ASU Football: Background on the Holiday Bowl


The Holiday Bowl, played annually at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., has long been regarded as one of the most competitive bowl games on the Division I-A college football landscape.

Currently sponsored by National University, the Holiday Bowl was established to give the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) an automatic bowl bid after the Fiesta Bowl, which previously had a tie-in with the game, ended its association with the WAC in 1977.

For the first several years, the WAC champion played an at-large team in the Holiday Bowl. Beginning in 1986 and continuing until 1994, the Big Ten Conference was given the second bid provided it had enough bowl eligible teams.

For the first seven games, Brigham Young University represented the WAC as its champion. In the inaugural game on December 22, 1978, the U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen posted a 23-16 comeback win over the highly favored Cougars. BYU has played in a total of 11 Holiday Bowls, more than any other team.

Beginning in 1995, the Big Eight Conference replaced the Big Ten and has remained tied with the bowl as the conference expanded to become the Big 12. The WAC ended its association with the Holiday Bowl after the 1997 playing, and the game has since become a permanent matchup between the Big 12 and now-Pac-12.

The Holiday Bowl has recently become known for its upset finishes. In 2003, fifth-ranked Texas was knocked off by No. 15 Washington State, 28-20. In 2004, California, ranked 4th in the nation with a 10-1 record, was blown out by Texas Tech, 45–31. In 2005, a 10-1 Oregon team lost 17-14 to Oklahoma. In 2010, 17th ranked Nebraska lost to a 6-6 Washington team. In 2012, No. 17 UCLA was upset 49-19 by unranked Baylor.