NCF Nation: Seiler-QA

Here's the second part of our conversation with Jack Seiler. For the first part, click here.

What's this experience like for you as a Notre Dame graduate?

Jack Seiler: It's been awesome. Obviously I'm a huge college football fan, and obviously having gone to Notre Dame, love the University of Notre Dame. I love not only its football program, but I just love the whole university and what it stands for. It's one of those places that's just special. My oldest daughter's there now. It is a unique university from the standpoint of the athletics, the academics, the social, the spiritual. The whole combination of factors. And not one is more important than others. That really hit home with me. When you see them doing well it's exciting. But again, Alabama, what a program. It also fires you up. I remember as a kid watching Major Ogilvie and Ken Stabler and all those guys, Richard Todd. I was at the Notre Dame-Alabama game in the Orange Bowl in '75 with my grandfather, so I saw that game. I was at the Notre Dame-Alabama game in Birmingham in '86. It was the one where Alabama won. I was in law school at the University of Miami, went to the game with my brother-in-law, and now a guy who's my law partner, too. He's an Alabama graduate. So, it's fantastic.

Being the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, it's great to be able to host any college football team, whether it's Notre Dame-Alabama or Northern Illinois-Florida State, it's such an awesome experience. It makes you feel good about what's happening in college athletics when you get these coaches and teams down here and you realize the few stories you hear about an occasional bad apple is not the norm. And the norm is the 100 kids you meet coming off a plane that are, "Thank you, sir" and "Thank you, ma'am" and "Yes, sir" and "No, ma'am." Very appreciative, very respectful, very impressive. You wonder how they balance their lives the way they do. You realize these coaches, 99 percent of the coaches you meet, you understand why they're coaching where they're coaching, because they're successful people. The other thing you realize is, I would entrust my son to these guys. They're quality people, and that's what you like to see.

Even for Northern Illinois, this is going to be their first experience. We're going to make it a great one. We're going to make sure when these guys leave here they're going to say, "That's what it means to go to a BCS bowl game. That's what it means to finally hit the big time." And our goal is that when Northern Illinois leaves town, because we've got Northern Illinois-Florida State that first week, that's the Orange Bowl classic, that's as big a game to them as any game. We treat it the same way, that's the Orange Bowl classic. We'll put Northern Illinois and Florida State on their planes, and like I said, rush home, jump in the shower and head back out to the airport to greet Notre Dame and Alabama. Our goal is just to make it an awesome experience for everybody involved in the process, whether you're a coach, a student-athlete or a fan. We know if we wow people this week, when they're talking about their next family vacation, they're coming back to Fort Lauderdale.

How often do you get back to Notre Dame for games?

JS: This year I did four games. This will be my fifth game, so I'd say I probably do three to four games a year. Usually two to three on campus, and then if they're playing anywhere that's convenient. Because of my role with the Orange Bowl, I'm involved with all the BCS stuff and working with the ACC, too, and the Big East. Obviously I don't travel every weekend -- I would be divorced. The nice thing about Notre Dame now with my daughter there is it's like getting a hall pass. I tell my wife, "Well, I'm not really going to see a college football game and I'm not going back to hang out with my college roommates, I'm going to see my daughter. In fact, honey, I'm going to see your daughter." And it works very well.

When did the possibility of Notre Dame getting to this game really start to enter your mind?

JS: The Oklahoma game was the first time for me. Before the Oklahoma game I thought this was a good team; I thought it was a team that, if all things went well, could get to maybe double-digit wins at the end of the year. But that Oklahoma game, to go down there in a very hostile environment, a double-digit underdog, and to play the way they played, that was sort of the game that I kind of went, "wow." We have a committee on the Orange Bowl that's called strategic relations. There's three of us that work in the BCS for the future of the BCS, and the other guy that heads that up with me is an Oklahoma graduate. So leading up to that game he and I had a lot of back and forth, friendly rivalry stuff. But obviously you can imagine with a committee of football fans that's always a fun experience any time your teams play each other. So we were going back and forth, and after getting his emails and his texts, I'm thinking, "Man, that Oklahoma team really is awful good." And then when they went down there and did what they did down in Norman, I said this team's really got the potential to do something special. And then they came back the following week and almost stumbled.

But I think it was the Oklahoma game that kind of had me thinking, "Geez, we can actually host these guys in the Orange Bowl." I can't say that any time before that game I was even thinking that big. And then I was out at USC and obviously when they won that game I knew they were coming. But I went out to USC with the thought that, "All right, we're going to be hosting these guys. So let's make sure we cover all the bases in terms of who we need to work with and deal with."

I've got to ask you this before I let you go: Prediction?

JS: Well, let me say this: As a member of the Orange Bowl committee, I'm going to withhold a prediction, because we are not in the business of making predictions, we're just about making great experiences. But I'll probably be wearing a religious medal at some point during the game.
When Jack Seiler got on stage to speak during Notre Dame's football awards show last Friday, he said he saw room for one more trophy. Seiler will be there in South Florida when the Irish face Alabama in the Jan. 7 national title game. As a member of the Orange Bowl committee, it's kind of his job.

Seiler is the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, and he is a Notre Dame graduate, too. caught up with Seiler this week to hear his thoughts on hosting the national title game, along with his personal ties.

Here is the first part of the conversation, with part two coming later this afternoon.

I know your grandfather, Ernie, helped found the Orange Bowl. When did you first join the committee, and what do you aim to do with this event every year?

Jack Seiler: In '32 and '33 they founded the Palm Festival, and then in '34 it became the Orange Bowl. Back in '32 when they did it, the intent was to create a year-end bowl that would bring tourists to South Florida, bring a lot of excitement. And I guess it worked out OK for them. I'm in my 19th year on the Orange Bowl committee and I've probably spent more than half of that now on the board of directors. But the real goal hasn't changed. Obviously with the college football game we still want to create a great bowl game, a great bowl game experience, and bring tourism and attention to South Florida, so that hasn't really changed. And we've been very successful doing that. But now we've expanded into 30-some events. It is a way for those of us on the Orange Bowl committee to give back to the community. Not only bring tourism to the community, but to try to help the community, enrich the community, and I've been very lucky. We've had great success. We've had the most national championship games, as I think you probably know, we've had the most Heisman Trophy winners. So we've had a pretty good string of success as the Orange Bowl. We've just got to keep that going. Now we're on the verge of a new BCS rotation and we'll see how that plays out. But for us to be able to culminate this season with probably one of the greatest matchups in college football bowl history is fantastic.

How have the efforts been amped up in years like this one, when you host two games?

JS: I'll tell you what: It's a really, really busy time. That's all I can say. I've double-hosted now a couple of times, and it's an extremely busy but rewarding time. It's great for the community. It literally doesn't give the community a chance to catch their breath. You've got the college experience in town. You know how game day is on any college campus, so in essence we created a game week in South Florida, and you have it on really two fronts: Both teams and the game, and all of a sudden they play the game and you put them on a plane the next morning and about five hours later, you're rushing back out to the airport to meet the next group coming in. And the crazy thing coming in is we wear these Orange Bowl jackets for every single activity. It's been our tradition. And by the end of the two weeks that thing will stand up on its own. It's amazing. That thing goes to the dry cleaner and you just feel bad for the dry cleaner.

Can you estimate the potential financial benefits from the two games this year, especially with the title game featuring two of the most rabid fan bases in college football?

JS: The overall economic impact on South Florida on a double-hosting will be between $200 and $300 million. And remember, we've hosted Super Bowls, we have the world's largest boat show in Fort Lauderdale -- this is what we do. This is what we do very well. We host people. We bring visitors in. We bring guests in. We not only make sure they have a great time while they're here, we want to encourage them to come back and bring more family and friends with them. It's something we're very accustomed to doing, and I think we do it pretty well. The last time we had this BCS I think the estimated economic impact was around $200 million. Last time we had Florida and Oklahoma, and so you had at least a local school. Now you've got two basic national programs from out of state, two of the most legendary college football programs around. Great traditions, great history and great football teams.

If you're a college football fan -- I'm a huge college football fan -- you love this matchup, because you can think of 10 different ways that Notre Dame can't win, then 10 that Alabama can't win this game. And it's great for talk shows, it's great even in the community, when you're at the coffee shop or at the supermarket you're hearing people saying, 'I don't know if Alabama can score on that Notre Dame defense.' And you hear other people are saying, 'I'm not sure that Notre Dame defensive line can withstand the onslaught of the Alabama offensive line,' and you just realize there are so many great players and great matchups and great coaches. Two legendary coaches already. Both these guys have great records and obviously Nick Saban was here in the community when he coached the Dolphins, so that's a little bit of a storyline.