Q&A with Chick-fil-A Bowl President Gary Stokan

by - Senior Writer -

TigerNet recently conducted an interview with Chick-fil-A Bowl President and CEO Gary Stokan, and we covered a lot of ground, including the upcoming game between Clemson and Auburn, what Stokan sees as the future of the bowl and what he thinks about the new four-team playoff.

The following is a transcript of that interview.

TN: Tell us your thoughts on the upcoming game between Clemson and Auburn in the Georgia Dome?

GARY STOKAN: We are really excited to host two football games that really matter within a 24-hour span. We have North Carolina St. and Tennessee on Friday. And in the case of Clemson and Auburn, you have two teams that will both probably be ranked in the preseason Top 25, and this is the rubber match of their recent home-and-home meetings. They are two teams with high expectations for this year. When you look at all of the preseason awards lists – like the Rimington or the Mackey or the Davey O’Brien – those award lists are full of Auburn and Clemson players. That is a great game that will play be on Saturday in prime time, a great way to open the college football season.

TN: Talk about the recent announcement of a four-team playoff and where you see your game fitting into the new system.

GS: The little that we know right now leads us to believe that a four-team playoff could have a myriad of possibilities for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. We want to look at our partnership with the Georgia Dome, the Falcons and our sponsors to see if we can elevate our bowl game into one of those six access contract bowls. We also want to be able to use those partnerships we have in the city and the experience we have to bid on the national championship games. We also need to learn more about the championship bowl and see what opportunities are there.

TN: Is that part of keeping the bowl game and the kickoff game relevant in the current climate?

GS: We want to be able to look at the reality of the big games. It becomes more crucial since one of the criteria for the selection of those final four teams includes strength of schedule. Idealistically, those conferences that have moved to a nine-game conference schedule will look at us. Those conferences that have a nine-game conference schedule, their Athletic Directors and coaches have to look at the fact that they have to schedule three non-conference games. One of those three will have to be a tough opponent, and it is more realistic for those AD’s to schedule a one-off game rather than a home-and-home series. Especially when you look at the payouts and all of the other benefits of playing in a game like ours – you have the benefits of recruiting in this area, and it is an opportunity for fans to come to the game and enjoy what we have to offer.

TN: What is the payout based off the current model for the kickoff games?

GS: It varies based on the business model, based on how tickets sell and the sponsorships because all we have are the sponsorships and some local tickets to sell to help make the payouts. But in the past, we have gotten up to $3.2 million per team, which is more than 19 bowl games or something like that. When you have that kind of payout, and you know you don’t have to travel back to someone else’s place to play, you might actually make more than if you played a home game. At least you have the scheduling ability to play a team one time and not have to travel to another field. You have the exposure of national television. And coaches like Les Miles and Nick Saban have told us it makes their off-season workouts more intense because their players are looking forward to playing a good opponent on the national stage. Their kids get excited about that. It is a win-win for the players, the coaches, and the fans. There is no downside.

TN: Clemson already has South Carolina on the schedule each season, and is adding Georgia over the next few years. What are Clemson’s chances for playing in this game in the future?

GS: You look at Clemson, and this year they have Auburn and South Carolina. In the past they have had Alabama and played at Auburn. You have to give Terry Don Phillips, Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
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and Tommy Bowden credit because Clemson has never been afraid to play good teams and play a tough schedule. We have learned from coaches that playing tough games at the beginning of the season helps them throughout the year because they have a baseline they can learn from. AD’s who now have to schedule around nine conference games know that they have five home conference games and four away conference games. They can then schedule two home games and then schedule one big out of conference opponent. What we have on schedule right now is we have Virginia Tech and Alabama in 2013, we have Ole Miss and Boise St. on Thursday in 2014 in primetime and then Alabama and West Virginia on Saturday.

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