The Holiday Bowl initially was conceived to annually feature the Western Athletic Conference champion against a nationally-ranked opponent. The WAC champion served as automatic host team in the Bowl from 1978 through 1994. From the game's inception through 1990, the Bowl matched the WAC champion against an at-large team. In 1991, the Bowl reached an agreement to have the Big Ten third selection play the WAC champion.
In 1995, an agreement was reached between the Holiday Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Pac-10, Big 12 and WAC. The Pac-10 runner-up or WAC champion would play in either the Holiday or Cotton Bowl and the Big 12 third selection would play in the Holiday Bowl.
After the breakup of the WAC in 1997, the Holiday Bowl signed agreements with the Pac-10 (now the Pac-12) and Big 12 conferences. The partnership with those two conferences lasted from 1998-2013.
Beginning in 2014, the Holiday Bowl began a new era of conference partnerships, featuring a matchup between top-tier teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences.
Since the Holiday Bowl was inaugurated in 1978, it has played to more than 90% of capacity. Of the 36 games, 17 had victory margins of one touchdown or less and the outcome of 20 games was decided in the final four minutes, earning the Holiday Bowl a well-deserved reputation as one of the most entertaining games of the post-season schedule.
The San Diego Bowl Game Association is a non-profit organization and has a mission of generating tourism, exposure, economic benefit and civic pride for San Diego and its citizens by producing the nation's most exciting bowl games and festival of events.