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Birth of the Rose Bowl | Today in Sports History


Today in sports history, one of the most famous and historic bowls of all time started in 1902. The matchup between Michigan and Stanford was the first-ever Rose Bowl played. “The Granddaddy of Them All,” the Rose Bowl, started in 1902 and has been played every season since 1916. It is the oldest current bowl game in the college football bowl season.
Kirby Lee/USATS

Rose Bowl Used to Fund Parade

When the Rose Bowl was first held, the idea wasn’t to make a bowl game at all actually. Originally the “Tournament East-West football game,” it was held to fund the cost of the Rose Parade. In the inaugural game, Michigan was pitted against Stanford. Michigan decimated Stanford, 49-0. The score might have been even worse had Stanford not quit at the end of the third quarter.

The game went so poorly that until 1916, the venue held multiple different spectacles to raise money outside of football. Chariot and ostrich races were among some of the wacky events held in the 13 years before football returned.

The Rose Bowl stadium was unique in the fact that it isn’t an NFL stadium. To this day, most venues used to host bowl games are NFL stadiums. The current stadium was constructed in 1922 and has undergone plenty of remodeling over the past few decades.

Significance Today

No matter how little someone may know about college football, chances are, they’ve heard of the Rose Bowl. The game has not only had some historic matchups and crowned multiple champions, but it has also kept Pasadena, California firmly on the map.

With the inception of the College Football Playoff in the 2014-15 season, the Rose Bowl is held in even higher regard every other year. With the current rotation of bowl games, once out of every three years the Rose Bowl serves as one of the semifinal matchups as part of the playoffs.

The other two years in the three-year cycle, the Rose Bowl still pits the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions against each other (or highest-ranked team in the conference if the champion(s) are in the playoffs). With the game still holding so much weight, it is arguably the most important game of the season outside of the playoffs. To think, it all started to simply fund a rose parade.

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