Nearly two weeks before the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, Cindy Kelley was arriving in New York to set up a temporary team headquarters that would become like a cross between a satellite office and a MASH unit.
Kelley ’81 and the rest of the advance crew scrambled to keep up with a schedule measured in hours, not days. Telephones, computers, office space, accommodations, meals, air and ground transportation, special events, family activities—all needing to be arranged immediately.
“The whole goal is to make sure there are no distractions for the players and coaches,” says Kelley, vice president for human resources for the Seahawks. “It’s a huge challenge because you don’t know if you’re going to the Super Bowl until two weeks before the game.”
The temporary HQ typically is established in the same hotel where the team is staying.
Everything from lining up charter buses and dining options to arranging travel and accommodations for the players’ families is coordinated through the hastily assembled temporary offices.
Kelley, who started with the Seahawks in 1983 and has been to three Super Bowls with the team, is among a steadfast cadre of nearly 20 WSU alumni working behind the scenes to help keep the elite National Football League franchise running smoothly.
Also among the Cougars is Chief Operating Officer Chuck Arnold ’94. Mike Flood ’74 is vice president for community outreach. Kirk Parrish ’93 MED, ’03 PhD is a college recruiting coordinator. And, of course, there’s franchise owner Paul Allen, who attended Washington State for two years.
Flood, a retired U.S. Coast Guard commander who joined the Seahawks franchise in 1997, was a member of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity with Allen in the early 1970s.
Much of what Flood has done for the team can be seen in its legendary fan loyalty, a level of support that has led to sold-out home games since 2003 and two listings in the Guinness World Records for loudest crowd at a sporting event. He also spearheaded the statewide campaign to build a new sports stadium in Seattle and persuaded the Washington Legislature to authorize a Seahawks specialty license plate benefitting education.
Now, he’s pushing to continue expanding the fan network’s enthusiasm beyond the stadium.
“We know what these fans can do for this team,” explains Flood. “We’d also like to show what the fans can do for their communities.”
Seahawks fans are known as 12s, a reference to how their cheering and support is seen as comparable to having an additional player in the lineup. “We want to take the spirit of the 12s and move it into something that reaches beyond the team,” Flood says.
The effort appears to be taking root. During the devastating Central Washington wildfires last summer, for example, Seahawks fans began donating and collecting food and supplies for firefighters and displaced residents. The team helped out, he says, but it was the already-organized network of Seahawks fans that got things moving.
Building and maintaining that kind of fan loyalty was no accident.
Each year, players and staff tour the Pacific Northwest in advance of the upcoming season to meet with fans and talk about the schedule.
Thomas Buren ’10 is the fan development manager and, among other things, organizes the annual tours.
“What we do is really connect the team to the 12s and the 12s to the team,” Buren says. “When people look at the Seahawks, they realize the fans are really part of the team. We practically put them right there in the huddle.”
One of the more memorable tours for Buren was a couple years before the Super Bowl win. The players assigned to the tour that year were strong safety Kam Chancellor and rookie Richard Sherman, who replaced retiring WSU standout Marcus Trufant x’03 at cornerback.
“A lot of fans still didn’t know these players,” Buren recalls. “But the reason I remember that tour so clearly is because Chancellor and Sherman are really engaging. They both enjoy interacting with the fans—and two years later they were playing in the Super Bowl.”
For a team that’s been to three Super Bowls since 2006, each season is treated as another opportunity to improve. That push spreads throughout the organization.
Kelley, the human resources executive, looks forward to the first day back at the team’s Renton headquarters following a Super Bowl season. After the Super Bowl win in 2014, Kelley says the administrative staff gathered for its usual weekly meeting and Coach Pete Carroll came in to address the group.
“He said it was great to win the Super Bowl,” Kelley recalls. “But then he told us we now have to work even harder because we’re not here to win just one.”
Back row, left to right:
Thomas Buren ’10, Manager of Fan Development; Heidi Karim ’07, Administration; Chris Lawrence ’95, Director of Ticketing; Tony Drovetto ’09, Digital Media Manager; Jeffery Girmus ’16, Fan Development Intern; Kirk Parrish ’93, Scouting; Jill Quinn ’78, Receptionist; Chuck Arnold ’93, Chief Operating Officer; Cindy Kelley ’81, VP Human Resources; Erin Johnson ’97, Box Office Manager; Suzanne Lavender ’89, Director of Community Outreach/Communications
Front row, left to right:
Melanie Hoshino ’98, Retail; Kara Edwards ’15, Ticketing; Allysa Knutson ’16, Fan Development Team
Mike Flood ’74, VP Community Outreach; Keli Imus ’11, Coordinator Community Outreach; Ryan Coffey ’08, FGI Box Office Manager; David Glass ’00, Production Services Manager; Vikki Knoff, Retail; Jeremy Young ’01, Team Travel/Training Camp; Lisa Young ’02, Director of Corporate Partners; Allen Olson ’88, Information Systems