Did Boca Score on Bowl Night? Plus more.

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The Boca Bowl Victory

Marshall University won the first Boca Raton Bowl, but Boca Raton and Florida Atlantic University took away their own victories.

The city and FAU got plenty of exposure during the three-hour telecast on ESPN. It helped that longtime South Florida announcer Dave Lamont was doing play-by-play of the game between Marshall and Northern Illinois. Lamont does FAU games—he famously went nuts on the air during a late October game, yelling at the officials and challenging others in the press box to a fight—and got in plenty of local plugs. No one watching in Illinois or West Virginia would have confused Boca Raton for Miami, even though Desmond Howard, working the game with Lamont, did refer to “Boca Ratahn” early on.

The cameras showed a nice panorama of FAU Stadium, and Boca Raton got its first promotional spot after the first timeout. The promo, which called Boca Raton “perfect,” was nicely crafted. Palm Beach County got a spot after the second timeout, and then it was FAU’s turn. The university uses the line “Making waves,” and the promo asked prospective students, “Where will your next wave take you?”

Boca Raton’s other spot, early in the second half, was pleasantly edgier. FAU used the same promo; some variety would have helped. Both the city and FAU, though, had to be happy that as the telecast ended and Mayor Susan Haynie presented the game trophy to Marshall, Lamont signed off with “from Boca Raton.”

The city and FAU wanted to use the game to sell themselves. The selling will go better in the next five years of the contract, however, if the cameras can show a fuller stadium. The announced attendance was a near-sellout of about 29,400. Three minutes into the game, however, the stadium was less than half full. Marshall and Northern Illinois fans filled many of the sideline seats nearest the field, but the north end zone stayed mostly empty.

ESPN owns and operates the Boca Raton Bowl. On Monday, ESPN staffer/Boca Bowl game director Doug Mosley told me that execution of the game went “beyond our expectations” and that “I couldn’t have sold you a ticket at the gate.” Mosley also said, however, that he wants to work more with community groups “to physically get folks into the game.”

ESPN could say before the game that few tickets remained because most had been distributed. The teams got 7,500 each, and the Spirit of Giving Network got 5,000. Neither school sold its entire allotment, and apparently not enough of the civic groups that received tickets turned those tickets into actual spectators, though Mosley said Spirit of Giving did “a nice job filling their seats.”

South Florida sports fans tend to arrive late, even if top pro teams are playing. Mosley said the pregame “fan fest” outside the stadium was “a big hit” and might have kept people past kickoff. Fans also might not have been in their seats because they were eating/drinking/texting on the second level.

In fact, organizers have to sell the Boca Raton Bowl as a party as much as a game. Boca got lucky for the first game to schedule two champions of lower-tier conferences that had just three losses between them. Boca Raton Bowl football alone, though, likely will never be compelling enough to draw just sports fans. It’s designed to be a fun night at the stadium that competes with other pre-Christmas activities while touting the area and FAU.

An ESPN spokeswoman said the network uses a “viewership number” as opposed to a “rating,” and that the Boca Raton Bowl had 2,248,000 viewers. Mosley said he “could not be positive enough” about FAU and the city. Next month, Mosley and representatives from Boca Raton and FAU will discuss ways to make next year’s game better. In April, the date for the second game will be set.

For the first game, Boca Raton got lucky on the weather. It was a mild night, and the daily media report had compared the temperature and conditions to those in Huntington, W.Va., and DeKalb, Ill., the teams’ hometowns. That might not happen every year. Haynie noted “a few minor glitches but overall a magnificent inaugural event.” The game can become an even bigger selling point if the stadium is fuller.

The Pole Problem

As Florida Power & Light had promised, those ugly utility poles in the Boca Raton Trader Joe’s parking lot were gone before Christmas. In their place are light poles.

FPL never was the problem. Nor was Trader Joe’s. Boca Raton requires all downtown redevelopment projects to have buried power lines. In September, the city council learned that the developer of East City Center, where Trader Joe’s is a tenant, had put the lines above ground. The council gave the developer three months from the store’s Sept. 26 opening to get the lines underground and issued just a temporary certificate of occupancy for the Trader Joe’s building.

Mayor Susan Haynie said in an e-mail Monday that she now expects the city to grant the permanent certificate of occupancy. Score one for Boca standards.

Court Picks

Gov. Rick Scott underperformed in his selection of three new Palm Beach County circuit court judges.

The governor made a good call in picking Assistant State Attorney Kirk Volker, a longtime prosecutor with a very good record and a personality that should mean a good demeanor on the bench.

But Scott also chose private attorney Howard Coates and Ed Artau, a lawyer for the South Florida Water Management District. So the governor, who already had a worse record than Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist for placing African-Americans on the bench, chose three white men.

Scott did not promote County Court Judge Reginald Corlew, whom Bush put on the bench in 2006 and who does well in the every-other-year poll of lawyers who appear before him. Corlew is African-American.

For that matter, Scott also passed over County Court Judge Laura Johnson, who has served for 12 years and also does very well in the Palm Beach County Bar poll. Her background and Corlew’s background made them more qualified than Coates and Artau.

Coates is a member of the Wellington Village Council and a well-known Republican, which seems to be a Scott priority, based on his record of appointments. In 1995, Artau was serving on the county’s judicial nominating commission when a special panel convened by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles criticized the commission for trying to engineer the appointment of a politically connected woman who had applied for a circuit court seat. The woman’s husband had arranged Artau’s appointment to the commission. He did not reveal that.

In 2002, Bush declined to put Artau on even the lower-level county court. Scott has put Artau on the more important circuit court, which handles major criminal and civil cases. These are the judges who decide all family and probate cases in the Delray Beach courthouse that serves southern Palm Beach County. Scott didn’t just pass up a chance to make the court more diverse; he passed up a chance to make the court better.

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You can email Randy Schultz at randy@bocamag.com

For more City Watch blogs, click here.About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.

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Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.