Diana Ross Super Bowl Halftime Show


The original venue for Super Bowl XXVII had been the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. However, following a controversial series of events surrounding Arizona’s refusal to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday that was created to honor the historic civil rights campaigner, the NFL was given no choice but to remove the Super Bowl from Tempe. The owners held an emergency vote in Hawaii on March 19, 1991, during which they selected Pasadena as the replacement hosts.

Martin Luther King Day was eventually voted into force in Arizona, following which, the NFL selected Tempe as the host for Super Bowl XXX at their 1993 meeting.

Super Bowl XXX was played between the AFC’s Pittsburgh Steelers and NFC’s Dallas Cowboys on January 28, 1996, at the Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona to decide which team would be crowned champions of the 1995 football season.

Notable for:

  • The television broadcast of Super Bowl XXX attracted 95.13 million viewers in the United States, breaking all previous records.
  • Super Bowl XXX was the last Super Bowl during which the teams wore shirts embellished with screen-printed numbers.

The Cowboys won a record tying 5th Super Bowl and their third victory in four years, helped by cornerback Larry Brown whose two interceptions gave Dallas 14 points in the second half. Brown’s defensive prowess halted the Steelers’ efforts to get back into the game and earned him the Pete Rozelle most valuable player trophy.

The Cowboys took a 13-0 lead, scoring on their first three possessions, firstly from a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Troy Aitken to Jay Novacek, followed by a pair of field goals by Chris Boniol. Pittsburgh, however, pulled themselves back into contention with Neil O’Donnell’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Yancey Thipen with just 13 seconds to the halftime break, bringing the Steelers within 6 points. After halftime, with the Steelers in midfield possession, Brown intercepted O’Donnell’s third down pass at the Cowboys 38 yard line and made it to Pittsburgh’s 18 yard line, a 44-yard gain.

Aikman then made a 17-yard pass completion to Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith ran one yard for a touchdown, putting the Cowboys ahead by 13 points. Pittsburgh stayed in the game, however, with a 46 yard field goal from Norm Johnson, followed by a successfully executed onside kick to give the Steeler possession again. On a comeback roll, Byron (Bam) Morris’s made a 1-yard run into the end zone to put the Steelers within 3 points (20-17) with 4:15 remaining on the clock and gave themselves a chance to break the recent NFC domination of the Super Bowl. However, on second down, it was Brown who once again denied the Steelers, intercepting a pass from O’Donnell at the 39 yard line and carrying the ball 33 yards to the six yard line. Smith powered into the end zone two plays later for the winning touch touchdown with 3.43 on the clock.

Pittsburgh had dominated the second half, enjoying an enormous 201-61 advantage in total yardage and limiting the Cowboys’ powerful running game to only 56 yards. However, they could not overcome the three interceptions (a third came on the final play) which cost them dearly. Ironically, Pittsburgh quarterback O’Donnell was the NFL leader for fewest interceptions per pass attempt. On the day, he completed 28 of 49 passes for 239 yards and Morris rushed for a game high 73-yards on 19 carries. Dallas quarter, Troy Aikman, completed 15 of 23 pass attempts for the Cowboys, gaining 209 yards.

The victory for the Cowboys’ was the twelfth consecutive win for NFC teams over AFC teams in the Super Bowl.

Final Score: Dallas Cowboys (NFC) – 27 Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC) – 17
Date: January 28, 1996
Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
MVP: Larry Brown, Cornerback
Favorite: Cowboys by 13.5
Referee: Red Cashion
Attendance: 76,347

Pregame: Arizona theme celebrating Native American Culture, Wild West traditions and the great outdoors.
Anthem: Vanessa Williams (American Sign Language performance by Mary Kim Titla).
Coin toss: Joe Montana, representing 25 MVPs present.
Half time: Diana Ross with special effects, pyrotechnics and stadium card stunt. Finale featured Diana Ross being taken from the stadium in a helicopter.
Halftime theme: Take Me Higher-Celebration of 30 years of Super Bowl.
Halftime set list:

  • “Stop In The Name Of Love”
  • “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”
  • “Baby Love”
  • “You Can’t Hurry Love”
  • “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”
  • “Chain Reaction”
  • “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”
  • “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
  • “I Will Survive”
  • “Take Me Higher”

Diana Ross took to the stage to offer a halftime set that was titled “Take Me Higher: A Celebration of 30 years of the Super Bowl.” Her live performance was accompanied by special effects, stadium card stunts, and pyrotechnics. The show finale featured Ross singing “Take me Higher” before she was lifted from the stadium by a helicopter.