This year marks the 85th edition of the nation’s second-oldest bowl game – the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
During the early years of the Sun Bowl, it was a tradition to match the Border Conference Champion against the best available opponent.
The game was not originally intended to pit college teams on the gridiron.
Today, the Sun Bowl matches the Atlantic Coast Conference versus the Pac-12 Conference.
How did we get here?
Here’s a glance at the history and tradition of the game.
Time after time
Oct. 18, 1934: At a meeting of the El Paso Kiwanis Club, Dr. Brice Schuller suggested that the club sponsor a football game on New Year’s Day matching an El Paso High School All-Star Team against a worthy opponent. It was to be called the Sun Bowl. And it was to serve three main goals: 1. to present a football attraction of national importance 2. to promote El Paso and the Southwest and 3. to generate tourist income for the area.
Jan. 1, 1935: First Sun Bowl game is played at the El Paso High School stadium. Games were played at the high school until 1937 before moving to UTEP’s Kidd Field.
1936: New Mexico State and Hardin-Simmons invited to play, becoming a college game.
1963: UTEP’s Sun Bowl Stadium is completed, becoming the home of the annual Sun Bowl game.
1986: With the rising costs needed to maintain the game, the Sun Bowl attracted John Hancock Financial Services as its first bowl title sponsor. The game became the John Hancock Sun Bowl.
1996: Norwest Bank became the game’s title sponsor in 1996.
1999: Norwest merged with Wells Fargo Bank, and the game was renamed the Wells Fargo Sun Bowl.
2004: The publicly traded El Paso based company Helen of Troy became the game’s fourth ever title sponsor, renaming the game the Vitalis Sun Bowl.
2006: Helen of Troy extends sponsorship, opting to promote another product and renaming the game the Brut Sun Bowl.
June 2010: Hyundai Motor America becomes title sponsor of the Sun Bowl game, renaming it the Hyundai Sun Bowl.
Legendary actor Burt Reynolds, who died on Sept. 6 at the age of 82, once played at the Sun Bowl – and later called a game here.
Reynolds was a freshman end at Florida State when he played at the Sun Bowl against Texas Western College (now UTEP) in 1955.
Lee Corso, the longtime ESPN College Gameday analyst, was the Florida State quarterback in that game and Reynolds was his back up.
In 2013, Corso told El Paso Inc. he and Reynolds “had a few parties in Juárez (Mexico) before the game, but he didn’t expect to play at all. Man, when I got hurt, he played the entire game and he almost died from exhaustion.”
Texas Western won, 47-20.
In 1977, Reynolds and popular sportscaster Pat Summerall called the Stanford vs. LSU Sun Bowl game on CBS. During the broadcast, Reynolds reminisced about his 1955 visit to the Sun Bowl – and Juárez – in colorful form.
Stanford defeated LSU 24-14.
Before they were famous
Players like Tony Dorsett, Barry Sanders, Don Maynard, James Lofton, Carson Palmer, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jonathan Stewart, Thurman Thomas, Priest Holmes and DeMarco Murray have all battled on the Sun Bowl gridiron before becoming household names with the NFL.
Coaches like Sammy Baugh, Tom Osborne, Barry Switzer, Grant Teaff, Don Nehlen, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban, and Frank Beamer have all brought their teams to play in the Sun Bowl.
Half-time performers have included Rhianna, Village People, Lonely Boys and Lee Brice.
By the numbers
Eight of the top 10 winningest programs of all-time have participated in the Sun Bowl.
39 Sun Bowls have been decided by a touchdown or less, including 11 of the last 17 games.
Eight times since 1984 has the Sun Bowl attendance eclipsed 50,000 fans
More than 54,000 fans attended the 2010 game featuring Notre Dame vs. Miami (Fla.) (54,021) – which sold out in only 22 hours after the teams were announced.
The sun will come out
El Paso averages 297 sunny days a year, but we do see some signs of winter here.
In 1982, a freak snowstorm left the field white at halftime during a Sun Bowl game and became known as the Snow Bowl.
Snow also fell in 2010 during the sold-out game between Notre Dame and Miami, and again in 2015 when Miami played Washington State.
When the El Paso sun created a rising wall of steam from the field in 1974, the game became known as the “Fog Bowl.”