Rose Bowl History

The Rose Bowl presented by Citi is known as the “Granddaddy of them all” for one simple fact: it is the oldest college football bowl game. Played in Pasadena, California, in the Rose Bowl Stadium, the first contest was presented on January 1, 1902. It was then called the “Tournament East-West football game.” This initial game saw the 3-1-2 Stanford team, which represented the West, host the 10-0 Michigan club, which competed as the team from the East.  The game was a rout with Michigan pulverizing Stanford 49- 0. In fact, Stanford stopped playing after the third quarter. With the first post-season college football bowl game being a bust, the Tournament of Roses committee pulled the plug on the game and instead ran Roman-style chariot races for the next 13 years.

The Tournament of Roses was initially held in 1890, a dozen years prior to the first football game.  The flowery event was proposed by Professor Charles F. Holder at the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena. Holder said, “In New York, people are buried in snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear.” He suggested, “Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.” They did just that and over the years the Tournament of Roses expanded to include marching bands, floats, horseback riders and more. They also held various events in conjunction with the Tournament of Roses, including ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations and a race between a camel and an elephant.

After the first Rose Bowl and a break of a baker’s dozen years, the Tournament of Roses officials decided to once again offer a post-season college football game. In 1916, Washington State and Brown met at Tournament Park. State won that game 14- 0. The Rose Bowl has been played ever since. A vast majority of the games have been held on January 1, although a total of 13 games have been held on either January 2, 3 or 4.

As the football game became more popular and crowds grew, it was determined that a new stadium should be built to host the event. The new football stadium was the vision of Tournament President William L Leishman who in 1920 announced that a venue similar to the Yale Bowl should be constructed in the Arroyo Seco area of Pasadena about three miles northwest of Tournament Park. The new stadium, which was given the name The Rose Bowl, saw its first post-season football game on January 1, 1923.

The Rose Bowl has been held there ever since. The success of the Rose Bowl, which has sold out every year since 1947, inspired the creation of the other bowl contests, including the Sugar Bowl, Sun Bowl and Orange Bowl, all of which immediately proceeded the 1934 college football season.

From 1916- 1946, the Rose Bowl featured a team from the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC), which is now the Pac-10, and a club from the East. The teams chosen to play were not necessarily conference champions. In the final two years of World War I football teams from the military were featured in the game.

In 1942 due to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and America’s resulting declaration of war, it was recommended by Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt that the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl be cancelled. It was thought that the huge event might be an attractive target for the Japanese. Instead of cancelling the game, Duke University invited the PCC’s Oregon State to play the game at their stadium. The two teams met on January 1, 1942 and State beat Duke 20- 16.

After World War II, the PCC and Big Nine, which is today’s Big Ten, entered into an agreement where the champion from each conference would play the other in the Rose Bowl. Although there were a few exceptions, this arrangement was honored until the 1975 college football season when conference champions USC and Michigan went, respectively, to the 1975 Liberty Bowl and the 1976 Orange Bowl. That year in the Rose Bowl, UCLA beat Ohio State 23- 10.

With the inauguration of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998 the selection of teams for the Rose Bowl was connected to three other BCS games. Since the creation of the BCS, the Rose Bowl has twice hosted the championship game. In 2002, #1 Miami met #2 Nebraska for the championship contest with Miami taking the crown 37- 14. The 2006 BCS contest saw Texas defeat USC in a barnburner 41- 38.

Here are some stats and facts regarding the Rose Bowl. The USC Trojans have made more Rose Bowl appearances than any other team. They’ve played in 33 and won 24. The team that has made the second-most appearances and the most of any Big Ten school is Michigan with 20. They’ve won the classic eight times. For teams that have played in 10 or more Rose Bowls, USC boasts the highest winning rate, which is 73%. The most appearances by a non-Pac-12 and non-Big Ten school are six by the Alabama Crimson Tide. They’ve won four, tied one and lost one.

The most points scored by one team are 49. That’s happened three times. The first Rose Bowl saw Michigan beat Stanford 49- 0. That’s score also represents the greatest margin of victory in any Rose Bowl. By the way, by today’s point totals, Michigan would have scored 52. Back then a touchdown was worth five points, a field goal five and a point after one.

In 1948, it was Michigan, once again, scoring 49 points as they shutout USC. In that game, Michigan tied their mark for most points scored and for greatest margin of victory. In 2008, USC got 49 points and Illinois 17.

In 2006, USC and Texas met with the two teams totaling the most combined yards in Rose Bowl history: 1,130 yards (574 USC, 556 Texas).  The teams combined for the most total points scored in a Rose Bowl game: 79. Texas won the contest 41- 38, capturing the BCS Championship.

To this date, the Rose Bowl still makes every effort to ensure that the Pac-12 and Big Ten championship teams meet in the “Granddaddy of them all.” Citi currently presents the game. The game is sponsored by Citi Bank and is now officially known as the Rose Bowl presented by Citi.