Only One Team Has Ever Won the Super Bowl At Home … Sort Of

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a position to do what no team has ever done — win a Super Bowl played at their home stadium. Barring any late delays or cancellations, Super Bowl LV will take place at Tampa‘s Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7, 2021.

But while no team has won the big game on their home turf, one team could technically lay claim to being the only team to have won the Super Bowl in front of their home fans.

The Super Bowl played on a college campus

Not all Super Bowls have taken place in the warm confines of Miami or New Orleans. Indeed, there have been some strange host sites for the big game, especially in its earlier years.

Among the oddest host stadiums for a Super Bowl was Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California, home to Super Bowl XIX in January of 1985. The brainchild behind the move to bring the big game to Stanford was Quentin Kopp, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who pushed to have a Super Bowl somewhere in the Bay Area.

“Stanford was old compared to stadiums today,” Kopp told the San Francisco Gate in 2016. “But it had almost 90,000 seats, and that’s what the NFL liked.”

The NFL awarded Super Bowl XIX to Stanford Stadium at an owners’ meeting on December 14, 1982. This left Stanford with just over two years to prepare the 61-year-old stadium to host the Super Bowl. The university installed temporary lighting, backup power generators, and seat cushions for the wooden bleachers.

The only home team ever to win the Super Bowl

49ers QB Joe Montana
49ers QB Joe Montana lines up under center during Super Bowl XIX | Photo by Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

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By sheer coincidence, Stanford hosted a Super Bowl just as the local NFL team was at the peak of power.

The 1984 San Francisco 49ers finished the season with a 15-1 record, losing only to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They steamrolled through the New York Giants and Chicago Bears in the NFC playoffs into Super Bowl XIX. Only the Miami Dolphins and their sensational quarterback Dan Marino awaited them.

Marino had just rewritten the NFL record book by throwing for over 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns, single-season records that would not be broken for decades. This offensive firepower was absent in the Super Bowl. The 49ers contained Miami’s offense for nearly the entire game, holding the Dolphins to one touchdown and cruising to a 38-16 win.

In so doing, they made history by becoming — technically — the first and only team to win a Super Bowl in front of their home crowd.

A similar situation nearly played out five years earlier in Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. The LA Rams nearly pulled out an upset win over the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Steelers. But they fell behind in the fourth quarter and lost 34-19.

Ironically, Palo Alto — 30 miles from San Francisco — is actually closer to the city than the 49ers’ current home. Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara is 45 miles from San Francisco.

The 2020 Buccaneers’ road to Super Bowl history

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a long road ahead of them to make Super Bowl history. They enter the playoffs as a wild-card team. This means they’ll have to win all of their playoff games on the road to even reach the Super Bowl — starting with their wild-card matchup against Washington.

This is by no means an unprecedented feat. Seven NFL teams have won the Super Bowl as a wild card. It should be noted, however, that three of those teams — the 1980 Oakland Raiders, 1997 Denver Broncos, and 2000 Baltimore Ravens — had a slightly easier road. Before the 2002 playoff realignment, the best wild-card team in each conference hosted one of the wild-card playoff games. This year’s Buccaneers are not so fortunate.

Even if the Buccaneers defy the odds and reach the Super Bowl, they will most likely not have the home crowd on their side. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL has set a capacity limit of 20% at Raymond James Stadium.