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The 16 best, weirdest, and most beautiful college football bowl trophies


Some are cool, and some are weird. All are prizes of some sort.

College football loves weird trophies.

The sport gives out trophies seemingly every week. Sometimes rivalry trophies are made up on the fly like the Civil ConFLiCT, or crowdfunded like the Bits of Broken Chair. Others go further back and have been swapped for decades with their own fun backstories.

But whether you have a trophy game in the regular season, every bowl team plays for a prize in the postseason.

There are literal bowls of stuff

They’re not called bowl games for no reason, right? Some games take that moniker quite literally by awarding honest-to-God bowls. For example, the Potato Bowl fills its trophy with spuds.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Idaho v Colorado State
Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

The Citrus Bowl fills its trophy appropriately as well …

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Louisiana State vs Louisville
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

… but the Citrus Bowl didn’t always adhere to its roots. Back when it was the Capital One Bowl, it had this boring thing as its trophy.

2009 Capital One Bowl - Michigan State Spartans v Georgia Bulldogs
Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The mack daddy of Florida bowl trophies is the Orange Bowl. You’ll never guess what it is filled with.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Media Day
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Those oranges become projectiles once players and coaches start taking them out of the bowl and chucking them off the podium to their teammates celebrating below.

To the victors go the citrus.

Discover Orange Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The New Mexico Bowl gives its winner an empty vessel, but it’s a very cool one.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl - Arizona v New Mexico
Photo by Aaron Sweet/Getty Images

With a market value of $2,500, this thing’s pretty sweet:

It is a Native American clay pot meticulously handcrafted by artists Marcellus and Elizabeth Media from the Zia Pueblo. The 20-inch bowl-shaped pottery features the iconic Zia sun symbol and images of football players, a deer, mountain lion, buffalo and eagle.

Weird intertwine-y lookin’ things.

It’s a curious design aesthetic, but several bowls make intertwined metal come to life. Like the Cotton Bowl.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Wisconsin vs Western Michigan
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Cotton Bowl’s trophy has changed “significantly� over the years, but I’d much rather the game’s trophy just be a smaller version of Big Tex, who presides over the original Cotton Bowl stadium.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The new Independence Bowl trophy does the same intertwining thing.

NCAA Football: Independence Bowl-North Carolina State vs Vanderbilt
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

I’m assuming it’s because Mizzou’s mascot broke the old one.


The abstract trophy

I’m not sure why the old Birmingham Bowl’s captivates me like it does. It is nondescript on its face …

Birmingham Bowl - East Carolina v Florida
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

… but its metal connection to the city of Birmingham’s iron industry makes it kinda nice.

This is not your childhood sports trophy that could be easily lifted in the air with one hand. It is a steel-and-marble behemoth that weighs approximately 50 pounds and takes more than a month to forge. “[Bowl officials] came to us and said they wanted something that represents the rough-and-tumble steel industry, something that represents where we came from as a city,” Damsky says.

The trophy originates as a half-inch thick sheet of raw steel. It is cut to shape, and then a steel saw is used to chop a series of artistic marks along the top and bottom (chewing through a half-dozen steel bits in the process), giving the trophy “that rough look,” Damsky says.

It’s like a piece of abstract art. You paint your own opinions upon its blank canvas.

This year it’s replaced by an even clearer line to the iron industry, and a much less ambiguous trophy.

That is a miniature version of the Roman God of fire (and metalworking), Vulcan.

There’s a much larger Vulcan in downtown Birmingham.

The very obvious

Liberty Bowl. Liberty Bell. Get it?

NCAA Football: Liberty Bowl-Texas Christian vs Georgia
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The trophy with an identity crisis

In my mind’s eye, the Sugar Bowl’s is a shrunken-down version of three separate trophies (and in fact, part of it is detachable).

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Auburn vs Oklahoma
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

This is not to say that it isn’t a cool trophy, but let’s take it apart piece by piece.

At the top, you’ve got the ball. Plenty of games go with just some version of a ball.

Belk Bowl - Georgia v Louisville
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl - Mississippi v TCU
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Sugar Bowl puts a ball on top of what looks like Wimbledon’s Gentlemen’s trophy.

Champion's Dinner: The Championships - Wimbledon 2017
Photo by AELTC – Pool / Getty Images

And it all sits on a base of a golden Superdome …

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Auburn v Oklahoma
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

… which kinda looks like the Nebraska-Wisconsin trophy.

The best game trophy/MVP trophy combo

The Hawaii Bowl trophy is a football in the shape of a pineapple.

NCAA Football: Hawaii Bowl-Hawaii at Middle Tennessee
Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

And yet it does not hold a candle to the game’s MVP trophy (a life-sized oar):

NCAA Football: Hawaii Bowl-San Diego State vs Cincinnati
Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Another very good MVP trophy: the New Orleans Bowl’s Mardi Gras-themed helmet.


The worst game trophy/MVP trophy combo

You would think that the Rose Bowl, The Granddaddy Of Them All, would have a better trophy than this:

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s certainly an upgrade from what the trophy was until 2005:

ROSE BOWL JOHNSON

I guess it’s a classy little thing designed by Tiffany jewelers, and it fits the understated motif of the game. But like the Super Bowl and World Cup trophies, I’m just left wanting more.

That’s before we even bring up the MVP award. .

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Stanford vs Iowa
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

That dinky little piece of glass is what you get when you place third in a piano recital in eighth grade. The most prestigious college football game in all the land should do better for its marquee player.

The glowed-up trophy

I have no earthly idea why, but the Fiesta Bowl used to award this as its trophy:

Fiesta Bowl Trophy

Thankfully, it upgraded to this 200-pound, 46-inch behemoth in 2002:

Vizio Fiesta Bowl - Boise State v Arizona
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It takes two people to wrangle the thing …

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Central Florida v Baylor
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

… and the 18-karat golden football at the top comes off to be held in the sky by the winner.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a gorgeous prize, and still my favorite trophy awarded in college football’s postseason.

The trophy’s foundation entailed an intricate fabrication of five different shades of marble and granite, upholding the stunning complexities of the trophy. The center column was created using lapis lazuli, one of the most sought after stones in the world. Created to simulate the Arizona sunset, it was hand-carved in 18-karat yellow, green, red, peach and white gold. The sterling silver dome alone, enhanced with multi-colored windows created in jeweler’s enamel, took more than 96 hours to complete.

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Clemson
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Clemson
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

And now, a brief ode to a trophy no longer given out in a postgame ceremony

It was beautiful, and it was perfect. The gleaming BCS crystal ball worth around $30,000 was the ultimate prize in college football for most of my young life:

Discover BCS National Championship - Media Day
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

But I did always wonder what would happen if someone broke it, and that eventually happened at Florida and Alabama.

When it was whole, it was really pretty. Get you a significant other who looks at you like Gene Chizik looks at the old BCS title trophy.

Tostitos BCS National Championship Game - Press Conference
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It is still awarded via the American Football Coaches Association. But it’s no longer held high after the game, and that’s a shame.

BCS National Championship - Florida State v Auburn
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

And finally, about the current national championship trophy

I’ve come full circle on the beer glass/Sauron’s eye-looking CFP trophy.

CFP National Championship
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Upon three seasons of review, it’s actually pretty cool. It looks a lot better pulled off of its base, too. The modern design is a worthy prize for the national champion.

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
CFP National Championship
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I still want the crystal ball back, though.