Texana Thursday: 3 Things You Might Not Know about the Cotton Bowl Stadium

The Cotton Bowl is a well-known football landmark. (Creative Commons license attribution, photo courtesy Sedrick Mark)

Ask the sports fan in your family about the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas, and chances are you’ll get a variety of answers. The stadium has been around a while, so a variety of answers is understandable.

For many fans, however, the stadium has fallen into the shadow of the newer, and larger AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Dallas Cowboys play at AT&T Stadium, and the Cotton Bowl game is also staged there.

Yet the Cotton Bowl stadium still stands, continues to be used for select events, and has an interesting history. Some things you might not know about the Cotton Bowl stadium include:

1. The first game was played 87 years ago today.

In 1930, SMU defeated Indiana, 27-0, in the first game played at the stadium. SMU played its home games there from 1932-78, and again from 1995-99.

The stadium has undergone renovations, including in 1948, when SMU running back Doak Walker won the Heisman Trophy. Longtime Mustangs fans still refer to the stadium as “The House that Doak Built.”

TCU won the first Cotton Bowl, defeating Marquette 16-6 on January 1, 1937. The last Cotton Bowl game was played there in 2009.

2. It remains the home of the Texas-Oklahoma football game.

The Texas-Oklahoma game was first played in 1900, in Austin, and was first played in Dallas in 1912.

Dallas was made the permanent site for the game in 1929 because it is a midway point between Austin and Norman, Oklahoma. There were proposals to make the game a home-and-home series (meaning the teams would play in Austin one year and Norman the next), but the tradition is such that the idea was scrapped.

The Texas-Oklahoma game is not the only rivalry game be played at the Cotton Bowl stadium. Grambling State (Louisiana) and Prairie View A&M have an annual rivalry game there.

When the Cotton Bowl game was moved to AT&T Stadium, the Cotton Bowl stadium became the home of a new college football bowl game, the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

3. It served as home stadium to three NFL teams.

In 1952, the NFL placed a franchise in Dallas. It was called the Dallas Texans, and finished with a 1-11 record. The franchise folded, and eventually the assets were merged into a new team, the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts.

In 1960, Dallas landed two professional football clubs. Both played at the Cotton Bowl. One was the Dallas Cowboys. The other, from the upstart American Football league, was also called the Dallas Texans.

The Texans, under the leadership of AFL founder and team owner Lamar Hunt, enjoyed more success at first. In their third season, 1962, the Texans defeated the Houston Oilers for the AFL championship. Then Hunt moved his team to Kansas City, where it was renamed the Chiefs. The AFL and NFL merged, and the Chiefs and other AFL teams became NFL teams.

Hunt suggested that the championship game be called the Super Bowl.

It makes for some interesting trivia. In a television sports interview some years ago, the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson asked, rhetorically, who was the first Super Bowl championship team from Texas. His answer: the Kansas City Chiefs.

It’s an accurate answer. The franchise had played in Dallas before moving to Kansas City, and won Super Bowl IV before the Cowboys won their first championship in Super Bowl VI.

The Cowboys played in the Cotton Bowl from 1960-71, when it moved into Texas Stadium. The Cowboys moved into AT&T Stadium in 2009.