The last time the Super Bowl was played in Detroit, most current BGSU undergraduates hadn’t been born.
In the next week, 45 of them will be working for the National Football League as it brings the title game to the Motor City for the first time since 1982.
'This is an extraordinary opportunity for
our sport management students'
— Dr. Jacquelyn Cuneen
Twenty-two of the students, from the Sport Management Program, will be “team leaders” at the NFL Experience, to be held Wednesday-Sunday (Feb. 1-5) at the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. They will be paid $10 per hour to train and oversee volunteers working at the interactive sports festival, assist guests and ensure that the games and activities run smoothly and safely.
The other 23 BGSU students will be volunteers in the “Corporate Hospitality Village.” They will work either at the Fox Theatre, Comerica Park or Ford Field, which will host Super Bowl XL, matching the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, on Feb. 5.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for our sport management students,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Cuneen, chair of the Sport Management, Recreation and Tourism (SMRT) Division of BGSU’s School of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies, in the College of Education and Human Development.
“They are having a rare chance to help manage the world’s largest annual event, and it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she added, crediting NFL executive, and 1970 BGSU graduate, Dick Maxwell with making it happen.
Maxwell, of NFL Broadcasting Operations, is the league’s primary liaison with its television rights holders. He’s also a “generous friend” to the Sport Management Program, speaking to students in classes when he’s in the area, Cuneen said.
“He developed a respect for them through those classroom interactions, and knowing how much extra talent it takes to run the Super Bowl behind the scenes, as well as the NFL Experience … he thought of us,” she explained.
Maxwell passed along information about volunteer opportunities for students, noted Dr. Artemisia Apostolopoulou, SMRT. He also related BGSU student interest in the NFL Experience to Party Planners West Inc., a California-based group retained by the league to manage many of the festival’s logistics. Party Planners West was seeking 20-30 students to become team leaders, which Apostolopoulou described as having “very high responsibility.”
The opportunity was announced at a fall meeting of the Sport Management Alliance, a BGSU student organization. Students signed up there for a chance to be either a team leader or a volunteer, and Cuneen and Apostolopoulou asked fellow faculty members to submit names of students they would recommend. The 30 students whose names appeared on a resulting list were then asked to email their resumes and a letter of interest to Party Planners West.
“We wanted to reward our students for professionalism and reward them for good work” in class, Apostolopoulou said.
Party Planners West pared the list to 22 and sent its volunteer manager, Douglas Stonecipher, to campus to interview them on Dec. 14. All 22 were subsequently hired, filling all but one of the available team leader spots.
One student, David Mosure, a sophomore from Fairfield, was selected to be Stonecipher’s assistant for the Super Bowl. Three others were chosen to serve as assistants to the volunteer coordinator: seniors Kari Reinhart from Alvada, Megan Diehl from Montpelier and Patrick Curran from North Olmsted. Reinhart’s and Diehl’s primary role will be to oversee waivers required from participants in NFL Experience events.
“These people were really team leaders before the NFL Experience,” Apostolopoulou said.
The selection process was similar for the unpaid, volunteer students who will work in the corporate hospitality area on game day. Seven will serve as “venue assistants,” while 16 will be “village ambassadors,” greeting corporate guests.
Ensuring that corporate sponsors receive the benefits of their sponsorship is only one of the many nonfootball aspects of the Super Bowl that the average fan doesn’t see, Apostolopoulou said. “The sponsors and partners care about impressions, exposure, getting what they paid for,” she pointed out.
Risk management is also extensive—for both the Super Bowl and sports in general—as are security provisions, she noted. “People who are watching on TV have no idea” of the level of security, she said, citing the FBI background checks that were required of the BGSU students as an example.
They are among roughly 500 undergraduates in the Sport Management Program, which will eventually send them out to work for major- and minor-league professional teams in such areas as sales, marketing, sponsorship and licensing; college and university athletic departments; sport management agencies; event and facilities management agencies, and, in some cases, corporations that sponsor athletic events.
But first, some of them are getting an inside look at perhaps the biggest American event of all, not only from working in Detroit but also from Maxwell and a panel of NFL executives who discussed Super Bowl preparations on campus Jan. 26.
“When you have such a large event in your backyard, you want to see how you can get involved,” Apostolopoulou said. “We are just excited with this opportunity.”