Valero Alamo Bowl CEO looks to boost game’s prestige in coming years

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Derrick Fox is president and CEO of the San Antonio Bowl Association, the nonprofit organization that operates the Valero Alamo Bowl.

Derrick Fox — president and CEO of the San Antonio Bowl Association, the nonprofit organization behind the Valero Alamo Bowl — is attuned to opportunities that could arise from the realignment of major college football conferences.

Derrick Fox — president and CEO of the San Antonio Bowl Association, the nonprofit organization behind the Valero Alamo Bowl — says the changing ways of broadcasting live sports are worth watching.

Derrick Fox — president and CEO of the San Antonio Bowl Association, the nonprofit organization behind the Valero Alamo Bowl — would like to see the game considered part of the College Football Playoff system.

Derrick Fox — president and CEO of the San Antonio Bowl Association, the nonprofit organization behind the Valero Alamo Bowl — has been with the organization since before construction of the Alamodome was completed.

SAN ANTONIO — A ticker at the top of the Valero Alamo Bowl website counts down the days, minutes and seconds until

8 p.m. on Dec. 29 when two as-yet-unnamed college football teams meet at the Alamodome

for the 30th consecutive year.

Derrick Fox — president and CEO of the San Antonio Bowl Association, the nonprofit organization behind the annual game — has been preparing for that hour all year. Yet he also has another deadline in mind: the year 2025, when the association’s contracts with Valero Energy Corp., the game’s title sponsor, expire; ESPN, its broadcaster; and the Big 12 and Pac-12, the college football conferences that each send their second-choice teams to the game.

Amid college football’s ever-evolving landscape, with the Big 12 adding teams with the Pac-12 due to lose two in the coming years, Fox is thinking about opportunities to elevate the Alamo Bowl’s stature. He shot the opportunity to make it a New Year’s six game.

“Was here. We want to be asked,” he said. “San Antonio is a city built for fun. It hosts events well. We’re doing the college basketball national championship. Why not college football?”

He noted that the means to broadcast games is also in flux, as Amazon Prime Video streams Thursday Night Football through a deal with the National Football League.

“There’s a lot more business now than there’s ever been before, so there’s definitely plenty of opportunity,” he said.

Fox, who grew up in Port Angeles, Wash., came to San Antonio to be the bowl association’s executive director before construction on the Alamodome was completed. Before that, he spent seven years with the Fiesta Bowl.

He recently sat down with the Express-News to discuss changing consumer expectations for the live gaming experience, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the game and what it’s like to spend the entire year preparing for one event. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: In the 31 years you’ve worked for the Alamo Bowl, how has it changed?


When we first came down here, it was just a thought – literally a startup. The Alamodome was under construction. The great part about it was great vision and leadership from the community to say, “Hey, we’re building a domed stadium. Let’s transform what used to be one of the slower tourism weeks of the year.”

Remember, back in that time frame they used to drain the river. We came down here and talked about, “Hey, let’s show our community not only to the thousands of visitors that come in, but also to a viewing audience.” I remember one of the early meetings talking about putting players and pep bands on barges and going down to the river. “That’s great, except for the fact that we’re draining the river at that time of year, Derrick.”

Q: Over the past two years, you have

kept playing even through the pandemic.


We have been lucky. Some were not so lucky from that perspective. But that gave a new twist to things. Two years ago we had a meeting ceiling of 11,000. Being able to play was amazing. We certainly wouldn’t do anything to put people at risk. But it is safe to say that we do not want to have more than 11,000 spectators.

Q: How have ticket sales been so far this year?


We are trending at the same pace as we were last year, which is good to see.

Q: Do economic trends such as gas prices and inflation affect attendance?


They can. People don’t have to go to ball games. We certainly understand that. But we want them to come to our games. Remember that the ticket price may be one of the cheapest expenses they will have. They will fly in or drive in, stay several nights in the hotels, eat, drink and be merry on the River Walk. We only try to raise our prices every few years.

Q: Do you find that people expect more from a game than they did 30 years ago?


Oh, absolutely. The whole game day experience has definitely evolved. Even the ticket platform – you used to have your standard ticket warehouse; now it’s on your phone. Also all the interactive activities, whether you want statistics, whether you want data. Being able to have Wi-Fi capabilities – one of the things the dome did in the last few years,

in their $60 million renovation, were increased video walls, Wi-Fi, sound. These things enhance the game day experience, which is very important.

Question: It seems that people want a greater variety of entertainment incorporated into the game.


Yes they do. You have your standard football fan who wants to watch the games themselves, but there are many different competitions. When you do contests, you want people to win. You don’t want to make it difficult and then we bump.

The college experience is also unique with the bands, the cheerleaders, the mascots, all the other festivities. Every year, come December 4th, when we’ve announced the two teams, you’ll incorporate their traditions, their nuances. Although it is a neutral game, we try to include some of the local home team atmosphere for both schools.

Question: Is Wi-Fi important to facilitate social media? Do you and your employees think about it a lot?


We certainly do. I’m not a social media person myself, but I know it’s important in what we do, so I really try to lean on it. What is new? What is different? What is trending with the TikTok perspective? We try to be on all social media to expand our reach.

Q: What about the stadium experience? Do consumers expect more?


I think the consumer is always looking for something new and different. The more local the stadium experience can be, the better. When I travel during the season, it’s fun to see what’s unique and different — Manhattan, Kan., versus Seattle, Wash., versus Stillwater, Okla. We try to help bring it to the level we can. Most of our sponsors are local. It’s good to put the Alamo twist on it.

How do bowl games make money?

Q: What are some examples of how you bring a local flavor? See the article : High school excellence: TN High’s Leonard helps others pursue their passion for cheerleading.


Team Fiesta and Pep Rally are a good example. If you look at bowls and the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl, what comes to mind first? In many cases the parade, right? It’s almost game number two. When you come to San Antonio, do we have a parade? No. It is a parade town and Fiesta has several parades. We use the river as our opportunity to have our own river parade. We put the teams, the cheerleaders, the pep bands on the river barges and they float down.

Q: Your contracts with the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences expire in 2025. Would you consider signing with different conferences?

How do bowl games teams get paid?


We will certainly talk to our current conferences and monitor what is happening with other conferences. This may interest you : Rivals on the field, friends in the stands: fans opposing sides in county clashes. It’s clearly the same with the CFP (or the College Football Playoff, the postseason NCAA tournament whose contract also expires that year). We’ll let the CFP know if there’s an opportunity to possibly be in that mix — whether it’s a New Year’s Six game, whether it’s part of the expanded 12-team playoff, whether it’s hosting a national championship.

Q: I imagine when that time comes, the concern is to keep the Alamo Bowl as prestigious as possible, or elevate it.

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Which bowls pay the most?

ONE:Absolutely. At least we want to maintain the status quo, right? We are like the first elections outside the common fisheries policy. If they don’t open up the system for any of the new bowls to join, at least stay out of it for a bit. Ideally, if we get a chance to move up, we’d like to have those conversations as well. That’s why you’re really speaking to the CFP and to all the conferences just to say, “Hey, what are your thoughts on San Antonio?” Because they have decisions to make as a common fisheries policy, but they also have decisions to make as a conference. I think that at the conferences they also look at: “Where do we want to be? Where do our fans want to go? Where is a good place to recruit?” San Antonio is very appealing on all fronts.Q: Your broadcast contract with ESPN also expires in 2025. Are there alternatives?
ONE: I think you’re always going to deal with your incumbent first, based on the way the contracts are structured. The other thing you have now that we didn’t have when we started is alternatives. You have the traditional network TV. You have traditional cable TV. But now you have Amazon doing Thursday Night Football; you have Apple that got Major League Soccer. We try to see what is happening in the conference landscape. You will see that these conferences make their TV deals. That kind of sets the baseline not only on the market or what these games are worth, but what do they do? Where are things trending? Sometimes people want to step out and be an outlier, try something new and see how it works. Amazon is a good example with the NFL.Q: I am curious about your annual plan. You have a job where you’ve basically focused on planning one event each year.
ONE:We always joke that it’s a one-day-a-year concert. It is well. No one can beat it. But it really is all year round. Our cadence, if you will, is as soon as this game is over, get the thanks out, start talking about the debriefings, finish the fiscal year, change officers in the early spring, and then start the sales processes more or less April 1st Ticket sales, sponsor sales. It starts in earnest in August when we have our Pigskin Preview.Q: Do you find it difficult to enjoy the holidays? I can imagine it’s doubly stressful for you.
ONE: We tell people when they get involved with us, “The good and the bad is that bowl week is always in the holiday season. If Christmas and New Years are critically important to you, you might want to double check.” In our case, it will be just another day. Christmas Day can be a day when you welcome teams to San Antonio and get them set up in their hotels. You can have an event with a team that night. You just build it into your schedule.The following table describes the organization behind each bowl: The entity that sells sponsorships, negotiates the conference affiliations, handles the television contract, markets the game, sells the tickets and writes the checks. It is also the group that can benefit from the game.
How much money do players get from bowl games? Players in the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl will earn more than ever from participating, whether they are on the winning or losing side. The amount this year is $40,000 to enter the game.Do colleges make money from football bowl games? Bowl game payouts are paid out to each participating college football conference, which is then divided up to each school in that conference.What do the teams get for bowl games? The NCAA allows each bowl to award gifts of up to $550 to 125 participants per bowl. school. Schools can, and almost always do, purchase additional packets to distribute to participants beyond the 125 limit.

A conference will receive $4 million for each team that plays in a non-playoff bowl during the event. Each conference whose team participates in a playoff semifinal, Cotton, Fiesta or Peach Bowl, or in the national championship game will receive $2. To see also : College football world reacts to Miami Cheerleader photo.74 million to cover expenses for each game.

Do football players get paid for bowl games? The NFL Pro Bowl may not carry the same weight in terms of what an appearance means to judge a player’s career as it once did, but for the players, it can still be a worthwhile endeavor. Players are paid to participate in the Pro Bowl whether they win or lose.

How much do bowl game sponsors pay? The sponsors of the six major bowl games played on New Year’s Day are in a completely different league. These sponsors pay north of $25M, and depending on TV network arrangements, some brands pay $30-$40M with six-year deals. These title sponsorships are definitely worth the money.

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