It’s that time of the year again – a special time that happens every December … but only in Las Vegas. (I bet you thought I was talking about Christmas!) I DEFINITELY don’t want to diminish the importance or the joy of Christmas, but December is also the time for our annual college football bowl game, the Las Vegas Bowl.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl pregame activities at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 20, 2014. (Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl)
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl pregame activities at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 20, 2014. (Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl)

This year will celebrate the 24th year of the game. I worked on the inaugural game as a student assistant in the UNLV Athletic Department. Now, 24 years later, I am still involved as a member of the Las Vegas Bowl Executive Committee and fulfilling the dedicated sponsorship for the LVCVA.

I am not sure people realize how important the game is to Las Vegas, which is why Rossi Ralenkotter, LVCVA president and CEO, and Rob Dondero, R&R Partners executive vice president, chased the game back in 1991. What motivates travel more than loyal college football fans the week before Christmas? Since the inaugural game in 1992 to last year’s game, the Las Vegas Bowl has generated an estimated $252,201,800 of non-gaming economic impact (that is food/lodging/entertainment) to Las Vegas during a time that’s typically a weaker travel period due to the holiday season. The Las Vegas Bowl has claimed seven sellouts in nine years between 2005 and 2013. Also, this will mark the third year in a row that the Las Vegas Bowl will be broadcast on ABC, showcasing Las Vegas to millions of viewers.

Sponsor signs at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 21, 2013. (Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl)
Sponsor signs at the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 21, 2013. (Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl)

Some “Las Vegas Bowl firsts” that I think will be a surprise to most people: In 1995, Toledo and Nevada played in what was the first ever overtime bowl game in the Division 1 FBS level. The Las Vegas Bowl has claim to the FIRST WOMAN to play in an FBS-level game when Katie Hnida of the University of New Mexico entered the game to attempt an extra point. Sadly, it was blocked. In 2013, the game featured three scoring plays of 98 yards or longer and was the first bowl game in history that included a kickoff return to start each half.

And, you might just recognize a few of these names − he’s now known for being in Beast Mode and loving his Skittles, but Seattle Seahawks superstar running back Marshawn Lynch first gained fame in college when he was named MVP of the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl after rushing for three touchdowns and 199 yards for the Cal Bears. He won the Heisman Trophy the year AFTER playing in the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer led his USC Trojans in the 2001 game against Utah. The world knows him as “Gronk,” but before Rob Gronkowski became a three-time Pro Bowl tight end, the future Super Bowl champion played right here in the Las Vegas Bowl as he helped his Arizona Wildcats earn a win over BYU in the 2008 edition. Before he became a 1,000-yard rusher in the NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin played right here in the Las Vegas Bowl, piling up 301 all-purpose yards and two scores while helping his Boise State Broncos defeat Arizona State in 2011.

So, while you deck the halls and trim the tree, don’t forget to make the Las Vegas Bowl a part of your December tradition!! This year’s game will be Saturday, Dec. 19, at 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET) at Sam Boyd Stadium. The 24th Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl will be televised nationally on ABC, featuring BYU against Utah — and with that matchup comes two more Las Vegas Bowl firsts — it marks both the first time “The Holy War” has been contested in the postseason, and the first time the Cougars and Utes have battled on a neutral site.