Russell Athletic Bowl History
Raycom Sports first organized the Russell Athletic Bowl in the summer of 1990. It was initially sponsored by Blockbuster and held in the Miami area, where the hugely popular Orange Bowl had been played annually since 1935. The thought was that the new bowl could exploit the popularity of the older bowl game.
The Orange Bowl was then played at the Miami Orange Bowl. But the organizers of the new bowl didn't want to use the Miami Orange Bowl. They wanted to see the new bowl played at Joe Robbie Stadium, which was newer and better equipped. Joe Robbie Stadium served as the home field for the Miami Dolphins. (The stadium, which is now known as New Miami Stadium, is still the home of the Dolphins.) The interest in the stadium brought Dolphins' owner Wayne Huizenga on board and he brought Blockbuster to the table as a sponsor.
The first year the game was a huge hit. The Blockbuster Bowl was indeed a blockbuster as over 74,000 college football fans saw the Florida State Seminoles and Penn State Nittany Lions in the inaugural event. Florida State beat Penn State 24- 17. It seemed as though the organizers had hit pay dirt. However, the second Blockbuster Bowl, which was between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Colorado Buffalos, saw attendance drop to a little more than 46,000. At times attendance at the game was as low as 21,000.
In 2001, the Florida Citrus Sports (FCS), a non-profit organization that also runs the Capital One Bowl and Florida Classic, took over the operation of the bowl game. FCS moved the contest to Orlando where it presently resides in Citrus Bowl Stadium. The FCS, which is comprised of influential business owners and executives, involved community members and a small paid staff, focused its efforts on developing a bowl experience for the whole family. This grassroots organization has also dedicated itself to ensuring that Orlando benefits in many different ways from quality sporting events, including the Russell Athletic Bowl.
From 2004 to 2011, the bowl had been sponsored by Champs Sports. In 2012 the sponsorship changed to Russell Athletics. Other past sponsors include Carquest (1994-1997), MicronPC (1998-2000), and Mazda (2002-2003). Blockbuster was associated with the bowl from 1990-1993.
From 2000 through 2004, it was played the week before Christmas. During that time, it never attracted more than 29,000 patrons. Since 2005, the game has been played on either December 27, 28 or 29 and since 2006, it has featured teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Big Ten Conference. The more attractive timeframe and the conference connections along with some innovative marketing have helped to reinvigorate this game.
Starting in 2010, the Russell Athletic Bowl will feature the second selection from the Big East Conference and the third pick from the ACC. Notre Dame will also be considered for this bowl.
More times than not there are a wealth of points scored in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The most points put on the board by one club stands at 63. Illinois did that On December 30, 1999, when they defeated Virginia by 42 points. That was also the biggest margin of victory in this bowl game. Virginia, which scored 21 points, contributed to the Champs Bowl record for most points scored by two teams: 84. No team has ever been shut out in this contest. Penn State holds the honor of scoring the least points: 3 in the 1992 games where they were defeated by Stanford 24- 3. The 27 points scored in the game are the fewest total points put on the board in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The average number of points scored by the winning team is 35.3, while losing teams have averaged 16.3.
North Carolina State has made the most Russell Athletic Bowl appearances. The Wolfpack has traveled to the bowl four times and are 2-2. Virginia has the worst record at 0-3 and of the 26 different teams that have appeared in this bowl a total 11 have never won it. Six teams are 0-1 and four are 0-2. There are 13 undefeated teams with Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami sporting 2-0 records. The other nine clubs are at 1-0.
Last year, the Russell Athletic Bowl attracted the second-largest crowd it's ever seen with 52,692 in attendance. The only time more have been in attendance was the initial offering when 74,021 attended. The high-powered conference connections, active community involvement and numerous first-rate attractions, such as theme parks, championship golf courses and topnotch live entertainment, have all helped to reinvent the Russell Athletic Bowl into a premium event.