A Brief History
On January 1, 1902, Pasadena, California hosted the Rose Bowl, the first college football “bowl” ever. In case you have ever wondered why sportscasters refer to the Rose Bowl as “The Grandaddy of ‘em all,” this is why. It was the first and is still arguably the most prestigious college football bowl game.
Billed as a contest of East vs. West, the first Rose Bowl game was played between Michigan and Stanford, the representatives of the Big 10 and Pacific Coast Conferences. (The former PCC is now the Pac 12.) Traditionally, this annual championship game is played on January 1st of each year (except for the 14 times so far that January 1st fell on a Sunday, in which case the game was played on January 2nd). In recent years, the various agreements between major college football conferences have changed the landscape of bowl games, and the champions of the Big 10 and Pac 12 are not necessarily always the participants in the Rose Bowl, with teams from other conferences sometimes being given a chance to play in the big game.
By plastering Stanford 49-0, it was Michigan that was named national champion after the inaugural game. The lopsided victory, however, discouraged another Rose Bowl football game from taking place again until 1916. The first games were played in Tournament Park until the Rose Bowl Stadium was built in 1923.
Not surprisingly, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the U.S. into World War II resulted in an initial decision to cancel the 1942 game, but instead arrangements were made to play the game at Duke University in North Carolina, a venue seen as safer than California where a Japanese invasion was feared.
A notable feature of the Rose Bowl was the inclusion of African-American players from the participating schools at a time when many southern colleges still maintained segregated standards and did not allow African-American students or athletes. A History & Headlines Fact: The Southeastern Conference (SEC) did not allow African-American players until 1966!
The University of Southern California (USC) has played in the most Rose Bowls (33), with Michigan (20) making the most appearances for the Big 10. As far as schools outside these conferences go, Alabama has made 6 appearances, winning 4 of those games.
Today’s (note: article was written in 2015) Rose Bowl game will be played between #3 Florida State vs. #2 Oregon, with the winner playing for the National Championship on January 12 against the winner of the #4 Ohio State vs. #1 Alabama Sugar Bowl game, also being held today. The 2020 Rose Bowl features Michigan against Alabama.
Our wishes for safe and exciting games!
Question for students (and subscribers): Who were you rooting for in the most recent Rose Bowl? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Moran, Malcolm. The Rose Bowl: 100th Celebration. Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2013.
Turner, Michelle L. Rose Bowl. Arcadia Publishing Library Editions, 2010.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of the first Rose Bowl Game at Tournament park in 1902, is in the public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1924, and if not then due to lack of notice or renewal. See this page for further explanation.