Unlike the Bengals, Steelers, Vikings and 27 other NFL teams, 20 Wilmington College students are going to the Super Bowl. In fact, as of Thursday, they’re already in Las Vegas.
These sport management students and several of their faculty members are spending four days working at America’s biggest annual sporting attraction — make that biggest event, period.
As volunteers, they are serving as ambassadors, greeters and customer service staff in assisting the thousands of guests attending a myriad of events and activities during Super Bowl week. They will work the Saturday Super Bowl Breakfast and Game Day on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium — while hoping to be able to watch the featured event as the Kansas City Chiefs attempt to defend their NFL title against the San Francisco 49ers.
“Our students will experience Super Bowl Week and Game Day from behind the scenes to learn the ins 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,” said Dr. Alan Ledford, associate professor and WC’s sport management program director.
“The students also will be interviewing, meeting and learning from top people in the sports business world,” Ledford added, noting this experience should have positive ramifications as the students engage in securing internships and, ultimately, career employment. “Having a sport management experience at the Super Bowl is an impressive resume bullet point and conversation starter when interviewing and starting a career in the field.”
Wilmington College has been a trailblazer in bringing students to the Super Bowl since 2016. Then, besides Wilmington College, only several schools located nearby the venues participated. Today, with some 500 collegiate-level sport management programs in the United States, only a couple of dozen institutions offer students opportunities similar to those enjoyed at WC, according to Ledford.
WC sport management students have already worked at the NCAA College Football Playoff National Championship earlier this winter in Houston and have regularly worked college bowl games, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Final Four and the Little League World Series. Throughout the year, they tour and meet with officials at such sports venues as the Bengals’ Paul Brown/Paycor Stadium; Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds; the Dayton Dragons’ Day Air Ballpark; the Columbus Crew’s Major League Soccer stadium; and athletics facilities at Ohio State University. Also, they’ve staged events on campus.
Graduates of the College’s sport management program are working throughout professional sports, as well as with numerous other sport-related venues and organizations.
Three members of this year’s Super Bowl contingent spoke about their expectations for the experience earlier this week.
Andie Dolven is a senior from Wintergarden, Fla., majoring in sport management. Super Bowl LVIII is her second big game after working the Los Angeles Super Bowl two years ago. She relishes the opportunity to return.
“It’s the Super Bowl — how awesome is that? Going one time is amazing, but to have the opportunity to go a second time!” said Dolven, who has a special interest in being a content creator for social media. She believes her Super Bowl experience will impress potential employers into taking a closer look at what she can offer their organizations.
“In Los Angeles, I got to talk to people in the industry and hope to do the same in Las Vegas,” she added. “I met a ton of people I’ve continued talking to.”
Tyler Tomera-Hillier is a sophomore from Leesburg who is also attending his second Super Bowl after going to Glendale, Ariz., last year. “It was a great learning experience for me. I worked the Little League World Series last summer, which also helped me learn some of the ins and outs of managing a big sporting event.
“It puts me in the shoes of people who are in the profession where I want to be in the future,” he added. “It’s hard to turn down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see what goes on in the background of the country’s biggest event.”
This will be the first Super Bowl appearance for Trinity VanDusen, a senior from Zanesville, who has a triple major in accounting, finance and sport management.
“I want to work in the sport management world,” she said about finding an ideal job in which she will use all three disciplines. “Working the Super Bowl is something not a lot of people can experience. I hope this will give me some leads for positions in the industry.”
While all three hope they are able to watch at least part of the Super Bowl, none signaled an allegiance to either the Chiefs and 49ers. Indeed, VanDusen is a Cleveland Browns fan, while the Floridian, Dolven, likes the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago native Tomera-Hillier supports the Bears.