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Gearing Up for This Weekend’s Cotton Bowl

CBAA chairman (and BNSF Railway president and CEO) Carl Ice weighs in on the big game.

Growing up in Kansas, Carl Ice would watch the Cotton Bowl on TV and think about how fun it would be to see it in person someday. As it turned out, it was the first college football bowl game he attended, back in 1997, when his alma mater, Kansas State, faced Brigham Young University. A couple of decades later, the president and CEO of BNSF Railway now serves as chairman of the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association, which oversees the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. “It’s pretty cool,” he says.

Ice recently stopped by D Magazine’s office to talk about this weekend’s game, when No. 3-ranked Notre Dame will face No. 2-ranked Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal. Both teams have history with the Cotton Bowl. Clemson won its first bowl game when it beat Boston College in the 1940 Cotton Bowl Classic. Notre Dame has played in the Cotton Bowl seven times prior, including a 1979 outing that became known as the Chicken Soup Game. 

(Here’s the story, if you’re not familiar: An unusually harsh winter storm had just hit Dallas, and Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana had the flu. After halftime, with the Fighting Irish down by 8 points against the Houston Cougars, Montana stayed in the locker room, covered in blankets and eating chicken soup. Houston added two more touchdowns before Montana returned to the field. He led a comeback that had Notre Dame scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter, giving the team a 35-34 victory and clinching a national championship.) 

The first Cotton Bowl was played in 1937, at the game’s namesake stadium in Dallas at the Texas state fairgrounds. The game was moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington in 2010. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. took over as sponsor four years later. “The story of how the Cotton Bowl developed and the city of Dallas developed are intertwined,” Ice says. “Certainly it has a big impact on the region’s economy.” The Cotton Bowl is estimated to generate $30 million in direct economic impact and $90 million in indirect economic impact each year, he says. Millions also flow to the participating universities and conferences.

So, what should we expect this weekend? “A packed house,” Ice says. “The tickets sold out quickly, and it’s my understanding that the secondary market is quite frothy. Both teams have been successful. Clemson travels well, and I don’t know that there’s a city in the country that doesn’t have a Notre Dame fan base.”

If you weren’t lucky enough to score game tickets, you can still get in on the action. Friday events include Six Flags Fan Day and a Battle of the Bands at Texas Live!, and Saturday events include a pregame Backyard Bash featuring Chris Lane and a Huddle Up Fan Fest at AT&T Stadium plazas. 

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