From the first Sugar Bowl in 1935 through this past year’s 83rd Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic at the world-famous Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the goal of the event has remained the same – to create the best game possible. Over its storied football history, the Sugar Bowl Classic has hosted many of the best coaches, players, and teams in college football history. Forty-eight Hall of Fame coaches have stalked the sidelines of the Sugar Bowl, while 17 Heisman Trophy winners and countless All-Americans have shown their skills in the New Orleans event. Throughout history, Sugar Bowl fans have had the opportunity to experience the brilliance of 27 national championship teams as well as seven match-ups between the top two teams in the nation – true national championship games.
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Sugar Bowl History
Throughout its 83-year history, the Sugar Bowl has remained one of the most prominent and successful voluntary non-profit organizations in the country. Since its founding by a group of civic enthusiasts led by businessman and attorney Warren Miller and sports journalist Fred Digby, the Sugar Bowl’s mission has remained the same: to stage amateur athletic events for the purpose of promoting the singular allure of New Orleans while creating a positive climate for the local economy by bringing more than 100,000 visitors annually to the Crescent City.
While Heisman Trophy winners in the bowl have been commonplace, there have been many other outstanding players in the Sugar Bowl Classic. The all-time list of Miller-Digby Award winners as the Most Outstanding Players of the Sugar Bowls reads like a who’s who list of NFL stars, beginning with 1948 winner Bobby Layne, the Texas star who went on to an NFL Hall of Fame career. Following Layne is a long line of MVPs who went on to professional greatness, including New Orleans-own Archie Manning (Ole Miss ), Kenny Stabler (Alabama), Herschel Walker (Georgia), Dan Marino (Pittsburgh), Bo Jackson (Auburn) and Jerome Bettis (Notre Dame).
In addition to the 48 Hall of Fame coaches the game has hosted, there have been 92 Sugar Bowl players who have gone on to the College Football Hall of Fame, including Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh), Davey O’Brien (TCU), Deion Sanders (Florida State), Lee Roy Selmon (Oklahoma), Steve Spurrier (Florida) and Curt Warner (Penn State).
In the past decade, the Allstate Sugar Bowl has produced an overall economic impact of $2,598,640,000 in New Orleans and Louisiana. For the organization’s full slate of events in 2016, including the Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic on January 2, 2017, the economic impact was $196.44 million as reported in a study recently completed by Dr. Timothy Ryan.
In addition to the annual college football game, the organization sponsored competitions in baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, lacrosse, road-racing, sailing, soccer, swimming, tennis, track and field and volleyball, as well as the championship events for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. The Sugar Bowl also sponsors the Manning Award, the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award, the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame and the New Orleans Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. Through hosting and sponsorships, the Sugar Bowl Committee supports and honors over 25,000 student-athletes each year while investing over $1.6 million into the community annually.
Of course, this degree of success wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of the heart and soul of the Sugar Bowl organization – its volunteer membership. Some of today’s Sugar Bowl volunteers are direct descendants of the original group. Others are newcomers to the area ready and willing to contribute to a winning team. All are dedicated to the mission of spreading the name and fame of New Orleans worldwide.
Since its inception in 1935, the Sugar Bowl and New Orleans have been synonymous with the best that college football has to offer.