Fiesta Bowl Friday with Randal Norton
For the past seven weeks leading up to the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl – which is set for Saturday, December 31 at State Farm Stadium and will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal Game – AZ Big Media sat down with a member of the Fiesta Bowl family every Friday to shine a light on the event itself but also all the ways that the organization drives economic growth and champions charitable causes, inspiring pride in all Arizonans during and outside of college football Bowl Season. Today, just a day out from the big game, we sit down with our friend Randal Norton, chairman of the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl and lead client service partner and regional managing director with Deloitte, LLP.
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For those who may not know, who is playing this weekend, and what are the stakes?
Randal Norton: The 2022 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl will feature the first-ever meeting between No. 3 TCU and No. 2 Michigan on Saturday, December 31, 2022, at State Farm Stadium. Kickoff for the semifinal in Glendale will be at 2 p.m. MST and will be broadcast live on ESPN. With a trip to the CFP National Championship on the line, each team will make just its second Fiesta Bowl appearance in program history. Michigan is making its first appearance at the Fiesta Bowl since a 27-23 victory over Nebraska in 1986 when current Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was the team’s quarterback, while TCU will be looking for its first Fiesta Bowl victory following a narrow 17-10 loss to Boise State in 2010.
What drew you to the Fiesta Bowl?
Norton: Once I was a bit established in my career in the early 2000s, I began to get involved in the community, initially by coaching basketball at The Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix and serving on its board. In 2001, a friend encouraged me to look into the Fiesta Bowl. I was familiar with the game but was inspired to learn that it is also a local organization made up of more than 3,000 business 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 support to the community. By 2002, I joined the organization’s Yellow Jacket Committee.
Tell us a little about your journey on the Fiesta Bowl the past 20 years?
Norton: For my first decade with the organization, I served in several leadership roles within the Committee, eventually being named to the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors in 2015. Earlier this year, I was honored to be named the Fiesta Bowl Board Chair for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons. In this role, I oversee the governance of the Board and help lead and promote the nonprofit organization, its prominent role in college football and its extensive community efforts.
Your announcement as chairman is just one of the big moves the Fiesta Bowl made this year. Tell us about your other big announcement from recent months?
Norton: In November, seasoned sports executive and business leader Erik Moses joined the Fiesta Bowl as executive director and chief executive officer. Moses comes to Arizona with a proven track record as an attorney, entrepreneur, economic development professional and chief executive. His professional experiences reflect the goals of the Fiesta Bowl Organization, delivering innovative and new experiences for college football fans and sports fans. Moses played an integral part in creating, operationalizing, and hosting the Military Bowl and AT&T Nations Football Classic. During his tenure in the Nation’s Capital, Moses delivered unprecedented corporate partnerships initiatives throughout the Washington, DC community, helped establish a professional football team into one of the league’s top organizations in ticket sales, enabled unique gameday experiences and access, and created extensive social media engagement. In Nashville, he very quickly revived and repositioned a dormant racetrack into a world-class event venue to host NASCAR’s top series for the first time in nearly 40 years.
We’ve heard some amazing stories throughout this Fiesta Bowl Friday series about the organizations you impact; can you pull those together and show some overarching impact?
Norton: The Fiesta Bowl’s charitable efforts are many, including:
• The Palo Verde Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program, which in November provided $2,500 awards to 400 teachers for a total of $1 million in giving.
• KABOOM! Playground Builds, through which volunteers from the Fiesta Bowl and KABOOM! come together with community partners to build playgrounds and multi-purpose sport courts from the ground up for areas in need.
• The Arizona Milk Producers Youth Football Clinic, a free clinic that teaches fundamentals while building confidence, a strong work ethic and providing motivation that will help kids succeed on and off the field.
8 More than $3 million annually in charitable giving to nonprofit organizations around the state of Arizona who serve youth, sports, and education.
In addition, each year the Fiesta Bowl awards grants to nonprofits statewide that provide services within our core pillars of youth, sports, and education. This year, we were able to award grants to 40 organizations, positively impacting more than 1 million Arizonans.