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The Silicon Valley Football Classic (SVFC), sometimes referred to as the Silicon Valley Bowl or Silicon Valley Classic, was an NCAA-certified Division I-A post-season college football bowl game that was played at Spartan Stadium on the South Campus of San Jose State University in San Jose, California, from 2000 to 2004. It had a contractual tie-in with the Western Athletic Conference and the Pac-10. The bowl was initially televised on Fox Sports Net and later moved to ESPN2.
The Silicon Valley Bowl got off to a positive start as the 2000 game matched mid-major conference powers Air Force against Fresno State. The game drew about 85% of the stadium's capacity and fans saw an exciting 37-34 contest with one of the most memorable finishes of the year. Trailing 37-34 to Air Force with 14 seconds left, Fresno State was going to go for the win, not the tie. The Bulldogs faked a field goal, but holder Jason Simpson's pass to Giachino Chiaramonte fell incomplete in the end zone and Air Force claimed the inaugural Silicon Valley Classic.
The 2001 edition proved to be just as entertaining as Big 10 power Michigan State accepted an invitation to play Fresno State. The game was a near sellout with over 30,000 fans in attendance. Michigan State would defeat Fresno 44-35 in a shootout that would be the last college game for the 2002 NFL Draft first pick, David Carr. Carr would throw for 531 yards and 4 touchdowns in a game that also featured future NFL players Jeff Smoker, Charles Rogers, TJ Duckett, and Bernard Berrian.
Things would eventually take a turn for the worse in 2002 when only 10,132 fans attended the third Silicon Valley Bowl, which featured Fresno St. and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team. The 2002 game was hampered by bad weather combined with Georgia Tech bringing very few fans across the country to the game. Fresno State defeated Georgia Tech 30-21.
Fellow California team UCLA accepted an invitation to the 2003 game against Fresno State, but attendance still only reached 20,126 fans, representing approximately 64% of stadium capacity. After the 2003 game, the NCAA instituted new rules for the 2004-05 Bowl Season stating that stadiums had to draw at least 70% of their capacity for bowl games in order to continue hosting them.
The 2004 game would mark the end of the bowl. Although the bowl once again would have pre-season bowl tie-ins with the WAC and Pac-10, neither conference would produce enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill their obligations to the Classic. Although Fresno State's 8-3 record would normally have gained the Bulldogs an invitation to the game, WAC conference champion Boise State opted to play in the Liberty Bowl against Louisville, thus allowing 2nd-place Fresno to play in the Humanitarian Bowl against Virginia in a matchup that was normally reserved for the WAC conference champion.
Silicon Valley Bowl officials would have to make do and invited Northern Illinois of the Mid-American Conference and Troy State of the Sun Belt Conference as at-large teams. The two schools fielded relatively low-profile teams that year, and both schools were located more than 2,000 miles away from the game's location. The two teams also represented two of the three lowest-ranked bowl eligible teams in the NCAA that season. The only other bowl eligible team that could have been picked was another team from the MAC in Akron. Although higher profile teams such as Clemson and South Carolina were also bowl eligible, and could have drawn larger attendance numbers, both schools endured a self-imposed bowl ban that year because of a brawl that occurred between the two teams earlier in the season.
The 2004 Silicon Valley Bowl game itself was a disaster from the start, in part because of a severe thunderstorm that caused many local fans to stay away from the game. Also, just prior to the opening kickoff, the driving rain and wind caused an electrical transformer outside the stadium to malfunction, causing two light stanchions inside the stadium to fail. There also were persistent problems with the television feed that included starting the game 23 minutes late. Game attendance was a dismal 5,494, which represented approximately 18% of Spartan Stadium's capacity of 30,456. Even though the play by both teams was competitive and exciting, the inclement weather, empty stands and bad lighting amounted to a very unattractive national television broadcast.
Aside from the complete failure of the 2004 game, there were other issues that led to the bowl game's demise. Three out of the five games were played in horrible weather conditions. The type of rain experienced during the 2002, 2003 and 2004 games is highly uncommon in the San Jose area at that time of year. Also, the Classic was supposed to have a tie-in with the Pac-10 by offering an automatic berth to the 7th bowl eligible team in the conference. The PAC-10 and WAC tie-ins were supposed to make travel easier for fans of both bowl participants. However, during the bowl's five-year run, the PAC-10 conference only once produced enough bowl eligible teams to fill its spot in the Silicon Valley Classic. Also, the Classic received very little support from the local San Jose residents. Organizers hoped from the outset the host school would send its own San Jose State Spartans to compete in the bowl, thus drawing attendance numbers up. Although the Spartans were bowl eligible in 2000, the bowl bid went to Fresno State because the Bulldogs finished with a better overall win-loss record.
Surprisingly, the 2004 game was a financial success. This was largely due to the bowl requiring each school to purchase 8,000 tickets at $45 each for a total payout to the bowl of $720,000. Furthermore, both schools accepted no upfront money to play in the game. Troy State had not yet appeared in a bowl game since moving to Division 1 in 2002 and Northern Illinois had not played in a bowl in 21 years. The advantage of featuring lower-profile programs in the 2004 Classic was that both schools were willing to make huge sacrifices just to appear in a nationally televised bowl game. Also, the city of San Jose and Hewlett-Packard each paid $100,000 to be named as primary bowl sponsors, and the WAC made a $300,000 commitment as well. The Classic also spent very little money on advertising. Despite the low attendance numbers, it was estimated the bowl netted a $200,000 profit in 2004. The bowl organizers planned to use these proceeds toward the 2005 game, which they hoped would bring more familiar west coast schools. City officials estimated the game brought roughly 6.4 million dollars to the San Jose economy annually through increased hotel bookings and dining in what bowl and city officials stated is normally the slowest tourism week of the year.
In the end, poor attendance figures were too much to overcome to keep the Classic alive. On April 20, 2005, it was announced the game's license would not be renewed by the NCAA and the Postseason Football Licensing Subcommittee. The SVFC was replaced by the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, California.
|Date Played||Winning Team||Losing Team|
|December 31, 2000||Air Force||37||Fresno State||34|
|December 31, 2001||Michigan State||44||Fresno State||35|
|December 31, 2002||Fresno State||30||Georgia Tech||21|
|December 30, 2003||Fresno State||17||UCLA||9|
|December 30, 2004||Northern Illinois||34||Troy State||21|
|Year||Offensive MVP||Position||Team||Defensive MVP||Position||Team|
|2000||Mike Thiessen||QB||Air Force||Tim Skipper||LB||Fresno St.|
|2001||Charles Rogers||WR||Michigan St.||Nick Myers||DE||Michigan St.|
|2002||Rodney Davis||RB||Fresno St.||Jason Stewart||DL||Fresno St.|
|2003||Rodney Davis||RB||Fresno St.||Garrett McIntyre||DE||Fresno St.|
|2004||DeWhitt Betterson||RB||Troy State||Lionel Hickenbottom||S||Northern Illinois|