SI Vault
Martin Kane
December 27, 1954
A special preview of the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange Bowls—complete with scouting reports—points to carnival atmosphere and overflow scenes as well as rousing football on New Year's Day
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December 27, 1954

Queens, Crowds & Football

A special preview of the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange Bowls—complete with scouting reports—points to carnival atmosphere and overflow scenes as well as rousing football on New Year's Day

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College football, a cyclic madness confined mostly to the autumn season, last week sent teams and coaches, sportswriters, TV and radio crews and a few early-bird spectators scurrying across the land, for the most part in a southerly direction. Destination: Bowl games.

In the van of all this were an adventurous couple of couples who set out on December 11 from Columbus, Ohio bound, in the pioneering spirit of Conestoga wagoners, for Pasadena's Rose Bowl. Their vehicle was a Ford of the Model-T formation, built in 1919, the year a Great Lakes Navy team beat the Mare Island Marines 17 to 0 in the Rose Bowl. (Temperature: 25�.) Mr. and Mrs. Al Shuman and Mr. and Mrs. Mal Riggle, occupants of the Ford, reached Tulsa in five days but only after some interesting generator trouble in Lebanon, Mo. Then, pointing for the Texas Panhandle, they chugged on out of town, first of the postseason lemmings.

The mass migration by train, plane and modern car would not take place until after Christmas. But then it would begin and, together with the normal holiday season strain on transportation, would tax all the resources of wheel and propeller. The big airlines were pestered with requests for planes to be chartered but between Christmas and New Year's such special flights are not to be had. The hotels and motels of Pasadena, New Orleans, Dallas and Miami looked to bulge as the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange Bowls would bulge on New Year's Day, television or no television.

Sellouts were assured for the big Bowls, with such capacities as 75,504 (Cotton), 82,985 (Sugar), 68,718 (Orange) and 100,300 (Rose). Ticket prices ranged from $4 for end-zone seats in the Orange Bowl to $8.50 for "press box" seats in the Sugar Bowl.

And tickets were mighty hard to come by. The Rose Bowl, for instance, put only 3,500 tickets on public sale, the rest going to alumni groups in the two conferences, clubs, civic organizations and the like. They were snapped up immediately. The other Bowls similarly had no tickets after late November or early December.

In the Sugar and Orange Bowl sports fiestas there was more than football to be seen.

New Orleans presented six days of sports, including the Navy-Mississippi game, and starting with boxing matches between Maryland and the defending champion, Louisiana State, on December 28. In addition, there were three days of tennis featuring 16 United States and foreign players, basketball games between Loyola of the South and Notre Dame, and Holy Cross and Bradley, and a track meet in which Wes Santee was to run the mile. Finally there will be a regatta, sailed the day before and the day after the football game and featuring the "Race of Champions," an interclub affair sailed in Fish Class sloops, only boat common to all Gulf Coast clubs.

Another regatta, for outboards and inboards, is to be part of the Orange Bowl festival, which also features a junior tennis invitation tournament. These events were to start the day after Christmas and continue on to the day after the New Year's game between Nebraska and Duke.

The Bowl games are big business, and not just for the hotel and restaurant trade. For instance, the Rose Bowl will take in $875,000 from all sources, of which $800,000 will be net to be split between each participating conference. Each team in the Cotton Bowl game will receive about $158,000, and $276,000 from Orange Bowl receipts will be split between the Big Seven and Atlantic Coast conferences. In 1954 the Sugar Bowl set its payoff record with $144,669 apiece going to Georgia Tech and West Virginia.


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