7 ON 7 WITH ORANGE BOWL CEO ERIC POMS
In over 20 years with the Orange Bowl Committee, you've seen many changes in the bowl industry. What is the biggest change you've observed in the time you have been Chief Executive Officer?
“Rather than focusing on any one specific change, I would point to the incredible evolution of post-season college football over the past 25 years. My tenure at the Orange Bowl Committee began in 1993, and I have had the opportunity to experience the Bowl Coalition (1992-93 to 1994-95) to the Bowl Alliance (1995-96 to 1997-98) to the Bowl Championship Series (1998-99 to 2013-14) to the College Football Playoff (2014-15 to present). With each model, college football has significantly grown its financial contributions to member institutions and experienced exponential growth in its popularity across the country.”
Please talk a bit about the various Orange Bowl-produced events and community outreach programs that keep the game itself in the news year-round.
“Since the Orange Bowl Committee’s founding in 1935, our mission statement has been to promote and serve the South Florida area. In addition to the Capital One Orange Bowl and related bowl week events, the Orange Bowl produces many other annual events including the Metropolia Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta, MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic and Orange Bowl Paddle Championships. On a parallel track, our community outreach activities are a core part of our organizations. Our efforts are defined by four key pillars: (1) Youth Sports, (2) Fundraising Events and Community Programs, (4) Academic Programs and Scholarships, and (4) Legacy Gifts. The result is a comprehensive full-year calendar of activities that keeps us closely connected to the South Florida community.”
Going forward, what should the bowl industry as a whole be doing to maintain its relevancy?
“As noted above, the bowl industry has experienced many changes through the evolution of post-season college football over the past 25 years. It is important that we embrace change while also celebrating our continued achievements. The bowls hold a special place in America with a rich history and tradition that spans over a century. We must continue to stay focused on making valuable contributions to college football overall and exceeding the expectations of our key stakeholders including student-athletes, college football fans, universities, conferences and local communities.”
You first got into the bowl business with the Blockbuster Bowl, and later in Las Vegas, working in that bowl's infancy in operations. What did you learn in those roles that have helped you in your current job?
“Since 1990, I have been fortune to be a part of three terrific bowl organizations. At both the Blockbuster Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl, I had the special opportunity to work on teams that were building these events from their inception. Today it is amazing to see how successful the leadership teams in Orlando and Las Vegas have been in elevating both the Russell Athletic Bowl (formerly the Blockbuster Bowl) and Las Vegas Bowl. Above all, I take great pride in the mentors and colleagues that I have had --- and continue to have --- the privilege to work with. These individuals taught me a great deal in how to effectively navigate this unique industry. They stressed the importance of focusing on the big picture while also understanding that details matter.”
With a bowl organization as multi-faceted as yours is, you can't be everywhere at once. What has been the key to keeping your game and related activities running at such a high level?
“People make all the difference in any organization. This is very much the case at the Orange Bowl Committee. Through an effective organizational infrastructure involving both a dedicated committee membership and professional staff, we have established a high-quality standard and consistency with our events, activities and programs. Our board is annually comprised of many outstanding community leaders and there has been a long tenure consistency with our executive management team.”
You face a lot of competition for the sports dollar in South Florida, what with the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, several college athletic programs, soccer and other major sporting events, all vying for attention. Is it harder for a bowl game to succeed in a crowded marketplace compared to smaller communities where the bowl game is the main attraction?
“South Florida is truly one of the most unique parts of the country. With beautiful beaches and tropical weather, the area is a world-class vacation destination with all there is to do year-round. As a major international market, it not only has drawn competition from each corner of the sports world but also from the arts & entertainment sector. We believe in the abundance theory and view all of this as a tremendous asset. As the oldest event in town dating back to 1935, the Capital One Orange Bowl holds a special place in South Florida. Distinctive from most other major annual events, it is the community that owns the bowl organization --- not a corporation or individual.”
What do you enjoy most about what you do ????
“It is important to love your profession. Throughout my years as a student at the University of Florida, I had the special opportunity to work in the athletic department and immediately knew that I wanted to pursue a career in intercollegiate athletics. I never could have imagined that my journey would lead me to the Orange Bowl Committee. Being able to give back to the South Florida community in which I grew up in is very rewarding. In addition, I truly enjoy the outstanding people I have had the honor to work with. I have had the great fortune to have met many interesting people and created lifelong lasting friendships both locally and nationally.”