In 1971, nine local business leaders gained approval from the NCAA on the idea of an Arizona-based college football bowl game to enhance the stature of the state. Today, that game is the iconic Vrbo Fiesta Bowl. This year, the game will take place on Saturday, December 31, 2022, at State Farm Stadium and serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal Game. The winner will go on to the College Football Playoff National Championship on January 9, 2023.
Beyond the actual game, however, the Fiesta Bowl Organization is also a local nonprofit made up of more than 3,000 businesses and civic leaders that – through the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, Guaranteed Rate Bowl and its year-round events such as the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe – provide critical funds to charitable organizations across Arizona that positively impact through youth, sports and education.
Today, we sit down to talk Bowl memories and impact with Davina Seville, a member of the Fiesta Bowl Yellow Jacket Committee and outside sales representative with Noble Tile Supply. She began as a Fiesta Bowl volunteer in 2013, earned her iconic Yellow Jacket in 2017 and was named the George Leonard Rookie of the Year Award winner in 2018 for her dedicated work.
AZ Big Media: First, what is the Yellow Jacket Committee, and why the bold color choice?
Davina Seville: Our Yellow Jacket Committee is a team of community leaders who dedicate ourselves in working with sponsors, volunteers, staff, and the Board of Directors to support the Fiesta Bowl and other events.
And the yellow?
Pairing a particular color with a college bowl game predates the Fiesta Bowl. Representatives from various bowls visited universities to entice teams to consider coming to their city or town for the Bowl game and accompanying festivities. It was not long before representatives realized they needed to stand out from other visitors, schools and even other Bowls. So the standard blue or black blazer simply wouldn’t work. Enter red blazers for Rose Bowl representatives, blue blazers for Sugar Bowl representatives, green blazers for Cotton Bowl representatives and so on. Even orange, which could represent our glorious sunshine, was already taken…by the Orange Bowl! So we went with Yellow, to be noticed as a relative newcomer to the Bowl system, as much as its connection to our amazing sunny weather.
AZ Big Media: What has been your favorite Fiesta Bowl game to date?
Davina Seville: For me, it will be hard to ever top the 2014 where the University of Central Florida defeated Baylor, who were projected to win by more than two touchdowns. The game became the biggest underdog victory in Bowl Championship Series (BCS) history. The final score was 52-42, so from start to finish, it was a wild, high-scoring ride.
AZ Big Media: Any memorable moments while working the Fiesta Bowl game itself?
Seville: It was also in 2014! That year, Tony Award winner Ben Vereen was set to sing the National Anthem, and he stopped in the VIP suite I was hosting for a spot of tea. I’ve never been so excited to fill a glass in my life. And his rendition? It was perfection.
AZ Big Media: Have you held any leadership roles within the Fiesta Bowl to date, and if several, what was your favorite?
Seville: I had the honor of being chair for the Fiesta Bowl Parade Grand Marshal Breakfast in 2019, during which we recognized five female sports icons with Arizona ties in Special Olympics golfer Amy Bockerstette, U.S. Women’s Soccer standouts Julie Ertz and Jessica McDonald, U.S. Paralympic gold medalist Allysa Seely and arguably the greatest women’s basketball player of all time Diana Taurasi. A mix of world champions, Olympic gold medalists and trailblazers, and together they served as our Grand Marshals that year, which still gives me chills.
AZ Big Media: Why is volunteering as a Yellow Jacket so important to you?
Seville: Volunteering gets me out of my box, and I get to see firsthand how the money we raise goes directly back to our community. When things are good for us, we need to make them better for others, and volunteering allows me to do that. My life is more fulfilled and enriched by volunteering, and I know for a fact that we are making a difference and making this world a better place.
AZ Big Media: Let’s talk about some of the impact the Fiesta Bowl makes in the community. Tell us about one of its key programs.
Seville: One of our biggest programs – the Palo Verde Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers Draft Day Presented by SRP – took place just yesterday on Nov. 3, 2022. The event awarded 400 Arizona teachers with a $2,500 grant each, totaling $1 million in giving in one day. Created in 2016, the Palo Verde Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program grants classroom wishes to teachers across the state of Arizona.
The Fiesta Bowl Organization saw that many teachers spent their own money to enhance their classroom experience and developed a program to aid teachers in that effort. To support, celebrate and honor Arizona educators, teachers were invited to fill out an online application detailing their school and classroom wish. Wishes were granted by a random drawing. All wish recipients become part of the Fiesta Bowl family and can participate in community events throughout the year. In its seven years, Wishes for Teachers has granted over $5.7 million to more than 1,600 Arizona teachers, impacting 500,000+ students across the state.
AZ Big Media: Tell us something interesting about you outside of work and your Fiesta Bowl role?
Seville: I perform Flamenco dancing and play the saxophone, flute, piccolo and oboe. And I collect Wonder Woman souvenirs.