Fiesta Bowl kicks off a season of college football and charitable giving

The start of college football is right around the corner. Last month, hundreds of Arizonans gathered at the sixth annual Fiesta Bowl Kickoff Luncheon to celebrate the upcoming season.

Celebrating Football:

According to the Fiesta Bowl organization, “every year, college football fans in the Valley of the Sun look forward to the Fiesta Bowl Kickoff Luncheon to get ready for the season ahead.”

The luncheon attracts football fans and local charities with presentations from some of the biggest names in college football. This year legendary University of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, was the keynote speaker.

“The beginning here of football season is [the] absolute best,” Stoops said. “It’s an exciting time of the year. Everybody anticipating how their teams are going to do.”

Stoops shared how he inspired his athletes to become the best version of themselves.

“Fight for it, always. Being tough means being able to handle being uncomfortable,” he said. “No one wants to be uncomfortable. Everybody wants it all to be good and easy, well, that just isn’t it. You’ve got to fight for stuff. I tell my players all the time, you get out in life, you have to learn to fight for whatever it is that you want.”

Stoops retired after 18 seasons with Oklahoma, so the beginning of a new season is bittersweet for him.

“I used to be so excited this week, school started, [football’s] getting close. Now I don’t get to do it,” he shared. “Honestly, everyone asks me how I’m doing. It’s different, I knew it would be different. It’s drastically different. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad. I get that. I anticipated all of it. I’m in a great place.”

Charitable Impact:

“It’s also important to remember that the Fiesta Bowl is not just about two football games. We have a year-round slate of events geared towards building funds that we use to give back to the community,” Mike Nealy, Fiesta Bowl Executive Director, explained.  

According to Fiesta Bowl Charities, it has the most charitable giving of any college bowl organization. Over the last eight years the organization has given $12.5 million to charities that are involved with youth, education, or supporting sports.

“The Fiesta Bowl is about more than football. Football’s really important, football’s why we are here in this room,” Steve Leach, 2018-19 Fiesta Bowl Chairman of the Board, said. “The thing that really excites us – or one of the things beyond football – is the impact that we, as a family, can have on our community.”

One of the programs Fiesta Bowl Charities is passionate about is Wishes for Teachers.

“We invite teachers across the state to submit a wish. What would you do to your classroom? How would you impact your kids/students directly if you got $5,000?” Leach said. “[We pick] names out of the hat and then we give them that $5,000. It has an amazing impact in our education system.”

According to Leach, Fiesta Bowl Charities has committed to matching up to $500,000 in donations to the Wishes for Teachers program.

Fiesta Bowl Charities has also teamed up with Kadima.Ventures to bring STEAM-activities to classrooms around the state.

“The money is going to impact kids. One of our biggest missions is fixing that classroom,” Tim Wales, Kadima.Ventures CEO said. “The more we focus and put money to influence and encourage those kids to grow up and make a difference in the world now, the better this world will hopefully turn out.”

Fiesta Bowl Charities is the most charitable bowl organization thanks to profits from year-round events such as its Youth Football Clinic, Par-3 Challenge, Cheez-It Bowl, Fiesta Bowl Parade, and more.

For a full list of Fiesta Bowl events,click here.

Helping Arizona’s Economy:

Additionally, the Fiesta Bowl is proud of the huge economic impact its bowls have created in Arizona.

According to the organization, on average the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl and Cheez-It Bowl draw about 60,000 visitors to the state every year.

Over the last 12 years the two games have generated roughly $2.75 billion in economic impact.  Nealy announced that the economic benefits will continue into the future with the extension of college football playoffs.

“For an additional six years we’re going to be in the playoff business here [by] hosting a couple more semi-final mashups,” Nealy said. “Hosting these games really brings a lot of value, of course. The impact to the state has been, just in the last four years during the playoff system, it has been almost a billion dollars. A billion, with a B, dollars of economic impact to our Valley and to our state of Arizona. That’s an important part of the Fiesta Bowl’s mission.”

The first games of the 2018 college football season kicked off Saturday, Aug. 25th.

Emily Richardson

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