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SBJ/Jan. 20-26, 2014/CollegesPrint All
The College Football Playoff has struck partnerships with four companies to handle hospitality sales and marketing for the inaugural championship game next season.
Michael Kelly, the CFP’s chief operating officer, said the hospitality arm will be branded Playoff Premium, which will designate official CFP packages. The four partners will be: Colonnade Group, Birmingham, Ala.; Dallas Fan Fares; QuintEvents, Charlotte; and PrimeSport, Atlanta. Each has a one-year agreement with the Dallas-based CFP.
All four of the agencies will sell from the same pool of inventory, and the formal sales process will kick off this week for next January’s title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In the past, each bowl has handled its own hospitality. Revenue from hospitality sales will go to the CFP and the providers will be paid a commission.
“This is a new model that will allow us to cast a very wide net, but also operate within our vision,” said Kelly, who joined the CFP in November 2012 after five years at the ACC.
Playoff Premium will offer corporate customers and fans the chance to create packages that will range from $1,899 to $5,999 per person. Suites in AT&T Stadium will go for $4,000 per person and up. Pricing is largely based on the location and size of the suites, as well as the location of the seats that are included in the packages. Other assets could include hotel, field access, tours, meet-and-greets with former players, gifts and parking.
Ken Elder, the CFP’s senior director of marketing and strategic partnerships, will oversee hospitality and each of these new relationships will flow up through him.
Roughly 3,000 tickets will be incorporated into hospitality packages. Kelly said the CFP has not yet determined what capacity will be at AT&T Stadium, where it can range from 80,000 to close to 100,000 because of standing-room-only areas. Kelly said more than 50 percent of the tickets will go to the participating teams. The CFP also has announced that 1,000 tickets will be available for purchase through a random drawing.
Hospitality plans for the two semifinal games at the Rose and Sugar bowls have not been finalized.
Elder, who has directed or consulted the sales and marketing for six Super Bowl host committees over the last 12 years, said the CFP did not use requests for proposals during the selection process. Instead, CFP officials used their contacts to assemble a set of candidates.
By the time Florida State’s chartered flight touched down in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, Stan Wilcox had completed perhaps the most rigorous five months a new athletic director could ever expect.
At that point, Wilcox, who was named the Seminoles’ AD on Aug. 7, was just hours removed from holding aloft the BCS’ crystal football after FSU’s win over Auburn.
Coach Jimbo Fisher kisses the trophy as Wilcox (in necktie) pumps a fist.
Photo by:COURTESY OF FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
“I’ve probably experienced more in five months than most ADs experience in five years,” Wilcox said.
Winning a BCS national championship so early in his tenure generated both exhilaration and relief for Wilcox, whose political
The Seminoles, who parted ways with former AD Randy Spetman last summer, needed a strong leader in athletics. Public comments from board members and boosters in 2012 fueled speculation that FSU might jump from the ACC to the Big 12. Those kinds of unhealthy outbursts gradually robbed Spetman of the influence an AD needs, say those close to the program.
Not only was Wilcox charged with corralling the stakeholders, he had FSU’s star athlete, Jameis Winston, embroiled in a well-publicized legal case while his coach, Jimbo Fisher, was being linked to the Texas job.
These travails were mixed with more prosperous times, like accompanying Winston to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, and winning the ACC championship game to stay unbeaten.
A less-prepared or perhaps less-equipped AD might have been overwhelmed with so many fragile issues on such a high-profile platform, Wilcox’s friends said. Instead, Wilcox, who played basketball at Notre Dame and got his law degree from Brooklyn Law School, presented a calm front during those stormy times.
One of the decisions Wilcox made, in concert with Winston’s parents, was to let the quarterback continue talking to the media while the investigation into allegations of sexual assault played out, even though many schools typically close off athletes during controversial periods.
“Stan has this very unique personality,” said White, who recommended him for the Seminoles job. “He’s got this almost mystical spirit about him that gives him an uncanny ability to assess situations and choose a course.”
Almost the minute word came down that Texas and its football coach, Mack Brown, were parting ways, Fisher’s name was linked to the job opening because of how he’d guided the Seminoles back to national prominence. Wilcox, however, had taken pre-emptive action weeks earlier by negotiating a new contract with Fisher’s agent, Jimmy Sexton. The rookie AD said he first went to Fisher after FSU’s blowout win at Clemson on Oct. 19 to discuss a contract extension, which eventually was announced on Dec. 31.
“I knew at some point during the season that I needed to go to Jimbo about his contract,” said Wilcox, who oversees a $96 million annual budget. “My approach was to tell him, ‘Listen, the season is going well and now is the time to talk about renegotiating the contract.’ But I also told him that I don’t need him focusing on his contract. I needed him focused on football day to day.
“I know a number of ADs don’t like talking to agents, but nowadays it’s a common practice and you’ve got to deal with it. So I told Jimbo that I would talk to his agent and then come to him when we had something. Until then, I didn’t want him thinking about it. That was a big load off Jimbo’s mind and it helped him understand that I had his best interests at heart.”
Fisher’s deal for $4.1 million a year through 2018 makes him one of the nation’s highest-paid coaches.
Navigating the potential potholes, especially so early in his first AD job, has earned Wilcox “an extended honeymoon,” he said with a laugh. “If you said that I’ve done athletic administration from A to Z in five months, I probably have.”
ACC Commissioner John Swofford first met Wilcox years ago when Wilcox worked in the Big East office prior to becoming an administrator at Notre Dame. Swofford, like White, hoped that Wilcox would be the hire at FSU. But Wilcox had been reluctant to jump at previous AD jobs. White estimates that Wilcox had been approached by roughly a dozen schools in search of an AD over the years, but he had never felt compelled to leave.
“Any colleague would tell you how enormously selfless Stan is,” White said. “He has this unique quality of never putting himself first. It’s just how he is.”
When FSU President Eric Barron phoned Swofford to break the news of Wilcox’s hire, the ACC commissioner beamed and told Barron, “Outstanding.”
Swofford appeared to be equally exuberant on the field after FSU’s win over Auburn, finding Wilcox and planting a kiss on the new AD’s cheek.
Even though Wilcox grew up playing the drums in a family band, his style is understated and reserved these days. Swofford said he appreciates the strong leadership Wilcox generates with an efficiency of words, something FSU needed.
“Stan has great equilibrium,” Swofford said. “Through everything he’s seen in just five months — and he’s seen a lot — I’ve been really proud of the stability he’s provided and his no-panic approach. He’s off to an excellent start in every way. … I’d be surprised if Stan isn’t a leader around our table very quickly.”