Which team holds the record for most penalties in one Holiday Bowl? Why BYU of course. In 1978, they were penalized a dozen times (two other teams share that record with them). And the club that has posted the fewest penalties in one Holiday Bowl? Once again, it's the BYU Cougars who the next year, 1979, reversed their bad habits and got just one misdemeanor.
MVPs have included quarterbacks Jim McMahon (BYU: 1980 and 1981), Steve Young (BYU: 1983), and Ty Detmer (BYU: 1989 and 1990). Running backs who have earned the honor include Craig James (SMU: 1980), Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State: 1988), and Marshawn Lynch (California: 2005).
The team that has made the most appearances is BYU with 11. Their record stands at 4-6-1. A total of 11 teams have undefeated records in the Holiday Bowl. They include Kansas State, which is 3-0 and Ohio State, which is 2-0. The other clubs are at 1-0.
The conference affiliations that guarantee that some of the best teams in the Pac-12 and Big 12 will appear in this venue have helped to make the Holiday Bowl a very popular event. Recent games have seen some major upsets and more times than not there's been a lot of offensive numbers put on the board. The Holiday Bowl looks to continue to be a major showcase for college football talent.