SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40

Michael Kelly


By Daniel Kaplan
Staff writer

Michael Kelly
Age: 35
Title: President
Organization: South Florida Super Bowl XLI Host Committee
Education: B.A., politics, Wake Forest University, 1992; M.S., sports administration, St. Thomas University, 1994
Family: Wife, Lisa; daughters Cara, 4, and Seana, 2
Career: Director of communications, Carquest Bowl, 1994-95; director of athletic operations/facilities, Wake Forest University, 1995-98; executive director, Tampa Bay Final Four Organizing Committee, 1998-99; executive director, Tampa Bay Super Bowl XXXV Host Committee, 1999-2001; associate AD, University of South Florida, 2001-02; president and COO, Jacksonville Super Bowl XXXIX Host Committee, 2002-05.
Last vacation: Clinton, N.C., in December to visit family
Last book read: “Riding with the Blue Moth” by Bill Hancock
Last movie seen: “Glory Road”
Pet peeve: Inconsistency
Greatest achievement: Being able to serve as the local point person to the NCAA and NFL for their respective signature events by the age of 30
Greatest disappointment: Not getting into the law schools of my choice
Fantasy job: Athletic director or commissioner of a major university or conference, or a senior executive with an NFL club
Executive most admired: Joe Gibbs
Business advice: The will to win means nothing without the willingness to prepare.

Michael Kelly may be the only one of this year's Forty Under 40 winners to have carved out a whole new specialty: professional Super Bowl host committee president.

For the third time Kelly is running a Super Bowl city's preparation, in this case Miami's 2007 game, following similar stints in Tampa and Jacksonville.

In this Kelly is unique. In the not-so-distant past, the host city would hire one of its own to run the effort, usually a local executive or someone from the county government. But planning for the game has gotten so demanding that the host committees increasingly look for people like Kelly who have expertise in sports administration and planning.

"It's kind of indicative of the complexity of the event," Kelly said. "It has grown in scope each and every year."

Budgets are now in the millions of dollars, if not tens of millions depending on the circumstances. The person must coordinate efforts across wide-ranging agencies and government institutions and find qualified people to hire for jobs that end a few months after the game.

And increasingly, the major task, as with this year's in Miami, is fundraising. While the Jacksonville fundraising total was more than twice Miami's goal of $8.5 million (reflecting the cost the northern Florida city incurred to bring in cruise ships to serve as hotels), this time it may be even harder. With so many sports options in South Florida, getting companies to commit could prove tricky, Kelly said.

But Rodney Barreto, chairman of the host committee and the man who tabbed the 35-year-old Kelly, is sure his young hire will get it done.

"We needed a professional in this spot, someone who knew how to cut a sponsorship deal, someone who knew how to cut a media deal," Barreto said. In the past, he said, Miami's host committees have been run by county executives from Miami-Dade.

It's unclear whether the job of Super Bowl host committee president will become thoroughly professional in the future. Before Kelly, only Robert Dale Morgan, who ran Houston's and Atlanta's Super Bowls, had overseen the game in more than one city.

Managing two straight Super Bowls is not possible because the job requires a minimum 18 months of lead time before the game, said Jim Steeg, the San Diego Chargers' chief operating officer, who ran event planning at the NFL for 26 years.

But with fundraising for the game now a national effort as well as a local one, Steeg said, host committees will be looking for people like Kelly with a Rolodex full of contacts.

Arizona has the game after Miami, but the Super Bowl returns to Florida in Tampa in 2009 and then Miami in 2010. Kelly is noncommittal about whether he would entertain doing the job again.

His dream job is to be a college athletic administrator, so if such an opportunity arose, he might not be around for the next big game in the Sunshine State.

"Mike wants to do other things in life than running a Super Bowl," Barreto said.

Back to 2006 Forty Under 40 list.

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