The Papajohns.com Bowl is no more. It was announced last week that Papa John's decided not to pick up a two-year option on the game. Instead, the company will sink its dough into the NFL to become the official pizza of that two-bit league. Go figure.
The Legion Field game, established in 2006, was never really known as the Papajohns.com Bowl. To connoisseurs of college football's postseason, it was simply the Pizza Bowl. Yes, some game in Detroit tried to steal the thunder when it became the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2009, but let the record show that there was only one Pizza Bowl.
Thus, we take a look at the great moments in the four-year history of the Pizza Bowl:
South Florida and East Carolina played before an "announced" crowd of 32,023. Perhaps half that many were actually in the stands. ESPN, in an attempt to deceive viewers into thinking the crowd was bigger than it was, asked fans to sit on one side of the stadium — the one facing the cameras.
Then came the crushing reality check to those in attendance: no pizza at concession stands! Papa John's and the vendor failed to work out a deal before kickoff, leaving fans to other options like delivery. Unfortunately, that wasn't an option either. Papa John's refused to deliver to the stadium or its grounds because of the rough and tumble Smithfield community surrounding Legion Field.
Beer, you ask? They ran out long before the game was over. "It was pretty sad," South Florida student Brynn McDowell told the Birmingham News. "We were in line 45 minutes and we were next when they ran out."2007
Cincinnati and Southern Mississippi played before an "announced" 35,258. Once again, fans were asked to sit on the side of the stadium facing the cameras.
Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News wrote this about the turnout: "Did you know you could leave your house 30 miles away from Legion Field 90 minutes before kickoff and be in a parking lot at Legion Field 60 minutes before kickoff?"
Pizza? They ran out in the first quarter.2008
North Carolina State and Rutgers battled in Pizza Bowl No. 3. More problems with pizza, of course. Legion Field has only one oven and some fans waited 45 minutes for their slices. Not cool.
Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News summed it up: "Both Papa John's stands in one end zone temporarily ran out of pizza before halftime. Sodas also were sold out at one stand, where some fans lined up with three minutes left in the second quarter and finally got their slices seven minutes into the third quarter.
"A Papa John's official estimated the company probably lost $2,000 by being unable to make halftime sales."
It got worse for North Carolina State fans. Fireworks were shot off prematurely after a 17-yard scramble by the Wolfpack's Russell Wilson left him four yards shy of a touchdown late in the first half. Wilson sprained a knee on the run and didn't play in the second half. North Carolina State ended up losing, 29-23.
Rutgers thought it was clear of the carnage, then came the bill for the trip to Birmingham. The Scarlet Knights lost more than $184,000.2010
Connecticut and South Carolina battled on Jan. 2. The date of the game was moved by ESPN in hopes of jacking up ratings. Unfortunately, headaches remained. Solomon chronicled some of the issues:
"Traffic was a nightmare getting to Legion Field. And even though Papa John's added two mobile kitchens this season to cook pizza — up from one last year — it still wasn't enough to solve the annual logistical nightmares of Legion Field. The stadium has limited oven space to meet pizza demands.
"At one trailer, fans waited 45 minutes for pizza in a line that stretched 110 people deep. Once fans got to order, they were told only cheese was available and it would be another 45 minutes for pepperoni.
"Papa John's stations behind an end zone were filled with fans around halftime waiting on pizza. Some waited 30 minutes until the workers at the stand recommended they purchase pizza at the mobile kitchens, causing disgust from some irate fans.
" 'How do you run out of pizza at the pizza bowl?' said Jake Gottlieb, a South Carolina fan from Atlanta. 'They don't run out of Chick-fil-A at the Chick-fil-A Bowl.' "
Although some fans praised the game in the comment's section of Solomon's story, many ripped the event:
"When I got back to my car some man who said that he lived in the house where we parked did not give us permission. We paid some guy 10 dollars and now someone is calling the police on us and telling us our car will be towed away. That was the most exciting part of the whole day, yes the game was pretty boring but just getting out of there in one piece was interesting."
Thus brings an end to the original Pizza Bowl. The postseason will never be the same.