Going to the Super Bowl is at the top of the bucket list for many people. This year, 12 University of Tennessee at Martin students will not only get to cross that entry off but will also get to experience the event from behind the scenes.
Along with Dr. Dexter Davis, associate professor of sport business, students will assist the local organizing committee at the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas, Feb. 3-8, and on-location experiences personnel at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, Feb. 8-13. The group will spend these two weeks in Las Vegas and Los Angeles assisting in hospitality at the games, touring various facilities, and networking with industry professionals. This year’s trip to the Super Bowl will be the ninth in UT Martin history, but this is the first year that UT Martin students have worked at the NHL All-Star Game.
Davis began supervising trips to the Super Bowl around 17 years ago, when a colleague who worked for the Miami Dolphins invited him to bring students to help with Super Bowl Week activities. His group of seven Niagara University students, where he taught at the time, made such a strong impression on the event’s coordinators that Davis was invited to bring students again the next year. When Davis started teaching at UT Martin in 2013, he continued these trips and eight cohorts later, UT Martin students have built a reputation of their own.
“It’s all a reflection on how good our students are,” Davis said while discussing the opportunities provided by the NFL.
While looking into working at other sporting events, Davis was informed that the NHL was looking for assistance with its annual All-Star Game. After reaching out to a contact from past Super Bowls, Davis was able to get his students involved.
At the Super Bowl, students transport celebrities, current and retired players and NFL Hall of Famers from one pre-game event to another. The students have the opportunity to learn the most efficient routes to get each person where they need to be, and their experience translates into diplomacy and time-management skills, because they must assure that everyone arrives promptly as well as tactfully answer questions and demands from fans.
The students’ responsibilities at the NHL All-Star game will be more focused on the NHL Fan Fair, which is held in the Las Vegas Convention Center, where fans enjoy hockey-related exhibits and activities, and take photos with the Stanley Cup trophy. Students will also be helping with volunteer orientation sessions.
Through taking on these duties, students will not only apply what they know, but also expand their knowledge by experiencing the hustle and bustle of some of the country’s largest sporting events.
“They’re going to be in the stadium early on Sunday (for the Super Bowl), and they’re going to see everything from when it opens up and the staff start coming in, to when the gates open and fans start coming in, to when the game is over and fans are leaving,” Davis said. “They’re going to see all of the different elements of this major sporting event and how it occurs, and no matter how hard you try in a classroom, you can’t describe the magnitude of that event without being at that event.”
Logan Alfano-Webb, a senior double major in finance and economics from Counce, is participating for the second year.
“Last year, I gained a great understanding on the amount of effort needed behind the scenes to make sure the biggest sporting event of the year runs smoothly,” he said. “This year, I hope to further expand this knowledge and be able to apply what I learned from the prior year.”
When not working at the games, students will be able to meet with industry professionals, tour various universities’ athletic facilities and enjoy nearby cities and tourist attractions. While in Los Angeles, students will attend a Los Angeles Lakers game, and a trip to the Hoover Dam is also planned. Through these opportunities, students will get to experience another part of the country.
“Some of these kids may never get the opportunity to go back to Los Angeles, so we want to try to make it a complete opportunity for them,” Davis said.
Through this two-week long trip, Davis builds relationships with his students.
“It’s fun getting to know these kids and developing the relationships. Every night, we go out to dinner, and I say, ‘What’d you learn today?’ and it’s fun to hear what they learned. One of the things about learning is you’ve got to reflect on the experience,” Davis said.
For more information about the trip or the UT Martin Sport Business Program, contact Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.