Miami plays host to not one but two marquee college-football matches next month, including the BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. Two Orange Bowl committee executives tell us what goes into the planning and what to expect at this year’s festivities.
Mounting any of the four annual college-football bowl games — the Orange, Fiesta, Sugar and Rose bowls — is a monumental task. But under the current college-football championship system, in place through 2014, one host city a year does double duty, producing both its usual bowl game and the separate, annual BCS Championship Game.
Ford Gibson and Eric Poms tell us their favorite Miami attractions.
Ortanique restaurant in Coral Gables
Versailles restaurant in Little Havana
Shark Valley Visitor Center in the Everglades
Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant on Miami Beach
Stiltsville, a series of abandoned, historic houses built on stilts in Biscayne Bay
The latter determines the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision champion. This year, sponsored by Discover, it arrives at Sun Life Stadium in sunny Miami on Jan. 7, a mere six days after the Orange Bowl (which takes place Jan. 1).
Planning for the championship game started after the Orange Bowl Committee last hosted the two bowls in 2009 — the Orange Bowl game was first played at Sun Life Stadium in 1996; the Orange Bowl stadium was demolished in 2008 — and has continued almost daily since. Overseeing the Orange Bowl’s full-time staff is Eric Poms, CEO of the Orange Bowl Committee, and Ford Gibson, the committee’s president and chairman of the board. They work to make sure the bowl week impresses visitors and reflects local culture.
American Way: How do you two work together on the day-to-day planning of the event?
Ford Gibson: On the committee side, we’re really volunteers made up of community leaders who represent different aspects and generations of South Florida. The committee members provide a vision to create an event that truly showcases South Florida and helps our economy.
Eric Poms: The professional staff works in concert with the committee to make it come to life. We and the committee have a keen focus on making sure we meet and surpass college-football leadership’s expectations.
AW: How important is it for you to impart a local flavor to the event?
FG: Very important. I personally don’t think there’s a better place in America to host a bowl — we’ve got great weather, a mixture of cultures and a lot of fun things to do.
AW: What are the games’ satellite events that you feel are most unique?
EP: We have the traditional Orange Bowl Festival each and every year, which starts in December and runs through early January. That includes everything from youth tennis tournaments to swimming events. But this year, everything is geared toward showcasing the beaches and our coastline. There’s going to be a heavy focus on South Beach, with a fan-interaction area and a concert series. Then, on game day for the Discover BCS Championship, we’ve moved all the pregame activity to directly in front of Sun Life Stadium. We’re trying to capture the pageantry of a game of this magnitude.
AW: What’s most exciting about the challenge of hosting such a huge event?
FG: What a lot of fans don’t necessarily see is that these programs are transformational in a lot of regards for these college athletes. For me, this is about those kids as well as the staff that put all their hard work into the teams, and the great things they do.
EP: Through the series, we also get to give back in unique ways to our community, through youth-outreach programs and athletic-field renovations. Last time, in 2009, we renovated Moore Park in Miami, the site of the first bowl championship games in the area. This year we have two similar projects, so we’re excited to promote youth football, which is ultimately the theater to college football itself.