1980 - 1989 Overcoming The Odds

Facing Third & Long

The 80’s were a time of reckoning for the Peach Bowl. While the on-field competition remained as fierce as ever, sagging sales and attendance put the Bowl in the danger zone. It would take some creative solutions and the backing of a city to save the game.

Terry McDaniel,
Tennessee CB 20th Peach Bowl

Jim Kelly ushered in a new era of Miami football in the 80s, announcing that the ‘Canes meant business on the national stage of the Peach Bowl. The future NFL Hall of Famer kicked off a line of legendary signal-callers that earned Miami the nickname “Quarterback U.”

14th Annual December 31, 1981
West Virginia 26
Florida 6

In a cold, rainy game West Virginia held Florida to negative 30 rushing yards (yes, negative 30) and became the first team to win three Peach Bowls.

Florida coach Charlie Pell was so disappointed by
his team's performance that he burned
the game film and buried it in
the Gators' practice field.

1981 Peach Bowl Ticket
Hawkeyes Peach Bowl Pin
15th Annual December 31, 1982
Iowa 28
Tennesse 22

Prior to the 15th Peach Bowl no quarterback had thrown for more than 220 yards—Hawkeyes QB Chuck Long broke that record in the first half.

16th Annual December 30, 1983
Florida State 28
North Carolina 3

The Seminoles’ Eric Thomas made his first collegiate start, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for a third in a dominant FSU win.

1983 Peach Bowl Ticket
17th Annual December 31, 1984
Virginia 27
Purdue 24

Virginia locked in after halftime, holding the Boilermakers scoreless in the second half and completing a double-digit comeback for the first bowl win in school history.

1985 - A Turning Point

December 31, 1985 | Army 31 - Illinois 29

The Cadets and Fighting Illini put up an incredible 60 minutes of football, where 16 Peach Bowl records were broken or tied, but 1985 still marked a low point for the Bowl. Attendance dropped below 30,000 and the Bowl was struggling financially. Changes were needed if the game was to survive.

Facing collapse, Executive Director Dick Bestwick makes a deal to save the bowl

Executive Director Dick Bestwick
The New Peach Bowl Logo

A New Beginning

December 31, 1986 Virginia Tech 25 - #18 NC State 24

To save the Bowl, Executive Director Dick Bestwick approached the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Head of the Chamber Gerry Bartels and Delta CEO Ron Allen answered the call and a partnership was forged. In the very first year the Chamber assumed full management—the game sold out.

20th Annual January 2, 1988
#17 Tennessee 27
Indiana 22

The second consecutive sellout brought the largest crowd in the Peach Bowl’s 20 years. 58,737 fans attended Tennessee’s narrow win over the Hoosiers.

21st Annual December 31, 1988
NC State 28
Iowa 23

NC State won a sloppy game that saw 14 total turnovers and 12 fumbles, despite Hawkeyes QB Chuck Hartlieb setting a Peach Bowl record with 428 passing yards.

22nd Annual December 30, 1989
Syracuse 19
Georgia 18

The Orangemen led UGA for exactly 25 seconds in a thrilling one-point win, finally pulling ahead on John Biskup’s 26-yard field goal.