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Q&A: Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Seiler, Part II

12/14/2012

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.