Braving the Outback
Flagler alumnus leads Outback Bowl to success as chairman
By Tom Iacuzio. ‘06
Kevin Smith, ’85, was working as a contract manager for the Tampa Electric Company when he first got involved with local sports. After 26 years in the industry, Smith was recently named chairman of the board for one of Florida’s biggest college sporting events, the Outback Bowl.
Smith got his start in Tampa where he served as a board member for the Tampa Downtown YMCA. After leaving Tampa Electric in 1997, Smith took a job in Pinellas County so develop a model for a sports commission.
“I’ve now been with the St. Petersburg Clearwater Sports Commission for 15 years and have been the director of the organization since 2006,” said Smith, who graduated from Flagler College with a degree in Business Administration.
Under his leadership, the commission created $29 million dollars in economic impact for Pinellas County in 2014 with more than 82,000 visitors coming to the area for sports tourism events.
It was this type of leadership that led him to be selected to the top position of the Outback Bowl, a college football game that is typically played on New Year's Day at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium featuring teams from the South Eastern and Big Ten Conferences. The game has generated an estimated $1 billion in economic impact for the Tampa Bay region over its 25-year history.
“After more than 26 years of working as a volunteer, team selection member and chair, board member and executive committee member, it was an honor to be selected by my peers to be chairman of the board,” said Smith. “It was exciting to be able to represent the game at conference meetings of the SEC and Big Ten as well as the conference championship games.”
Now that this year’s game, which saw the Wisconsin Badgers in a classic overtime win against the Auburn Tigers, is over, Smith says there is still a lot of work to do.
“I will continue to preside as chairman until our annual meeting in June. We have had a great history of being one of the best bowl games because of our obvious location and our history of treating the teams and fans to a great game and hospitality,” said Smith. “We will go back to the drawing board to start preparation for next year’s game and I will lead the selection committee in deciding who will serve on board next year.”
In addition to his Outback Bowl duties, Smith will also continue his work as the chairman of the National Association of Sports Commissions, the governing body for sports commissions across the country.
“I’m working with Olympic Gold Medalist Michele Smith to present to the Confederation of European Baseball and Softball organization in Dublin, Ireland in February. We will be hosting the North American Sailing Championships here as well as two sailing World Championships and Olympic Qualifiers in 2016. And I travel to Brazil again this summer to meet with the Minister of Sports for Sau Paulo for hosting and coordinating sports teams and travel prior to Rio 2016,” said Smith. “So as you can see I stay pretty busy.”
Smith is also one of the founders of the NASC Sports Legacy Fund, which donates equipment to not-for profit organizations that provide individuals, particularly at-risk youth, veterans, or physically or intellectually disabled individuals, opportunities to participate in sport and encourage healthy lifestyles.
But no matter where he goes, or what he does, Smith says he always sees a common thread: Flagler College.
“I find Flagler graduates in a lot of places and many non-graduates who know Flagler and its reputation for academic excellence,” said Smith, who said he works often with Flagler alumni on many local projects.
“The recognition and reputation of Flagler College has been a great asset to my career and business,” said Smith. “It’s good to know we have so many graduates in leadership roles both in sports and tourism.”