I’ve been a part of quite a few bowl games. At Maryland we went to the Orange, Peach and Gator Bowls. Although I went as part of the football staff, I didn’t have any work responsibilities…so to be honest, it ended up being just a fun vacation for me. Gamedays in general were like that for me–I worked hard all week, and on gamedays I went to a lot of tailgates…you know, just to make sure everyone was having a good time.
Being at OSU has been very different. I work hard all week AND on gameday. And then I work at the bowl game. I’m usually there for about a week…the first couple of days I get to have fun, and then the work begins. But I really can’t complain. And how can I complain when I get to take pics like this?!
We’ve been to a bowl every year since I got here in ’07: Insight, Holiday, Cotton, Alamo, Fiesta, and Heart of Dallas (HOD). When we got selected for the HOD, a lot of people in Cowboy country were not happy, and that’s putting it mildly. But after people got over the anger and shock, they came to support the team and had a good time. And I think, in time, that bowl will get a lot better. We just happened to be basically the guinea pigs, as this was the first year of the bowl.
So, people always ask me what I do at away/bowl games, and the answer is pretty simple…I coordinate fan activities.
A lot of teams have The Walk at home games…we took it on the road, starting in 2007. We do it at every away game, where the team buses drop them off at the stadium. Our fans have come to expect it, the players love the support, and when the staffs at other facilities balk at it, I let them know (nicely of course) that our fans are going to show up anyway. And they do. The bowl game is a little more challenging, because when we play at NFL stadiums they unload buses under the stadium, and won’t even consider changing. That’s when we do the walk from the team hotel. And honestly, the 2 best bowl Road Rallies were at the hotels. At the Holiday Bowl we had a super long, really tall hotel lobby and they let the band play as the team walked through. Apparently you could hear the band all the way up to the 7th floor.
The Alamo Bowl hotel had 3 levels that looked over into the main lobby…every inch of space was packed both in the lobby and outside where the team started walking through. The band again led the team through the lobby. I walked through the lobby with Coach Gundy…the noise in there was deafening, and he stopped several times to look up at the crowds on the upper floors and wave. He was really impressed. This year it was early, absolutely freezing and even raining a little so I had no idea what to expect, but I was impressed that we still had a few hundred people show up.
Another thing I do is find a local bar to be our “official party headquarters”. Some bars go all out, letting us decorate and basically take over. Others, not so much. But even if they don’t, they love the additional business and publicity. I try to find something relatively close to the stadium so on gameday fans can park just once. I am officially at the bar Friday night for a couple of hours. If kickoff is afternoon or evening, I’ll also be there officially on Saturday for a few hours before the Road Rally.
One of my favorite bars that I’m going to miss not going to anymore is Mad Hatter’s in College Station, TX. Last year our band came and played on game morning, and was a huge hit. I need to work on doing that more often.
Last year, in conjunction with Pam and Chase from the Alumni Association, we started doing freebie giveaways the night before the game at the bar. I give away a POSSE star stickers, and you would think I was giving away gold. People LOVE them, and I’ve even had people try to buy them from me. Austin is another one of my favorites, because the bar we use, the Blind Pig Pub, is right on 6th Street and owned by an OSU alum. Friday night the bar is basically ours for a few hours, and on gameday they do a free BBQ lunch.
The Fiesta Bowl was a little challenging from a bar standpoint because the team hotel and one fan hotel were in Scottsdale, the alumni hotel was in Tempe, and the stadium was in Glendale. So we basically had official party bars in all 3 areas. We also had an OSU party the day before the game at RockBar in Scottsdale. Alex, the owner, is an OSU alum, he decorated the place orange, rented party buses to take fans to and from the hotels in Scottsdale, and even put together a slideshow of past and present gameday pictures. The bar was packed all day and night with OSU fans. I’m definitely finding a place to do that from now on, as long as we don’t play on New Year’s Day, which I really hope we never do again.
During bowl week we also host a POSSE hospitality room at the team hotel. Although we have a fan hotel, most of our fans gravitate to the team hotel to be where the team is and where more of the action is. That didn’t happen so much this year, but I think that was more a function of people coming to town closer to gameday–and so many of our fans already living in Dallas–than anything else. The room is open the 2 days prior to the bowl game. We’ve done it in a hotel ballroom, in the hotel restaurant, and in the hotel bar. Trial and error has taught me that the hotel bar is the best option, by far.
Every year I try to get better at these events. In the beginning I publicized mainly through email, but in the past year I’ve done a lot more on Facebook and Twitter. I give lots of free publicity to the official party bar, and I provide our fans with as much information as I can find about the whole game weekend. This year we’re going to create a Road Rally logo, and get branded koozies to add to our giveaways.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I’m horrible at taking pictures at these events. I always have grand plans to overload my camera with pictures, but I get preoccupied with being social, and I forget. Major fail. That is officially my mission for 2013.
Another question I get quite a bit is “do you love your job”? I’m not gonna lie and say I love it all the time–and anyone who does is clearly lying–but I am very blessed to get to travel with football and do all this fun stuff. Most people I know in my position at other schools don’t. And not only do I love getting to plan all these activities, and I get to do it for and with my friends. So how could I not?!