Texas edged Ohio State in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.


In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star is featuring our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we have been showcasing our list - with the first 90 in no particular order.

Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.



The spark that ignited the Fiesta Bowl and, in turn, produced latter-day national championship football games in Phoenix, began in Tucson in 1968.

ASU (7-2) and Arizona (8-1) were about to meet in the Territorial Cup game. Officials of the Sun Bowl intended to invite the winner of that game to the El Paso bowl game. Instead, UA coach Darrell Mudra issued his famous ultimatum: Take us now or don't take us at all.

The Sun Bowl officials then offered Arizona its 1968 invitation before the duly-motivated Sun Devils routed the Wildcats a week later 30-7.

Thus the Ultimatum Bowl led to the wildly successful Fiesta Bowl. Phoenix officials created their own bowl game, which began play in 1971. ASU played in four of the first five games (winning four). By then the Fiesta Bowl had been established nationally and financially.

Few could have predicted the greater success of the last 25 years. Bowl games in Phoenix have joined the Rose, Orange and Sugar bowls as the most prestigious in the country.

The Fiesta Bowl twice produced the national champion. In January 1987, No. 2 Penn State edged No. 1 Miami before what remains the largest TV crowd in college football history. In January 1989, undefeated Notre Dame whipped West Virginia 34-21 to win the national championship.

In the '90s, the Fiesta Bowl became part of the old Bowl Coalition series, which enabled the Fiesta Bowl to play host to national title games in January of 1996, 1999 and 2003. Those games were won, respectively, by Nebraska, Tennessee and Ohio State.

Finally, in 2007, the Fiesta Bowl and its committee became part of the BCS rotation, playing host to the national title game every four years.

In January 2007, Florida dismantled Ohio State 41-14 in the BCS title game in Glendale. This year, Auburn won the national title in Glendale, defeating the Oregon Ducks 22-19.

Fiesta Bowl games of the last 40 years not involving national championship teams have also been notable. In January 2007, upstart Boise State shocked Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime, using a series of trick plays to beat the Sooners. And in January 1994, Arizona's Desert Swarm overwhelmed Miami 29-0 in the first shutout of the Fiesta Bowl's now-glorious history.



National title games



UA president Richard Harvill did not attend the 1968 Sun Bowl, which, indirectly, led to the Fiesta Bowl's creation. He was unhappy with coach Darrell Mudra's approach, which led to Mudra's surprising resignation soon thereafter. "I wanted to compete for the national championship," Mudra said in Abe Chanin's book "They Fought Like Wildcats." "And I don't believe it was possible with Harvill at the helm."

Greg Hansen

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