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  • Power Outage Can't Darken Trip for Super Bowl Raffle Winner

Power Outage Can't Darken Trip for Super Bowl Raffle Winner

Sean Murray ’80 didn’t panic when a portion of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome’s lights went out during Super Bowl XLVII. But the text messages still poured in asking about the mood of the crowd and his safety.

Seated in the darker section of the Superdome with his wife, he simply chuckled to himself.

“It was like: ‘I’m at the Super Bowl, how could I not be having the time of my life?’” said Murray, the winner of SUNY Cortland’s raffle package for the football getaway in New Orleans.

The Feb. 3 sports spectacle saw the Baltimore Ravens hold off the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, in a dramatic game that proved far from ordinary in more ways than one.

And Murray and his wife, Deb Henretta, witnessed it firsthand, along with more than 71,000 screaming fans.

“It was just a great experience all the way around,” said Murray, who resides in Cincinnati. “The game was icing on the cake, with the cake being the city of New Orleans itself.”

SUNY Cortland was able to offer the once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Big Easy through its close ties with the NFL’s New York Jets, which used the College campus as its official training camp site in three of the past four years. The team plans to return in 2013 and possibly beyond that, bringing with it many of the fringe benefits like the Super Bowl tickets.

Murray and his wife were the latest beneficiaries of the College’s unique partnership, winning a grand prize that included two tickets, bed and breakfast accommodations and funds to offset travel expenses, all thanks to a $100 raffle ticket.

Sean Murray
Sean Murray ’80 and
Deb Henretta

All told, the deluxe package was worth $4,400.

“Having not won much else in my life, it was a blessing,” said Murray, who holds a juris doctorate and a master’s degree in educational psychology from the University at Buffalo. “To me, it’s a good way to give back with just a little bit of incentive.”

In 2012, SUNY Cortland sold 299 tickets and raised close to $30,000 through the fourth-year raffle — a record amount that went entirely to undergraduate scholarships, graduate assistantships and student programs.

That student-focused purpose was the real reason for Murray’s participation, although the ability to cross off the nation’s biggest sporting event and a popular travel destination from his bucket list certainly sweetened the pot. Murray joked that the most valuable prizes he had won prior to the Super Bowl raffle were a $7 payout from a Powerball drawing and a goldfish at a birthday party from his childhood.

That same sense of humor served him well in New Orleans, a welcoming place where he befriended many strangers on streetcars.

“New Orleans itself was worth the trip,” Murray said. “As a matter of fact, I thought to myself: ‘I’m not sure I could go to another Super Bowl unless it was in New Orleans.’

“Every single person we met was willing to go out of the way to help us.”

They soaked up a weekend of southern hospitality without overdoing it — wandering through the French Quarter at their own pace, marveling at historic mansions and tasting all of the delicacies that New Orleans has perfected. They also made their way down Bourbon Street in the early evening, but passed up attempting to navigate it after the game.

“You wouldn’t have been able to move,” Murray said. “It was crazy.”

On game day, the couple arrived early to again take in the sights and sounds. The face value of each corner end zone ticket was $1,250 and they were surrounded by a sea of Ravens fans, “which made it feel like we were sitting with the home team,” said Murray, who wasn’t pulling hard for a specific team. He wished only to witness a competitive game.

ARE YOU NEXT? If you're itching to be SUNY Cortland's next big winner, stay current with the College's Super Bowl raffle page, which soon will include details about the 2013 drawing. You could win a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

One of the night’s more memorable moments occurred even before kickoff, when recording artist Jennifer Hudson joined students from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., to perform “America the Beautiful.”

“It was powerful, as you might imagine,” Murray said.

He recalled that the first half seemed to fly by as if the game was being played with a running clock. And with the Ravens leading 28-6 after the second half kick-off, he became slightly concerned the Super Bowl would turn into a snooze-fest.

The lights, of course, would go out for more than a half hour, which for Murray was far from a reason for concern.

“To be honest, we were on the dark side of the stadium and if it had not been a pro game, they could have kept playing,” he said. “People saw it as a reason to settle back, have another drink and take everything in.”

They’d witness a near-historic San Francisco comeback fall just short in a nail-biting finish. But for Murray and Henretta, who also have witnessed marquee events such as the Indianapolis 500 and college basketball’s Final Four, the weekend was worth it even before they walked through the Superdome’s turnstiles.

“The surrounding (of the Super Bowl) was better than anything I had ever been to,” Murray said. “New Orleans made the difference.”