Gator Bowl builds female presence with new initiative

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Gator Bowl Sports introduced a new and unique initiative this year that focuses on getting its female members more involved and connected.

The “Bowl’d Ladies” initiative included a pair of informational and networking events, the second of these was called College Football 102 and was held Nov. 4 at Embassy Suites on Baymeadows Road in Jacksonville.

The first meeting was held at the beginning of the season at Epping Forest in Jacksonville and was called College Football 101.

Susan Hamilton was the first female chair of the Gator Bowl, serving in 2002 in preparation for the matchup between Notre Dame and North Carolina State on New Year’s Day 2003, and she was on hand to take part in the event.

“I’m thrilled with this, because back then we would have about eight to 10 women at Gator Bowl events and there were no special events for women,” Hamilton said. “But now we’re doing a really good job of marketing to women and nowadays the women are so much more savvy when it comes to football. It is so wonderful to see how it has grown and developed.”

Gator Bowl President and CEO Greg McGarity spoke to those in attendance about the bowl’s selection process and took a deep dive into what goes into the final decision and what it considered before the bowl’s matchup is created.

“This is all part of a new initiative to get women engaged in the Gator Bowl,” McGarity said. “It’s an effort to educate while having fun and fellowship at the same time.”

According to McGarity, Gator Bowl sports has much more to offer throughout the year than just the game itself.

“I think a lot of people think it’s just a football game, but as they get more involved, they find out pretty quickly that it’s just one part of our organization,” McGarity said. “The charity side of things is what I think really attracts people.”

Gator Bowl Charities emphasizes supporting the development of youth on the First Coast through memorable sports experiences focusing on education, leadership and service.

Other Gator Bowl Sports programs also include awarding scholarships to local high school students and the “Little Gator Bowl,” which gives local Pop Warner teams the opportunity to play games on the big stage at TIAA Bank Field.

The idea behind the creation of Bowl’d Ladies was Sara Leutzinger Pomposo.

“We were at a green jacket (members) meeting last year and looking around the room, we noticed that there were a lot of women, and more than normal,” Leutzinger Pomposo said. “That sparked the idea that we should try to get even more involved with the Gator Bowl and all that surrounds it.”

Bowl games and poll rankings are two things very unique to college football compared to the NFL, which is a common feedback Leutzinger Pomposo has received from women following the event.

“Just because you might know a lot about NFL football, does not mean that you may know everything about college football,” Leutzinger Pomposo said. “It’s really about bringing all that together, so that we can do some real good in the community.”

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