From the first Sugar Bowl in 1935 through this past year’s 87th 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-one Hall of Fame coaches have stalked the sidelines of the Sugar Bowl, while 19 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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Throughout its 87-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 99 Sugar Bowl players who have gone on to the College Football Hall of Fame, including Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh), Glenn Dorsey (LSU), Davey O’Brien (TCU), David Pollack (Georgia), 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. This past year, Ohio State had another memorable performance as quarterback Justin Fields threw a Sugar Bowl-record six touchdown passes in a Playoff Semifinal win over Clemson.
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 $2.5 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. Since the College Football Playoff era began in the 2014 season, the Sugar Bowl has been viewed by over 100 million fans around the world.
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.