From the first Sugar Bowl in 1935 through this past year’s 86th 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. Fifty Hall of Fame coaches have stalked the sidelines of the Sugar Bowl, while 18 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 28 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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No. 2 Clemson, from the Atlantic Coast Conference, and No. 3 Ohio State, from the Big Ten Conference, will be featured in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Friday, January 1, 2021, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. (Central) and will be televised by ESPN. The game will be a rematch of one of last season’s Playoff Semifinals when the Tigers held off the Buckeyes, 29-23, in the Fiesta Bowl.
While the Sugar Bowl is known for its raucous crowds in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, this year’s game will have a decidedly different feel and look. Due to the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of New Orleans has approved 3,000 fans for the game. With the restrictions on fan attendance and the Bowl’s contractual obligations, this year’s Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl is sold out.
The winner of this year’s game, the 87th annual Sugar Bowl Classic, will advance to the College Football Playoff Championship, scheduled for Monday, January 11, in South Florida. The other Playoff Semifinal pits No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Notre Dame in a game that will kick off at 3 p.m. (Central) from Arlington, Texas, also on ESPN.
“The Sugar Bowl is very excited to host two outstanding teams in this year’s College Football Playoff Semifinal,” said Ralph Capitelli, the President of the Sugar Bowl Committee. “Since the first Sugar Bowl in 1935, we have welcomed the best teams in college football and this year, we will add to our history with Clemson and Ohio State. While the game won’t look the same due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still proud to once again play a major role in crowning the college football national champion.”
This will be the 18th Sugar Bowl match-up between teams ranked in the Top 5 and the 59th between teams ranked in the Top 10.
“We look forward to hosting the Tigers and the Buckeyes in this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl,” said Jeff Hundley, the CEO of the Sugar Bowl. “Clemson has established itself as a modern-day powerhouse, and Ohio State enjoys a long-standing history of success at the highest level. Both teams have had outstanding seasons and their rosters are filled with some of the best players in the country. This should be a fun match-up to watch on New Year’s Day.”
This year’s game will mark the third time the Sugar Bowl has hosted a Playoff Semifinal. Following the 2014 season, eventual national champion Ohio State defeated Alabama, 42-35. Eventual national champion Alabama shut down Clemson, 24-6, in the Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl following the 2017 season.
Throughout its 86-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 50 Hall of Fame coaches the game has hosted, there have been 97 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).
Recent Sugar Bowls have continued to showcase memorable performances including record-breaking efforts by Florida’s Tim Tebow, who set the bowl record by throwing for 482 yards in an impressive win over Cincinnati in 2010 and Ezekiel Elliott, who recorded the bowl’s best mark for rushing yards with 230 in Ohio State’s College Football Playoff Semifinal victory over Alabama in 2015.
The success of the teams and players on the field have been key to the success of the Sugar Bowl off the field. In its history, the game has welcomes over six million fans to New Orleans to watch the game while providing a week-long list of activities that meets that original 1934 mission of bolstering the region’s economy. Over the past decade, the Allstate Sugar Bowl has brought over $2.7 billion of economic impact to New Orleans and Louisiana. In addition, the national television broadcasts bring further exposure to the region, ensuring additional boosts to the tourism economy – the 2015 Allstate Sugar Bowl was watched by over 28 million people – the largest cable television broadcast in history at the time.
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 organization 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.
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