Fiesta Bowl History

The Fiesta Bowl is an annual college football bowl game played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The bowl game has been played since 1971, and was formerly played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The current sponsor of the bowl game is Tostitos tortilla chips, and former sponsors included Sunkist and IBM. In 1998, the Fiesta Bowl became a member of the Bowl Championship Series.

As a member of the Bowl Championship Series, the Fiesta Bowl hosted the National Championship game every four years prior to 2007, when the National Championship Game became a separate bowl game. The Fiesta Bowl was created in response to the Western Athletic Conference’s frustration over their champions not being able to secure a postseason bowl appearance. Both Wyoming and Arizona State failed to secure a bowl selection in 1968 and 1969 respectively. A year later, undefeated Arizona State was passed over by the major bowls and was selected to attend the less prestigious Peach Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl solved this conundrum by offering an automatic bowl tie-in for the WAC’s champion.

In 1978, Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-10 Conference, and thus the Fiesta Bowl relinquished its WAC tie-in. However, the game continued to attract quality match-ups. In 1981, the Fiesta Bowl secured a spot as a prestigious New Year’s Day bowl game. In 1986, the Fiesta Bowl experienced its breakthrough game. Both Miami and Penn State agreed to play in the Fiesta Bowl for the de-facto National Championship. Both teams were independents at the time, and were able to select a bowl game outside the “big four” bowl games. The game resulted in a 14-10 Penn State win, and witnessed the largest television audience in college bowl game history.

In 1992, the Fiesta Bowl was invited to join the Bowl Coalition, meaning that the bowl game was destined to see quality match-ups from big name college contenders each year. At this time, the Fiesta Bowl had clearly replaced the Cotton Bowl as one of the “big four” bowl games. In 1998, the Fiesta Bowl joined the Bowl Championship Series as one of four BCS Bowls to host the National Championship Game until 2007.