Fiesta Bowl

Fiesta Bowl
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
Stadium University of Phoenix Stadium
Location Glendale, Arizona
Previous stadiums Sun Devil Stadium (1971–2006)
Previous locations Tempe, Arizona (1971–2006)
Operated 1971–present
Conference tie-ins At-large/Group of Five (Dec. 2014–present)
Previous conference tie-ins WAC
Big 12
Payout US$17 million (As of 2009)[1]
Former names
Fiesta Bowl (1971–1985, 1991–1992)
Sunkist Fiesta Bowl (1986–1990)
IBM OS/2 Fiesta Bowl (1993–1995)
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (1996–Jan. 2014)
Vizio Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 2014)
BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 2016)
2016 season matchup
Ohio State vs. Clemson (Clemson 31–0)
2017 season matchup
Washington vs. Penn State (Penn State 35–28)[2]

The Fiesta Bowl is an American college football bowl game played annually in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Between its origination in 1971 and 2006, the game was hosted in Tempe, Arizona at Sun Devil Stadium. Since 2007, it has been held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Since 2016, it has been sponsored by PlayStation and officially known as the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.[3] For the January 2016 game, it was sponsored by BattleFrog, creators of the obstacle racing series featured in the ESPN program BattleFrog College Championship and Vizio for the December 2014 game.[4][5][6] From 1996 through the January 2014 game, Frito-Lay was the bowl's title sponsor through its Tostitos tortilla chip brand. Other previous sponsors include IBM (1993–1995) and Sunkist (1986–1990).

In 1998, the Fiesta Bowl became part of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), and before 2006 every four years (most recently in 2010) was the designee for the national championship game. Beginning with the 2014 season, Fiesta Bowl became a member of College Football Playoff, hosting a semifinal game every three years; all the teams playing in this bowl will be selected by the CFP Selection Committee in those years.


Origins (1968–1971)

The Fiesta Bowl was born from the Western Athletic Conference's frustrated attempts to obtain bowl invitations for its champions. In 1968 and 1969 respectively, champions Wyoming and Arizona State failed to secure any bowl selection. The next year, undefeated Arizona State was bypassed by the major bowls and had to settle for an appearance in the less prestigious Peach Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl therefore initially provided an automatic berth for the WAC champion.


In its first decade of existence, the Fiesta Bowl was played in the last week of December (including the afternoon of Christmas Day from 1976 to 1979). The 1971 inaugural game featured another top-ten Arizona State squad against top-twenty opponent Florida State. The 1974 game featured WAC champ BYU and their new coach, future Hall of Fame member LaVell Edwards in their first ever bowl game vs. Oklahoma State. BYU was in control until BYU's first All-American quarterback Gary Sheide went down with a leg injury and eventually lost 16–6. By 1975, the game was able to attract Big Eight co-champion Nebraska to play undefeated Arizona State in a matchup of top-five teams. In 1977, the game was again able to attract a top-five opponent in Penn State, despite WAC champion #16 BYU refusing to play in the bowl due to its being held on Sunday.

In 1978, Arizona and Arizona State both joined the Pac-10 Conference and the Fiesta Bowl's tie-in with the WAC ended as its champ went to the newly-inaugurated Holiday Bowl. From then until the advent of the Bowl Coalition, Fiesta Bowl matchups typically featured runners-up of major conferences and/or major independents.


The game continued to attract high quality matchups, so beginning with the 1981 game the Fiesta Bowl shifted to New Year's Day alongside the major bowl games—the Cotton, Orange, Sugar, and Rose. The Fiesta Bowl was the first bowl game to acquire a title sponsor when it became the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl starting with the 1986 game.

A major breakthrough occurred after the 1986 season when the top two teams in the country, Miami and Penn State, agreed to play for the de facto national championship in the Fiesta Bowl. At the time, the traditional four "major" bowl games granted automatic bids to their conference champions. Both Miami and Penn State were independents at that time, and were thus free to choose a bowl. As such, the Fiesta Bowl and the Florida Citrus Bowl, each free from the obligation of conference tie-ins, vied to host the Miami–Penn State matchup in order to ensure that they would meet on the field. The Fiesta Bowl won the bidding and the game was set to be played on January 2, 1987—a day after the "big four" bowls. Penn State won 14–10 over Miami, and the game drew the largest television audience in the history of college football at the time. Two years later, #1 Notre Dame played undefeated #3 West Virginia for the national championship at the 1989 Fiesta Bowl.

The 1987 and 1989 games were two of four straight matchups of teams ranked in the AP Top 10 going into the bowl season to close out the 1980s. This significantly increased the Fiesta Bowl's prestige, to the point that it was now considered a major bowl by many fans and pundits.


Before the 1991 game, several major universities declined invitations due to the State of Arizona's decision at that time not to adopt the Martin Luther King Holiday. However, in 1992, the Fiesta Bowl was invited to participate in the Bowl Coalition, a predecessor to the Bowl Championship Series. This assured the game would feature major conference champions or prestigious runners-up and cemented its status as a major bowl. When the Bowl Coalition was reconfigured as the Bowl Alliance, the Fiesta was included as one of the three top games.

In 1996, it hosted the Bowl Alliance National Championship game featuring undefeated #1 Nebraska playing undefeated #2 Florida for the national championship. Nebraska won the game 62–24, the largest win margin in the history of the national championship game, and the most points ever scored in a national championship game. Finally, with the addition of the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences to the new Bowl Championship Series, the Fiesta Bowl became a permanent fixture in the four-year BCS National Championship Game rotation. In 1998, the Fiesta Bowl featured the first BCS National Championship Game, which Tennessee won over Florida State, 23 to 16.

Starting with the 1999 season, the Fiesta Bowl began hosting the Big 12 Conference champion in years when it was not slated as the BCS title game, an arrangement that continued to the end of the BCS era.


In 2002, the Fiesta Bowl had the right to take the Pac-10 Conference Champion, should that team not reach the Rose Bowl, which served as the national championship game that season. Oregon failed to qualify for the championship game, and thus played Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. A similar arrangement was made for the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. However, instead of gaining the Pac-10 Conference champion in addition to their usual tie-in with the Big 12, the Fiesta Bowl would have had a choice of the two teams. This turned out to be a moot point as both the Big 12 champion Texas and Pac-10 champion Southern California qualified for the National Championship Game (USC's participation has since been vacated).[7]

The BCS National Championship game returned to the Fiesta Bowl in 2003 with the Big Ten champions Ohio State Buckeyes beating the Big East champions Miami Hurricanes in the first overtime national championship game. The game went into double overtime with the Buckeyes coming out on top 31–24 to claim the 2002 national championship.

The Fiesta Bowl was the first BCS bowl to have had an entry from outside the parameters of the BCS (the Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Southeastern Conference (SEC), Pac-10, Big East, and Notre Dame had tie-ins, while all of the other conferences did not). The 2005 game saw undefeated Utah from the Mountain West Conference become the first BCS non-AQ school ever to play in a BCS game, easily defeating Big East champion Pittsburgh 35–7.

In 2007, the Fiesta Bowl game was played for the first time at the new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, across the Phoenix metropolitan area from Sun Devil Stadium. The undefeated Boise State Broncos won by defeating the Oklahoma Sooners 43–42 in overtime. It has been called one of the greatest college football games ever played, due to the combination of an underdog team, trick plays, comebacks by each team, and a thrilling overtime finish.[8]


The 2010 Fiesta Bowl featured #6 Boise State defeating #4 TCU, 17-10. It was the first time a BCS bowl matched-up two non-automatic qualifying teams (i.e. two teams from conferences without automatic BCS bids) and the first time that two teams who went undefeated faced each other in a BCS game outside of the national championship. In the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma State defeated Stanford 41–38. Notable players included Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon for Oklahoma State, and Andrew Luck for Stanford.

The December 2016 Fiesta Bowl served as a semifinal for the College Football Playoff. The Fiesta Bowl will host a semifinal, alongside the Peach Bowl, again in 2019, 2022, and 2025.

In November 2016, PlayStation was announced as the bowl's new title sponsor.[3]



In 1996, a group of students from Brigham Young University, led by BYU professor Dennis Martin, burned bags of Tostitos tortilla chips in a bonfire and called for a boycott of all Tostitos products.[9] This came after #5 ranked BYU was not invited to play in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl in favor of #7 ranked Penn State. This event is one of those referred to by proponents of college football implementing a playoff series rather than the controversial Bowl Alliance. Penn State went on to win the game over #20 Texas 38–15, while BYU defeated #14 Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl Classic 19–15.[10]

For the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, the selections of TCU and Boise State caused a great deal of controversy. For the first and only time in the BCS era, two BCS non-AQ teams were chosen to play in BCS bowls in the same bowl season: however, they ended up facing each other in this bowl. Because both non-AQ teams were placed in the same bowl game, the bowl was derisively referred to as the "Separate But Equal Bowl",[11] the "Quarantine Bowl", the "Fiasco Bowl", the "BCS Kids' Table",[12] etc. Some had called for a boycott because of this.[13] There was wide speculation that the BCS bowl selection committees maneuvered TCU and Boise State into the same bowl so as to deny them the chances to "embarrass" two AQ conference representatives in separate bowls, as Boise State had done in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and Utah had done in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl and 2009 Sugar Bowl (prior to the game, non-AQ teams were 3–1 versus AQ teams in BCS bowls).[12][14] In response, Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker called those allegations "the biggest load of crap that I've ever heard in my life" and said that "We're in the business of doing things that are on behalf of our bowl game and we don't do the bidding of someone else to our detriment."[15] Beyond the unappealing nature of a "David vs. David" contest which resulted from this pairing in a major bowl, the appeal was further diminished due to the fact that it was a rematch of the Poinsettia Bowl from the previous bowl season.

Financial scandals

In 2009, in the weeks prior to the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, past and present Fiesta Bowl employees alleged that they were encouraged to help maintain its position as one of the four BCS bowls by making campaign contributions to politicians friendly to the Fiesta Bowl, with those contributions subsequently reimbursed to the employees. If true, this would be a violation of both state and federal campaign finance laws.[16] Furthermore, as a non-profit organization, the Fiesta Bowl is prohibited from making political contributions of any kind.[17] The Fiesta Bowl commissioned an "independent review" which found "no credible evidence that the bowl's management engaged in any type of illegal or unethical conduct."[18]

The following year, in a November 2010 article, Sports Illustrated reported that Fiesta Bowl officials, including bowl CEO John Junker, spent $4 million since 2000 to curry favor from BCS bigwigs and elected officials, including a 2008 "Fiesta Frolic", a golf-centered gathering of athletic directors and head coaches. The journal also reported that Junker's annual salary was close to $600,000 and that the bowl, in 2007 turned an $11.6 million profit.[19] While these alleged activities are not illegal, they did result in considerable damage to the reputation of the Fiesta Bowl.

On March 29, 2011, the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors released a 276-page "scathing internal report", commissioned by them to re-examine the accusations of illegal political activities.[20] The commission determined that $46,539 of illegal campaign contributions were made and the board immediately fired Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker, who had already been suspended pending the results of this investigation.[21] The scandal threatened the Fiesta Bowl's status as a BCS game, as the BCS said it might replace the bowl in its lineup if officials could not convince them it should remain.[22][23] The BCS ultimately chose not to expel the Fiesta Bowl, instead fining the organization $1 million.

In June 2011 University of Arizona president Robert Shelton was hired to replace Junker.[24] On February 22, 2012, former CEO John Junker pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge in the campaign financing matter, and two members of his former staff pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.[25] Junker was to be sentenced soon after, facing up to 2.5 years in prison as the result of his plea, but as of January 2014 his sentencing has been repeatedly postponed in return for cooperation in other cases.[26][27] In March 2014, Junker was sentenced to eight months in prison, with the sentence starting on June 13, 2014;[28] he was released on February 11, 2015.[29] On March 20, 2014, Junker was sentenced to three years of probation on state charges.[30]


As of the 2010–11 season, the game along with the rest of the BCS, exclusively airs on ESPN.[31] From 2007 through 2010, Fox telecast the game along with the other BCS games – the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, and BCS National Championship Game from 2006 though 2009, while only the Rose Bowl and the 2010 BCS National Championship Game aired on ABC in that period. From 1999 to 2006, the game aired on ABC as part of the first BCS package, and from 1996 to 1998 the game aired on CBS as part of its bowl coverage. Prior to that, NBC aired the game for several years. This game, along with the Orange Bowl, is one of only two bowl games ever to air on all the "Big 4" broadcast television networks in the United States.

ESPN Radio is the current radio home for the Fiesta Bowl.

In 2013, ESPN Deportes provided the first Spanish U.S. telecast of the Fiesta Bowl.[32]


In addition to the game, the annual Bank of Arizona Fiesta Bowl Parade takes place in downtown Phoenix, which includes marching bands from high schools as well as the two universities participating in the Fiesta Bowl and the two universities participating in the Cactus Bowl, along with floats, equestrian units, and a seven-member queen and court. It started back in 1973. Past Grand Marshals include many celebrities from sports and entertainment.

Game results

Rankings are based on the AP Poll prior to the game being played. Italics denote a tie game.

Date playedWinning teamLosing teamNotes
December 27, 1971#8 Arizona State45Florida State38Notes
December 23, 1972#15 Arizona State49Missouri35Notes
December 21, 1973#10 Arizona State28Pittsburgh7Notes
December 28, 1974Oklahoma State16#17 BYU6Notes
December 26, 1975#7 Arizona State17#6 Nebraska14Notes
December 25, 1976#8 Oklahoma41Wyoming7Notes
December 25, 1977#8 Penn State42#15 Arizona State30Notes
December 25, 1978#8 Arkansas10#15 UCLA10Notes
December 25, 1979#10 Pittsburgh16Arizona10Notes
December 26, 1980#10 Penn State31#11 Ohio State19Notes
January 1, 1982#7 Penn State26#8 USC10Notes
January 1, 1983#11 Arizona State32#12 Oklahoma21Notes
January 2, 1984#14 Ohio State28#15 Pittsburgh23Notes
January 1, 1985#14 UCLA39#13 Miami (Florida)37Notes
January 1, 1986#5 Michigan27#7 Nebraska23Notes
January 2, 1987#2 Penn State14#1 Miami (Florida)10Notes
January 1, 1988#3 Florida State31#5 Nebraska28Notes
January 2, 1989#1 Notre Dame34#3 West Virginia21Notes
January 1, 1990#5 Florida State41#6 Nebraska17Notes
January 1, 1991#18 Louisville34#25 Alabama7Notes
January 1, 1992#6 Penn State42#10 Tennessee17Notes
January 1, 1993#6 Syracuse26#10 Colorado22Notes
January 1, 1994#16 Arizona29#10 Miami (Florida)0Notes
January 2, 1995#4 Colorado41Notre Dame24Notes
January 2, 1996BA#1 Nebraska62#2 Florida24Notes
January 1, 1997#7 Penn State38#20 Texas15Notes
December 31, 1997#10 Kansas State35#14 Syracuse18Notes
January 4, 1999BCS#1 Tennessee23#2 Florida State16Notes
January 2, 2000#3 Nebraska31#6 Tennessee21Notes
January 1, 2001#5 Oregon State41#10 Notre Dame9Notes
January 1, 2002#2 Oregon38#3 Colorado16Notes
January 3, 2003BCS#2 Ohio State31#1 Miami (Florida)24 (2 OT)Notes
January 2, 2004#7 Ohio State35#8 Kansas State28Notes
January 1, 2005#5 Utah35#19 Pittsburgh7Notes
January 2, 2006#4 Ohio State34#5 Notre Dame20Notes
January 1, 2007#9 Boise State43#7 Oklahoma42 (OT)Notes
January 2, 2008#11 West Virginia48#3 Oklahoma28Notes
January 5, 2009#3 Texas24#10 Ohio State21Notes
January 4, 2010#6 Boise State17#3 TCU10Notes
January 1, 2011#9 Oklahoma48#25 Connecticut20Notes
January 2, 2012#3 Oklahoma State41#4 Stanford38 (OT)Notes
January 3, 2013#5 Oregon35#7 Kansas State17Notes
January 1, 2014#15 UCF52#6 Baylor42Notes
December 31, 2014#21 Boise State38#12 Arizona30Notes
January 1, 2016#7 Ohio State44#8 Notre Dame28Notes
December 31, 2016CFP#2 Clemson31#3 Ohio State0Notes
December 30, 2017#9 Penn State35#12 Washington28Notes
^BA Denotes Bowl Alliance Championship Game
^BCS Denotes BCS National Championship Game
^CFP Denotes College Football Playoff semifinal game

Game MVPs

Appearances by team

Only teams with at least three appearances are listed.

Rank Team Appearances Record
1Ohio State85–3
2Penn State77–0
T3Arizona State65–1
T5Notre Dame51–4
T7Florida State42–2
T10Boise State33–0
T10Kansas State31–2

Appearances by conference

Through the December 2017 playing, there have been 47 games (94 total appearances).

Rank Conference Appearances Won Lost Tied Pct.
1Independents[n 1] 2010100.500
T2Pac-12[n 2] 12651.542
T2Big 12 12570.417
T4Big Ten 11830.727
T4Big Eight 11470.364
6WAC 9630.667
7The American[n 3] 8350.375
8SEC 5140.200
9Mountain West 3210.667
10ACC 2110.500
11SWC 1001.500
  1. Records reflect conference affiliations at the time the game was played; several teams—such as Penn State and Miami (Florida)—have appeared both as an Independent and as a conference member.
  2. Includes appearances by teams when the conference was the Pac-10 (5–2–1).
  3. Following the 2013 split of the original Big East along football lines, the FBS schools reorganized as the American Athletic Conference, which retains the charter of the original Big East. Teams representing the Big East appeared in 7 games, compiling a 2–5 record.

Game records

Team Performance vs. Opponent Year
Most points scored62, Nebraska vs Florida (24)1996
Fewest points allowed0, Clemson (31) vs. Ohio State
0, Arizona (29) vs. Miami
First downs33, Texas vs. Ohio State
33, Arizona State vs. Missouri
Rushing yards524, Nebraska vs. Florida1996
Passing yards458, Louisville vs. Alabama1991
Total yards718, Arizona State vs. Missouri1972
Individual Performance, Team vs. Opponent Year
Total Offense431, Browning Nagle, Louisville vs. Alabama (39 plays)1991
Rushing Yards245, Marcus Dupree, Oklahoma vs. Arizona State (17 att., 0 TD)1983
Rushing TDs4, Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
4, Woody Green, Arizona State vs. Missouri
Long plays Performance, Team vs. Opponent Year
Touchdown run92, Saquon Barkley, Penn State vs. Washington2017
Touchdown pass85, Troy Smith to Santonio Holmes, Ohio State vs. Notre Dame2006

See also


  1. "Real Insight. Real Fans. Real Conversations". Sporting News. Archived from the original on December 19, 2008. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  2. "FIESTA BOWL ORGANIZATION ANNOUNCES TIME FOR 47TH ANNUAL PLAYSTATION® FIESTA BOWL". (Press release). May 10, 2017. Retrieved May 18, 2017.
  3. 1 2 "Fiesta Bowl Names PlayStation® as New Title Sponsor" (Press release). Fiesta Bowl. November 15, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  4. "Vizio to sponsor Fiesta Bowl".
  5. "Fiesta Bowl Announces VIZIO Partnership" (Press release). Fiesta Bowl. September 28, 2014. Archived from the original on October 30, 2014. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  6. "Fiesta Bowl, Cactus Bowl both looking for new naming rights sponsors". Phoenix Business Journal. Retrieved 2015-05-05.
  7. "Oregon clinches berth in Fiesta Bowl; National title still a possibility". The Seattle Times. November 17, 2001.
  8. Thamel, Pete (2007-01-02). "Playbook Full of Tricks Gives Boise State Dramatic and Defining Victory". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-02.
  9. 1996 AP archives. December 11, 1996. Honolulu Star-Bulletin
  10. Weinreb, Michael. "The Night College Football Went To Hell". ESPN. Retrieved 2010-01-03.
  11. Matthew Sanderson (2009-12-07). "Boise Is In, But BCS Still Flawed". RealClearSports. Archived from the original on 11 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  12. 1 2 "Pre-Bowl Thoughts - 2010 Fiesta Bowl". December 31, 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  13. Al Namias IV (2009-12-07). "Poinsettia Bowl: 2008 Redux". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on 10 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
  14. "Instant Analysis – The Bowl Announcement". December 7, 2009. Archived from the original on 13 December 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  15. Graham Watson (December 7, 2009). "Fiesta Bowl wasn't looking at the non-AQ distinction". Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  16. "Fiesta Bowl employees say bowl repaid political contributions".
  17. "Fiesta Bowl Scandal Causes Stir".
  18. "Fiesta Bowl finds no wrongdoing after allegations of illegal political donations".
  19. Murphy, Austin, and Dan Wetzel, "Does It Matter?", Sports Illustrated, 15 November 2010, p. 45.
  20. "Final Report" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-11.
  21. Fiesta Bowl fires CEO John Junker, Associated Press, March 29, 2011
  22. "BCS confident it could cut ties with Fiesta Bowl if deemed necessary".
  23. Wetzel, Dan, "BCS conducts shallow probe as party rages on", Yahoo! Sports, retrieved on 31 March 2011.
  24. Associated Press, "Fiesta Bowl names new president", Japan Times, 15 June 2011, p. 15.
  25. Harris, Craig (February 22, 2012). "Former Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker pleads guilty to felony". Arizona Republic. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  26. Harris, Craig (May 22, 2012). "Sentencing postponed for former Fiesta Bowl exec Wisneski". Arizona Republic. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  27. Associated Press (2014-01-01). "John Junker update: Sentencing delay sought for ex-Fiesta Bowl chief". ' Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  28. Associated Press (2014-03-13). "Ex-Fiesta Bowl chief headed to prison". ESPN. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  29. Harris, Craig (2015-02-18). "John Junker, ex-Fiesta Bowl CEO, completes prison sentence". Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2016-12-31 via
  30. Associated Press (2014-03-20). "Ex-CEO of Fiesta Bowl sentenced". ESPN. Retrieved 2014-03-20.
  31. "Fox Sports pulls out of bidding to show BCS games". 17 November 2008.
  32. "BCS National Championship and Bowl Games on ESPN Deportes". ESPN. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
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