MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Ambrose "Bud" Dudley, who founded the Liberty Bowl football game in 1959 and oversaw the game for decades, has died. He was 88.
Dudley died Tuesday at a nursing home in Memphis after a long illness.
"Bud was one of the giants of the college football world," current Liberty Bowl director Steve Erhart said in a statement.
"There wasn't a finer gentleman in the bowl business than Bud. While he'll be remembered as a great promoter and a progressive thinker, our intent was to always preserve Bud's mission for this bowl. And that's emphasizing patriotism and liberty."
Dudley was athletic director at Villanova between 1953 and 1957 and showed his skills as a promoter with Villanova hosting five "grocery bowls" that helped attract 460,000 fans to J.F.K. Stadium in Philadelphia.
He received approval for the new Liberty Bowl in his hometown of Philadelphia where the game first was played on Dec. 19, 1959. The bowl stayed in Philadelphia for five years before Dudley took it to the Atlantic City Convention Center in 1964 where the Liberty Bowl was the first bowl game ever played indoors.
Dudley moved the Liberty Bowl to Memphis in 1965 and served as executive director for 35 years before retiring in 1994. The Liberty Bowl featured players Terry Baker, Ernie Davis, Doug Flutie and Bo Jackson, and coaches included Lou Holtz, Tom Osborne, Vince Dooley and Bear Bryant in his final game at Alabama.
The city of Memphis renamed the press box at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium after Dudley in 2005.
He played halfback at Notre Dame in 1940 and 1941 and was president of his class in 1943 before serving as a captain in the Air Force as lead navigator of a B-24 bomber group. He flew 54 missions over Europe and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross.
Funeral services will be held Friday at St. Louis Catholic Church in Memphis.