EL PASO, Texas – The Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl is more than just a game for those attending, it is a yearlong production put on by the Sun Bowl Associations (SBA) office staff. For them, this is the game that never ends and constantly changes.
Sun Bowl Executive Director, Bernie Olivas, is well known throughout El Paso for his involvement in the community and collegiate sports. He spends this time of year in meetings with all the schools associated with the Sun Bowl and the various host committees during the month following the game. Discussions take place to find out what changes can be made to improve next year’s game.
“Bowl meetings start now, not just our bowl, but all the bowl. We go over what went well with all the bowls and what went wrong with all the bowls. We try to make the bowl experience for the players the best there is,” said Olivas.
For Olivas, the game never ends. Throughout the years, there have been many changes in college football, collegiate sports, and El Paso, and Olivas has found ways to adjust as needed. “You’d think that after 24 years, that all of this would be routine. It’s different every year. I think that’s what makes it fun for me. It doesn’t get boring. No matter how many years you do the events, it’s never the same.”
With a schedule as busy as Mr. Olivas’, an Executive Assistant like Monika (Moni) Acosta is much appreciated. In addition to joining Olivas in his meetings, Acosta’s main tasks during bowl season include the handling of the mascot Tony the Tiger. Acosta is also in charge of coordinating the Sun Court’s schedule during the months of August through January.
The 2022 game was Acosta’s first year as a full-time employee with the SBA, although she had spent some time interning with the association in the years prior.
Acosta said, “This was my very first one. [Sun Bowl game she’s worked] I started during the pandemic and helped with different kind of canceled events when I was interning. I finished right before the 2021 Sun Bowl.”
Because of her experience as an intern, she was able to hit the ground running and adjusted to the quick pace of the bowl game quickly.
Sun Bowl Marketing Director, Jay Pritchard spends his year coordinating marketing deals and sponsorships in preparation for the game. Throughout the year, he makes sure the image and the name of the bowl is shared.
On game day, Pritchard enjoys watching everything fall into place. “You have to be on your toes but if you have a good game plan going in, a good timeline, and have everything laid out the way you anticipate it, it makes it easier to adjust when random things come up.”
Pritchard’s bowl season ends about a month following the game. He’s tasked with making sure sponsorship agreements get fulfilled and immediately follows with starting on next year’s image.
Special Events Director Joe Daubach runs and coordinates the Glasheen, Valles, and Inderman Injury Lawyers Sun Bowl Parade. He also ensures the filed paint is removed and repainted for UTEP. When speaking of organizing the parade, Daubach is appreciative of all the connections he’s made in the community throughout the years.
“The coolest part of my job is working with so many people,” Daubach said, “They’re more than just volunteers. They’re friends and family.”
Ticket Manager Ellen Hughes who has been working at the Sun Bowl for 31 years. She has made many connections with reoccurring ticket buyers over the years, and many have mentioned that her service is second to none.
Hughes said, “When it’s all done, it’s so great to walk out there and look at it all. I love that feeling of going, once the stadiums fill, looking out and thinking, ‘Wow, you’ve touched almost every ticket here.’”
Hughes pace of work changes drastically after the game in comparison to the month before. With her bowl season officially ending about a month later as she finishes off with reports.
While Hughes spends her time with plenty of contact with customers and the public, Media Relations Director Eddie Morelos is the main source of contact between the Sun Bowl and the media—local, regional, and national.
Morelos spends his time before the game coordinating press conferences and ensuring all media outlets know where to report and how to get information regarding the game. For Morelos, what made the 2022 Sun Bowl stand out from the rest was the game itself.
“The ending was spectacular. It really wrapped things up and put a bow on it for us,” Morelos said.
Post-game is spent handling statistic corrections from the game as well as collecting a media survey that would help with improving their services for next year’s game. Overall, Morelos favorite par working with the SBA, other than the game, is working with interns throughout the year.
Unlike the rest of the office, the month following the game is Financial Manager Pam Carter’s time to shine. January is her busiest time of the year, her “game day”. Financially, Carter is the primary contact between the SBA and the teams who participate in the game, as well as vendors.
Carter has been employed with the SBA for 19 years and is still impressed by the amazing event that she gets to help on every year.
Carter said, “The organization is well known throughout the community, the camaraderie that we all have, and how much we rely on each other to get things done. That’s what’s crazy, seven people with hundreds of volunteers putting on a bowl game. It’s impressive!”
She further added, “85% of our support and ticket holders is out community. So, this is truly a game for our community.”
The Sun Bowl is the second oldest bowl game in the county and has outlasted so many other bowl games due to the hard work that the staff, volunteers and committee do in the organization. Like Bernie Olivas always says, “We have one of the best staffs in the bowl business.”
Sun Bowl Association
4150 Pinnacle Street
El Paso, Texas 79902