College Football Bowl Games are some of the most popular games in America, with roughly 40 different matchups for bettors and fans to watch. The bowl games are very enduring, played through most of December and early January and a popular gaming event among friends and families. 

Every year, people play in College Football Bowl Pools in which contests are formed around the 40-plus games. Pick’Em pools simply have players pick the winners of each Bowl Game, spread or straight up. Confidence pools and Squares pools are also very popular with College Football Bowl Games.

Regardless, the bowl games are very popular and enduring among football bettors and fans. Its gaming is on par with other popular sporting events such as March Madness brackets or World Cup pools. Let’s go through some of the oldest College Football Bowl Games in history. 

Original Bowl Games

Bowl games are always being added, removed or changed in sponsorships – but there are a handful that have remained intact throughout the decades. 

The Rose Bowl Game

The Rose Bowl typically features the Big Ten winner taking on the Pac-12 winner in Pasadena, California. The event became annual in 1916 but began as early as 1902 and is the oldest bowl game to date. 

One of the biggest highlights of the Rose Bowl is the Rose Bowl Parade, marched annually on the day of the game. There’s a reason its nickname is the ‘Granddaddy of Them All’ as the longest running bowl game is a true spectacle of an event. 

Sugar Bowl

The Sugar Bowl is tied for the second-longest running bowl game, which the others we’ll get to soon. This game began back in 1935 and is played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Journalists James Thomson and Fred Digby wanted to have a New Year’s Day game in New Orleans following the success of the Rose Bowl and Festival of Palms Bowl. The Sugar Bowl is now part of the College Football Playoff rotation. 

Orange Bowl

The Orange Bowl is the predecessor to the Festival of Palms Bowl, and also established in 1935. It is currently played at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida and part of the New Year’s Six games.

The first Orange Bowl was played on Jan. 1, 1935 just like the Sugar and Sun Bowls were. The Festival of Palms Bowl was actually played in 1932 and was not recognized by the NCAA because one team in the game received an automatic bid regardless of record. 

Sun Bowl

The Sun Bowl is the third bowl game that ties the Sugar and Orange Bowls as the second-oldest in history. As mentioned with the other two, the first Sun Bowl was played on Jan. 1, 1935. It is currently played in the Sun Bowl Stadium located in El Paso, Texas. 

Unlike the other two bowl games though, the first Sun Bowl was actually played between two high schools as part of a fundraiser. The goal was to raise money for an El Paso service club, but the game became collegiate only the following year. 

The Cotton Bowl Classic

The first Cotton Bowl game was played in 1937 and now typically sees the SEC and Big 12 champions play, although it’s currently in the College Football Playoff rotation. J. Curtis Sanford wanted a game for Texas and decided to produce it himself, as a wealthy oil tycoon. 

Sanford established the teams competing would each receive $10K. It was actually played inside the Cotton Bowl until 2010, when the event announced it would be moving into AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys currently play.

Gator Bowl

This bowl game didn’t come out with a bang like the others, and had little-to-no attraction when it began in 1946. Organizers wanted to play a game in Jacksonville, Florida but didn’t see tens of thousands in attendance until four years in.

It’s now one of the most popular non-championship bowl games, played annually in TIAA Bank Field. It is also the first bowl game to be broadcast on national television, occurring in 1955. 

Citrus Bowl

The Citrus Bowl has undergone many name changes over the years, such as the Tangerine Bowl at one point. Established in 1947, the game began when members of the Elks Lodge of Orlando each put up $100 to fund expenses. It is considered the biggest non-College Football Playoff Bowl Game.

The matchup typically features schools from both the Big Ten and the SEC. Quality opponents are typical in this Bowl Game, as two Top 25 teams have been featured in almost every Citrus Bowl game since 1985. It is currently played in Camping World Stadium located in Orlando, Florida.

Liberty Bowl

Inspiration for the Liberty Bowl, a game played in Memphis, Tennessee, actually comes from Philadelphia and the cracking of the Liberty Bell. Former Villanova AD Bud Dudley created the game in 1959 and used his Philly roots as inspiration for the name. 

The game did begin in Philadelphia too, before moving to Atlantic City and eventually settling into Memphis by 1965. While being played in Atlantic City, the game was actually held at the city’s convention center – making it the first bowl game to be played indoors. 

Peach Bowl

Held in Atlanta, Georgia – the Peach Bowl has been around since 1968 and with its location it’s easy to understand the naming of the event. Held in the Peach State of Georgia, the game typically features schools from the ACC and SEC. However, it is part of the College Football Playoff rotation.

The first Peach Bowl was, like the Sun Bowl, held as a fundraiser event. It wasn’t very popular as the game was mainly an event for the Lions Club of Georgia. It wasn’t until a few years later the Peach Bowl picked up steam. It’s one of the most competitive bowl games in history, with 53% of its games decided by one touchdown or less. 

Fiesta Bowl

The WAC is the main reason we have the Fiesta Bowl, as they were upset that their schools weren’t invited to any bowl games (sounds familiar?). In 1971, the Fiesta Bowl was created with the idea the WAC winner would be guaranteed an invite. 

The WAC folded in 1978 however, after both Arizona and Arizona State jumped ship to the now called Pac-12. It is now part of the College Football Playoff rotation and the youngest of the rotated playoff games. Much like the Rose Bowl, there is also a Fiesta Bowl parade that began in 1973. Glendale, Arizona hosts the event and the game is played in State Farm Stadium.

FAQ About Oldest College Bowl Games

Which Is the Oldest Currently Operating Bowl Game?

The Rose Bowl Game is the oldest operating Bowl Game to date. It’s played inside the Rose Bowl every year in Pasadena, California and is part of the College Football Playoff rotation. 

How Did the Bowl Games Get Their Names?

This once again comes from the Rose Bowl, the first and ‘OG’ of Bowl Games. Because the game is played inside what looks like a bowl, that’s where the term came from. 

How Are Bowl Games Decided?

Bowl Games are invitational only, meaning schools must get an invitation from the bowl game organizers to compete in the game. Some Bowl Games have stipulations attached, like certain conferences having to play in certain games. 

The criteria for the NCAA is that a school must win at least six games during the regular season to become ‘bowl eligible’. Once a school wins six games, they are free to accept bowl game invitations.


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