In 1934, Earnie Seiler (a.k.a. The Mad Genius) was invited to join a committee which had formed to discuss bringing a New Year’s Day college football game to Miami, FL. Soon the committee formally named the game the Orange Bowl. Seiler, who at the time was the City of Miami’s Recreation Director, took over as the full-time business manager for the game and increased the marketing and recruiting efforts for the Orange Bowl.
In 1939, Earnie travelled to Oklahoma to lure the Sooners to the Orange Bowl and away from previously established bowls such as the Sugar, Cotton, and Rose Bowls which could all offer twice as much money to the Sooners to play in their games. Using sidewalk chalk and pictures of Miami’s beaches and swimsuits, Seiler convinced the Oklahoma players to vote to play in the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma’s coach, Tom Stidham, encouraged his friend and Tennessee head coach Robert Neyland to bring his 2nd-ranked Vols to Miami as well and set up the Orange Bowl’s biggest game to date. The Oklahoma-Tennessee game in 1939 catupulted the Orange Bowl into national prominence and it has since become one of the four Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games that all Division I college football teams strive to reach each season.
Seiler, the father of the Orange Bowl Festival and creator of many of its halftime extravaganzas, died in 1987 at the age of 86. Earnie’s showmanship and political savvy made him one of Miami`s most successful boosters from the Depression era through the early 1970s.