Did You Know Wichita Falls, Texas Used to Host a College Football Bowl Game?
Taking another trip down Wichita Falls memory lane today with something I didn't know about.
Memorial Stadium throughout the years has been used for some pretty big sports moments in Wichita Falls. Nowadays we think of it as the home to the Midwestern State Mustangs and all of our local high school teams. Back in the day though, Wichita Falls was home to a college bowl game.
The Pioneer Bowl
The Pioneer Bowl was originally one of the four regional finals in the College Division (which became Division II and Division III in 1973). It was played for this purpose in 1971 and 1972 in Wichita Falls, Texas; there were no playoffs as the national champion was determined by poll at the end of the regular season.
Quote above taken from Wikipedia, starting in 1973 this game would become a playoff game in Wichita Falls. Then in 1976, Memorial Stadium would be home to the Division II Championship. For some reason in 1979 it had no bowl name and was played in Orlando, Florida. In 1980, it moved again to Sacremento, California and would go as the Camellia Bowl. In 1981, Wichita Falls got the game back and the final Pioneer Bowl as we know it took place in 1982.
Footage of the Final Pioneer Bowl in Wichita Falls, Texas
I happened to stumble upon this video above today and it just so happened to be the final ever Pioneer Bowl in Wichita Falls. So pretty cool to see. Eastern Kentucky would go onto win the final Pioneer Bowl in Wichita Falls. Fun fact, Eastern Kentucky lost in the Pioneer Bowl the year before in Wichita Falls.
What Happened to the Pioneer Bowl?
Starting in 1997, the Pioneer Bowl name would be used for a bowl game between Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Although this had the same name as the bowl game here in Wichita Falls. The game was never played here again. From 1997 to 2012, the Pioneer Bowl was played in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
Pioneer Bowl in Pop Culture
Fun fact, The Pioneer Bowl was mentioned on episode of the TV Show 'Coach'. Minnesota State University Screaming Eagles football team were playing in the 'Pioneer Bowl' in Season 6 Episode 10. This episode aired in 1993 so this is in that period where folks thought The Pioneer Bowl was dead. So why not use the name? The game in the show did take place in Texas, just not Wichita Falls. It was played in The Alamodome over in San Antonio.
Technically a Bowl Game is Still Played in Wichita Falls at Memorial Stadium
Although it is not college football, a football bowl game is still played to this very day in Wichita Falls. It's basically an all star game, where the best of East Texas high school football players and the best of West Texas high school football players come to compete in the Oil Bowl Classic every summer.
The Oil Bowl has been going strong since 1938. From 1945 to 2013, it was actually best of Texas high school players versus best of Oklahoma high school players. According to an article from The Oklahoman, the reason Oklahoma high schools no longer play in the game is due to a disagreement over charity money. Apparently money raised from the game went to charities in Oklahoma and Texas.
In 2013, all of the money went to Shriner's hospitals and Oklahoma apparently did not like that. $9,000 should have gone to Shriner's and the other $9,000 raised at the game was supposed to be decided by a board in Oklahoma. It looks like all $18,000 raised from that game went to a charity decided by the Oil Bowl board here in Texas.
So there's your Wichita Falls bowl history. I am sure some of you knew some of this, but probably not all of it. If you have any more interesting pieces of Wichita Falls history, send them my way.