Volunteers make Tempe bowl games possible

Monday, December 27, 2010 | 7:09 p.m. CST; updated 9:53 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – For the thousands of people who watch in person and the millions who tune in on ESPN, the four hours it takes for Missouri to play Iowa in the Insight Bowl will be all they remember of the event.

What the vast majority of fans don’t get to see is the massive amount of preparation that goes into hosting Tuesday's game.

2010 Insight Bowl

Missouri (10-2, 6-2 Big 12)
vs. Iowa (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten)

WHEN: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
KTGR/1580 AM

This year, Tempe, Ariz., is hosting three bowl games: the Insight Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl and the national championship. The football games set to take place this week are a tiny fraction of everything else that surrounds the bowl games.

“We have a very small staff, probably about 35 full-time people,” said Andy Bagnato, Fiesta Bowl Director of Public Relations. “Those are year-round jobs. A lot of people like to say, ‘What do you do year round at a bowl? You only have three games.’”

The bowl committee hosts more than 40 events across Arizona throughout the year. There is a seven-on-seven flag football tournament for high school students, a volleyball tournament at Northern Arizona University and a basketball game the University of Arizona to name a few.

“Throughout the year we’ve got things going on all the time,” Bagnato said. “The football games are probably the most notable thing we do. Our mission is to do year-round community based organization events.”

But it takes far more than 35 employees to make all of that possible. Fortunately, between 2,500 and 3,000 Arizona residents volunteer their time to work for the bowls.

“The volunteers are the ones who really do the work,” Bagnato said. “We grew up at a volunteer organization, 40 years in Phoenix now as the Fiesta Bowl, 22 as the Insight Bowl. Without the volunteers this couldn’t happen.”

Volunteering for the bowl games is something that Bagnato said people truly enjoy doing.

“They’re doing this because they love college football,” he said. “They want to be a part of something that’s really fun and really just a very important thing for the state of Arizona economically, too.”

Bagnato said most of the volunteers work year round, but during the bowl season is when they are most essential.

“Almost all of them are employed and engaged now during the bowl game,” Bagnato said. “You get on a shuttle bus at the airport, that’s going to be volunteer driver. You’re looking for directions or tips for dinner, that’s going to be a volunteer. Down on the field we need to take somebody out for the coin toss, volunteer.

“They’re an intricate part of the machinery. Without them we wouldn’t be able to put this on.”

Judging by the way Missouri junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert described the hospitality, the volunteers have made the machine run smoothly.

“The Insight Bowl has done a tremendous job,” he said. “This is the best bowl we’ve ever been to. They’ve done everything first class.”

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