The New Orleans native is the 2nd Black President in the organization’s history
For Ronnie Burns, being announced as the new President of the Sugar Bowl Committee was a moment he has prepared for his entire life.
Earlier this month, the New Orleans native was formally announced as the 51st President, becoming only the second African-American to reach that position. The first was his uncle, Dr. Leonard Burns, in 1994.
“I’ve worked my way up through the ranks,” he said, “I’m excited and I think that I bring a perspective to the Sugar Bowl that focuses on the community and in particular, the African-American community.”
Burns, who will serve a one-year term, had previously served on the committee for the past 24 years in various capacities. He is currently the President and CEO of BMG Enterprises, which specializes in quick courier services and global parking systems.
He inherits a bowl game that hosted the national championship as well as its annual game. Both games generated an estimated economic impact of nearly $400 million.
Football definitely runs in Burns’ family, although he himself grew up playing baseball. His two sons, Vinnie and Jason, played for Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt, respectively, with Vinnie playing his final collegiate game in the 2005 Sugar Bowl against Louisiana State University.
“I’m proud to be one of the few members [of the committee] that had children to play in the Sugar Bowl,” he said with pride
Also, his brother Burton serves as the associate head coach for Alabama, who is a favorite to play in next year’s game if they win the Southeastern Conference championship.
He will also oversee the bowl’s 75th anniversary this upcoming season and they will no doubt recognize the rich tradition of great players who have played there, including former game Most Valuable Players Bo Jackson, Jerome Bettis and current NFL quarterbacks Jason Campbell and JaMarcus Russell.
In addition to the game, Burns plans to continue to bowl’s outreach in the community by promoting local athletes as well as oversee the committee’s most important event when they appear in April before the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) commission.
Since the BCS was created in 1999, the Sugar Bowl - along with the Rose, Orange and Fiesta Bowls - have been designated as the BCS bowl games where the best teams compete at the end of the college football season. However, the bidding will start this year to replace those bowls when their contract expires in 2010.
While that remains their most important goal, Burns was quick to mention the community work that the committee has been a part of, including helping the restoration of City Park Stadium, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
Last year, they also partnered with the NCAA to create a youth football initiative that centered on bringing clinics and other programs to inner-city playgrounds as well as start a city-wide track meet. Burns hopes to expand those plans as well as develop new ones as more playgrounds open up in the coming year.
“Right after Hurricane Katrina, a lot of kids were evacuated all over the country and now a lot of these schools are re-opening and the athletic programs are coming back, so we want to support all of that as well as showcase these kids who had a rough two years.”
Overall, Burns has high hopes for what he will accomplish this year with the Sugar Bowl and on the heels of New Orleans celebrating a successful NBA All-Star Game, his tenure will be another bright spot in helping the city heal from the wounds of Katrina.