The Oklahoma Sooners will be making their first ever appearance in the Orlando based Russell Athletic Bowl and so it's natural for fans to not know a whole lot about their postseason hosts. While OU fans have become accustomed to traveling to the Sunshine State for bowl games over the years, they usually end up further south, in Miami, for the Orange Bowl. That's also where the story of the Russell Athletic Bowl begins.
History Of The Russell Athletic Bowl
Expressing a desire to see the city of Miami gain another bowl, Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga backed the game and named it the Blockbuster Bowl in 1990. It was played at the Dolphins' Joe Robbie Stadium and titled after it's sponsor, Blockbuster Video, which Huizenga also owned. That title only lasted three years with Florida State, Alabama, and Stanford all claiming titles. Stanford's 24-3 win over Penn State came on January 1st 1993 marking the first time the game was played on New Year's Day. It would remain on January 1st or 2nd for the next two years and then move back to permanently being a pre-New Year's Eve bowl, with the exception of January 2, 1995 when South Carolina beat West Virginia 24-13.
In 1994 it took on the name of the Carquest Bowl and made a five year run with Boston College, South Carolina, North Carolina, Miami, and Georgia Tech all claiming victories.
It became the MicronPC Bowl in 1998 but the game's time on South Beach was drawing to a close. Following the 2000 game the bowl was taken over by by Florida Citrus Sports, moved to Orlando and dubbed the Tangerine Bowl. The first game was played in Orlando on December 20, 2001 with Pittsburgh winning over NC State by a score of 34-19.
Mazda became the title sponsor of the Tangerine bowl in 2002 and that game featured the first Big 12 team to play as Texas Tech destroyed Clemson 55-15. The Mazda sponsorship lasted on two years and in 2004 the bowl took on its longest marketing partnership as it became the Champs Sports Bowl. That deal lasted throughout eight college football seasons and also saw the highest attended game in the bowl's history as Florida State beat Notre Dame 28-14 in front of 68,305 fans. The Seminoles also own the highest TV rating for this game with their 42-13 beating of Wisconsin on December 27, 2008. That game drew a 4.5 rating on ESPN.
In 2012 the bowl came under it's current partnership and was named the Russell Athletic Bowl. Oklahoma and Clemson will be the third game under this title with Virginia Tech and Louisville claiming the first two wins.
A total of 29 teams have played in this game including traditional powers such as Alabama and Florida State. North Carolina State has played in it five times, which is the most of any team, and Miami has been in the game four times, The Sooners will become just the third Big 12 team to play in this bowl game, joining the Red Raiders and Kansas. West Virginia has played in it three times but never as a member of the Big 12 Conference.
Current San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers was the game MVP in 2000 and again in 2003, making him the only two-time MVP. Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury earned the honor in 2002. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson earned the title in 2010 and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was last year's winner.
* In 2000 Minnesota running back Tellis Redmond carried the ball 42 times for 246 yards which are both bowl records.
* In 2003 Phillip Rivers completed 37 passes for 475 yards and 5 touchdown passes. All of those are bowl records
* NC State receiver Jerricho Cotchery also set records in 2003 with 13 receptions for 171 yards.