The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.
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SOS, Jim McVay Back For More
Posted Dec 26, 2008 by Tom McEwen
Updated Dec 26, 2008 at 11:31 PM
As arranged by bowl exec Jim McVay, the skies were blue and clear, the temperature 81 Friday, the grass alive after a light Christmas night rain, to greet regular guest Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina (7-5) team to celebrate and prepare for their Outback Bowl game at Raymond James Stadium the morning of January First. Their foe, Iowa (8-4), had already landed and was practicing for this solid matchup McVay and Associates had arranged.
This is a good Bowl, the Outback. The sponsors live in Tampa and love it, Chris Sullivan, Bob Basham, Tim Gannon, Paul Avery and that crowd. They will see that it works, again, and it will, strengthened by its climb to number seven of the 34 bowl games in money payout now, by its location in this successful sports market, the weather, experience at this kind of production, this year a warmup preparatory to Super Bowl Forty-Three, and this proud place’s devotion to success.
There just aren’t many bowl games that can match the Outback, except in cash payout, none known with a better, more-experienced exec running it than McVay, who will tell you if you’re doing well, who will raise the money, pay the bills on time, and he himself be on time.
I like him. I like his dad, John, who once ran the New York Giants, and later with San Francisco. I like what he was done with the Outback Bowl in his 21 years at the point, moving it, with plenty of selected help, from the old Hall of Fame and Football Foundation Game born in Birmingham to our great place with help in money and kind (the bowl paid Sun Bank back for its early financing) to emerge today with salaries and goodtimes enough for many that have stayed on from the near-start.
And then, when the Outback Family adopted the Bowl, well, it has thrived more. Even has its own balloon to hover around its events, and even added the sponsorship of a major golf tournament here to their presentations, not to mention the Outback this and the Outback that. And with McVay, they have a producer born in a locker-room who knows the advantages of tying into the Southeastern and the Big Ten Conferences for participants. Now, he is a personal friend of Spurrier (from their old Tampa Bay Bandits days) and Big Teners, like Kirk Ferentz, the Iowa head coach. He also knows what the temperature has been, what the snowfall has been, and how the beaches over in Pinellas will be tomorrow. He’s maintained his ties to Busch Gardens, to Tom Stork at the Aquarium, to the Lightning and Times Forum people there, to block ticket buyers, well, he is simply doing what his dad and long time friends advised. He can be a bit of a crank, if he judges it is time for that. But, generally, Jim McVay works crowds well, slaps the right backs, makes the right decisions.
Over 20 years ago, the Fame Game was unhappy in Birmingham. Tampa got on it quickly. The American Football Foundation, a chapter of the national organization, was here. The late John Adcock was in on it, as were Channel 8’s Bob Sutton, and the late Vince Thornton, Leonard and George Levy, the late Shirley Ryals, McVay, the late Ed Rood, anyone else we could recruit. We went to the New York Football Foundation meetings. McVay and I went to a couple, stayed without cost in a suite of Yankee owner George M. Steinbrenner. We also used his name, car and driver for free. We made points. Van Dratty, who founded Izod, I believe, joined our team.
We staged a couple of American Bowl games first at old Tampa Stadium, created the Lions International American of the Year award. McDonald’s Ray Kroc got the first and came to get it at the half. A movie star got the second and as I remember, had had a couple of drinks before his acceptance stumble.
Not everything went smoothly then, but the game, the event and Tampa’s determination survived, as did what is now the Outback Bowl, McVay and Associates, committee folk, team members and associates have charted throughout those troubled times to its top standing and national representation after all these years.
But, the Outback didn’t just happen. It evolved from the game of a woozy American of the Year, to the fun-filled, colorful, rewarding grand show it will be next week. And, well, Jim McVay stuck with it, with us, with this great place in which we live where Steve “Spearier,” as Shug Jordan used to call him, learned as a player and thrived as Tampa Bay Bandit coach. Now, SOS gets another chance with South Carolina and a Tampa-schooled (Jefferson) trained quarterback, Stephen Garcia in Spurrier’s role at quarterback for Carolina.