Although college football’s postseason landscape has changed dramatically since 2012 when Stanley Cohn began the path that led to him becoming the 60th president of the Sugar Bowl, one priority for the group has remained the same — providing the type of hospitality to the visiting teams that puts the bowl above its peers in that category.
“It’s one of the things that sets us apart,” said Cohn, a local attorney who officially assumed the bowl’s top post this week. “Our volunteers have always dedicated their time and efforts to do the things that best promote our mission and our city.
“Our goal is that when the teams leave, win or lose, they will say, ‘That was best bowl experience we’ve ever had.’ That’s always going to be an important part of our business.”
Cohn comes by his dedication to the hospitality aspect of the bowl operations thanks in large part to his time as chairman of the team liaison and players liaison committees. Also, Sugar Bowl Chief Executive Officer Paul Hoolahan said Cohn is among the most passionate members when it comes to college football.
“There’s no question about that,” Hoolahan said. “Stanley has been a great ambassador for us out on the road because he knows so much about what’s going on in college football.
“Plus, he has a great personality. Stanley is the kind of guy who rolls up his sleeves and gets it done, and he’s earned his rightful position to be president.”
Cohn, a native of Union Springs, Alabama, who came to New Orleans as Tulane student in 1974 and never left, became a Sugar Bowl member in 1998 through the endorsement of former president Tom Wicker.
He became secretary in 2012, followed by stints as treasurer, vice president and president-elect — traditional training period for future presidents.
In was in Cohn’s first year as an officer that the FBS commissioners ended the BCS and established the College Football Playoffs, which began in the 2014 season. That year, the Sugar Bowl played as the first of four semifinals during the 12-year span of the contract.
That was also the year that the SEC and Big 12 announced that it would stage a game between its two top non-playoff teams to be played in prime time Jan. 1. The Sugar Bowl successfully bid for that game, as well, although it meant forfeiting its right to choose the participants and had to make significant financial concessions to do so.
“If nothing else, we’ve learned that we have to be flexible,” Cohn said. “We have always been in the top tier of bowl games, and thus far we’ve been successful at that.
“It’s a new era for college football, and we’ve changed with it. It’s been a challenge, but life is never totally static.”
Among the challenges the bowl has faced is that this year’s game between Oklahoma and Auburn drew the bowl’s smallest crowd since 1939. A repeat in non-playoff years (this year’s game is a semifinal) could impact that bowl’s ability to stage and sponsor more than 50 other high school and college events.
“We were aware that this might happen,” Cohn said. “It’s something that has to addressed.
“That’s not going to change the experience our teams are going to have, though. We’re just going to have to work a little harder at it.”