Christmas Day Football

March, 20 2023

Christmas Day Football | College Football Hall of Fame

While New Year’s Day is a holiday most associated with college football, there have been a number of college football games played on Christmas Day as well. 

Before the Cotton, Orange, Sugar and Sun Bowls joined the Rose Bowl as a New Year’s Day tradition there were two short lived Bowl games played on Christmas.  In 1922, the San Diego Christmas Classic was played with West Virginia defeating Gonzaga 21-13.  Two years later, Southern California beat Missouri 20-7 in front of 47,000 in the Los Angeles Christmas Festival.  These would be the last two games played in each of these bowls.

With a few rare exceptions such as the 1978 Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl (1976-1979) Christmas went off the football calendar.  However there were two All Star games that played on Christmas Day on a regular basis.  The North vs South All-Star Shrine game held in Miami, was played nearly every year on Christmas Day from 1948-1973. When that game ended its run in 1976, the annual Blue-Gray All Star Classic moved their game to Christmas Day starting in  1979.  The Montgomery, AL all-star game which began in 1939 continued their Christmas Day tradition until the final game was played in 2003.  The Blue – Game was an all-star game that featured players from the former Confederate States (Gray) against players from northern schools (Blue).  At different points in each game’s run they had a rule where a team that was trailing could receive the kickoff after scoring a touchdown.

Another Christmas Day game that had a long history was the Aloha Bowl.  Washington beat Maryland 21-20 on Christmas Day 1982.   The game was won in the final six seconds when Tim Cowan hit Anthony Allen with an 11-yard scoring pass and Chuck Nelson added the extra point.  The 1987 game saw UCLA defeated Florida 20-16 with future Dallas Cowboy teammates Troy Aikman of the Bruins and Emmitt Smith of the Gators winning game MVP honors. The winning score came off a deflected pass that UCLA’s Danny Thompson caught in the end zone while lying on his back.

In 1998 there was a Christmas Day double header in Hawaii as the first Oahu Classic was played at the same stadium with Air Force beating Washington 45-25. The current Hawaii Bowl has hosted games on Christmas Day in 2002 and 2003.

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