Originally titled the Blockbuster Bowl, the game was born in Miami, Florida, in 1990 and thrived in its first year with a marquee matchup between Penn State and Florida State which drew more than 74,000 fans. Over the next 11 years, however, the game’s attendance dwindled, and it became apparent that the game would not survive in south Florida.
Sensing a unique opportunity to bring a second bowl game to Orlando, then Florida Citrus Sports (FCSports) Executive Director Chuck Rohe and the Board of Directors initiated a process of obtaining the bowl’s certification. The first game was called the Tangerine Bowl, a tribute to the name of Orlando’s original bowl game (now the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl).
With each successive year in Orlando, the bowl has continued to make strides, at one point posting eight consecutive years of attendance increases (a standing record among bowl games). That growth reached a crescendo in 2011, the last game under the Champs Sports Bowl name, when Florida State and Notre Dame played before a sold-out crowd of 68,305. Over the past five years, the bowl has averaged just shy of 55,000 fans per game.
The game’s place in the postseason lineup has also improved significantly over its time in Orlando. In the new College Football Playoff era, the bowl will match the top selection from the ACC (inclusive of Notre Dame) outside of the CFP series against the second selection from the Big 12 outside of the CFP series.
In early 2012, Russell Athletic signed an agreement with Florida Citrus Sports to be the new title sponsor of the game through 2017.