Randy Belote has moved to Tennessee to start an event center on a farm south of Nashville. He no longer works for the company that was the Military Bowl’s presenting sponsor for 10 years.
Neither of those changes has affected the way Belote feels about the National Capital Region’s postseason college football bowl game.
“It’s a little more difficult to attend meetings from Tennessee, but I try to stay in touch and help in any way that I can,” Belote said. “I spent my career supporting the defense industry and I’ve always been drawn to program that support our troops, the goals of our military and the families. The Military Bowl has a mission that I fully support.”
After all, few people know the full story of the Military Bowl and how it has progressed over the years.
Belote first became involved with the bowl in its inaugural year, 2008, when the game was known as the EagleBank Bowl. As it approached the end of the year, Northrop Grumman’s communications department realized it was running a budget surplus. At the same time, a bowl representative reached out to Belote about becoming a sponsor of the first-ever bowl game to be played in the nation’s capital.
“It was at RFK and it was cold as hell,” Belote said, recalling Wake Forest’s 29-19 win over Navy. “But it was a good game and we had a good experience. We figured it was a one-off.”
Northrop Grumman opted not to sponsor the 2009 game. The following year, though, the bowl’s president and executive director, Steve Beck, reached out to Belote. The bowl was seeking a new title sponsor and was willing to rebrand for an interested sponsor. As it happened, Northrop Grumman was relocating its headquarters from California to Northern Virginia to be closer to its consumers. Belote took the proposal to Northrop Grumman’s CEO at the time, Wes Bush.
“We don’t do these sort of things, but this may be just the kind of program we get involved in that it will cement our awareness and reputation in the Washington, D.C. area quickly,” Belote said. “Wes really liked the idea under one condition: That we tied ourselves with the USO. Northrop Grumman is a big supporter of the USO. He said if we can find a way for USO to become the primary beneficiary of the bowl game, then he would sign the contract.”
But why was it the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman and not the Northrop Grumman Bowl or the Northrop Grumman Military Bowl?
“We didn’t want the emphasis on Northrop Grumman in the name,” Belote said. “We chose to be secondary.”
Thus began one of the eras longest runs of bowl game title sponsorship, as Northrop Grumman retained its presenting sponsorship for 10 years. Belote was the company’s point person to the Bowl, though he is quick to point out that others also played top roles, such as Darryl Fraser, Chicky Lindsley and Northrop Grumman Foundation President Sandra Evers-Manley.
Along the way, there were several memorable moments for Belote, who laughed when retelling stories about University of Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen’s final game as head coach in the 2010 Military Bowl; how the Military Bowl was able to land the Air Force Academy for the 2011 game and how Belote used connections to secure a B-2 bomber for a flyover at that game; and how the bowl moved from Washington to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium beginning in 2013. Belote retired from Northrop Grumman in 2017, but he remains a Bowl board member.
“I was fortunate to be the liaison officer for the company and the [Military Bowl] board of the directors and to help steer through some of the issues,” Belote said. So when I retired, I told Steve and [board member Larry Leber] and Larry said, ‘You’re not going anywhere. Just because you’re retiring doesn’t mean you’re leaving us.”