Ted Simons: The Fiesta Bowl was awarded the college football championship game. It will be played at University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale. Joining us now, Robert Shelton, Fiesta bowl Executive Director -- with that jacket.
Robert Shelton: I wear it proudly.
Ted Simons: Were you surprised?
Robert Shelton: I'm always surprised. We're thrilled. It was an Arizona effort. We're calling it Arizona 2016. Fiesta Bowl had a lot to do with it but so did the Cardinals, AStA. The governor is on our honorary board, Senator Mccain chairs the board, five mayors signed a letter of support. It really was the whole valley of the sun coming together.
Ted Simons: What did you emphasize in the bid?
Robert Shelton: A number of things. This is the way we delivered our bid. You can see it's a replica of the stadium in Glendale. You can see inside the stadium. So we emphasized the quality of the stadium. Then the field comes out and lo and behold -- you get the bid.
Ted Simons: Yes.
Robert Shelton: We emphasized quality of the facilities. We emphasized the fact that right here you can see three of the seven national championship games that we have hosted. Emphasize the fact that we have done this before. The destination of the valley of the sun. The hospitality of the people, the weather. Then the unified approach among the municipalities, among the CBB.
Ted Simons: What is the bidding process? How do you go about doing this?
Robert Shelton: There's a group called college football playoff, the successor to the BCS. They issued an RFP the bid was due the end of September, so about four weeks. So we have been getting together really since January to prepare for this. We had a heads up.
Ted Simons: As far as the impact on the Arizona economy, talk to us about firm numbers. We always hear different numbers, but we have had some experience in the past. What do those numbers look like?
Robert Shelton: If you look at the past four championship games we’ve hosted here, the collective economic impact by the W.P. Carey school was about $640 million. Safe to say this game in 2016, the economic impact will be around the $200 million Mark. Big number.
Ted Simons: When you made the bid and you talked about United front and the stadium and this nice piece of work here, this artwork, how much did the fact that the Fiesta Bowl had a story to tell, and the story was that it hit rough patches and then came back. How much was that a factor?
Robert Shelton: I think it was critical that we had had enough time to reestablish our reputation. The first step was to get into the new college football playoff with the six games instead of four. That helped restore the sense that the Fiesta Bowl is where you want to play football. The greater Phoenix area is where you want to come as a destination. Then after that, this I think really demonstrates the Fiesta Bowl, not just the Fiesta Bowl but this area for college football all the way back.
Ted Simons: Talk about turning the game, the image of the game, the entire event around.
Robert Shelton: It was a collective effort. I'm the fortunate one that gets to come on your show and be the face, wear this jacket of the Fiesta Bowl but really our board approved new governance structure. We had a new leadership team we were to hire in for the fiesta -- I have incredible staff. We spent a lot of time. I traveled the country visiting with commissioners, with presidents on the BCS presidential oversight group, to demonstrate these changes. I think it's now a model of governance for bowls.
Ted Simons: To get there, though, what was the biggest challenge?
Robert Shelton: I think it was just getting everybody to buy in and getting an acceptance that we had to make a change. The Fiesta Bowl was so successful for so many years and then we hit this trough for reasons we don't need to get into, now we're back in the game. We have a parade to put on. It's going to be fantastic.
Ted Simons: Were there folks who didn't realize how endangered this game was?
Robert Shelton: I think the answer is yes. My board understood it, but I think it was touch and go whether we would first of all be one of the since bowls in the new college playoffs. We had to work hard to make sure we did not lose our coveted elite spot in post-season football.
Ted Simons: You have that spot. Talk about what happens as far as semi-final games.
Robert Shelton: The championship game stands on its own. We don't make money on, this we have to raise money. Come January we're going to go around with our tin cup to raise $13-$14 million. Think super bowl. The other host bowl situation that we're in along with the other five bowls, that's set for a 12 year rotation. Every third year we host a semi. In between we have our regular Fiesta Bowl where the selection committee, not polls, the selection committee will give us two top teams. They will take not only the quality of the teams into account but geography. That means fans won't have to travel as far to see the games.
Ted Simons: Which means a Central Florida might not be in the future as it is now?
Robert Shelton: Or four years ago UConn, three years ago UConn. Central Florida is going to put on a great game but it's harder for fans to come out here.
Ted Simons: How you selling this with Baylor and central Florida.
Robert Shelton: It's a little more difficult sell. Last year when we had Oregon and K-state or Stanford and Oklahoma State, but both teams score. They are both 11-1, the fewest losses of any bowl game except the champ game. It's a first time experience for both of them so we know they will play well. I think we'll be surprised to see how competitive this game is.
Ted Simons: The Buffalo wild wings game, Michigan and Kansas State. That will pretty much take care of itself, don’t you think?
Robert Shelton: The tickets are selling real well. Get your tickets now but particularly for Buffalo wild wings. Michigan has not been out west in a long time.
Ted Simons: The idea of ticket sales, if the Baylor central Florida -- central Florida is having a tough time even moving it among their fans. Does the committee say, we would like to get you another title game after but -- do they look at something like this?
Robert Shelton: I don't think that will be an impact on our winning another title game. That will stand on how well we did these previous seven, how well we do the eighth one in 2016. We're going to knock their socks off not only for the game but for the whole valley of the sun region for the pre-game activities.
Ted Simons: You left the presidency of the University of Arizona to take this on. Was it a good move?
Robert Shelton: A very good move. I hope the Fiesta bowl bosses think that. I'm a native Phoenician. This is near and dear to all of us in Phoenix and in Arizona. I thought if I can lend my contacts, some of my credibility then it's a good thing to do. I think with a lot of help we have shown the Fiesta Bowl is back. Phoenix writ large is a destination for great post-game shows.
Ted Simons: Going to stay a while at the Fiesta Bowl?
Robert Shelton: Hope so. It's up to my bowl board.
Ted Simons: Everyone wants to know where Todd Graham is going to go next.
Robert Shelton: He's a much more visible figure in the valley than I am.
Ted Simons: The turn around the Fiesta Bowl is a major accomplishment. I imagine people look at that and say, ‘This guy has something going here.’
Robert Shelton: I think it is. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Two bowl games, the parade, the Yarnell families serving as the marshals of the parade. There's still a lot to be done.
Ted Simons: Congratulations, again, on winning that game. That's a great boost for the valley and we hope they get a couple more. Love that jacket.
Robert Shelton: We could give you an honorary jacket. You have to promise to wear it.
Ted Simons: Good to see you again.
Robert Shelton: Thanks for having me on the show.