The TaxSlayer Bowl, which is held in the city of Jacksonville, Florida, has been played continuously since 1946 when Wake Forest beat South Carolina 26- 14 in the first ever mounting of this event. Over the years, it has been played some time between December 27 and January 1. Since 1996, it has become a permanent January 1 offering. The contest is presently called the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl after its sponsors. Past sponsors include Toyota, Outback and Mazda.
Since 1997, the Gator Bowl has been held at EverBank Field (which was named Jacksonville Municipal Stadium from 2006 – 2010, Alltel Stadium from 1997 – 2006). The original site for the game was Gator Bowl Stadium, which hosted the contest from its inception in 1946 through to 1993. In 1994, the bowl moved to the city of Gainesville, Florida, as a new stadium was being constructed in Jacksonville. The next year, the bowl game was back in the city that had nurtured it.
The bowl game is run by the Gator Bowl Association (GBA), a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization. The GBA is charged with providing “Northeast Florida with the very best in college athletics and related activities in order to maximize positive impact on the area’s economy, national image and community pride.”
The GBA is comprised of 225 members, 84 Chairman’s Club associates and sponsors and more than 700 volunteers. The paid staff for the organization stands at about one dozen. Along with being in charge of every aspect of the Gator Bowl, the GBA hosted the championship matchup for the Atlantic Coast Conference from 2005 through 2007, and they presently coordinate the River City Showdown, which features the Florida State Seminoles.
The present conference connections for the Gator Bowl are with the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East, Big 12 or Notre Dame. In the past, the Southern Conference (1946-1952) and South Eastern Conference (1953-1975, 1992-1994) have been associated with the contest. Starting in 2010, the Gator Bowl will feature the SEC and Big 10. The payout is $2.5 million per team.
Charles Hilty, Sr. is given credit for conceiving the Gator Bowl. It was Hilty, who along with Ray McCarthy, Maurice Cherry and W.C. Ivey, underwrote the initial Gator Bowl for $10,000. The first two years of the Gator Bowl did not do well financially but the 1948 contest between Maryland and Georgia saw 16,666 fans enjoy a 20-all tie. The 1949 matchup between two Tiger teams, Clemson and Missouri, drew over 32,000 fans as Clemson managed to sneak by Missouri 24- 23. The Gator Bowl was established securely and continued to grow in popularity. By the 1970s, the Gator Bowl was drawing between 60,000 and 70,000 attendees.
Along with the 1948 tie, the Gator Bowl has ended in a tie twice. The second time was in 1967 when Florida State and Penn State met and battled to a 17-17 finish. There have been five shutouts and seven times when the losing team has scored just three points. The fewest points scored were three. That was in 1957 when Tennessee beat Texas A&M 3-0.
The Clemson Tigers have been to the Gator Bowl more than any other team. In nine appearances they’ve earned a 4- 5 record. The Florida Gators, who have made the second-most appearances at eight, have the most wins. They won six and lost two. Although no team has won every Gator Bowl game they’ve been in, three have never lost one. The Florida State Seminoles hold a 5-0-1 record, the Maryland Terrapins are at 3-0-1 and the Georgia Bulldogs are at 2-0-1. Of all the teams that have been to the Gator Bowl, only one has not won a game. The South Carolina Gamecocks are 0- 4 in Gator Bowl appearances. A total of 20 different college football teams have been to this bowl game.
The Gator Bowl was the site of one of the most infamous coaching incidents in college football history. In 1978, the Ohio State Buckeyes met the Clemson Tigers. Late in the fourth quarter with Clemson ahead 17- 15, the Buckeyes, who were coached by the legendary Woody Hayes, were driving for what could be the winning score. However, Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman picked off Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter’s screen pass. Bauman ran the ball out of bounds on the Ohio State side of the field. Hayes was infuriated and struck the nose guard in the face with his right forearm. The Tigers beat the Buckeyes by two points and Hayes, who was considered to be one of the best coaches in NCAA history, was fired the next day prior to exiting from Jacksonville.
Over the years, the Gator Bowl has been the site of some amazingly tight games, some blowouts and some simply legendary performances. The past three games have seen a total of 47 to 73 points scored and the margin of victory range from three to five points. The Konica Minolta Gator Bowl is an amazing venue in the city that loves and celebrates football.