From the Rose Bowl to the Super Bowl, we enjoy special football games at the end of each season that are a reward for hard work and great (well, mostly great) play. Some even have real meaning and result in a championship. Then there are some bowl games that are not even at the end of the season – just between rivals. Some of these include the Egg Bowl which is played between Mississippi State and Ole Miss each year or the Palmetto Bowl between South Carolina and Clemson.
Or it may be part of the College Football Playoff which crowns the top-level collegiate championship each year. The Super Bowl, of course, is the penultimate NFL game and crowns the leagues champion in the pros.
So how did these big football games come to be called bowl games?
Two histories have been given to answer this question. The first is that the trophies awarded by many of the earliest bowl games were literally bowls full of the sponsoring agricultural product – the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl, or the Cotton Bowl.
The second, and most credible answer, is that the term bowl game derived from the Rose Bowl stadium itself, a 90,888-seat facility which has hosted many famous college games, the Super Bowl, and even Olympic events. It was designed as a “bowl” after the famous Yale Bowl stadium. The first Rose Bowl Game saw USC defeat Penn State 14 – 2 in 1923 and since has become known as the “granddaddy of them all.”