sugar bowl

Leon Trice, photographer / Historic New Orleans Collection

On January 1, 1935 Americans were dealing with some big issues: the Great Depression had crippled the economy and the Dust Bowl had scoured the land. But down in New Orleans the mood was celebratory: football players getting ready to meet each other at the inaugural Sugar Bowl.

The Owl at the University of Pittsburgh

Bobby Grier was the first African-American to play in the Sugar Bowl. As a member of the Pittsburgh Panthers, Grier played against Georgia Tech on January 2, 1956 — only months after Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi and weeks after Rosa Parks was arrested in Alabama.

Perhaps as expected, his participation was met with opposition: the governor of Georgia insisted that Georgia Tech boycott the Sugar Bowl that year. But the game was played, Grier was its leading rusher, and the Civil Rights Movement continued to gain momentum.

Florida seniors Jon Bostic and Omar Hunter say they're are done dwelling on what might have been if not for their lone loss to Georgia.

After finishing third in the BCS standings, one spot too low to play for a national title in Miami, the Gators say they remain motivated heading into Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl against two-touchdown underdog Louisville.

Florida is ranked fifth nationally in total defense and third in scoring defense. Yet, safety Josh Evans insists both rankings fail to reflect how good the unit really is.

In his eyes, the No. 4 Gators (11-1) are second to none defensively, something they will try to prove when they play 22nd-ranked Louisville (10-2) and dynamic quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the Sugar Bowl on Wednesday night.

Tomorrow's Sugar Bowl means more than just victory for Virginia Tech or Michigan. It also generates huge economic development opportunities for the entire New Orleans region.

Greater New Orleans, Inc. President Michael Hecht says the Sugar Bowl and other upcoming sports events are expected to add $400 million to the local economy.