History of the Liberty Bowl

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History of the Liberty Bowl...


The AutoZone Liberty Bowl takes place annually at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. The Bowl is the seventh oldest college bowl game and is one of the most tradition-rich and patriotic bowl games in America.

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl game was founded in Philadelphia in 1959 and the inaugural game featured a match-up between Penn State and Alabama. That game began a tradition of great stars and exciting football and was the first of 59 thrilling chapters in the history of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Football Classic.

After five years in Philadelphia, the game moved indoors to Atlantic City Convention Center for one year and in the process became the first indoor college bowl game. Every AutoZone Liberty Bowl since 1965 has been held at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis.

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl has enjoyed many highlights through the years. The Bowl has hosted all-time great coaches such as Paul “Bear” Bryant, Lou Holtz, Tom Osborne, Steve Spurrier and Bill Snyder. The Bowl’s history also includes four Heisman Trophy winners (Ernie Davis, Terry Baker, Doug Flutie and Bo Jackson) and other stars such as Archie Manning and Donovan McNabb.

Another proud tradition is the Bowl’s terrific partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which brings together an internationally recognized research facility and a winning college football tradition. St. Jude is dedicated to helping children throughout the world in their fight against catastrophic diseases.

Beginning in 2004, Memphis-based AutoZone, Inc., became the Bowl’s title sponsor.

The 60th Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl will be nationally televised by ESPN.



Memorable Moments in AutoZone Liberty Bowl History

December 19, 1959 – The game marked the beginning of a great bowl tradition and also was the first of 24 consecutive bowl trips for Paul “Bear” Bryant. The game was played at Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia, PA.

December 15, 1961 – Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis led his Syracuse Orangemen to rally to a 15-14 win over the Miami Hurricanes. Davis was named the game’s Outstanding Back but teammate Dick Easterly won the MVP award.

December 15, 1962 – Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker raced 99 yards with 9:24 left in the first quarter for the game’s only score. The run marked an AutoZone Liberty Bowl and Oregon State record. The mark still stands today.

December 19, 1964 – The inaugural game in Atlantic City, featuring Utah and West Virginia, marked the first time a major college bowl game was held indoors.

December 18, 1965 – Marked the first game held in Memphis, TN, and pitted Ole Miss against Auburn.

December 14, 1968 – Archie Manning led his Ole Miss Rebels to a 34-17 victory over Virginia Tech.

December 13, 1969 – Colorado running back Bobby Anderson rushed for an AutoZone Liberty Bowl record 254 yards.

December 18, 1972 – Georgia Tech’s backup quarterback Jim Stevens was named MVP after completing 12 of 15 passes for 157 yards in guiding Georgia Tech to a 31-30 victory over Iowa State.

December 17, 1973 – Lou Holtz and his N.C. State Wolfpack took a 10-10 tie in the 3rd quarter and pushed it to a 31-18 victory over Kansas.

December 20, 1976 – Terry Donahue faced off against Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant’s 16th ranked Crimson Tide dominated Donahue’s 7th ranked UCLA Bruins, 36-6.

December 19, 1977 – Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne called on backup quarterback Randy Garcia, who rallied the Cornhuskers with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to beat North Carolina 21-17.

December 22, 1979 – This game marked the only time a touchdown was not scored as Joe Paterno’s Penn State Nittany Lions defeated Tulane 9-6.

December 29, 1982 – The 1982 contest marked an end to a remarkable career as Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant coached his final game. Alabama defeated Illinois 21-15 before a crowd of 54,123.

December 29, 1983 – Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns, but Notre Dame pulled out a 19-18 victory thanks to a missed extra point. Flutie was named the game’s MVP.

December 27, 1984 – Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson had two touchdown runs. Jackson’s 39-yard-touchdown run late in the fourth quarter gave Auburn a 21-15 win over Arkansas.

December 29, 1991 – A record crowd of 61,497 watched as Air Force defeated Mississippi State 38-15.

December 31, 1998 – Tulane capped an undefeated season by defeating BYU 41-27.

December 29, 2000 - #23 Colorado St. defeated #22 Louisville 22-17. The Rams finished the year 11-1 and ranked #16.

December 31, 2001- For the second year in a row, the Bowl featured a match-up of two Top 25 teams as #23 Louisville downed #19 BYU 28-10.

December 31, 2004 – The first match-up of two Top 10 teams as No. 7 Louisville took on No. 10 Boise State. This was the highest scoring game in AutoZone Liberty Bowl history with Louisville defeating Boise State 44-40.

December 29, 2007 - In front of an all-time record crowd of 63,816 fans, Mississippi State defeats UCF 10-3.

January 2, 2009 - In celebration of its 50th Anniversary, the Bowl secured a January playing date for the first time in its history. Kentucky rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to knock off East Carolina, 25-19.

January 2, 2010 - A sellout crowd of 62,742, the second largest of all-time, watched the first ever overtime game in AutoZone Liberty Bowl history as Arkansas defeated East Carolina 20-17.

August 2013 - AutoZone Liberty Bowl announces new 6-year partnerships with the Southeastern Conference and Big 12 Conference creating a SEC versus Big 12 matchup in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl from 2014 through 2019. 

February 21, 2014 - AutoZone extends its title sponsorship agreement for 6 additional years beginning in the 2014 season through the 2019 season.

January 2, 2016 - A sellout crowd of 61,136, watches Arkansas defeated Kansas State 45-23 in one of the most watched non-NY6 ESPN bowl games of the year.

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