JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The man who has guided the Gator Bowl for nearly three decades has announced his retirement. Rick Catlett has been the Gator Bowl president since 1992, but he will retire after guiding the game for 28 years.
Catlett thought he was going to have a long career in politics, but when Jake Godbold tried to lure an NFL team to town, Rick Catlett became the point man and his career in sports in Jacksonville was off and running. He was the Executive VP for TD Jax, the group that landed the Jaguars in Jacksonville. For the last 28 years, he’s been the president of the Gator Bowl, which played its 75th game this past season.
“I did the 50th game, so getting an opportunity to the 75th game was very important to me,” Catlett said. “I also felt like I wanted to walk away with all the contracts done. So fortunately for me, I was able over the last year and a half to negotiate all the contracts — the one left is the city’s lease on the stadium, but I think that will go smoothly. The TV, title (sponsor), both of our conference affiliations, all of our major sports sponsorships are done and ready to go for the next guy and we get we get them for six years.”
Catlett will officially retire after a successor is found, one Catlett says has to have great relationships in college football.
“I think it is critical," Catlett said. "If he’s personable, the people Jacksonville would accept him. The business leadership, political leadership will accept him. And, of course, he’s got a board of 22 directors that are very much wired into the community that can help him do that too.”
Catlett has had some health issues, but says he’s going to keep fighting through them. He’s also planning on doing some consulting work, both for the Gator Bowl in the transition period and with others beyond that.
“There’s a lot out there for me to do and be involved,” Catlett said. “The one thing that I’ve always wanted people to remember was, this was somebody who loved this city so I’m gonna stay active in the city.”
Like a lot of semi-retired folks, Catlett says he also has some plans to travel, especially to Orlando and Pensacola where his grandchildren live.