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New Mexico has a holiday tradition. Since its inception in 2006, the New Mexico Bowl has been played on the Saturday afternoon before Christmas at University Stadium on the University of New Mexico campus. The contest has pitted the Mountain West Conference against the Western Athletic Conference, Pac-12 and Conference USA in the state's only annually nationally televised sporting event. In an effort to grow and bring the best possible teams and their fans to University Stadium, a six-year agreement was made with Conference USA and began in 2014 . In June of 2011, ESPN and Gildan Activewear announced a multi-sport, multi-year partnership that gave the company naming rights, relaunching the game as the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. That partnership was extended in 2014.


A Bowl Is Born

The New Mexico Bowl is the culmination of a collective effort of people with a vision in a state on the move. While the idea of playing a Division I College Football Bowl Game in Albuquerque had been around for a while, the push to make the New Mexico Bowl a reality started around 2005. The New Mexico Sports Authority, an agency created by former governor Bill Richardson, saw the potential to make this event happen. After researching some of the game's most exciting collegiate bowls, the Sports Authority met with the commissioners of the Mountain West and Western Athletic Conferences.


With the MWC and WAC interested in committing to the game, the Sports Authority, the University of New Mexico and the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau worked together along with ESPN Regional Television (ERT) to put a deal together. ERT, which owns five other bowl games (Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, Sheraton Hawai`i Bowl, Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl, PapaJohns.com Bowl, and St. Petersburg Bowl) assumed ownership of the New Mexico Bowl and it was licensed by the NCAA Certification Committee in April 2006.


Inaugural Game

Call it fate or just plain coincidence but just days prior to the first collegiate bowl game at University Stadium since 1980, the city of Albuquerque was dumped on with six or more inches of snow, forcing the game and practice fields to be plowed off so the Bowl could go on as scheduled. The game did go on as planned Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006 and an announced crowd of 34,111 watched as the San Jose State Spartans defeated the New Mexico Lobos, 20-12. For SJSU (9-4), the win provided a final highlight in a season in which it won more games than it had in the three previous seasons. For UNM (6-7), it dropped them to 0-5 in bowl games since 1997, and extended the Lobos' postseason losing streak to the sixth longest in the nation, having not won a bowl game since they beat Western Michigan in the 1961 Aviation Bowl.


New Mexico Bowl II

The second New Mexico Bowl was just as chilly as the first with kick-off temperature of 34 degrees but there was no snow for the 30,223 in attendance. The game ended up in favor of the Lobos as Paul Baker ran for 167 yards in his first start, and Donovan Porterie threw for a career-high 354 yards and two touchdowns to help New Mexico beat Nevada 23-0 on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007. The Lobos (9-4) ended a 46-year span without a postseason victory and gave head coach Rocky Long, the team's 10th-year coach, his first bowl win in five tries. John Sullivan made field goals from 53, 39 and 37 yards, but credit was also given to New Mexico's defense, which delivered just the second shutout loss for Nevada under Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault. The Wolf Pack (6-7) hadn't gone scoreless since losing 10-0 to Weber State on Sept. 27, 1980, a span of 329 games -- the longest streak in college football at that time and the second longest in history. It was the first time Nevada was shut out since moving to Division I-A in 1992.


New Mexico Bowl III

Excitement was in the air for the third New Mexico Bowl as it welcomed two new teams, Colorado State and Fresno State, to University Stadium for the first time in the young game's history. It appeared that Fresno State was going to take home the trophy, leading 28-20 heading into the fourth quarter. Colorado State had other plans, rattling off 20 points in the final period for a 40-35 victory. Ram running back Gartrell Johnson, III was named the New Mexico Bowl Most Outstanding Player of the Game, finishing with 375 net yards from scrimmage, which is a New Mexico Bowl record. He ran 27 times for 285 yards, which is a New Mexico Bowl rushing record and a Mountain West Conference bowl game rushing record. Johnson’s 375 yards from scrimmage (rushing & receiving only) on 32 touches set a new mark for the most yards in FBS bowl history. Colorado State defensive end Tommie Hill was named the New Mexico Bowl Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game because of his interception of Fresno State quarterback Tom Brandstater with 13:26 remaining in the fourth quarter to jump-start the Rams' rally.


New Mexico Bowl IV

No one knew for sure what to expect as the fourth annual New Mexico Bowl approached. Fresno State was back for the second straight year but this time the Bulldogs were rolling on a lot of momentum that stemmed from a miracle, season-ending win at Illinois. Wyoming was is the same boat as Colorado State from the previous year. They were representing the MWC with a 6-6 record, needing the last game of the season to earn bowl eligibility, and were led by a first-year head coach. Again, it seemed like Fresno State was destined for the trophy. Wyoming trailed by 11 points in the fourth quarter. Its offense was led by a freshman quarterback, its defense was facing the nation's leading rusher. Time to worry? Not these comeback Cowboys. Freshman Austyn Carta-Samuels threw three touchdown passes, the last a 13-yarder to David Leonard in the second overtime Saturday, and Wyoming rallied past Fresno State 35-28. The first of 34 bowls in the 2009 season was a high-scoring matchup that was decided at the end by defense. Wyoming (7-6) stopped the nation's leading rusher, Fresno State's Ryan Mathews, on three rushing attempts from the 1 in the first overtime. The Bulldogs (8-5) tried a quarterback sneak on third down, and Mathews came up short again on fourth down. The Cowboys, who won four times this season after rallying in the fourth quarter, scored on the first possession in double overtime, then held Fresno State on downs.


New Mexico Bowl V

BYU came into the game winning five out of seven games after a dismal 1–4 start to the season. The Cougars rode the momentum to a convincing victory, beating the UTEP Miners from Conference USA, 52-24. BYU’s freshman quarterback Jake Heaps threw four touchdown passes, connecting with Cody Hoffman on three scores, and finished with 264 yards passing to earn the game’s most outstanding offensive player trophy. Heaps became the first freshman quarterback to start any of BYU's 29 bowl games. For most of the day, he looked like a polished veteran and showed why he was one of the nation's top recruits coming out of high school in the Seattle suburbs in 2009. He completed seven of his first nine attempts, with both of those incompletions on drops. For the Miners, who were the first team outside of the Mountain West or WAC to play in the New Mexico Bowl, the loss was its fifth straight bowl games defeat. That tied for the second longest active streak in the nation with Georgia Tech and Ball State. Only Northwestern had lost more.


Gildan New Mexico Bowl VI

The buzz around town prior to the game was that Wyoming would come out with its second Gildan New Mexico Bowl victory in as many tries. But the Temple Owls, the first team from the MAC to play in the Albuquerque game, were confident in their team and it showed on game day. The Owls controlled the game from start to finish in a 37-15 win. The Owls were led by running back Bernard Pierce, who ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer, who garnered offensive MVP honors. Temple's aggressive defense held Wyoming's spread offense to just 267 yards (127 passing).


Gildan New Mexico Bowl VII

College football's postseason started with a wild one as Arizona’s senior quarterback Matt Scott rallied his team in the final 46 seconds, tossing two short touchdown passes for an improbable 49-48 win. The Wildcats recovered an onside kick in the last minute, setting up Scott's 2-yard toss to Tyler Slavin with 19 seconds left for the winning score. Arizona trailed 21-0 in the first quarter and was down 45-28 entering the final period. Scott threw for 382 yards and marched his team back into the game despite those two earlier interceptions. The nation's rushing leader, Ka'Deem Carey, gained 172 yards for the Wildcats but fell short of becoming only the 16th running back in NCAA history to reach 2,000 yards in a season. Arizona receiver Austin Hill caught eight passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns. The teams combined for 1,237 total yards. Nevada’s Cody Fajardo threw for three touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Wolf Pack and make a case for the game’s MVP honor. He had 256 yards passing and 140 yards rushing and controlled most of the game, completing 22-of-32 throws. Stefphon Jefferson, the nation's second-leading rusher, ran for 180 yards for Nevada.


Gildan New Mexico Bowl VIII

For the second straight year, the winning team has scored at least 10 points in the final minute to win the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Colorado State trailed by 22 points (35-13) before coming back to beat Washington State 48-45 in the bowl season's opening game. That's tied for the 2nd-largest deficit overcome to win in a non-OT bowl game. The Rams got back in the game when Cougars running back Jeremiah Laufasa fumbled at the Cougars 33, setting up Kapri Bibbs' 1-yard run score and Donnell Alexander's two-point conversion run that tied it at 45 with 33 seconds left. Then, Washington State's Teondray Caldwell fumbled a kickoff return at the 24, setting up Jared Roberts' 41-yard field goal as time expired. The teams combined for 58 points in the 1st half, which is a Gildan New Mexico Bowl record. It is tied for the 9th-most combined points in a half in bowl history (since 1937).


Gildan New Mexico Bowl IX

It wasn’t a last-second victory like previous years but Utah State still churned out an improbable tale as the Aggies garnered a 21-6 win against UTEP, at times with its fifth-string quarterback leading the offense. The Vigil brothers were the other key component in USU’s third straight bowl victory. Zach Vigil was named the Defensive MVP with game-high 11 tackles while younger brother, Nick, notched seven tackles and a touchdown. The Aggies had one of the top-ranked defenses in the nation. The Vigils, who combined for 553 career tackles to rank first at the FBS level among active brothers. helped hold UTEP to 149 rushing yards and no touchdowns.


In the Community

The Bowl staff stays active in the offseason. The bowl has co-sponsored the Presbyterian Ear Institutes' Run To Break The Silence, a 5K, 10K and 20K fun run at Sandia Resort and Casino. Each July the Bowl also teams with NCAA Football to put on a free clinic for area youth coached by both New Mexico and New Mexico State coaches.



Game Results


Winning Team


Losing Team



Dec. 23, 2006

San Jose State


New Mexico



Dec. 22, 2007

New Mexico





Dec. 20, 2008

Colorado State


Fresno State



Dec. 19, 2009 (2OT)



Fresno State



Dec. 18, 2010






Dec. 17, 2011






Dec. 15, 2012






Dec. 21, 2013

Colorado State


Washington State



Dec. 20, 2014

Utah State





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