Freeman thrilled for Rose Bowl

As New Year’s Day draws near, the excitement continues to build for Al Freeman.

The Granddaddy of Them All hasn’t featured his beloved Michigan State Spartans in 25 years.

Yes, they are his Spartans. That’s because Freeman, an Irvine resident, isn’t just any other Michigan State fan.

You can call him Mr. Michigan State. When the Spartans go to the Final Four in men’s basketball, he’s there. He’s been to four of them in the past 12 years.

When it became evident Michigan State would face Stanford in the Rose Bowl, Freeman went into fanatic mode, mixed with his expert touch from his career.

Freeman is an event producer, also known to some as a party guru. He’s the man behind the scenes, making sure the event/party goes to plan and the proper marketing and promotions unfold.

For the past 16 years, Freeman has also been the Michigan State Director for the Southern California Big Ten Club, an organization that is always part of the Rose Bowl hoopla and traditions.

He’s also been affiliated with the Michigan State Orange County Alumni Club, a group he helped form 21 years ago.

“It’s total elation,” Freeman, a Michigan State business grad, said of his Spartans playing in the Rose Bowl Wednesday at 2 p.m. “We are so thrilled. Michigan State is so thrilled. The last time we were there was 1988 … I’m in the middle of it.”

Ecstatic was another word Freeman used to describe his feelings about the big game and his preparation for a VIP-type party for his friends, Michigan State alumni.

Initially, Freeman had planned for one party bus to Pasadena from Orange County, but his special event became in demand. One bus turned into four. That’s 200 people. There could’ve been more, but Freeman had to cap it.

They’re all meeting at the Fairmont Hotel in Newport Beach. It’s called, “The Roses are Green Bus Tour.”

Karl Kruger, the general manager at the Fairmont, is also a Michigan State alumnus. The party bus will also include a tailgate party at the Rose Bowl, and there should be a few surprises leading up to the game, including some former Michigan State players, Freeman said.

They’re all going to have fun, Freeman says. Winning will be a bonus.

Freeman has already had a blast, organizing the event and preparing to watch his favorite college team.

He’s logged a solid 200 hours of work toward planning the party bus event.

"[All the work] is worth it for me,” he said. “I ended up with some good seats. I’m going to head to that game and yell my full head off. If we win, that’s great. Just the fact that we are there is great. It’s just so thrilling to be there.”

Amid all the planning Freeman found time to attend the annual Rose queen’s luncheon, as he usually does. He was among the select guests at the Valley Hunt Club in Pasadena and sat with the Rose queen and her court.

He also posed for photos with them. Every year it’s a fun event to attend, but this year’s was much more special for Freeman and his friend, Denis Binder, a Chapman University professor.

Dr. Binder is also the president of the University of Michigan Orange County Alumni Club.

They had a great time at the luncheon, yet it was a bit of a preview of what the Rose Bowl will be like. Freeman knows that will be memorable and extremely fun.