Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, the Early Bird communications satellite had just been launched, and Hello Dolly was chosen song of the year at the Grammys in 1965 when the Memphis Memorial Stadium opened to an excited crowd.
Dedicated to Memphis veterans of World Wars I and II and the Korean War, it soon became the home of the Liberty Bowl football game, now known as the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Because the game was such a success for Memphis, the stadium was renamed the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. A true bowl, the facility is built so that all seats are close to the field and have a good view.
The field itself was named in honor of Rex Dockery in 1983. The former University of Memphis football coach died in a tragic Tennessee plane crash in December, 1983. The playing surface was natural grass from its inception until before the 2005 season when it was replaced with FieldTurf.
In keeping with its patriotic theme, an historic electric American Flag was renovated and moved to the stadium in 1966. Lit at night, the unusual neon flag which once had adorned a Ford manufacturing building today can be seen waving for miles.
True Tiger Den
As a spacious home for the University of Memphis Tigers football program, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium has proven very friendly indeed.
Since inaugurating the stadium in the fall of 1965, the team has compiled a winning record (130 wins, 106 losses and 7 ties as of the end of the 2008 season). Many of those games have been memorable highlights for the Tigers program.The largest crowd to witness a Memphis home football game at the Liberty Bowl was the record-setting 65,885 fans who attended the Tigers' stunning upset of No. 6 ranked Tennessee in 1996. The Tigers defeated the Vols, 21-17, before a regionally-televised audience on CBS-TV. The entire nation, however, saw Memphis' game-winning drive when CBS carried the final five minutes nationally.
In 2004, Memphis hosted Louisville for an ESPN-broadcasted Thursday night game. A crowd of 52,384 fans came out for the game, marking the largest Tiger crowd ever for a non-SEC opponent. In that same year, Memphis set a new home attendance average record with 41,175 fans in just five games. The previous high average was 40,622 in 2003, and that was for seven home games.
Rich in Bowl history
As home to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, football fans look forward to an exciting match in the stadium every year. Many of the leading collegiate football programs in the country have played a Liberty Bowl game, and some of the most legendary coaches have been present.
As just one example, the legendary Bear Bryant coached four Liberty Bowl games in 1959, 1969, 1976 and 1982. That last year also happened to be the final game coached by Bryant, as he had announced his retirement as head football coach at Alabama effective with the end of the 1982 season. That last game gave the Bear a 2115 victory. It was played against the University of Illinois before a large crowd sensing they were witnessing history.
Many Liberty Bowl games have brought sellouts or near sellouts. A record was set in the 2007 game between Mississippi State University and the University of Central Florida: 63,816 cheering bowl-goers.
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