If you don’t know by now, let me restate it. I love college football. I could sit and watch any game – as long as it’s a decent battle. Throw in the added excitement and pageantry of a Bowl Game and I’m usually all over it.
In case you didn’t know, here’s a little history on the Cactus Bowl. It originated in Tucson in 1989 as the Copper Bowl – back before corporate sponsors were all the rage. Copper is one of Arizona’s 5-Cs that powered the economy in the early years of the state – others include citrus, cattle, cotton and climate.
The game signed its first title sponsor during the dot.com explosion of the late 90’s and changed over to the Insight.com Bowl. In those early years, it was being ridiculed as the sounded-out “http colon backslash www dot insight dot com Bowl.”
In 2012 and 2013, it was known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Since then, BWW pulled up stakes and is now, coincidentally, the sponsor of the Florida Citrus bowl.
After that, the Cactus Bowl name was introduced – or should I say reintroduced. According to a newspaper article from 1988, the Cactus Bowl was going to be the original name, before the Copper Bowl was played.
In 2014, they signed what I believe was a last minute sponsor in Ticket City to become the Ticket City Cactus Bowl for a single year, before signing the current sponsor in Motel 6.
If the Fiesta Bowl committee learned anything over the years, let’s hope they will maintain the Cactus Bowl name and incorporate the sponsor into the name going forward – ala Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.
My local bowl wingman Marshall and I started attending this game off an on once it moved to Bank One Ballpark in 2000. I specifically remember going to the 2001 game of Syracuse vs K-State.
After a few years at the indoor baseball field, the game moved outside to Sun Devil stadium in 2006 to take the place of the Fiesta Bowl, which was moved from Tempe to Glendale. Marshall and I attended the first game at Sun Devil as well, but not together. In that game, Minnesota took on Mike Leach’s high-flying Texas Tech Red Raider team.
This was the year we were wishing it was back indoors as temperatures for that game were at or near record lows for Phoenix – dipping down to the mid-30s.
With Minnesota up 38-7 after the opening drive of the 2nd half and my two young daughters tucked under the blanket playing video games, we headed for the gates. Little did we know what we were in for as we listened while driving home.
Texas Tech scored 31 unanswered points in the 2nd half to send the game to OT. From there, they gave up a FG before running in the final TD for the win. The largest comeback in NCAA D-1 history and, two days later, the end of Gophers Head Coach, Glen Mason’s coaching career.
This year’s edition of the Cactus Bowl was back indoor at Chase Field while Sun Devil continues their renovations. The game featured Boise State and Baylor – a couple of teams who have been to the Valley recently for the Cactus Bowl’s bigger brother, the Fiesta Bowl.
Sure, the Broncos have a new coach (their old one just took the Washington Huskies to the playoffs) and Baylor is suffering through accusations of alleged misconduct, but it’s still a Bowl Game with two teams that have been in the national scene of college football over the past few years. Sign me up!
We ended up with an extra ticket and even had problems giving it away outside the stadium. There were a few people randomly handing out sets of tickets to lucky fans.
We got there early to check out the crowd and pregame show. It was pretty apparent that the Baylor fans weren’t appreciative of this lower bowl game nor their season. There were very few Baylor fans compared to the bright orange and blue from Boise State. But overall, the place was empty.
This game was supposed to be a high-scoring affair with two explosive offenses. The problem was, only Baylor’s offense showed up.
The Bears dominated the game on both sides of the ball and easily handled the Broncos. Baylor was up 21-6 at the half in a rather uneventful game.
The most exciting part of the night were the paratroopers jumping through the open roof before the game and the halftime show featuring the Baylor band and their Star Wars theme – a tribute to Carrie Fisher, who recently passed away.
We stuck it out through the third quarter, but when Baylor went up 31-6 in the 4th, it was time to call it a night. An 8:15pm kickoff on the west coast is killer for those attending, and worse for those on the east coast. Unless that time changes, the Cactus Bowl will be destined for failure in these “made for TV” games.
Boise posted a late score to close the gap to 31-12, but by this time, only the heartiest of fans remained I’m sure.
Overall, another Bowl Game experience at a very reasonable price, but sad to see so many seats empty.
These bowl game should be giving away tickets to any charitable organization that asks. There are thousands of kids in the Phoenix Metro that would love to attend a Bowl Game – regardless of the participants or outcome. Are you listening Fiesta Bowl?