Football Fiesta Bowl: A Celebration of Gridiron Excellence

John Rizzo

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Football Fiesta Bowl

The Football Fiesta Bowl stands as a vibrant celebration of gridiron excellence, captivating fans with its thrilling matchups and electrifying atmosphere. 

As one of the premier bowl games in college football, the Fiesta Bowl has become a cherished tradition that showcases the sport’s finest talents on a grand stage.

With a rich history dating back to its inception in 1971, this annual spectacle has captivated audiences with its high-stakes showdowns and unforgettable moments.

The Football Fiesta Bowl takes place in Glendale, Arizona, at the magnificent State Farm Stadium, which boasts a seating capacity of over 63,000 passionate fans.

Known for its festive ambiance and warm hospitality, the Fiesta Bowl offers an unparalleled experience for both players and spectators alike.

It continues to captivate the hearts of fans, leaving an indelible mark on the sport’s history with each passing year. Want to learn more? Let’s explore!

What Is the Football Fiesta Bowl?

The Fiesta Bowl is a college football bowl game that is part of the annual College Football Playoff (CFP) series. It is one of the New Year’s Six-bowl games, which are considered prestigious postseason matchups in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). 

The Fiesta Bowl is typically played in late December or early January at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

The Fiesta Bowl has a rich history, dating back to its first game in 1971. It has traditionally featured top-ranked teams from various conferences, including the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and others. 

In recent years, the Fiesta Bowl has been designated as one of the semifinal games in the College Football Playoff rotation, meaning it hosts a national semifinal matchup every three years.

The Fiesta Bowl offers an exciting atmosphere for fans and showcases some of the best college football talent in the country. It has become known for its festive atmosphere, with various events and activities leading up to the game. 

The winning team of the Fiesta Bowl receives a trophy and often earns recognition as one of the top teams in the nation for that season.

History of the Fiesta Bowl

History of the Fiesta Bowl

The Fiesta Bowl has a long and storied history in college football. Here is a brief overview of its history:


The Fiesta Bowl was first played on December 27, 1971, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The inaugural game featured the Arizona State Sun Devils, the host team, against the Florida State Seminoles. Arizona State won the game 45-38.

Early Years

In its early years, the Fiesta Bowl was not affiliated with any conference and invited teams from across the country. It gained recognition as a prominent bowl game and attracted top-ranked teams.

Conference Affiliations

In 1978, the Fiesta Bowl established a tie-in with the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which lasted until 1998. During this period, the champion of the WAC received an automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl.

National Championship Controversy

The 1984 Fiesta Bowl gained significant attention as it played a role in determining the national champion. The game featured the undefeated and top-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions against the undefeated and second-ranked Miami Hurricanes. Miami won the game 31-30, but Penn State was awarded the national championship.

Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance

In the 1990s, the Fiesta Bowl became part of the Bowl Coalition and later the Bowl Alliance, which aimed to create a more structured system for determining the national champion. The Fiesta Bowl hosted several national championship games during this period.


In 1998, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was introduced, and the Fiesta Bowl became one of the four BCS bowls. The game continued to host national championship matchups on a rotating basis.

College Football Playoff

With the introduction of the College Football Playoff (CFP) system in 2014, the Fiesta Bowl became one of the New Year’s Six bowl games and part of the CFP rotation. It hosts a national semifinal game every three years.

Notable Games

Over the years, the Fiesta Bowl has featured many memorable games, including the 2007 Fiesta Bowl between Boise State and Oklahoma, which ended in a thrilling overtime victory for Boise State. The game is often remembered for its trick plays and dramatic finish.

The Fiesta Bowl has established itself as one of the premier bowl games in college football, known for its exciting matchups, festive atmosphere, and historical significance in determining the national champion.

Fiesta Bowl Winners List

Fiesta Bowl Winners List

Here is a list of the winners of the Fiesta Bowl from its inception in 1971 until the 2022 edition:

1971: Arizona State

1972: Arizona State

1973: Arizona State

1974: Oklahoma State

1975: Arizona State

1976: Oklahoma

1977: Penn State

1978: Arkansas

1979: Pittsburgh

1980: Penn State

1981: Penn State

1982: Arizona State

1983: UCLA

1984: Ohio State

1985: Nebraska

1986: Michigan

1987: Penn State

1988: Florida State

1989: Notre Dame

1990: Florida State

1991: Louisville

1992: Penn State

1993: Syracuse

1994: Colorado

1995: Nebraska

1996: Nebraska

1997: Penn State

1998: Tennessee

1999: Nebraska

2000: Oregon State

2001: Oregon

2002: Colorado

2003: Ohio State

2004: Ohio State

2005: Utah

2006: Ohio State

2007: Boise State

2008: West Virginia

2009: Texas

2010: Oklahoma

2011: Oklahoma State

2012: Oregon

2013: Baylor

2014: Boise State

2015: Ohio State

2016: Clemson

2017: Penn State

2018: LSU

2019: Ohio State

2020: Iowa State

2021: Oregon

2022: Notre Dame

Fiesta Bowl Conference Tie-Ins

Fiesta Bowl Conference Tie-Ins

The Fiesta Bowl has had various conference tie-ins throughout its history. Here are the conference tie-ins associated with the Fiesta Bowl:


No conference tie-ins; invited teams from across the country.


Western Athletic Conference (WAC) champion received an automatic bid.


Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era; no specific conference tie-ins.


BCS era; Big 12 Conference champion vs. an at-large team.


College Football Playoff (CFP) era; rotation between hosting a national semifinal game and hosting a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, the Fiesta Bowl has been part of the New Year’s Six bowl games and the CFP rotation. It hosts a national semifinal game every three years, and in the other years, it features highly ranked teams from various conferences as part of the New Year’s Six bowl lineup.

It’s important to note that conference tie-ins can change over time due to conference realignment and adjustments in the bowl selection process. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check the most up-to-date information regarding conference tie-ins for the Fiesta Bowl.

Most Notable Moments of the Fiesta Bowl

The Fiesta Bowl has had several notable moments throughout its history. Here are some of the most memorable moments from the Fiesta Bowl:

1984 Fiesta Bowl

The game between Penn State and Miami is often referred to as one of the greatest college football games of all time. Miami won the game 31-30, but Penn State was awarded the national championship.

2007 Fiesta Bowl

The matchup between Boise State and Oklahoma is widely regarded as one of the most thrilling and memorable games in college football history. Boise State executed multiple trick plays, including a Statue of Liberty play and a hook-and-ladder, to force overtime. They eventually won the game 43-42 in overtime.

1987 Fiesta Bowl

Penn State faced Miami in a highly anticipated rematch of their 1986 matchup. Penn State won the game 14-10, securing their second national championship.

1996 Fiesta Bowl

Nebraska defeated Florida 62-24 in a dominant performance, securing their second consecutive national championship. The game is remembered for Nebraska’s explosive offense and their record-breaking 524 rushing yards.

2010 Fiesta Bowl

Boise State faced TCU in a matchup of two non-power conference teams. The game ended in a thrilling 17-10 victory for Boise State, with a memorable finish where Boise State executed a game-winning Statue of Liberty play in overtime.

2014 Fiesta Bowl

UCF, representing the American Athletic Conference, upset Baylor, representing the Big 12 Conference, in a high-scoring game. UCF won 52-42, capping off an undefeated season and establishing themselves as a rising program.

2016 Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State faced Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal game. Clemson won the game 31-0, marking the first time Ohio State had been shut out in a bowl game and propelling Clemson to the national championship game.


How are teams selected for the Fiesta Bowl?

Teams for the Fiesta Bowl are selected through a combination of conference tie-ins, rankings, and the College Football Playoff (CFP) selection process. The CFP selection committee ranks the top teams in the country, and the highest-ranked conference champions from the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) receive automatic bids to the New Year’s Six bowl games, including the Fiesta Bowl. 

How often does the Fiesta Bowl host a College Football Playoff semifinal game?

The Fiesta Bowl is part of the College Football Playoff (CFP) rotation and hosts a national semifinal game every three years. The CFP selection committee determines which bowl games will serve as the semifinal sites for each year. When the Fiesta Bowl is designated as a semifinal host, it features one of the two national semifinal matchups.

What is the significance of the Fiesta Bowl in determining the national champion?

The Fiesta Bowl has played a significant role in determining the national champion, particularly during the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era and the College Football Playoff (CFP) era. In the BCS era, the Fiesta Bowl was one of the four BCS bowls and hosted several national championship games on a rotating basis. 

How does the Fiesta Bowl contribute to the local economy?

The Fiesta Bowl has a positive economic impact on the host city and surrounding areas. The influx of visitors, including fans, teams, and media, generates revenue for local businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation services. 

What is the Fiesta Bowl Parade?

The Fiesta Bowl Parade is an annual event held in conjunction with the Fiesta Bowl game. It is one of the largest parades in Arizona and features elaborate floats, marching bands, equestrian units, and other entertaining performances. The parade takes place in downtown Phoenix and attracts thousands of spectators.

Bottom Line

As the Football Fiesta Bowl continues to evolve and captivate the world of college football, it remains a symbol of excellence, passion, and the indomitable spirit of the game. 

Each year, fans eagerly anticipate the clash of powerhouse teams, the dazzling displays of athleticism, and the unforgettable moments that define this prestigious bowl game.

The Football Fiesta Bowl has become more than just a football game; it is a celebration of the sport’s rich traditions, the dedication of the athletes, and the unwavering support of the fans. 

From the thrilling pre-game festivities to the final whistle, the Fiesta Bowl offers an experience that transcends the boundaries of the gridiron. 

It is a testament to the power of football to unite, inspire, and create lasting memories that will be cherished by players and fans for generations to come.

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John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn