Photo by Aaron Babcock
Nebraska Football

Ranking All 41 Bowl Logos

December 17, 2016
26,195

As I’ve been looking at bowl schedules and ads over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that almost all the logos used to promote these games are abhorrent. Of the 41 bowls, perhaps only a dozen have logo designs worthy of the multi-million-dollar TV productions these games have turned into. And twice as many have ones that aren’t worthy of a Class-C regular-season prep matchup. So I decided to rank them, last to first.

There are a hundred different ways to judge and compare these designs. I could focus on form or weight, consistency or originality, typography or illustration, etc. This being college football, I realized I needed an arbitrary, arcane and in all-likelihood completely unfair set of metrics by which to rank the quality of the field.

I narrowed the criteria down to three and awarded up to 10 points each for concept, execution and simplicity (an important element of any successful logo design). Realizing that most of the designs were remarkably similar, I added a penalty of up to five points for use of a shield as the form of the logo. I docked up to another five points based on how likely elements of the logo were from clip art websites.

Much as the College Football Playoff Committee’s system occasionally leads to inexplicable results, so does mine. So take these ranking with a large grain of salt and as one designer’s opinion.

Hail Varsity
No. 41: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Nebraska vs. No. 21 Tennessee, 2:30 p.m., ESPN, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
Concept: 2
Execution: 2
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -4
Total: 0

It’s a packed field and close race at the bottom, but Nebraska is honored to have the worst bowl logo of the season imprinted and embroidered on all its post-season schwag. I can’t wait to see this murky green badge accent the Huskers’ red and white jerseys. Zero points is generous.

Hail Varsity
No. 40: Hyundai Sun Bowl
No. 18 Stanford vs. North Carolina, 1 p.m., CBS, Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
Concept: 2
Execution: 4
Simplicity: 4
Shield penalty: -4
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 1

I like to imagine the 10-year-old child of a Hyundai executive found an old Apple //e in her parents’ basement, drew the top two thirds of this logo and shipped it to Sun Bowl promoters on a 4½-inch floppy disk. After the promoters objected to “Sun Bowl” being left off the initial design, the 10-year old added it using the closest font to Papyrus installed on the ancient computer.


Hail Varsity
No. 37: Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
Eastern Michigan vs. Old Dominion, Noon, ESPN, Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
Concept: 2
Execution: 2
Simplicity: 4
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 3

Sure, the style and color of this logo captures the same Caribbean vibe as a skunky smelling Bob Marley t-shirt, but there’s not a single element of it that isn’t lifted from a long-forgotten, 1980s clip art book.

Hail Varsity
No. 37: AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Georgia vs. TCU, 11 a.m., ESPN, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, Tenn.
Concept: 4
Execution: 2
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -3
Total: 3

This is a bad logo, sure, but almost all bowl logos are. What really drives it to the bottom of the pile is the liberal use of Photoshop’s embossing filter, which gives it that classy, 2002 high school yearbook look that all bowl game promoters go for.

Hail Varsity
No. 37: St. Petersburg Bowl
Miami (Ohio) vs. Mississippi State, 10 a.m., ESPN, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Concept: 3
Execution: 3
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -3
Total: 3

It seems unwise to me for a Florida bowl game would use Omaha’s Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge as goal posts in its logo.

Hail Varsity
No. 35: Dollar General Bowl
Ohio vs. Troy, 7 p.m., ESPN, Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
Concept: 2
Execution: 3
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: -1
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 4

The only thing saving this from being named the worst logo of the lot (which it probably should be) is that it’s only kind of, sort of, a little bit shaped like a shield, so I couldn’t dock it a full five points. There is truly nothing redeeming about it.

Hail Varsity
No. 35: Outback Bowl
No. 17 Florida vs. Iowa, Noon, ABC, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Concept: 2
Execution: 2
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 4

I think that’s supposed to be a football combined with a boomerang flying over the Outback logo, but I’m not convinced it isn’t a maniacal, stitched-shut cartoon smile turned on its side.

Hail Varsity
No. 31: Birmingham Bowl
South Florida vs. South Carolina, 1 p.m., ESPN, Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
Concept: 5
Execution: 4
Simplicity: 4
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -3
Total: 5

If a fountain drink tap represented each of the other 40 bowl logos, this would be a suicide. The game promoters mixed a little from each logo in a 64-ounce Big Gulp and bought it for only $.99 and their dignity.

Hail Varsity
No. 31: Gildan New Mexico Bowl
New Mexico vs. UTSA, 1 p.m., ESPN, University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.
Concept: 3
Execution: 3
Simplicity: 4
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 5

There’s a strong case to be made for this being the worst logo of the lot. The top half is totally separate from the bottom half. The use of New Mexico’s flag symbol would make a whole lot more sense if the name of the state weren’t spelled out in giant letters just below. And it’s noisy with needless (and poorly defined) detail.

Hail Varsity
No. 31: Quick Lane Bowl
Maryland vs. Boston College, 1:30 p.m., ESPN, Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
Concept: 3
Execution: 5
Simplicity: 7
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 5

The basis of this logo is literally the second search result for “tire” on a popular stock image site. At least the football was second-page.

Hail Varsity
No. 31: TaxSlayer Bowl
Georgia Tech vs. Kentucky, 10 a.m., ESPN, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
Concept: 0
Execution: 3
Simplicity: 7
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 5

I imagine the bowl game promoter’s side of their conversation with the logo designer going like this, “We need you to design a logo for the TaxSlayer Bowl, and we need it done sometime in the next 90 seconds. What can you do for us?”

Hail Varsity
No. 30: Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Army vs. North Texas, 11 a.m., ESPN, Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
Concept: 2
Execution: 4
Simplicity: 7
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -1
Total: 7

The “Heart of Dallas” ribbon part of this logo is actually pretty nice. While the subtle use of a heart shape as the counter in the “D” isn’t revolutionary, it’s pulled off well. However, looking at the lettering of the “Zaxby’s” part of the logo, and I keep thinking that maybe I’m drunk. I’m pretty sure I’m not, but those letters are certainly having trouble walking a straight line.  

Hail Varsity
No. 27: Russell Athletic Bowl
No. 16 West Virginia vs. Miami, 4:30 p.m, ESPN, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Concept: 5
Execution: 6
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -3
Total: 8

I sort of like this logo, even though the football is skewed and awful, even though the first letter of the “Russell” portion is the exact same in size and design as the logomark above it and even though it looks like the badge of some long-ago relegated British soccer club.

Hail Varsity
No. 27: College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Clemson, 6 p.m., ESPN, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Concept: 8
Execution: 5
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 8

This thing has nothing on the bright and sunny Tostitos variation Husker fans will fondly remember from watching Nebraska beat downs of Florida and Tennessee following the 1995 and 1999 seasons, respectively.

Hail Varsity
No. 27: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
BYU vs. Wyoming, 8 p.m., ESPN, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
Concept: 3
Execution: 2
Simplicity: 7
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -4
Total: 8

This logo has itty-bitty little poinsettias, and itty-bitty little footballs, and itty-bitty little type, and an itty-bitty little bank logo. The designer used a teaspoon of every ingredient, and maybe should have used a cup or two instead.

Hail Varsity
No. 26: AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl
Texas A&M vs. Kansas State, 8 p.m., ESPN, NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Concept: 6
Execution: 2
Simplicity: 1
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 9

It’s a big ol’ belt buckle. It’s a big ‘ol football, too. It’s the Texas Bowl. This is something to behold.

Hail Varsity
No. 24: Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Louisiana Tech vs. No. 25 Navy, 3:30 p.m., ESPN, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
Concept: 6
Execution: 4
Simplicity: 8
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -3
Total: 10

Similar to the Poinsettia Bowl logo, this seems to be equal parts of every element. It generally works, though, as a vaguely patriotic, vaguely militaristic, vaguely athletics-related logo.

Hail Varsity
No. 24: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Idaho vs. Colorado State, 6 p.m., ESPN, Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Concept: 8
Execution: 5
Simplicity: 7
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 10

Personally, this is among my favorite logos. I’m not making the case that it’s a good logo (it is, after all, most certainly a football topped with frosting and sprinkles), but it’s still toward the top of my personal list.

Hail Varsity
No. 22: Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
South Alabama vs. Air Force, 4:30 p.m., Campus Insiders, Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Ariz.
Concept: 5
Execution: 5
Simplicity: 6
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -4
Total: 12

This has all the hallmarks of contemporary minor league baseball logo design: chunky and multi-toned type, aggressive angles and corners, the almost All-American color scheme of red, white, blue and silver.

Hail Varsity
No. 22: Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
No. 24 Temple vs. Wake Forest, 2:30 p.m., ESPN, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md.
Concept: 9
Execution: 5
Simplicity: 3
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -5
Total: 12

Yo, dawg, this logo has a logo and another logo on its logo. Not content with embedding just the sponsor’s logo within the bowl game’s, promoters also shoe-horned a USO logo onto a football (plus 10 stars, a flag banner and a strikingly detailed rendition of the United States Capitol dome.)

Hail Varsity
No. 20: Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
North Carolina Central vs. Grambling, 11 a.m., ABC, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
Concept: 4
Execution: 5
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -1
Total: 13

Football? Check. Atlanta skyline? Check. Ribbon? Check. Stars? Check. Looks like they got all their bowl game logo cliché boxes ticked. I only wish someone had told them it was supposed to be in the shape of a shield, too.

Hail Varsity
No. 20: National Funding Holiday Bowl
Minnesota vs. Washington State, 6 p.m., ESPN, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
Concept: 5
Execution: 5
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: -1
Clip art penalty: -1
Total: 13

Statistically, and in just about every way, this is the median logo; it’s right in the middle. It’s No. 20. It scored a mediocre five points across the board. It’s sort of shield-y. It’s kind of clip art-y. It is dead-center of the pack.

Hail Varsity
No. 19: Belk Bowl
Arkansas vs. No. 22 Virginia Tech, 4:30 p.m., ESPN, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Concept: 5
Execution: 7
Simplicity: 8
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -1
Total: 14

It’s bold, it’s simple, it’s striking. It may not be the most original design in the world, but this one is more successful than its number 19 ranking indicates (darn you, shield penalty!)

Hail Varsity
No. 18: Camping World Independence Bowl
NC State vs. Vanderbilt, 4 p.m., ESPN2, Independence Stadium, Shreveport, La.
Concept: 6
Execution: 7
Simplicity: 7
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -1
Total: 14

I think the designer missed a real opportunity to turn the football into a camper’s septic tank, or the shape of the logo into a trailer hitch.

Hail Varsity
No. 17: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Southern Mississippi vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 8 p.m., ESPN, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Concept: 4
Execution: 5
Simplicity: 6
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 15

If you can get beyond the fact that the R+L Carriers portion of the design is dreadful in every way, the simple (and unique) lettering and the use of New Orleans’ signature gas lights as a visual device make this a solid logo in this field.

Hail Varsity
No. 15: Boca Raton Bowl
Memphis vs. Western Kentucky, 6 p.m., ESPN, FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.
Concept: 7
Execution: 7
Simplicity: 7
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -4
Total: 17

It’s simple and straight forward and uses colors evocative of both Boca Raton and the average age of its citizens. It doesn’t try to do too much. Sure, the palm trees may have been downloaded from a free clip art website, but they’re used as modest details. Now we’re getting into some designs that are solid.

Hail Varsity
No. 15: Allstate Sugar Bowl
No. 14 Auburn vs. No. 7 Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Concept: 6
Execution: 6
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 17

I think it’s gaudy and a little brash, but so is New Orleans, so I like it. The handles of the trophy peeking out from behind the letters remind me of fleur-de-lis, making the imagery even more appropriate for the town.

Hail Varsity
No. 12: Motel 6 Cactus Bowl
Boise State vs. Baylor, 9:15 p.m., ESPN, Chase Field, Phoenix, Ariz.
Concept: 6
Execution: 7
Simplicity: 6
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -1
Total: 18

Okay, this design is a dog and maybe doesn’t deserve its top-15 ranking. Though, technically there isn’t a lot to criticize on this logo. Conceptually, though, I have a little more trouble getting behind the logic of “dude, I’m totally going to take the “L” and the “U” and turn it into a goalpost that totally also looks like a cactus, man.”

Hail Varsity
No. 12: Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Appalachian State vs. Toledo, 4:30 p.m., ESPN, Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Ala.
Concept: 2
Execution: 8
Simplicity: 8
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 18

If this ranking system is like the College Football Playoff’s, then this logo is Utah: no one knows why it’s in the top 20. It’s simple. There’s not much to go wrong on it. The sponsor’s logo looks like that of an antagonistic corporation in a 1980s primetime TV drama, and the “Camellia Bowl” portion is set in a type that poorly knocks off ESPN’s main broadcast headline type, but there’s not much to criticize from a technical standpoint.

Hail Varsity
No. 12: College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 4 Washington vs. No. 1 Alabama, 2 p.m., ESPN, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
Concept: 7
Execution: 7
Simplicity: 6
Shield penalty: -2
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 18

I like the boldness and weight of this design, but as my girlfriend was looking over my shoulder at all of the logos, she spotted this one and said, “Ugh. The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. I want to Chick-fil-A Punch that.”

Hail Varsity
No. 10: Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
No. 20 LSU vs. No. 13 Louisville, 10 a.m., ABC, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Concept: 6
Execution: 9
Simplicity: 6
Shield penalty: -2
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 19

I’m not going to apologize for loving this one. It’s bright and bold and the angles give it a strong sense of action. Yes, it looks like the stadium is about to fall over, perhaps under the weight of the giant orange and lemon, but this one is striking and unique.

Hail Varsity
No. 10: Hawai’i Bowl
Hawai’i vs. Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m., ESPN, Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
Concept: 3
Execution: 9
Simplicity: 9
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -2
Total: 19

I’m pretty sure I saw this same sign saying “$.99” hanging above a stack of bananas at Trader Joe’s last week. This is only the 15th playing of the game, but this design looks like it’s original to a 1970s bowl game, and I think that’s great.  

Hail Varsity
No. 8: AutoNation Cure Bowl
UCF vs. Arkansas State, 4:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network, Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
Concept: 10
Execution: 8
Simplicity: 8
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: -1
Total: 20

Though straightforward, this logo is one of the strongest.  The cause is good, the concept and execution are on point (even if the “C” being both football stitches and a ribbon may be a little too cutesy) and I even love the pink. It’s bold and sends a message, both of which are traits shockingly lacking in this lot.

Hail Varsity
No. 8: New Era Pinstripe Bowl
No. 23 Pittsburgh vs. Northwestern, 1 p.m., ESPN, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
Concept: 9
Execution: 7
Simplicity: 5
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: -1
Total: 20

I like that this design uses Yankee Stadium’s cornice as a motif. The sponsor’s logo propped up like a billboard on top of the stadium is cool. The requisite ribbon and football are executed well. But let’s call a spade a spade: this should be called the Gotham Bowl, and next year, I want to see a logo that says it.

Hail Varsity
No. 5: Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 15 Western Michigan vs. No. 8 Wisconsin, Noon, ESPN, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Concept: 9
Execution: 9
Simplicity: 8
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 21

There are a couple of other New Year's Day bowl games (Fiesta and Orange) that use small versions of their classic logomarks as accents, and I think it works well for the Cotton Bowl design. The rest of it is simple and bold, which I like. I think the subtle nod to the roofline of “Jerry World” is a smart touch, but is abstract enough that it fits in with the design even if a viewer doesn’t recognize its significance.

Hail Varsity
No. 5: Foster Farms Bowl
Indiana vs. No. 19 Utah, 7:30 p.m., Fox, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
Concept: 8
Execution: 9
Simplicity: 9
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 21

I love the simplicity of the linework in the Golden Gate Bridge element of the logo, and using the negative space to suggest a football is one of the more clever executions of that kind of trick in the batch of 40+ logos.

Hail Varsity
No. 5: Las Vegas Bowl Presented by Geico
Houston vs. San Diego State, 2:30 p.m., ABC, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
Concept: 9
Execution: 9
Simplicity: 8
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 21

The only design that could compete with this one in terms of coolness is ranked No. 1. It’s smart and well executed, and the concept could work in exactly one city: Las Vegas. A lot of designers would have taken the easy way out and made a logo that plays off the famous sign saying, “Welcome to the Las Vegas Bowl,” but this one says neon, says football and says Vegas all in a way that’s flashy without being vulgar.

Hail Varsity
No. 4: Capital One Orange Bowl
No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 11 Florida State, 7 p.m., ESPN, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Concept: 9
Execution: 9
Simplicity: 9
Shield penalty: -5
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 22

The CapitalOne logo isn’t exactly beloved among designers, but this logo does a remarkably good job of minimizing the sponsorship and packing the visual interest into the bottom half. The simplified image of Obie, the Orange Bowl mascot, is clean and well executed, but still harkens back to the grinning cartoon Nebraska fans remember from the many triumphs and tragedies in Miami over the years.

Hail Varsity
No. 3: Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 12 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Colorado, 8 p.m., ESPN, Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Concept: 8
Execution: 7
Simplicity: 8
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 23

This is the sneakiest design in the batch. Is it the third best logo? Probably not. But by being simple and avoiding the penalties for badge shapes and obvious clip art, it rose to near the top. It’s certainly not a bad logo, and it’s arguably a top-10 one, but I think Russian hacking rigged its success in the election.

Hail Varsity
No. 2: Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
No. 9 USC vs. No. 5 Penn State, 4 p.m., ESPN, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Concept: 9
Execution: 8
Simplicity: 9
Shield penalty: 0
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 26

It’s hard not to love the classic. Yes, The Grand Daddy of Them All, too, is not immune from corporate sponsorship, but this logo discretely minimizes the Northwestern Mutual portion so a viewer’s focus is immediately on the rosebud. Like many of the other bowl games, there are a variety of parades and events associated with the Rose Bowl (including the famous New Year's morning one, obviously), and the promoters do an excellent job in using the basic form of this logo while still demarcating the Rose Bowl Game, the Rose Parade, the Tournament of Roses, etc.  

Hail Varsity
No. 1: Miami Beach Bowl
Central Michigan vs. Tulsa, 1:30 p.m., ESPN, Marlins Park, Miami, Fla.
Concept: 10
Execution: 10
Simplicity: 9
Shield penalty: -2
Clip art penalty: 0
Total: 27

The Miami Beach Bowl logo’s margin of victory may be only one point, but its design is head and shoulders above the rest. With the exception of The Rose Bowl (and perhaps the Las Vegas Bowl), this is the only truly outstanding design in the entire batch. Yes, it uses some of the clichés I’ve panned in other logos (goal posts, footballs, palm trees, shields), but its style, simplicity and form are ages ahead of the competition. The type (a variation on Futura, a classic san-serif typeface of the 1920s) says Miami Beach perfectly, as does the color scheme. This says Miami of the Deco years, not the Vice ones.

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