Birmingham Bowl

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2015 Birmingham Bowl logo.jpg

The Birmingham Bowl (officially branded the Bowl from 2006 to 2010, the BBVA Compass Bowl from 2011 to 2014, the Jared Birmingham Bowl in 2018 and the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl since 2020) is a post-season college football bowl game approved by the NCAA in 2006. The first 14 games were played at Legion Field. As of 2021 the game is played at Protective Stadium and matches an American Athletic Conference team against a representative of the Southeastern Conference.

For its first two years, the bowl matched a team from the Big East or Mid-American Conference with a team from Conference USA. With the NCAA's approval of the bowl's affiliation with the SEC, the league gained a ninth automatic bowl slot for its 12 (now 14) member institutions. The Big East reorganized as the American Athletic Conference in 2013.

The game is owned and organized by ESPN Regional TV. ESPN named Mark Meadows as executive director, Bo Kerr as manager of sales and marketing and Robbie Robertson as chairman of the executive board for the bowl committee. In September the bowl committee made a $25,000 donation to the Monday Morning Quarterback Club's fundraising efforts on behalf of the Crippled Children's Foundation. was announced as title sponsor on November 16, 2006. The company renewed its sponsorship contract in 2008, agreeing to keep its name on the 2008 and 2009 bowl games.

In August 2010 elected to focus its efforts on a large NFL marketing contract and not to renew its title sponsorship of the college bowl game. On November 4, 2010, BBVA Compass announced that it was taking over as title sponsor. The next four match-ups carried that name. The bank announced in April 2013 that the 2014 BBVA Compass Bowl would be their last as title sponsor. The game went without a corporate title sponsor in 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2018 Jared jewelers took that role.

The 2013 contest between Ole Miss and Pitt set the attendance record at 59,135. The bowl's agreement with the Southeastern Conference was renewed in 2019 for the 2020 through 2025 games. The 2020 college football season, played in the midst of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, did not produce enough bowl teams to play the Birmingham Bowl.

The 2021 Birmingham Bowl was the first to be played at downtown Birmingham's Protective Stadium and, with the Auburn Tigers playing in a smaller venue, was also the first to sell out. Auburn lost 17-13 to the #21-ranked Houston Cougars.



2021 Birmingham Bowl logo.png
Main article: 2021 Birmingham Bowl

The 15th Birmingham Bowl was the second with TicketSmarter as title sponsor. The game was played at noon on Tuesday, December 28, 2021 at Protective Stadium and broadcast live on ESPN.

The 11-2 Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference, ranked #21 in the AP and Coaches' polls, defeated the 6-6 Auburn Tigers of the Southeastern Conference by a score of 17-13.


The game scheduled for January 1, 2021 was canceled due to a shortage of available teams owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.


2020 Birmingham Bowl logo.png
Main article: 2020 Birmingham Bowl

The 14th Birmingham Bowl was the first with TicketSmarter as title sponsor. The game was played on Thursday, January 2, 2020 at Legion Field and broadcast live on ESPN.

The 6-6 Boston College Eagles of the Atlantic Coast Conference met the 10-3 Cincinnati Bearcats of the American Athletic Conference.


2018 Jared Birmingham Bowl logo.png
Main article: 2018 Birmingham Bowl

The 13th Birmingham Bowl, the with Jared jewelers as title sponsor on a one-year contract, was played on Saturday, December 22, 2018 with the 8-5 Memphis Tigers, west division champions of the American Athletic Conference, facing the 6-6 Wake Forest Demon Deacons from the Atlantic Coast Conference.


Main article: 2017 Birmingham Bowl

The 12th Birmingham Bowl was played on Saturday, December 23, 2017 before a crowd of 28,623. The returning champion 10-2 South Florida Bulls of the American Athletic Conference came from behind to beat the 6-7 Texas Tech Red Raiders of the Big 12 Conference 38 to 34.


Main article: 2016 Birmingham Bowl

The 11th Birmingham Bowl was played on Thursday, December 29, 2016 with the favored 10-2 South Florida Bulls of the American Athletic Conference defeating the 6-6 South Carolina Gamecocks of the Southeastern Conference 46 to 39 in overtime.


Dec 2015 Birmingham Bowl logo.jpg

The 10th Birmingham Bowl was played Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 11:00 AM with the 6-6 Auburn Tigers of the Southeastern Conference beating the 9-3 Memphis Tigers of the American Athletic Conference by a score of 31-10.


2015 Birmingham Bowl logo.jpg
Main article: 2015 Birmingham Bowl

The 9th Birmingham Bowl was played Saturday, January 3, 2015 with the Florida Gators (7-5) of the Southeastern Conference defeating the East Carolina Pirates of the American Athletic Conference, 28-20. The announced crowd, on a cool, rainy Saturday, was 30,083. A group of Free UAB protesters attended the game to publicize their cause.


BBVA Compass Bowl.png

The 8th Birmingham Bowl was played Saturday, January 4, 2014 with the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-4) of the Southeastern Conference defeating the Houston Cougars (8-4) of the American Conference by a 41-24 margin in front of a crowd of 42,717.


The 7th BBVA Compass Bowl was played on Saturday, January 5, 2013. The University of Mississippi Rebels (6-6) defeated the Pitt Panthers (6-6), who made their third consecutive trip to Birmingham. Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel spoke at the bowl luncheon and former player Rich Wingo addressed the FCA breakfast crowd. The Rebels, in their first year under head coach Hugh Freeze, defeated the Panthers 38-17 before a record crowd of 59,135. Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace was game MVP.


The 2012 BBVA Compass Bowl was played on Saturday, January 7, 2012, with the SMU Mustangs (7-5) of Conference USA defeating the Pitt Panthers (6-6) of the Big East by a score of 28-6. The announced attendance for the game was 29,726.


The 5th game (the first to be called the BBVA Compass Bowl) was played on Saturday, January 8, 2011 with the Pitt Panthers (8-5) of the Big East defeating the Kentucky Wildcats (6-7) of the Southeastern Conference by a score of 27-10. The announced attendance was 41,207.

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The 4th Bowl was held for Saturday, January 2, 2010 with the 7-5 Connecticut Huskies of the Big East Conference defeating the 7-5 South Carolina Gamecocks of the SEC 20- 7. The official attendance was 45,254.


PapaJohn' Bowl logo 2006.png

The third Bowl was held Monday, December 29, 2008. with the North Carolina State Wolfpack facing the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. North Carolina State, an Atlantic Coast Conference team, received an at-large bid because no eligible Southeastern Conference teams were available. Attendance for the game was 36,387.


In preparation for the second Bowl, a parade and street festival, sponsored by merchants, ESPN, and Operation New Birmingham, were held in Five Points South Friday afternoon and evening. The parade marched from Powell Avenue to Five Points up 20th Street South. Other entertainment included live bands at 11th Avenue South and 20th Street and a kids' zone. A pre-game party was held at Legion Field on Saturday morning, attracting roughly 2,000 people.

The game was played at noon on Saturday December 22, 2007 before a crowd of 32,595. The University of Cincinnati defeated Southern Miss by a score of 31-21. Early in the second half the Golden Eagles' punter Britt Barefoot failed to convert a fake punt on 4th and 1. Bearcats receiver Earnest Jackson scored a 29-yard touchdown from a Ben Mauk pass on the next play after the turnover to go ahead 21-7. Southern Miss, which had 205 all-purpose yards from rusher Damion Fletcher, failed to secure an onside kick with 9:37 left, giving Cincinnati a chance to control the clock. 52 of the Bearcats' 78 plays from scrimmage were pass plays. Mauk finished the day 30 for 52 for 334 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions and was named the game's most valuable player.

The game was Jeff Bower's last as coach of the USM Golden Eagles. His overall record at Legion Field is 6-6 with 5 wins over UAB, and 1 over the Alabama Crimson Tide. His first game as head coach at Southern Miss was the 1990 All-American Bowl in which his Brett Favre-led Golden Eagles fell to North Carolina State 31-27.

The Legend of Birmingham Award was presented to Alabama Crimson Tide football great Johnny Musso during the Friday team luncheon at the Sheraton Birmingham. Former Notre Dame and South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz delivered the keynote address.


Provisional logo used in early marketing for the inaugural 2006 game
Provisional logo used in 2010 before BBVA Compass signed on as title sponsor

The first Papa Bowl was played at noon on Saturday December 23, 2006. Head coach Jim Leavitt's South Florida Bulls (9-4, 4-3 Big East) defeated Skip Holtz' East Carolina Pirates (7-6, 5-3 C-USA) in the inaugural Bowl. South Florida's Benjamin Williams scored twice in the first quarter, leading the Bills to a 24-7 half-time lead and earning MVP honors. The second half was scoreless as USF defended the end zone perfectly after three ECU drives inside the 20. Both starting quarterbacks left the game with mild injuries.

The bowl paid $300,000 to each affiliated conference. Tickets were $30 (or $20 each when buying 4 or more). Early purchasers will be able to renew the same seats for future games. In all, around 41,000 tickets were sold, and the attendance was reported as 28,527. Jim Smither of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated 6,000 out of town visitors and a $4.1 million economic impact for the event.

Players from the opposing teams made visits to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church, enjoyed a night of bowling at Vestavia Bowl and a show at the Comedy Club Stardome in Hoover. Team captains, mascots and cheerleaders visited Children's Hospital while the coaches' families made trips to the McWane Science Center and the Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort & Spa. The Friday team luncheon at the Sheraton Birmingham featured keynote speaker Archie Manning and the presentation of the Legend of Birmingham Award to new Samford head coach Pat Sullivan.

14 people were arrested for disorderly conduct by Birmingham Police at Dave's Pub in Five Points South the night before the game. According to Sergeant Joel Brown most of those arrested were visiting from North Carolina.

Game results

Date Winning team Losing team Attendance MVP Notes
December 23, 2006 South Florida 24 East Carolina 7 32,023 Ben Williams USF notes
December 22, 2007 Cincinnati 31 Southern Miss 21 35,258 Ben Mauck Cincinnati notes
December 29, 2008 Rutgers 29 NC State 23 38,582 Mike Teel Rutgers notes
January 2, 2010 Connecticut 20 South Carolina 7 45,254 Andre Dixon UConn notes
January 8, 2011 Pittsburgh 27 Kentucky 10 41,207 Dion Lewis Pittsburgh notes
January 7, 2012 SMU 28 Pittsburgh 6 29,726 Darrius Johnson SMU notes
January 5, 2013 Ole Miss 38 Pittsburgh 17 59,326 Bo Wallace Ole Miss notes
January 4, 2014 Vanderbilt 41 Houston 24 42,717 Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt notes
January 3, 2015 Florida 28 East Carolina 20 30,083 Adam Lane Jr. Florida notes
December 30, 2015 Auburn 24 Memphis 10 59,430 Jovon Robinson Auburn notes
December 29, 2016 South Florida 46 South Carolina 39 31,229 Quinton Flowers USF notes
December 23, 2017 South Florida 38 Texas Tech 34 28,623 Quinton Flowers USF notes
December 22, 2018 Wake Forest 37 Memphis 34 25,717 Jamie Newman Wake Forest notes
January 2, 2020 Cincinnati 38 Boston College 6 27,193 Desmond Ritter Cincinnati notes
December 28, 2021 Houston 17 Auburn 13 47,100 Clayton Tune Houston notes

Selected records

  • Most points: 46 by South Florida (2016)
  • Most yards rushing: 261 by Pittsburgh (2011)
  • Most yards passing: 427 by East Carolina (2015)
  • Most offensive yards: 561 by South Florida (2017)
  • Highest combined score: 85 (2016)
  • Longest completed pass: 86 yards, Florida's Treon Harris to Ahmad Fulwood (2015)
  • Longest rush from scrimmage: 62 yards by Houston's Daniel Spencer (2014), Mississippi's I'Tavius Mathers (2013)
  • Most all-purpose yards: 290 by South Carolina's Deebo Samuel (2016)
  • Longest kickoff return: 62 yards by Houston's Demarcus Ayers (2014)
  • Longest punt return: 56 yards by Auburn's Marcus Davis (2015)
  • Longest field goal: 53 yards by Memphis' Jake Elliott (2015)
  • Longest punt: 60 yards by ECU's Ryan Dougherty (2006)
  • Most appearances: 3, Pittsburgh, South Florida
  • Most Victories: 3, South Florida
  • Highest attendance: 59,430 (December 2015)
Birmingham Bowl
Site:Legion Field (2006–2020), Protective Stadium (2021–)
Names: Bowl (2006–2010), BBVA Compass Bowl (2011–2014), Birmingham Bowl (2015–2017), Jared Birmingham Bowl (2018), TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl (2020–2021)
By year: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, Jan. 2015, Dec. 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021


  • Melick, Ray. (April 28, 2006). "NCAA approves The Birmingham Bowl." The Birmingham News
  • Solomon, Jon. (November 15, 2006). "Papa John’s signs on as sponsor of Birmingham Bowl." The Birmingham News
  • Solomon, Jon. (December 4, 2006). "Inaugural game dodges inviting .500 team." The Birmingham News
  • Solomon, Jon. (December 22, 2006). "Game could be top 10 in area for economic impact." The Birmingham News
  • Segrest, Doug and Jon Solomon. (December 22, 2006). " Bowl notes." The Birmingham News
  • Coman, Victoria L. (December 20, 2007). "Parade and street party in works for bowl." The Birmingham News
  • Velasco, Eric. (December 23, 2007). "And the winner is: Birmingham." The Birmingham News
  • Solomon, Jon (December 24, 2006). "Cheers for Bowl." The Birmingham News
  • "Some ECU fans arrested." (December 24, 2006). The (Raleigh) News & Observer
  • Solomon, Jon (May 1, 2008) " Bowl plans to serve up SEC-Big East match on Dec. 29." The Birmingham News
  • Cooper, Lauren B. (January 8, 2010) " bowl game pumped $18M into Birmingham." The Birmingham News
  • Solomon, Jon (August 7, 2010) "Papa John's: New NFL strategy, higher ESPN financial demand mean cutting bowl ties." The Birmingham News
  • Piper, Ben (November 4, 2010) "BBVA Compass takes over as Birmingham Bowl sponsor." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Solomon, Jon (November 5, 2010) "ESPN develops new financial model for BBVA Compass Bowl." The Birmingham News
  • Diel, Stan (April 2, 2013) "BBVA Compass to end sponsorship of Birmingham's bowl game." The Birmingham News
  • Phillips, Ryan (January 7, 2016) "What the Birmingham Bowl means for the Magic City." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Patchen, Tyler (December 19, 2018) "Birmingham Bowl lands title sponsor for 2018 game." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Patchen, Tyler (June 4, 2019) "Birmingham Bowl renews agreement with SEC." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Rebman, Stephanie (December 21, 2020) "Birmingham Bowl canceled due to team shortage." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Garrison, Greg (December 30, 2021) "Sold-out Birmingham Bowl bodes big benefits from new stadium." The Birmingham News

External links