ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cotton Bowl is about the people.
Without them, it's not possible, officials say. The hundreds of staff members and volunteers. The players, the coaches, the sponsors. Each one gets an introduction or recognition of some sort throughout the week. Staffers are recognized at the Big Play Luncheon in the vast ballroom at the Gaylord Texan Hotel. Players are treated like royalty, getting tickets to Cowboys games, a luxurious hospitality room at the downtown Hilton Hotel, and a collection of gifts ranging from watches and T-shirts to an iPad mini or Apple TV.
The Cotton Bowl is thrilled to have Missouri and Oklahoma State in town, and it wants both groups of players, coaches and families to know it.
"The hospitality here is second to none," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.
But while it has your attention, the Cotton Bowl would like to remind you how it became such a high-profile stage for college football.
The Cotton Bowl is about the history. The original Cotton Bowl Stadium is like a graveyard on the day of the 2014 Cotton Bowl. The stadium is empty, locked up. The grass on the field is fading. But this was the site of dozens of chapters of Cotton Bowl history.
No bowl game can match the Cotton Bowl's Hall of Fame. Along the concourse in the vacant stadium, banners commemorating the best players to ever play in the game line the walls. Joe Montana, Bobby Layne, Doak Walker. Those are just a few of the the people who made the game what it is.
In 2008, the Cotton Bowl relocated and left the history behind. The 2010 Cotton Bowl Classic was the first to be played in the new Cowboys Stadium, a massive structure with a scoreboard that captures the attention of everyone who walks in. Players, coaches and fans can't help but be drawn to it.
"It's so pretty," Missouri guard Max Copeland said when he first got a look at it.
Highlights of historic Cotton Bowl moments played on loop over the 159-foot-long screen that hovers over the playing surface. While the old Cotton Bowl stands as more of a historic monument with hardly a soul around, just 20 miles west, Cowboys Stadium was buzzing with people hours before kickoff. More people, more sponsors and more eyes on the television with a primetime kickoff on Fox. It's obvious why Cowboys Stadium was chosen as one of the rotating locations for the college football playoffs beginning in 2015.
"It's not about the money; it's about the money," Cotton Bowl Team Selection Chairman Fin Ewing joked before news conferences Thursday.
When it comes down to it, the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic is about the bottom line. The 70,000 plus in attendance and thousands more watching at home are who drive everything. In an ideal world, everyone would be able to watch the Cotton Bowl and money wouldn't be an issue.
"We don't live in an ideal world," ESPN Radio broadcaster Brad Sham said at the Big Play Luncheon on Thursday. "If we don't have AT&T, we can't do all of this."
So welcome to the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, Missouri. Welcome, Oklahoma State. Don't be alarmed by the scoreboard or the sponsors around every corner. Try not to think about the amount of eyes on you Friday night. Another chapter of Cotton Bowl history will be written on Friday night. For one team, the Cotton Bowl will be about finishing an already successful season on a high note. For the other team, the Cotton Bowl will be about disappointment.
Which team will be which? You have to tune in to find out. That's what the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic is all about.