PARRISH ALFORD: Cotton Bowl deserves its spot in rotation

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

Local news has been hopping lately. Word that the first college football championship game of the new four-team playoff format will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, may have escaped you.
It registered on my radar, because I know of the mission that’s consumed the folks who run the Cotton Bowl, which will be in the championship semifinal rotation, since their game dropped below elite status.
For the formative years of myself and many others the Cotton Bowl was one of the big New Year’s Day games when that used to mean something.
When several factors – the breakup of the Southwest Conference, an aging stadium and unpredictable Dallas weather among them – conspired to leave the Cotton Bowl out of the rotation of the top-tier bowls, organizers refused to let others define their product.
In essence, they provided Major League quality at the Double-A level.
In the BCS Era, a Mississippi team has played in the Cotton Bowl four times, and I’ve covered all four.
In 20 years with “Daily Journal” in my byline, I’ve covered a lot of events. Others do not compare, and I don’t make this statement lightly.
How I score an event may differ from many others who might post similar grades. Media services are pretty important. Covering a bowl game is not just a four-hour day. It’s several days or a week of work. With blogs and social media the volume of coverage has exploded.
southern hospitality
In the South we have made hospitality a business. Combine grace and charm with customer service and efficiency, and there’s money to be made.
There’s hospitality in Texas too, and the Cotton Bowl is the flagship.
We often write about bowl game food and parties, entertainment and gifts for players and coaches.
The Cotton Bowl extends that hospitality to its covering media – then further extends it to families of media.
Media hospitality has no impact on ticket-buying fans and is not what makes the bowl great. It’s a window, though, into how the staff handles its other business.
The staff-produced quote sheets, stats and daily news are first rate. Attention to detail and problem-solving are impressive. Fires are quickly extinguished. If the answer to a question is “I don’t know,” it’s followed by “I’ll find out.”
With the number of players and coaches at press conferences you could just about cover the whole week without leaving the media hotel. (Note to sports editor John L. Pitts: I never actually did that.)
While a second-tier bowl the Cotton Bowl ran itself as a top-tier event. When it moved to Cowboys Stadium with the Ole Miss-Oklahoma State game in January 2010, it needed only the climate of change.
That has come.
The Cotton Bowl will be a success as the championship semifinals host, because it never stopped being successful.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.