WILMINGTON — While most of America will enjoy watching the pinnacle of the country’s obsession with sports from the comfort of their homes Sunday, 31 Wilmington College students will actually be at the Super Bowl.
These sport management students and their professor, Dr. Alan Ledford, left Tuesday morning for Atlanta to spend the next five days working at the nation’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.
They also will work Game Day and hope to be able to actually watch the featured event: the New England Patriots versus Los Angeles Rams.
“Our 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,” said Ledford, WC’s sport management program director.
“The students also will be interviewing, networking and learning from top people in the sports business world,” Ledford added, noting this experience should have positive ramifications as they engage in securing internships and career employment.
Adam Eckert, a sophomore from Cincinnati, said that, after knowing he was going to Atlanta for several months, the reality of what’s in store really hit him on the threshold of their 5 a.m. departure for Atlanta.
“I grew up my whole life watching the Super Bowl, but this year — even though we’re a small part of it — we are part of it this year!” he said. “That’s an advantage of a college like Wilmington, which gives us these hands-on learning opportunities.”
Mellonee Hall, a December 2018 graduate from Beavercreek, wanted the Super Bowl experience before starting her career in sport management.
“I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s going to look good on my resume and make me stand out among other job applicants,” she said. “To actually go to Atlanta for the Super Bowl is kind of mind-blowing. No other school in our athletic conference offers this experience.
“We’re going to meet so many professionals in the sport management field, the opportunities for networking will be incredible. As Alan says, ‘It’s not just what you know, but also who you know.’”
Indeed, Eric Wathen, a senior from Miamisburg majoring in sport management and business administration, is returning for his third Super Bowl after enjoying — and benefitting from — the experience the last two Februarys. He credits these hands-on learning opportunities with helping him land both an internship and job with Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity that helped me stand out when I applied with the Crew,” he said, noting he spoke about the Super Bowl experience in a successful interview for an internship he held last year, which led to a job with the team.
“We talked about my Super Bowl experience for 15 minutes during the job interview,” he added. “It helped set me apart from the other applicants and led to talking about other experiences I’ve had at WC.”
Indeed, sport management students have toured and met with officials at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium; Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds; Fifth-Third Field, home of the minor league’s Dayton Dragons; The Columbus Crew’s Malpre Stadium; and athletics facilities throughout The Ohio State University.
Also, they’ve staged events on campus while also working the NCAA Division Football Championship in California earlier this month and this month’s four-day Flyin’ to the Hoop high school basketball tournament in Dayton.
While in Atlanta, the WC contingent will meet with alumnus Tyler Brummett, a 2018 graduate who leveraged his Super Bowl experience in landing his current position with the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA.
“Alan is all about students getting experience in sport management, getting their hands dirty,” he said. “Employers want to know what you can do and what you’ve done.”
Brummett said working the Super Bowl helped shape his College experience. It gave him a greater appreciation for what goes into putting on events — especially large events. And as he added, “It doesn’t get any bigger than the Super Bowl!”