The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, formerly known as the Peach Bowl, was established in 1968 and remains Georgia’s only major collegiate postseason football bowl game. Hosted annually at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, it is one of college football’s top bowl games outside of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). For many years, however, the Peach Bowl struggled to draw crowds and make money.
Starting a college bowl game was a dream for several members of the Atlanta Lions Club. In 1966 they began lobbying the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for a bowl game. However, a moratorium on additional postseason bowl games stifled the group until April 1968, when the bowl finally received the blessing of the NCAA’s Extra Events Committee.
For years the Peach Bowl gave any proceeds of the game to the Lighthouse, a fund-raising arm of the Georgia Lions Club. The first three games were hosted at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Grant Field, before the bowl moved to the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium. Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s the bowl was often plagued by bad weather and poor attendance. In 1978 it took a last-ditch effort by local citizens to sell enough tickets to meet the NCAA minimum sales numbers.
By 1986 the Lions were willing to relinquish control of the game, which was not actively supported by Atlanta’s corporate community. The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce offered assistance, and by the early 1990s a new home and a new television contract buoyed the game. With the opening of the enclosed Georgia Dome, weather was no longer a concern. The game landed a guaranteed spot on the ESPN television network in 1991, and in 1992 the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference agreed to send representatives to the game each year, setting up the first and what remains the only guaranteed match-up between the two dominant football conferences in the Southeast.
In 1996 Atlanta-based fast-food chain Chick-fil-A became the title sponsor for the game. In 2005 it was announced that the game would be renamed the Chick-fil-A Bowl, starting in 2006. Average payout for participating teams as of that year was $3 million, the second-highest among non-BCS bowl games. (The first year of the bowl, each team received $115,000.)
By 2013 there had been seventeen consecutive sell-outs of the event, with an average attendance of more than 70,000, the highest among all non-BCS bowls. The bowl also has the distinction of being the most competitive bowl game in history with an average margin of victory of only 9.5 points from 1968 to 2005. Between 1996 and 2013 the bowl distributed more than $17.3 million in charitable contributions. The game is supported by more than thirty events, including basketball games, a parade, and a FanFest, all of which draw more than 30,000 to Atlanta the week of the game.
In 2014 the name changed again, becoming the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The game moved to Mercedes-Benz Stadium following demolition of the Georgia Dome in 2017.