Two of the three games in the inaugural College Football Playoffs will be played indoors, with the champion to be crowned under a state-of-the-art retractable roof.

Fifty years ago, a major college football game indoors was unheard of - until the Liberty Bowl came to Atlantic City's Convention Hall.

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the first major college football game played indoors, at the building now known as historic Boardwalk Hall.

"It was a terrific game," lifelong Atlantic City resident Chip Braymes, who attended the game as a 17-year-old, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "(The Hall) was just perfect for football. It really was."

The game happened because Atlantic City, three decades removed from its glory days during prohibition and more than a decade away from the legalization of gambling, was in search of creative ways to drive tourism to town in the offseason.

Meanwhile, the 5-year-old Liberty Bowl had been struggling to draw fans to Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium in frigid December temperatures.

When a group of businessmen offered a $25,000 guarantee to bring the game to Atlantic City, major college football made its move indoors in what the New York Times on the day of the game called "an experiment of sorts" to explore "the possibility that the Northeast can have an annual bowl game without too much discomfort."

"It was exciting having that event come here," Atlantic City resident Pinky Kravitz, who served as the game's public-address announcer, said in a phone interview this week. "It was a real boon because it was the first indoor bowl game. That was really outstanding."

It was not the first time the Hall had hosted football. Holy Spirit and Atlantic City high schools had played Thanksgiving games there. Pop Warner leagues had held championship games, and the annual "Little Army-Navy Game" between Pennsylvania Military College and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point) was held there.

"They'd seen that we could handle it, so they thought they could get a lot of publicity because of the fact that it was indoors," said Kravitz, now 87.

And the building was no stranger to the national spotlight. Lyndon B. Johnson had been nominated for president at the Democratic National Convention there just a few months earlier, and the Hall already had hosted the Miss America Pageant for several decades.

So it was little surprise, Kravitz said, that things went smoothly when the University of Utah and West Virginia University faced off Dec. 19, 1964, in front of an announced crowd of 6,059 with a game-time temperature of about 60 degrees.

"Without a hitch," Kravitz said. "The game was played well. Everybody enjoyed it, and it was just a lot of fun to have that event here."

That's not to say everything was normal. The end zones were 8 yards deep instead of 10, with one up against the stage and the other against the stands. Temporary bleachers sat on top of the stage.

"As you got closer to the end zone, you were literally looking up into the crowd," West Virginia guard Donnie Young said in a 2005 article on the West Virginia athletic department's website. "You were right underneath them."

Grass and dirt were trucked in and laid on top of the cement of the Hall. Artificial lights were installed and kept running all day long to keep the grass growing. But thanks to several games being played on it in the weeks leading up to the Liberty Bowl, the grass had worn thin, according to several accounts.

"It was really hard, and every once in awhile the ground would pull up because of the cleats that they wore," Kravitz said, "so it made them keep having to replace some of the dirt when it came up."

The novelty was not the only thing that made the game a big deal. There were just nine bowl games in 1964, compared with 39 this year.

But playing indoors certainly contributed to the game being televised nationally on ABC by legendary broadcasters Curt Gowdy and Jim McKay - and to the tickets being the priciest ever for a bowl game at the time, $10, according to the New York Times.

Braymes, now 67, could not recall whether he went to the game with his father, Mark, until he heard the price of tickets.

"My father must have bought the tickets," Braymes said with a laugh. "I must have gone with him."

For Kravitz, a sports fan, announcing the game was an honor. He recalls that he was paid only about $10 for the job.

"It was very exciting to have the whole rigmarole that goes with the bands and college kids and all that kind of stuff," Kravitz said.

Utah won the game 32-6, led by star receiver Roy Jefferson, who went on to become a three-tie Pro Bowler for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Colts and Washington Redskins.

"I wasn't walking on the floor," Jefferson said in a Salt Lake Tribune article earlier this month. "I was walking on air."

Unfortunately for the city, not many local residents shared the excitement. Braymes recalled that the actual attendance was smaller than what was announced, and it was not what organizers had hoped for - the New York Times story on the morning of the game predicted 8,000 in the 12,000-seat hall.

Kravitz recalled that most of those in attendance were out-of-towners who were associated with the teams.

"We kept boosting it and trying to promote it any way we could for people to come out," Kravitz said. "But there are people who don't give a hoot about football or about colleges that they know nothing about. The locals didn't have any interest in it except those who were (die-hard) football fans."

Braymes said he could not recall many details from the game, but that the memories he has are special.

"I remember the teams coming off the field at the end of the game, and I remember how big the guys were to me," Braymes said. "I know I enjoyed the game."

The Liberty Bowl moved the following year to Memphis, Tenn., where it has remained since then. West Virginia was back in the game this year for the first time, losing 45-37 to Texas A&M on Dec. 19. (Utah returned to the Liberty Bowl in 2003, defeating Southern Miss 17-0).

The Hall has hosted everything from Arena football to major college basketball to ice hockey to rodeos since the 1964 Liberty Bowl. But that game remains one of the most memorable ever played at the venue.

"It was quite an event," Kravitz said. "It was a wonderful thing to have happen for the first time in Atlantic City."

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