SUGAR BOWL: Charting its history

Within the massive expanse that is college football history, the Sugar Bowl certainly towers as one of the sport's great pillars of tradition.

For seven decades, two of the nation's top teams have met in the New Orleans with championship ramifications involved several times. The last time the title was on the line, No. 2 LSU toppled top-seeded Oklahoma 21-14 in what was the fifth time the nation's top-two teams squared off in the New Year's Day classic.


The first Sugar Bowl took place on January 1, 1935. The game was the brainchild of New Orleans Item publisher Colonel James M. Thompson and sports columnist Fred Digby.


The duo developed the idea originally in 1927 as a rival to the Rose Bowl, which was still drawing 60,000 people a year even in the midst of the Great Depression. The game was to be part of a midwinter sports cavalcade that would include a variety of athletic events. It seemed a natural fit for New Orleans, which was a popular winter vacation destination at the time.


It took some time but eventually enough support was garnered to begin planning the event. The inaugural game was to be held in Tulane Stadium and was named the Sugar Bowl because of both the Louisiana staple crop and the fact that the stadium stood on a former sugar plantation.


A crowd of 22,026 watched Tulane defeat Temple (coached by the legendary Pop Warner) 20-14 in an exciting game that featured Tulane rallying from a 14-0 deficit.

As the game grew in importance, so did the crowd.


The stadium's capacity would be increased to 81,000 over the following decades. In 1975, the Sugar Bowl moved from its long-standing home in Tulane Stadium to the vast expanse of the Louisiana Superdome.


Since that first contest, the Sugar Bowl has been the stage for some of the greatest clashes in college football history. Sixteen times the winner of the game has been crowned the national champion.


Prior to the LSU-Oklahoma clash for all the marbles, the most recent national championship game had been in 2000, when two undefeated teams, No. 1 Florida State and second-ranked Virginia Tech faced off for the BCS championship. The game was a national coming out party for the Hokies' redshirt-freshman quarterback Michael Vick.


Vick completed 15-of-29 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown and also ran for 97 yards and a score, dazzling fans with agility and speed unseen before at his position. But ultimately FSU would prevail 46-29. The Noles were led by MVP and all-American receiver Peter Warrick, who caught six passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns and also returned a punt 59 yards for a score. 


Another memorable contest was the 1993 game, in which Alabama clinched its last national title by decimating heavily-favored Miami 34-13. The Hurricanes explosive offense and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Gino Torretta was shut down by a dominating Crimson Tide defense. The image of Alabama safety George Teague chasing down a Miami receiver and preventing a sure touchdown by stripping the football is one that is well remembered by fans of both teams.


Alabama leads all teams in Sugar Bowl appearances with 12 (and a record of 8-4).

The Crimson Tide also captured a national championship in the 1979 contest, a dramatic 14-7 win over Penn State. The game featured a dramatic fourth-quarter goal-line stand by the Tide that culminated with Nittany Lion back Mike Guman leaping for the endzone only to be knocked back by Alabama's Barry Krause (who won MVP honors in the game).


The legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama coached in a record nine Sugar Bowls, with a combined record of 8-1. Several legendary coaches have graced the sidelines of the game, including Bobby Bowden of Florida State, LSU's Charles McClendon, coaches Bob Devaney and Tom Osbourne from Nebraska, the legendary Woody Hayes of Ohio State, and Joe Paterno of Penn State.


Some of the game's most legendary players have also left their mark on the Sugar Bowl. Heisman Trophy winners Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, and Danny Wuerffel have all graced the Sugar Bowl gridiron. The game's top player annually receives the Miller-Digby Award. Past winners include Florida State's Warrick Dunn, Jerome Bettis of Notre Dame, Pitt's Dan Marino, and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning.


LSU and Oklahoma met once before in the 1950 Sugar Bowl, which the Sooners won handily, 35-0. Coach Bud Wilkinson's OU team was led by quarterback Darrell Royal and easily dominated the overmatched Tigers.


LSU has a 5-7 all-time record in the Sugar Bowl. During Nick Saban's tenure at LSU, the Tigers went 2-0 in New Orleans, winning the 2002 classic over Illinois 47-34 as well as the aforementioned national title clash with the Sooners.


The Tigers' first national title was clinched with a 7-0 win over Clemson in the 1959 Sugar Bowl. All-American halfback Billy Cannon sewed up the victory LSU with a touchdown pass to end Mickey Mangham.






SUGAR (5-7-0)

vs. TCU 2-3 L Jan. 1, 1936

vs. Santa Clara 14-21 L Jan. 1, 1937

vs. Santa Clara 0-6 L Jan. 1, 1938

vs. Oklahoma 0-35 L Jan. 1, 1950

vs. Clemson 7-0 W Jan. 1, 1959

vs. Ole Miss 0-21 L Jan. 1, 1960

vs. Syracuse 13-10 W Jan. 1, 1965

vs. Wyoming 20-13 W Jan. 1, 1968

vs. Nebraska 10-28 L Jan. 1, 1985

vs. Nebraska 15-30 L Jan. 1, 1987

vs. Illinois 47-34 W Jan. 1, 2002

vs. Oklahoma 21-14 W Jan. 4, 2004


CHIK-FIL-A (4-0-0) (Formerly Peach)

vs. Florida State 31-27 W Dec.30,1968

vs. Clemson 10-7 W Dec.28,1996

vs. Georgia Tech 28-14 W Dec.29, 2000

vs. Miami 40-3 W Dec. 30, 2005


COTTON (2-1-1)

vs. Arkansas 0-0 T Jan. 1, 1947

vs. Texas 13-0 W Jan. 1, 1963

vs. Arkansas 14-7 W Jan. 1, 1966

vs. Texas 35-20 L Jan 1, 2003


ORANGE (2-3-0)

vs. Texas A&M 19-14 W Jan. 1, 1944

vs. Colorado 25-7 W Jan. 1, 1962

vs. Nebraska 12-17 L Jan. 1, 1971

vs. Penn State 9-16 L Jan. 1, 1974

vs. Nebraska 20-21 L Jan. 1, 1983



vs. Michigan State 45-26 W Dec. 29, 1995

vs. Notre Dame 27-9 W Dec. 28, 1997


SUN (1-1-0)

vs. Iowa State 33-15 W Dec.18, 1971

vs. Stanford 14-24 L Dec. 31, 1977


BLUEBONNET (0-2-0) (Formerly Astro Bluebonnet)

vs. Baylor 7-14 L Dec. 21, 1963

vs.  Tennessee 17-24 L Dec. 30, 1972


GATOR (1-0-0)

vs. South Carolina 30-13 W Dec. 31, 1987


CAPITAL ONE (1-1-0) (formerly Tangerine/Citrus)

vs. Wake Forest 34-10 W Dec. 22, 1979

vs. Iowa 30-25 L Jan. 1, 2005


HALL OF FAME (0-1-0)

vs. Syracuse 10-23 L Jan. 2, 1989


LIBERTY (0-2-0)

vs. Missouri 15-20 L Dec. 23, 1978

vs. Baylor 7-21 L Dec. 27, 1985

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