Las Vegas Bowl History

Organized by community leaders out of a need to fill hotel rooms during a traditionally slow period in a world-class destination city, the Las Vegas Bowl first kicked off on Dec. 18, 1992. It has since become one of the Silver State’s premier annual events and been nationally televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC every year of its existence.  

Of the 40 bowl games recognized by the NCAA, the Las Vegas Bowl is now the 16th-oldest game overall and ranks No. 13 in age on a list of current bowls that have remained in one city during their entire history

Originally pitting the champions of the Big West and Mid-American conferences, the game’s initial offering was a nail-biter as Bowling Green held on to slip by Nevada 35-34 in what was hailed by many as the best bowl game that year.

Known for the next decade as the first bowl each season, the event was switched to later in the month starting in 2001 when hometown entry UNLV defeated Arkansas on December 21. That was the same year that ESPN Regional Television (ERT) now known as ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN Inc., assumed the ownership and management of the Las Vegas Bowl.

Games on Christmas Day and then Christmas Eve were staged before organizers settled on a pre-holiday kickoff to annually pit teams from the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences against each other at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Overall, the Mountain West and Pac-12 have met head-to-head 13 times in Las Vegas, with the MW winning seven of those battles. No less than nine of the current members of the Pac-12 conference (all but Stanford, Colorado and Washington State) have appeared in the bowl while 10 of the current 12 MW teams have appeared in the game (all but Hawai'i and San Jose State). 

The Las Vegas Bowl has enjoyed crowds of more than 32,000 for nine consecutive seasons, including a run of six consecutive sellouts from 2005-2010. On Dec. 21, 2006, BYU defeated Oregon in front of what is still the largest crowd to ever witness a team sporting event in the state of Nevada – 44,615.

In its first 20 years of existence, the bowl attracted more than 380,000 out-of-town visitors and pumped nearly $206 million into the local economy in non-gaming revenue alone.

In 2011, the inaugural class of the Las Vegas Bowl Hall of Fame was inducted to help commemorate reaching the 20-year milestone. The group was made up of NFL star and former Oregon State RB Steven Jackson, CFL record-holder and former Utah State QB Anthony Calvillo, former NFL and UNLV coach John Robinson, and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) president and one of the game’s founding fathers, Rossi Ralenkotter.

The 2012 game drew the game's second-highest-rated telecast in a decade and third-highest in its 21-year history. Boise State's thrilling 28-26 victory over first-time visitor Washington earned a rating of 3.3 on ESPN. The only game that drew a better rating was played on Christmas Day 2001 as Utah's win over USC remains the highest-rated Las Vegas Bowl in history with a household TV rating of 4.7. 

The 2014 Las Vegas Bowl featured the Utes of the University of Utah and the Rams from Colorado State University. For the second consecutive year, ABC broadcast the game for a 12:30pm PT kickoff. The Utes easily handled the Rams 45-10.


The first-ever Division I-A overtime game took place at the 1995 Las Vegas Bowl when Toledo outlasted Nevada 40-37.

In its first two decades, the Las Vegas Bowl hosted teams from the Pac-12, Mountain West, Western Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Southeastern, Mid-American and Big West conferences.

The first-ever woman to play in a Division I-A football game was Katie Hnida when she attempted an extra point vs. UCLA in 2002.


The winningest quarterback in major college football played his final game in the Las Vegas Bowl. When Boise State star Kellen Moore led the Broncos to a 56-24 victory over Arizona State in 2011, it made him the first signal caller in FBS history to reach 50 career victories.



2014 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 20)
Utah 45, Colorado State 10
MVP: Utah QB Travis Wilson 

2013 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 21)
USC 45, Fresno State 20
MVP: USC QB Cody Kessler 

2012 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas (Dec. 22)
Boise State 28, Washington 26
MVP: UW RB Bishop Sankey

2011 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas (Dec. 22)
Boise State 56, Arizona State 24
MVP: BSU RB Doug Martin

Boise State 26, Utah 3
MVP: Kellen Moore

2009 MAACO BOWL LAS VEGAS (Dec. 22):
BYU 44, Oregon State 20
MVP: BYU QB Max Hall

2008 Pioneer LAS VEGAS BOWL (Dec. 20):
Arizona 31, BYU 21
MVP: UA QB Willie Tuitama

2007 Pioneer LAS VEGAS BOWL (Dec. 22):
BYU 17, UCLA 16
MVP: BYU WR Austin Collie

2006 Pioneer PureVision LAS VEGAS BOWL (Dec. 26):
BYU 38, Oregon 8
MVP: BYU TE Johnny Harline

2005 Pioneer PureVision LAS VEGAS BOWL (Dec. 22):
California 35, BYU 28
MVP: Cal RB Marshawn Lynch

2004 Pioneer PureVision LAS VEGAS BOWL (Dec. 23):
Wyoming 24, UCLA 21
MVP: UW QB Corey Bramlet

2003 LAS VEGAS BOWL XII (Dec. 24):
Oregon State 55, New Mexico 14
MVP: OSU RB Steven Jackson

2002 SEGA Sports LAS VEGAS BOWL (Dec. 25):
UCLA 27, New Mexico 13
MVP: UCLA WR Craig Bragg

2001 SEGA Sports LAS VEGAS BOWL (Dec. 25):
Utah 10, USC 6
MVP: Utah RB Dameon Hunter

2000 LAS VEGAS BOWL IX (Dec. 21):
UNLV 31, Arkansas 14
MVP: UNLV QB Jason Thomas

1999 LAS VEGAS BOWL VIII (Dec. 18):
Utah 17, Fresno State 16
MVP: Utah RB Mike Anderson

1998 LAS VEGAS BOWL VII (Dec. 19):
North Carolina 20, San Diego St. 13
MVP: UNC QB Ronald Curry

1997 LAS VEGAS BOWL VI (Dec. 20):
Oregon 41, Air Force 13
MVP: OU WR Pat Johnson

1996 LAS VEGAS BOWL V (Dec. 18):
Nevada 18, Ball State 15
MVP: UNR LB Sam Crawford

1995 LAS VEGAS BOWL IV (Dec. 14):
Toledo 40, Nevada 37 (OT)
MVP: UT RB Wasean Tait

1994 LAS VEGAS BOWL III (Dec. 15):
UNLV 52, Central Michigan 24
MVP: UNLV WR Henry Bailey

1993 LAS VEGAS BOWL II (Dec. 17):
Utah State 42, Ball State 33
MVP: USU QB Anthony Calvillo

1992 LAS VEGAS BOWL I (Dec. 18):
Bowling Green 35, Nevada 34
MVP: BGSU QB Erik White