Standing at 46 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds and created with the most intricate details, the Fiesta Bowl Trophy is nothing short of a work of art.
In 2002 the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors decided it needed a more unique trophy to compete with the trophies of the other national bowls – something that would make a statement. The original Fiesta Bowl Trophy was small, made of wood and slightly resembled the Heisman Trophy. Recognizing the need for something slightly more impressive, the board had in mind the perfect man for the job. Al Molina, a Fiesta Bowl Yellow Jacket Committee member, happened to be an internationally-recognized jeweler. They tasked Molina with, what would become, a masterpiece of a trophy. With no budget, no guidelines and free rein over the design, Molina and members of the executive committee set out to create a truly historical work of art. Molina, refusing to create anything short of a masterpiece, told the board he would make the trophy on his own “nickel.”
With just a little more than three months to bring the idea life, a team of experts set to work under the leadership of Al Molina and head designer Christopher Olson, who is considered the “champion of the trophy.” The trophy’s foundation entailed an intricate fabrication of five different shades of marble and granite, upholding the stunning complexities of the trophy. The center column was created using lapis lazuli, one of the most sought after stones in the world. Created to simulate the Arizona sunset, it was hand-carved in 18-karat yellow, green, red, peach and white gold. The sterling silver dome alone, enhanced with multi-colored windows created in jeweler’s enamel, took more than 96 hours to complete.
Todd McFarlane, Grammy- and Emmy-winning producer/director and founder of one of America’s top action figure manufactures, McFarlane Toys, used his rare talent for detail and accuracy to create the football players. He cast the eight perfectly-designed players in sterling silver to live on each side and corner of the structure. Ken Wilson, a former Disney “Imagineer” and inventor of the infamous lightsabers used in Star Wars, created the one-of-a-kind LED lighting display within the trophy.
Weighing more than 200 pounds, the trophy design team knew even the strongest football team wouldn’t be able to hold it up in celebration after their Fiesta Bowl victory. This realization sparked the idea of the removable football, but not just any ole’ football. Made of 18-karat gold with jeweler’s enameled Fiesta Bowl sunburst marks, this football flaunts 2,187 pavé-set diamonds. The stones weigh a total of 50 carats, making up the stripes on the extravagant football, which is two-thirds regulation size.
Not one element of the design was created at random. The compass on the base of the trophy signifies the path of life. The players at the base depict those who support and uphold the team while the players above represent those who guard and protect the ball. The Greek word Nyvk, meaning “the goddess of victory,” is engraved on the curtain above the players. Designed in lotus flowers, the dome signifies purity of strength, power and heart of the victors. Finally, the perfection of the diamonds on the football represents the dedication of the winning team to their sport.
After more than 3,000 hours of work, along with a frantic two a.m. call to fix a crack in the dome the night before the big reveal, the Molina Design Team was ready to unveil the masterpiece – a trophy like none other in collegiate athletics.
The Fiesta Bowl Trophy, now a recognized staple of the Bowl, was certainly a labor of love. The one-of-a-kind trophy signifies the values, vision and pride of the game and of the Fiesta Bowl Organization. Al Molina has been asked numerous times to make other trophies but the answer is always the same:
“That is the only trophy Molina has ever made. That is the only trophy we will ever make.”
Photos of the Fiesta Bowl Trophy were taken at the Desert Botanical Garden. Click here to learn more or to plan your visit.