Motor Coach Industries (MCI), the U.S. subsidiary of New Flyer Industries Inc., notes how Greenville, S.C.-based Champion Coach, a major transportation provider to professional and college athletic teams throughout the Southeast, scored one of college sports’ most high-profile assignments — the exclusive right to transport both contenders to the College Football Playoff National Championship in Atlanta Jan. 8.
And for that prestige assignment, Champion featured its eight new 2018 MCI J4500 coaches wrapped in specially designed team colors to carry both the teams and staffs of the University of Georgia Bulldogs and University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“This all started back in March (2017) with the Atlanta host committee for the championship,” said CEO Craig Dance, who co-founded Champion in 1998 with his wife Hazel, executive BP. At the time, no one knew who would make it to the championship, but Dance and the rest of his staff hoped the final would include the University of Georgia, the couple’s alma mater and longtime client.
“We provide transportation service for all the sports teams at the University of Georgia year-round and Hazel and I graduated from Georgia, so we were very happy about that,” said Dance, who began his career in sports broadcasting but later took a job in team transportation. His career choices have paid off — Champion now provides regional transportation for the Dallas Cowboys, L.A. Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Clemson, Duke, and Auburn, as well as college teams throughout the SEC and ACC. On the corporate side, Champion serves BMW North America, CBS Sports and Delta Airlines.
Champion also serves other annual college football bowl games, and this year, the scheduling couldn’t have been tighter. For the January 1 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Champion used the same eight J4500s to transport competitors Auburn and the University of Central Florida — within minutes of that assignment, Champion began preparations to wrap those coaches for Georgia and Alabama.
Champion turned to coach-graphics leader Turbo Images, which drove the completed materials from its Quebec headquarters across the U.S. border so they could be overnighted to Champion without any customs issues, said Dance. “They went above and beyond for us, even had a plan to drive them overland to our offices if there were weather issues,” he said. “We had them shipped to our main office in South Carolina and then we drove them to the Georgia World Congress Center by truck so everything could be done on time.”
Not only did Champion make the deadline, both teams rode in top style on MCI’s newest coaches, which sport a completely redesigned, more spacious interior. Said Dance, “We have all the bells and whistles on these coaches, including leather seats, Wi-Fi and DIRECTV,” and the additional optional feature of the 2018 J4500’s, all-new customizable interior RGB interior lighting feature including six pre-programmed colors (red, blue, green, cyan, magenta, yellow) plus white.