Rebels football:

Take 5: The history that makes Cotton Bowl Stadium stand apart


Associated Press

The University of Texas football team runs onto the field at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas for the start of their game against Oklahoma on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006.

Click to enlarge photo

Doak Walker, a star player for Southern Methodist, looks over Heisman Memorial Trophy in New York on Dec. 7, 1948. Picked as the nation's outstanding college football player by sportswriters and broadcasters, Walker formally was presented with the award later in the day at a dinner in the Downtown Athletic Club.

There are two things the Rebels point to as reasons this bowl game in particular is special versus some of the others they may have landed in. The first is the date — Jan. 1 — because that day is often set aside for a full day of college football.

The other is the venue — Cotton Bowl Stadium — and most of the coaches and administrators have used the term “historic” more than once in press conferences. UNLV has played there once before, in 1998 at SMU.

As the Rebels prepare to return there for the Heart of Dallas Bowl against North Texas, take some time to get familiar with the Cotton Bowl:

1. The House that Doak Built

The stadium, then known as Fair Park Stadium, was built in 1930 for a little less than $350,000. It could seat about 45,500 fans, and the name was changed to Cotton Bowl Stadium in 1936, the year of the first Cotton Bowl Classic bowl game (see No. 3).

The seating started to feel a little snug when Doak Walker was amassing three consecutive All-American seasons as a running back, defensive back and kicker at SMU. The Dallas native made SMU games such a hot ticket that in 1948 the Cotton Bowl built an upper deck on the west side that increased the capacity to 67,000. Walker won the Heisman Trophy after that season, and in the offseason an addition to the east side bumped capacity up to 75,000 for Walker’s senior season.

Because of the obvious connection, local sportswriters dubbed the revamped Cotton Bowl Stadium “The House that Doak Built.”

2. Famous tenants

The stadium is best known for hosting the Red River Rivalry, the annual Oklahoma-Texas game played the week of the Texas State Fair. That game has taken place at the Cotton Bowl since 1932.

The stadium counts the Dallas Texans (now the Kansas City Chiefs) and the Dallas Cowboys as former tenants. It was also the longtime home for SMU football (1932-78 and 1995-2000), and in 1994 the Cotton Bowl was renovated to serve as one of nine sites for the World Cup. Eventual champion Brazil won its quarterfinal match in front of a packed Cotton Bowl.

It also boasts several outdoor concerts, most notably a 1956 Elvis Presley show, on its resume, but one sporting event is now noticeably missing:

3. The Cotton Bowl isn’t played at the Cotton Bowl

At least not anymore.

The AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, which is more commonly known as the Cotton Bowl, was played at Cotton Bowl Stadium, which is also more commonly known as the Cotton Bowl, from 1936 to 2009. In 2010, the game moved to the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

The game is considered one of the premier bowl games in the country and probably ranks right behind the Bowl Championship Series games. This year, it features Missouri vs. Oklahoma State.

4. Facelifts

The stadium has been renovated and expanded twice in the past 20 years. First, in 1994, crews removed the artificial turf and made other upgrades in anticipation of the stadium hosting World Cup games. Capacity shrunk to 68,000 by 1996, but as the Red River Rivalry started picking up steam in the mid-2000s, another expansion and upgrade was approved.

In 2007, Oklahoma and Texas signed a contract to play their game at the Cotton Bowl through 2015, and $57 million was approved for upgrades. As a part of that, seating capacity was expanded to its current 92,100.

5. Texas Forever

The series finale of the TV show “Friday Night Lights” was filmed at the Cotton Bowl. So if the Rebels’ pregame speech doesn’t include at least one “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose,” they’re doing it wrong.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at

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