– Written by Andy Shultz
The Drake family’s association with the Fiesta Bowl can be traced back three generations, to a time when three networks dominated television (before there was cable), sportswriters used typewriters to write stories and the best way to capture your local college football team was on the AM/FM radio dial.
Dr. Jackson Drake, a renowned educator who taught school administration at Arizona State University, became involved with the Fiesta Bowl Committee in the early 1980s, the first of four family members to serve the Fiesta Bowl.
“Dad knew Dr. Morrison Warren (1981 Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors Chairman) from the university,” said Rob Drake, son of Dr. Drake. “They would attend various functions together and Dr. Warren said to my dad one day that he should join the committee. When my dad asked about the benefit, Dr. Warren said you would be able to be on this side of the fence for all our events.”
During his career with the Fiesta Bowl, Dr. Drake was an active member on various committees which included the Bike Challenge, Media Operations, Parade and 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament. Additionally, Dr. Drake played a key role in the Fiesta Bowl Parade as a VIP host for the network talent, in town to cover the parade for a nationally-televised audience.
Rob recalls having the opportunity to meet and spend time with NBC personalities Michael Gross (star of the sitcom Family Ties), Peter Marshall (host of Hollywood Squares) and Willard Scott (weather anchor on The Today Show). This exposure to the bowl at an early age made it a smooth transition for Rob to become more involved first as a volunteer then as a Yellow Jacket Committee Member in 1998.
“The Fiesta Bowl has always been part of our life even before we started to volunteer,” said Rob, now a Fiesta Bowl Life Member. “I have attended every game since 1973 (Arizona State vs. Pitt).”
Like his father, Rob continued the family tradition and started bringing his daughters, Alexandria and Olivia, to as many Fiesta Bowl events as possible. This led to Alexandria joining the Media Operations Committee as a volunteer in 2009 followed by Olivia in 2013.
“The Fiesta Bowl has always been part of our family. While growing up, our dad would be attending and working various Fiesta Bowl events throughout the holiday season,” said Alexandria. “We would watch the games on TV and look for him. It was a cool thing as a kid to see your dad on ESPN wearing his headset. When the opportunity came for us to volunteer, it was a no-brainer.”
Rob was a three-time chair of the Alumni Hospitality Committee. When he became a Life Member in 2009, he remained active by serving two terms on the Executive Council and as chair of the Life Member Committee.
He will be most recognized for his hard work and continued service with the bowl’s Media Operations Committee. A two-time committee chair, Rob is currently captain of postgame locker rooms and serves on the field patrol team.
And for the last five years he has been able to share this experience with both of his daughters.
“I enjoy watching Alexandria and Olivia be part of the (media operations) committee and watch them develop and grow into their roles,” said Rob. “As a Yellow Jacket Committee Member, there are a lot of events our families cannot attend. The Media Operations Committee give us the opportunity to volunteer together as a family.”
Alexandria is currently captain of the press box team and Olivia plays a key role with the digital media and press conference teams.
“I really like that we all have different roles within the (media operations) committee,” said Alexandria. “It is very rewarding to see my dad and Olivia succeeding in what they do for the committee each year.”
Olivia shared a similar sentiment. “We always support each other. When Alexandria started transitioning to the press box, she always took the time to continue teaching me about digital media and press conferences.
“It is also great to check-in with each other on game day and determine when we will have our annual tradition of a pregame photo on the field.”
Dr. Drake passed away in 2010 but his dedication to the Fiesta Bowl and the Arizona community continues to resonate with the entire family. At his funeral, Alexandria learned about her grandpa’s impact on so many people.
“I knew the committee was very important to my grandpa,” said Alexandria. “After he died, there were so many yellow jackets who paid their respects. It was then that I gained a greater understanding of the camaraderie and support each committee member gave to each other.”
There are still several memorable moments that make the entire family smile, like January 1999 which Rob recalls so clearly.
“Dad was working in the media tent during the inaugural BCS Championship Game between Tennessee and Florida State,” recalled Rob. “He always had a habit of putting some food in his Yellow Jacket to save for later.
That year, U.S. Vice President Al Gore attended the game, which meant that additional security sweeps were necessary. When the dogs arrived at the media center, they were fixated on a certain jacket draped over a chair.
“After examining the jacket, it was discovered the dogs smelled the donut my dad placed in the pocket earlier in the day,” Rob said with a laugh.
These memories continue now with Rob, Alexandria and Olivia working together just as Dr. Drake did more than 35 years ago. The Fiesta Bowl has become a meaningful part of the Drake family.
“Our family has a love of sports, and volunteering together has been woven into the fabric of our family,” said Amy Drake, wife to Rob and mother to Alexandria and Olivia. “I am very proud we have three generations who volunteered for the Fiesta Bowl.”