EL PASO, Texas – As announced by his family on Sept. 24, 2023, Sun Bowl Legend and Sun Bowl Association Chair Emeritus Jimmy Rogers Jr. passed away in El Paso, Texas over the weekend. He was 89-years-old.
Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced by his family.
Rogers had been a part of the Sun Bowl Association Board of Directors for more than 50 years. He was a part of the move from Kidd Field (at 15,000-seat stadium) to Sun Bowl Stadium, which opened in 1963 with a capacity of 30,000. He worked hard to help get Sun Bowl Stadium’s expansion, which was paid for by the University of Texas System in 1983, a process that took a decade to see through.
Rogers had been through the lean years and seen the game flourish. He was always someone who gave back to his community, a place he cherished, El Paso.
In a previous write up, Rogers mentioned that his first recollection of the Sun Bowl was in the game’s infancy. It was 1940 and the Border Conference champion New Mexico Lobos squared off with the Big Seven Conference champion Utah Utes. A seed had been planted.
In an interview Rogers said, “I went to my first game in 1940 and I also remember the University of Mexico playing the military team from Southwestern University (in 1945). We went to every parade growing up. I started riding in the Sun Bowl Parade on horseback with the Sheriff’s Posse in about 1950. I think I rode in about 20 parades on horseback.”
Jimmy’s father, James Rogers, Sr., was the secretary of the first board of directors of the Sun Bowl in 1934. Three quarters of a century later, the game has grown exponentially, and the Rogers family has been an integral part of the Sun Bowl.
Three generations of Rogers have given their time to El Paso’s biggest event. Jimmy’s sons Jim III and Mike have each followed in the family tradition of giving back. Mike is a past president (2011) of the Sun Bowl Association, while Jim III spent over a decade volunteering with the Sun Bowl basketball committee.
“I never pushed my boys into being a part of this, but my wife Jody and I could not be prouder of them,” said Rogers in a 2010 interview. “I think they see the importance of giving back to your community.”
Speaking of the basketball committee, Rogers and the committee implemented hospitality rooms for visiting basketball teams participating in the Sun Bowl Basketball Tournament, something not the norm back in the 1960s.
His efforts led to his involvement in hosting the visiting television networks broadcasting the Sun Bowl game – first TVS, then NBC and now CBS.
For many years, Rogers served as the game’s liaison with CBS Sports, a partnership that featured its 54th consecutive broadcast on Dec. 30, 2022. Rogers and others have cultivated the relationship with CBS into the longest running relationship between a bowl and a television network. The CBS relationship is very special, very unique. “They are a perfect partner,” Rogers once said.
“If I look back at historic events Jimmy was a part of, he was part of almost every milestone the Sun Bowl Association had. With that said, probably the first things that would enter my mind are CBS Television and the car rental tax,” said Olivas when asked what he remembers most about what Mr. Rogers Jr. has accomplished. “No other bowl game has had the type of television relationship like the Sun Bowl and CBS. We cannot be more grateful to Jimmy for securing the car rental tax which has kept the Sun Bowl alive.”
In 1986, the Sun Bowl became the first bowl game to secure a title sponsorship for a bowl game, as John Hancock Financial Services signed on to make history. The bowl would then secure sponsorships with Norwest Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, Helen of Troy, Hyundai and now Kellogg’s. Title sponsorships are now a mainstay in the industry.
“The television coverage, sponsorship, the new stadium and then you look at the car rental tax, which was passed in 1997, that was huge, and we would not be where we are without it,” Olivas mentioned.
Through all of the ups and downs – the prosperity and disparity – Rogers has never given up on the Sun Bowl. He and many others have put their own backing behind something they believed in.
Rogers has truly been an advocate in the community, supporting the Sun Bowl and UTEP, where he served as president of the Touchdown Club and chairman of the UTEP Athletic Advisory Committee.
In 1989, he was inducted into the El Paso Sports Hall of Fame. Ten years later, Rogers was honored as the recipient of the Bud Dudley Bowl Executive Award for his service to the Sun Bowl and college football. That same year, he became the first volunteer named to the Legends of the Sun Bowl, the Association’s Hall of Fame.
“To me, it has always been about giving back. Nothing more,” said Rogers in a 2010 interview.
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