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Volume 25 No. 175
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Weekend Plans With Fiesta Bowl Exec Dir Mike Nealy

Nealy joined the Fiesta Bowl organization in '14 after having led the Coyotes for several years

Fiesta Bowl Exec Dir MIKE NEALY is set for championship weekend, though his agenda looks quite different than your typical college football fan. Nealy will be flying cross-country in the coming days to get a handle on things ahead of the New Year at the newly renamed State Farm Stadium, and his schedule includes multiple parties with select conferences, constant phone calls around the pending bowl matchups and of course setting time aside to keep in touch with the family. Nealy caught up with THE DAILY ahead of the conference championship games and ensuing bowl selections to talk about the hype around the weekend and what all goes into the selection process on his end. Nealy: "There’s stress but having been through it for a few years, we do a good job of planning and controlling what we can control in the process. You know it’s going to be crazy, but it’s managed stress. And it’s fun."

THE SOCIAL NETWORK: This weekend is the culmination of all our work this season, and also obviously for the teams, coaches, players and venue staffs. This is where it all comes together. For me personally, what it means is conference championship weekend. We need to make sure we’re represented and we’re at as many of these championships as possible. We send out board members and myself to represent. I do what I can based on the time while knowing I do need to get back to Arizona for Sunday when all the stuff hits the fan and we have to get running. Thursday evening I attended a Pac-12 event hosted by Commissioner LARRY SCOTT with his staff and bowl representatives. It’s a nice reception and a good chance to network and touch base on things. Then Friday I’ll get on a 6:00am flight to Indianapolis for a similar Big Ten reception that night with their representatives. I’ll partake and then stay there Saturday for Ohio State-Northwestern. We have the Fiesta Bowl obviously, but also the Cheez-It Bowl. So we’re on both sides of the scale with the elite New Year’s Six group and also the secondary bowls that really depend on the selections. So we’re talking to other bowl reps and conference reps, I’m fielding calls all weekend from different schools saying they want to play in a certain venue.

THE STRETCH RUN: After the game I’m on a 5:45am flight to get to Arizona. I’m gonna try to sneak in a half hour at my son’s hockey game because it’s close to the airport. Then by 10:30am local time I believe ESPN will be announcing several of the initial bowl games -- the first domino. I’m at the office at that time with our full staff, we’re continuing our final prep. It’s a lot of excitement about who’s finally going to be coming. Calls are going back and forth as the dominoes start to fall. By 1:00pm our time the Fiesta is announced. I’ll have a teleconference meeting soon after to talk to the coaches and teams. We’ll formally invite them -- that’s still a formality in place. Then around 2:00 because of the Cheez-It Bowl I’ll be calling the Big 12 and Pac-12 to talk to them about the game options and selections available at that point. Then by 3:00 we’re having a teleconference with the Fiesta bowl coaches and at 4:00 we’re having a teleconference with the Cheez-It coaches, then our lineups are set. Then we get the ball rolling on travel plans and things of that nature. By Sunday night I’ll get on a red-eye to N.Y. for the National Football Foundations' Annual Awards dinner, and then I’ll stay there through the week for SBJ's Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.

IN THE MEANTIME: Golfing is always on the list and my son is deep into hockey, so he travels a lot with that. Hiking out here in Phoenix is popular too, there’s such great weather. I also try to spend as much time as I can with the family, because a job like this sometimes takes you away in times you can’t control it. Restaurant-wise, it's nice that my kids are old enough now where we’re not going to California Pizza Kitchen all the time.