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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Trophy Travels: Inside the College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy Tour

One of the stops on the Trophy Tour (Photo via CFP Images)

One of the stops on the trophy tour (Photo via CFP Images)

*The College Football Playoff is a Proud Partner of Front Office Sports

20 years ago, Charley Green and Ray Mallouk found themselves at a crossroads.

Working together at an agency in Dallas, the duo was running point for the Sears BCS trophy tour.

Before Sears jumped on, the trophy tour spanned only a few games per year. After, the tour became a weekly caravan to the biggest games in college football with Green and Mallouk running the show.

Up until that point, the tour was no more than a quick trip here or there, but as Green notes, once a sponsor got behind the tour, things started to take off.

“It was in the BCS era when Sears came on as a sponsor that the tour really got some wind behind its sails and we were able to start working on a nationwide week-to-week tour.”

With Green managing PR and Mallouk handling the event marketing, they quickly realized that their skills meshed very well and that what they were doing was something they could do on their own.

After three years of working together at the agency, the duo started their own company, BreakAway Sports Marketing.

Both men can thank Bill Proulx for starting what has become one of the biggest and most visible trophy tours in the country.

“The tour for the college football trophy really started as far as we know in 1986,” said Green. “There was a gentleman that we worked with by the name of Bill Proulx, and he was part of the formation of that trophy. He was on the coaching staff with the University of Miami National Championship team in 1983. Realizing that there wasn’t a trophy for finishing number one in the season, they worked with the American Football Coaches Association to launch what became the Coaches Trophy, the iconic crystal football. It was attached to the Bowl Championship Series.”

Since going off on their own, Green and Mallouk have worked hand in hand on everything from the College Football Playoff trophy tour to working on PR for Werner Ladder at the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Fours.

But if you ask both of them, the trophy tour is still by far the task they enjoy the most.

“This upcoming season will be our 20th year. With the formation of the College Football Playoff, the trophy has changed and is now made of gold, stainless steel and bronze,” said Green.

As the years have gone by, the appearances have continued to grow. Last season, Green and Mallouk did over 100 appearances with the trophy. This season they expect to do even more.

“In terms of where the trophy tour is now, it’s a full season-long tour that visits a different game every weekend,” said Mallouk. “When it’s not visiting games during the weekend, we will do additional appearances during the week, whether it be a visit on behalf of the College Football Playoff, Dr Pepper or ESPN.

The trophy is a popular photo op. (Photo via CFP Images)

Given that the trophy with its cases weighs over 140 pounds, Green and Mallouk must rely on various shipping companies to make sure it gets where it needs to be intact.

While the trophy is being shipped across the country, Green and Mallouk crisscross the country by plane, trips that racked up more than 100,000 miles for the two just last seasons alone.

“It’s safe to say we are both kept at the platinum level,” chuckled Green.

Just like programs starting spring ball across the country, Green and Mallouk have already hit the ground running when it comes to the upcoming season.

“The trophy for this year has already made a couple of appearances,” said Green. “It made an appearance at a charity event in California for Dr Pepper and did a video shoot for CBS Sports. But it is kind of slow in the offseason now as basketball has taken center stage.”

Come August, the duo has their hands full pretty much every week until the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Like College GameDay, they work with ESPN Production to coordinate when and where they will be for games to give themselves the most time to prep. As Mallouk notes, they may not know where they are going until the Monday before.

“In terms of the game, we work closely with ESPN Production. Every week we provide ESPN with two or three recommendations where we think the trophy should go. Most of the time those are ESPN games, given the fact they are our partners. Then they decide if what we suggested works or they will give us other suggestions. We would love to be able to get two weeks notice, and most times they are able to do that, but sometimes on Sunday, we still have no idea where we are going that week.”

Once they do know, it’s full-throttle for the next week, something most people don’t truly understand.

“A lot of the misconceptions surrounding our work is the idea that we get to bring the trophy around and hang out with it,” mentioned Mallouk. “It’s so much more than that. There is a heavy marketing, media, and PR element to it.”

Just in time for its close up. (Photo via CFP Images)

While it may be fun to go to the best games in college football week after week and year after year, Green and Mallouk spend the entire week leading up to the game taking the trophy from place to place and making sure people know it’s going to be there.

“Our typical week goes looks like this: We find out what game we are going to on Sunday or Monday, then that night we will pitch the local media in the market we are going to, and touch base and organize the retail activations we are going to on Friday and then any sort of charity or hospitality experience,” said Mallouk. “We’ll arrive in market on Thursday and do our local media appearances. We’ll manage two retail appearances on Friday along with any VIP event. We coordinate the ESPN College GameDay hit on Saturday morning, then we typically display the trophy outside the stadium at the fan fest prior to kickoff. Finally, we’ll have the ESPN shot on the sideline during the game.”

The most unique aspect of the tour is the fact that the actual trophy the players hold after winning the national championship game is the same trophy that travels around the country. That element alone is one of the biggest points of pride for Green and Mallouk and a major selling point for the tour as a whole.

“We make it a point that the trophy you see at the national championship game is the same trophy you see at the appearances,” said Mallouk.

Setting up the trophy! (Photo via CFP Images)

Doing this for over twenty years each of the men have spent time at games most sports fans could only dream of. Even though every game could be their favorite, they both have stadiums and games that are especially memorable.

For Green, it’s the Texas vs. Oklahoma game in the Cotton Bowl. For Mallouk, it’s going to the Rose Bowl.

With similar backgrounds coming out of college, both Green and Mallouk found themselves working for MLB teams, but not seeing enough vertical mobility to remain in their roles long term.

“I loved working for the San Francisco Giants, but I realized that it is very difficult to move up the corporate ladder with a baseball organization,” said Mallouk.

It just so happened that Mallouk’s next job was at the same agency as Green, where he started working on the WNBA account before moving over to the college football account and joining Green after he had moved over from spending three years doing PR for the Texas Rangers.

Some may see it as destiny, others may see it as chance, but for both Green and Mallouk it’s been the ride of a lifetime and something they don’t expect to end anytime soon.

“It’s been a great run and we are really lucky to have found this niche.”

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