Kwansei Gakuin, SOU announce 4th installment of Mills Bowl for May in Ashland

ASHLAND – Thirty-eight years after Kwansei Gakuin University traveled to Ashland to become the first Japanese university to play a college football game on American soil, the Fighters will make a return trip to Raider Stadium in 2024.

Southern Oregon and KGU made the date official on Monday, SOU Director of Athletics Matt Sayre announced. The fourth installment of the Mills Bowl – named in honor of the late SOU Sports Hall of Fame coach Chuck Mills, who spearheaded the Raiders’ original three-game series against KGU from 1985-87 – is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff on May 4.

“Hosting KGU here at SOU will be an honor and a great cultural event for the community,” Sayre said. “We’re committed to helping the Fighters offset costs as they bring 65 players plus coaches and staff 5,000 miles for the first game between a Japanese and American university in the states since the original Mills bowl in 1986. The Kwansei Gakuin Fighters are a college football powerhouse in Japan. This will be a great game.”

The contest will count towards SOU’s 2023 record, bringing the Raiders’ regular-season total to 11 games. As such, all seniors on the team this fall will be eligible to play against KGU in the spring.

KGU has won a total of 27 national championships, 10 of which have been captured since 2000.

Mills, who died in 2021 at 92 years old, had previously taken teams to Japan as the head coach at Utah State and Wake Forest. He brought Southern Oregon to Kobe, Japan, in 1985 for its first matchup with KGU, a 49-24 Raiders victory. When KGU visited Ashland a year later (for a 21-17 SOU win), the groundwork was laid for Ashland High School’s ongoing cultural exchange with a Japanese all-star team, known as the Pacific Rim Bowl. In the most recent matchup as part of the 1987 season, KGU defeated SOU 27-9 in Osaka, Japan, on Jan. 10, 1988.

Mills’ influence in Japan was so strong that the Heisman Trophy equivalent in Japanese college football is called the Mills Trophy.

Leave a Comment