The Bacardi Bowl was a college footballbowl game played seven times in Havana, Cuba at Almandares Park and La Tropical Stadium. The games were also referred to as the Rhumba Bowl and were the climaxing event of Cuba’s annual National Sports Festival. The first five occurrences matched an American college team (all from the Deep South) against Cuban universities or athletic clubs. The 1937 game featured two American universities. The 1946 game sometimes considered the first of the Cigar Bowl games also matched an American college team (from the Deep South) against a Cuban university.
Auburn’s bowl history began with the 1937 game before 15,000 to 18,000 spectators when the Tigers and Villanova tied 7-7. This game marked the first time that two American universities played a game on foreign soil. An Auburn drive in the first quarter stalled on the 10-yard line where the Wildcats took over on downs. After a Villanova punt, Auburn running backBilly Hitchcock broke loose around left end and rambled 40 yards for the Tigers' only score. The score at the half was Auburn 7, Villanova 0.
Auburn stopped a Villanova drive on its own 12-yard line during the third quarter but couldn’t get field position. Villanova was able to tie the score when they blocked an Auburn quick kick and the ball bounced into the endzone where Wildcat Lineman Matthews Kuber fell on it for the score. The p.a.t. tied the game. Auburn’s return to the USA marked an end to more than 11,000 miles of travel for the 7-2-2 Tigers that finished the season ranked 13th in the country under coach Jack Meagher.
The game was played in a revolutionary atmosphere. Fulgencio Batista, the dictator who would be overthrown by Fidel Castro 22 years later, had just assumed power. The game was almost canceled because Batista’s picture was not in the game program. A quick trip to the printer saved the Bacardi Bowl. The December 22, 1963 issue of the Florence Times-Tri-Cities Daily has a detailed account of former Auburn player Frank Hamm's recollections of this game.
Additional games college football games were played in Cuba or against Cuban teams in the United States from 1908-1956. The 1938 games were also billed under the Bacardi Bowl and Rhumba Bowl monikers, but are not officially considered the Bacardi Bowl.
Italics denote a tie game
† Game at Campo Polar canceled after Cuban naval goodwill fliers accident in Cali, Colombia. Rollins College played a split squad exhibition game that day. One team was called “Rollins College” and the other “Cuban Navy” and it ended in a 26-26 tie.