A dozen Wilmington College students have followed the hometown favorite Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles this week, as the group is spending five days engaged in one of the College’s signature hands-on learning experiences.

These sport management students flew to Los Angeles Wednesday to spend the next six days working at America’s biggest annual sporting event — make that event, period.

As volunteers, they will serve as ambassadors, greeters and customer service staff in assisting the thousands of guests attending a myriad of events and activities associated with “The NFL Experience” during Super Bowl week at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

They also will work Game Day at SoFi Stadium and hope to be able to view part of the featured event: the Cincinnati Bengals versus the Los Angeles Rams.

Dr. Alan Ledford, sport management program director, said the students will experience Super Bowl Week and Game Day from behind the scenes to learn the in and outs of the business of hosting a mega-event.

“They will gain a hands-on understanding of what it takes to plan, organize and execute a true sporting event behemoth,” he said. “They also will be interviewing, meeting and learning from top people in the sports business world.”

WC students’ Super Bowl experience in past years has yielded positive ramifications as they engage in securing internships and career employment.

Dr. James Mattern, assistant professor of sport management, and Steve Cukovecki, senior admission counselor who works with enrolling sport management students, are accompanying the group to Los Angeles. Both heavily promote these high-profile, hands-on learning opportunities.

“We talk about the things we do in the classroom but taking students to the Super Bowl and other big-time sporting events is what sets us apart from other schools,” Mattern said. “As students interview for internships and alumni seek career employment, it’s these experiences that will stand out as talking points and resume bullets.”

Indeed, these are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

However, for Trafford Dunn, lightning struck twice. This will be his second Super Bowl experience. In 2020, he traveled with his WC contemporaries to work Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

“My advice to those going for the first time is to make the most of it — it’s a very special experience,” said the junior from Wellston, noting such opportunities sold him on studying sport management at Wilmington College. “It was a huge influence on my decision to come here. I knew I wouldn’t get opportunities like this anywhere else.”

Senior Heidi Edens is the lone non-sport management major on the trip. The agriculture/communication arts major from Middletown was thrilled when a spot opened for her to join the trip. She expects it will prove educational from the perspective of her interest in communication. Also, she enjoys opportunities for adventure after spending last summer as an intern working with Loggerhead Sea Turtles on the South Carolina coast.

“The Super Bowl will be a great opportunity to learn and network,” she said. “It’s exciting to be able to grow my resume with so many different experiences I’ve had while at Wilmington College. It should initiate some great conversations in my sharing a broad range of interests.”

The Super Bowl is but one of the numerous hands-on learning opportunities available to sport management students at WC. In January, a contingent worked the NCAA Division I Football Championship while later this month others will staff the National Basketball Assn. All-Star weekend and, in April, WC students will be at the culmination of March Madness, the NCAA D-I Final Four.

In addition to Edens and Dunn, other students working at the Super Bowl are Owen Baumann, James Kluth, Natalie Sparling, Simon Heys, Andie Dolven, Griffin McCauley, Austin Bondurant, Noah Tobin, Jalaun Covington and Rachel Kennedy.

From left, WC students Trafford Dunn and Heidi Edens chat with Steve Cukovecki and James Mattern about what to expect while working the Super Bowl.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/02/web1_SuperBowl-quartet.jpgFrom left, WC students Trafford Dunn and Heidi Edens chat with Steve Cukovecki and James Mattern about what to expect while working the Super Bowl. Submitted photo

By Randy Sarvis

Wilmington College