Sitdown interview: Missy Setters has risen through ranks from background at LSU to Executive Director of Independence Bowl

Former LSU golfer and student worker in school's sports information department, Missy Setters has risen to become Executive Director of the Independence Bowl.  PHOTO COURTESY: Missy Setters

Former LSU golfer and member of school’s sports information department, Louisiana native Missy Setters has become a respected leader as Executive Director of the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Setters has served in that capacity for 19 years and has seen constant growth in that area amongst women since becoming one of two women to be the leader of a bowl game when she first started in 2006. She took the time in a recent interview with Tiger Rag assistant editor William Weathers to share her story. She’s married to former LSU offensive lineman Ross Setters.

Tiger Rag: How many other women hold similar Executive Director titles of bowl games?

Missy Setters: “When I started, there was Tina Kunzer-Murphy, who was the executive director of the Las Vegas bowl. So, at that time there were two of us, and then Tina retired from the bowl and became the AD at UNLV. So, I was the only female for a few years. Now there’s quite a few. I don’t know exactly how many, but there’s quite a few female executive directors in the bowl world.”

TR: How does it make you feel to see that number grow during your tenure?

MS: “I think it’s great because I think it happened naturally. And I’m sure there was probably a concerted effort in some areas, but a lot of it, you’ve just seen an evolution in the bowl world with a larger staffs, but also more women getting involved in it. And it’s been fun to watch because opportunities are there and they work their way up, or they get into the bowl world from some other areas. So, it’s been pretty fun to watch.”

TR: Any thoughts on taking the job in such a male-dominated world of executive bowl directors?

MS: “Honestly, I don’t think I thought about it that way. My former boss, Glen Krupica, is the one who recommended that the interim position for me. I’d been working for him for nine years, doing media relations. He recommended me for it and so I figured if he had faith in me then hopefully I could do it, and then it worked out. It was more of an opportunity, and somebody believed in me, so I thought I’d hopefully make it work.”

TR: What’s your role as the bowl’s executive director?

MS: “Well, it’s different with every bowl, but for me, it’s overseeing the budgeting side of it. We have a business manager who does a fantastic job, but overseeing the budgeting, overseeing the staff, working closely with the volunteers and the leadership of the organization. Since we’re a 501c3, we’re membership driven, and that’s where most of the volunteer work comes from. So, it’s just kind of oversight over all the different areas, but also allowing an amazing staff that we have to be able to do their jobs without micromanaging, too.”

TR: Did you see yourself spending this much of your life in this profession?

MS: “No. No, I didn’t at the time.”

TR: How has it evolved into becoming such a big part of your life?

MS: “My family’s from Lake Charles, and then we lived in Alexandria for four years, and then we’ve been up here for a long time. And so there was an opportunity with a CFL team here. At the time, we didn’t know that CFL was only going to have U.S.-based teams for two years and then shut it down. So, I was looking for a job and the bowl was expanding from two staff members to three, and they wanted to hire a media relations person. So, there was an opportunity there and I needed a job. So, it was a great opportunity for me, and it was coming off 1995 when LSU Michigan State had just played in the game. I had been to all but one game and I think the one game I missed was right before my husband (former LSU football player Ross Setters) and I got married and I believe we went to his hometown for Christmas that year.”

TR: How did your degree from LSU in broadcast journalism and work in sports information prepare you?

MS: “Well, if you are working in sports information at LSU, you’re getting a well-rounded opportunity. You work in so many different sports. That’s how it was back then. But you’re working so many different sports because I helped cover women’s golf, men’s golf, swimming, gymnastics, and then worked all the football games, almost all the basketball games and baseball games. So, it was it was all consuming, it was your life, but at the same time it was also a family and you loved LSU. So, you know you were happy to do those things. And you have to have a really strong work ethic to do that, too. I think it prepares you for whatever in the sports world. Because you know, a lot of people think working in sports, no matter what it is, is glamorous. But it’s very, very hard work and there’s long hours, and it can be all-consuming at certain times of the year. And I think LSU prepared me for that.”

TR: Which sports information director at LSU did you work for?

MS: “Jamie Kimbrough and Herb Vincent.”

TR: How instrumental were they were in your development?

MS: “I didn’t work for Jamie that long, but we still we still keep in touch. But then Herb came in and just learning the work ethic and understanding how everything was supposed to work inside, covering different sports and what you were expected to do, and the inner workings of it. How you related to the media, and how you dealt with things that would come up, and how important it was to cover the student-athlete. Because you know, that’s the main reason why you’re there. Herb’s is the one who basically told me that I better get in gear, or I wasn’t going to get an internship that they don’t want in there, too. So that was that was pretty life changing for me.”

TR: What kind of stability has your sponsor Radiance Technologies been able to provide?

MS: “Their title sponsorship has been tremendous for us. We’ve been with them since 2020 and every year we try to improve. We work together. We have a local person, retired General John Ellis, who works with us, attends our staff meetings. There’s a lot of synergy there and a lot of teamwork. Having the stability from the title sponsor being with us more than two or three years has been tremendous for us, because we can plan more in advance. It’s very helpful, not to mention they are the best and it’s been a true partnership with them.”

TR: What about the bowl’s designation as the nation’s 11th oldest bowl?

MS: “Well we have a tremendous group of volunteers; we have a fantastic staff. Everybody’s very dedicated to this. They understand how important it is for the community, for economic impact and quality of life. You go through the ebbs and flows like with anything, but you have been around for 47 years in the organization for 49 years. That’s a testament to the community and the volunteers that we have, and the staff members that work so hard.”

TR: How this year’s game that Texas Tech won, 34-14, over California which are two teams from Power 5 Conferences?

MS: “It was great. We absolutely loved hosting those two teams. Their administrations and the players were phenomenal. The fans showed up and we had good weather, and I would say the best events we’ve had in years. We had ‘Rally on the Red’ the night before the game where we have a little mini-Mardi Gras, a parade and battle of the bands. Then we had fireworks and a concert with a Taylor Swift tribute band. And it rained on us a little that night and nobody seemed to care because we had great crowds for that. And then on game day, great crowds for our “Fanfest” that lasted from noon to 7:30 p.m. So, it was it was fun to see a lot of enthusiasm this year.”

TR: How will the bowl thrive with the CFP expanding to 12 teams in 2024?

MS: “I think there’s a lot of questions in the in the bowl world as a whole right now, as far as how everything is going to impact both from the top down. And so, you know, just waiting to see how it all plays out and what the details are going to be. I certainly hope that the bowls survive and thrive because you hear people say there’s too many bowls, or you hear people use the word meaningless. Yet after every one of these games, you see trophy celebrations. You see players that are either happy as can be or have tears in their eyes. And that shouldn’t get lost in all of this because you do have those trophy celebrations, you do have the winners and those guys are playing a lot of them are playing their last game with their teammates. You can see the emotion involved in that, too. And so, I hope that it all gets worked out and that bowls thrive in all of this.”

TR: How are players taken care of and made to feel comfortable?

MS: “Hospitality is a huge part of what we do and what we focus on. This year we brought in a barbershop group that came in and did haircuts for the players in their hospitality rooms. We tried to enhance the hospitality room, so it was more like a lounge area for them to hang out because they do spend a lot of time there. There’s good food and a place to just relax and unwind in between practices in the events that we have planned. So, all of that’s really important. If you don’t have a beach, then you better kill it in hospitality and roll out the red carpet for everybody, whether it’s the players, the coaches or administrators. Everybody involved needs to feel like they’re the most important thing, important people during that time that they’re here.”

TR: How big has the 30-plus year partnership with ESPN been? What does it mean to the bowl?

MS: “It runs through 2025. It’s all interconnected. You’ve got to have that in order to have your conference agreement. And then your conference agreements dictate the interest that you’re going to have in the community. So, I’s all interconnected and all of those agreements run concurrently. So, it’s going to be really busy in a few months when you’re looking at renewing all that stuff. But it’s all interconnected and very important.”

TR: Are there are any previous I-Bowl games that stick out?

MS: “There’s so many different things. We had a broken trophy. The Missouri mascot dropped and broke the trophy (before the game). You’re trying to figure out what are we going to do for a trophy? We’ve only got a couple of hours to get this worked out. And then we’ve had crazy stuff like so many different things like a team forgetting car seats for the kids, and we needed those for the bus. One of our staff members went out late night and hit Wal-Mart to buy car seats. And you know, making sure that they have prescriptions if their kids get sick or something like that here. We’ve had crazy weather. Last year was 10 degrees when I left my house and so you have a whole new set of challenges trying to figure out. Are you going to have running water? Are you going to have shower facilities for your teams? Running water in the bathrooms for the fans and all those different things? I know some other bowls dealt with that crazy weather last year, too. We joke here that if you wrote a book, people wouldn’t believe half of it. And then you’d have to try to remember all the other steps to just to write the book. At the same time I remember one year we had we had an ACC team, a very high profile ACC team, and I happened to be passing through the bench area and they just gone down by score or two. And one of the senior captains was going down, slapping his players on the legs saying, ‘Hey, this is the last time we’re going to be together. Let’s make it make it memorable’. It’s those things that a lot of times you don’t see on TV, and you don’t hear about. Those are the things that remind you that bowl games do matter, and bowl games are important no matter what level it is, no matter what bowl it is.”

TR: What’s it like in the time leading up to the bids being extended for the game?

MS: “We have an organizational chart that has five different divisions and about 50-plus committees under those divisions. We’re structured where we have a Chair, a Vice Chair, first Vice Chair and second Vice Chair that work their way up. We’ve got an executive committee of 13, a board of about 50, and then all of those committees make up the volunteer structure for our organization. Our fiscal year starts March 1 and then we try to have that organizational chart in place and fully filled out by the end of June or July. And then the meetings start with all the different committees. We help facilitate all that, but without those volunteers, nothing happens.”

TR: Are you involved in the scouting of potential teams?

MS: “We have a committee for that, and I usually stay here, and I’ll watch all the games that can impact us in different ways, but we have a selection committee, and they go out and do most of the traveling during the season for us.”

TR: As an LSU alum is it tough not being able to get the Tigers because of the current trajectory of the program?

MS: “Well, since we’re not tied in with the SEC, it’s been different. But I will say that jokingly, I’ve had to wear two different hats, especially when LSU would play Arkansas at the end of the year and maybe the outcome of that game determined how many qualifiers were in the SEC, and whether we would be filled or not. I couldn’t watch the game at home with my family. I would have to come up here because you’re wearing two hats at the time. It was challenging.”

TR: What’s the day of the game like in your world?

MS: “You better be prepared and have everything in order prior to game day because no matter how prepared you are, it’s going to be somewhat controlled chaos. So many different things are going to come up during the day that you can’t possibly anticipate. We all get to the stadium early in the morning no matter what game time is. The best feeling is when kickoff happens and you stand there and think, now it’s all about the game. It’s kind of a mindset shift at that point.”

TR: Any memorable responses from an administrator, coach or player?

MS: “Sometimes it’s the comments in the press conference. Whether it’s in the pregame press conference the day before or the postgame press conference and you hear them talk about the hospitality, the great time they had whether it was visiting Barksdale Air Force Base, the home of the B52s here, or going to Holy Angeles, an amazing facility, residential facility for special needs adults, and seeing the players hang out there and decorate cookies, and take funny pictures or play basketball with residents. To hear them talk about the impact it has on them and what it means to our community. That’s probably the most fulfilling you hear.”

TR: How rewarding has the job been?
MS: “It’s been the best challenge of my life because the ups and downs have forced me to rely on God than on me. And also, to understand that if you have a good team that you work with, feel blessed by that and let them do their job. And also understanding that this is a family because we spend so much time together throughout the year.”

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William Weathers

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