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These Are Guys Who Really Try to Bowl You Over

November 16, 1986|JOEL SHERMAN | United Press International

NEW YORK — Armed with colorful blazers and loyal hearts, they spread the gospel about Shreveport, El Paso and Anaheim.

Some people call them scouts, but many would have trouble telling the difference between a wishbone and a fishbone.

They are bowl representatives, goodwill ambassadors from the 18 postseason games. Shaking hands and making notes. Renewing old friendships and forging new ones.

All of this done in the name of bringing together a suitable--and profitable--matchup.

"Basically we are sales people," said Tracy Jackson, an Independence Bowl representative. "We are selling our wares, our bowl, our community. We have to answer the question why would anyone want to come to Shrevport, La., in December."

Most bowls carry about a dozen representatives, usually all but the executive director working for free except for expense money.

They begin to crisscross the country starting in mid-October. Most arrive on Friday for a Saturday game and begin the getting-to-know-you process.

"I like to get there on Friday," said Tom Starr, executive director of the Freedom Bowl. "I like to get there in time to get to the offices of the home team's athletic director, coach and sports information director. I also like to get to the visiting team's hotel and see the same people.

"It really all depends on the school you go to. Sometimes you'll have dinner with the athletic director and coach. Sometimes even the school's president and chancellor will host you. On Saturday morning some coaches like to have breakfast with you."

When the game begins, it is important they are seen and heard. To get on a local radio station's halftime show is important. Visiting the boys from the press and making sure they get a good look at the blazer with the wild colors and bowl insignia.

What's happening on the field is secondary.

"Whether or not you know what is going on down on the football field, letter by letter, is not at all important; it doesn't hurt, but it's not all that important," Jackson said. "Public relations and salesmanship are much more important. Anyone can look at won-loss records and figure whether a team is deserving of a bowl. Whether they run a wing formation or a pro set does not matter at all."

However, John Folmer, a Sun Bowl representative, disagrees.

"Knowing football and knowing the athletic process is the key," said Folmer, whose full-time job is as president of a beer distributor in El Paso. "It's important to know tradition, where a coach has been; another staff or know where he started. A lot of that comes from longevity. I've been doing this 16 years so I remember when a guy like (Miami Coach) Jimmy Johnson was at Oklahoma State as an assistant. Things like that help."

Folmer also said it is vital that you give a clear picture of your bowl.

"You have to make it clear what you have to offer, what kind of events to involve the kids," Folmer said. "We know we're not going to get a national championship game, we're not a New Year's Day bowl. We have a different story to tell."

Bowl representatives say it is important to try to shake as many hands and get to know as many people as possible.

"You never know what hat someone will be wearing next season," said the Independence Bowl's Jackson, who owns five temporary employee franchises. "That assistant coach you met today can pop as the athletic director somewhere else next year and you might be interested in that school."

Bowl representatives also must play detective, trying to figure out if the teams they are scouting are interested in their postseason event. Many veterans have the kind of relationship with a few athletic programs, and even other reps, to learn the school's intentions.

"That's one of the things we want to know, where a team is thinking of going," said Bud Dudley, executive director of the Liberty Bowl. "We usually try to get back from a game Saturday night or Sunday morning and meet Sunday afternoon. We all make reports. We're not that interested in the score. It's more who you met and who you saw. Then we decide where we are going the following week."

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