The Five-Million Dollar Set Up

From distributing game tickets, coordinator team and media events to dueling out a $5 million budget, Rose Bowl Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Ash has plenty on his plate when it comes to the 97th Rose Bowl. One thing he doesn't have to worry about is how well Wisconsin will be represented in the stands.

LOS ANGELES – Asking Kevin Ash to pick his favorite Rose Bowl game is like asking a kid to pick out his favorite candy in a candy store. It takes a long time to decide and even then, there is still some doubt in his final choice.

Being a part of the Rose Bowl since 1984 and the game's chief administrative officer for the past 12 years, Ash has seen a number of great games fill the Rose Bowl during his tenure, including Texas' thrilling comeback over USC in 2006 that crowned the Longhorns national champions.

But when you ask him to talk about a favorite team to watch or deal with, Ash recalls the sea of red that blanked the 89,000-seat stadium on New Year's Day in 1994, '99 and 2000.

"Wisconsin is one of the best traveling, supportive fans in the country, easily," Ash said. "If I had to pick a handful of teams, Wisconsin would be up there."

When No.4 Wisconsin and No.3 TCU play this Saturday in the 97th Rose Bowl, Ash expects a similar outcome. Because of the game not having a Pac 10 opponent, Wisconsin was given 37,000 tickets, 11,000 more that original slotted to them, and they went like hotcakes.

Wisconsin's student tickets sold out in 19 minutes and the University canceled a public sale because of donors and season ticket holders grabbing as many as they could.

"Wisconsin went through those tickets in seconds," Ash said. "I don't know if a lot of schools in the country could do that."

Ash has yet to see Wisconsin play in person, which is why he so eager for Saturday. After watching them on TV, he wants to confirm or deny his suspicions that this year's Badgers team reminds him of the squads that played in his game a decade earlier.

Power running, physical linemen, a steady quarterback and a surprisingly good defense.

"Wisconsin has always got the big boys in the trenches," Ash said. "When they start running the ball and playing power football, they can move the ball down the field. The last couple games of the year, I was joking with some of my Wisconsin friends that it was like a basketball game with all the points being scored."

Unlike other bowl selection process, the Rose Bowl was one of the easiest this season. Traditionally, the Rose Bowl pits the Big Ten champion and the Pac 10 champion but if one of those teams is selected for the BCS National Championship game, the Rose Bowl gets the top non-Automatic Qualifier (TCU).

"It kind of plays itself out," Ash said. "It's amazing how often that it's really not our call. It just happens. We're always going to have a great game."

The traveling process begins at the beginning of the year, with Rose Bowl executives traveling to different cities to meet partners, athletic directors and visit schools that have not been in their game for a number of years. After the BCS rankings are released for the first time in mid-October, the executives begin making trips to venues to see the teams that may have an impact on their game and who the committee would want as a replacement.

Throughout the process, Ash and his crew went to a game in every conference but the Big East and had someone at every championship game, identifying all potential opponents. In hindsight, it was a courtesy trip to Utah where Ash saw Wisconsin's opponent.

Ash saw TCU in person on his trip to Salt Lake City for the game against Utah, but wasn't going to scout the Horned Frogs. With Utah joining the Pac 10 conference next season, Ash original intent was to see the Utes, but ended up with an entirely different objective.

"When they beat Utah as badly as they did and were on a roll, we started thinking about them in our game," Ash said. "We started talking to them and working with them after that."

What Ash saw was one of only three undefeated teams left in college football, a team with a high-scoring offense mixed with the top defense in the country.

"The Tournament of Roses is very traditional and we like tradition, but it's kind of added something to our traditional match-up," Ash said. "We don't want to see it every year, but sometimes it's nice to see the dynamic change, get some fresh blood and see what happens."

The teams change on a yearly basis, but the process to get to New Year's Day starts before the roses from the parade start to wilt.

Everything that is involved during the one week the teams are in Pasadena has been coordinated by Ash's staff. That building from the bottom includes all the staffing, television, media operations, team hotels, VIP hospitality and everything else that is involved with putting on a $50 million event.

Even after the game, more work needs to be done, with an entire fiscal settling process involving the $5 million in expenses the crew has to work with.

"We have to do everything for the game, and we don't have a lot staff. We have 135 volunteers and six people that work full time. We have to build from the bottom from the top … and it's a long process."

Which is why Ash is excited to take his seat in the press box Saturday afternoon. After a year's worth of work, Ash is anxious to see another memorable game play out in front of him.

"I think they match-up well on the field and it's going to be interesting to see what happens," Ash said. "People don't realize that."

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