On October 29th, 1960, 16 Cal Poly football players perished in a plane crash. The Mercy Bowl raised $278,000 to care for the survivors and the surviving.
Want to make bowl stewards twitch even more than they do when they hear "college football playoff" from the President-elect? Try "all proceeds go to charity". You might as well tell them you backed over Santa with your Buick. However, it happened on Thanksgiving Day in 1961 when Bowling Green and Fresno State played each other at Los Angeles Coliseum to raise funds for the families of the deceased and the survivors of the plane crash that claimed the lives of 22 people, 16 of whom belonged to the Cal Poly football squad.
The team had been in Toledo for their game against Bowling Green. Though visibility approached zero, the flight took off from Toledo's airport but barely left the ground before tearing apart, taking the lives of nearly half the people on the military transport.
The following year, a charity bowl game was organized to raise money for those who survived and the families left behind. President Kennedy sent a note of support and the great Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times promoted the contest.
Of course, there's no need for such an event now because all need for mercy has abated. However, the bowl system reserves the right to hold a Bailout Bowl if the BCS ever has to accept a slightly smaller TV contract. Thankfully, ESPN saved them from that indignity for years to come.
50-year-old Mercy Bowl a dim memory now [Deseret News]