About 15 months before the lights got flipped on in the stadium, the Super Bowl LIV Host Committee was already starting to make plans in Miami, Fla., for February 2, 2020 – Game Day. The backbone of the series of events, including staffing for Game Day events is all of the volunteers and short-term paid interns. Learning about the opportunity for college students to have a special volunteer opportunity at the Super Bowl, Professor of Business Administration and Director of the Sport Management and Promotion Program, Janet Howes, Ph.D. went into high gear and applied for University funding to help offset student expenses for the trip.
Professor Howes explained how the short-term student work experience came about, “After looking up volunteering for Super Bowl LIV 2020, I emailed the host committee and the volunteer coordinator responded positively and gave me the information needed to apply online. After applying online, there was a background check and then we were each accepted.”
At USJ our students take advantage of a range of internships, clinical or field placements, or part-time jobs, all to gain work experience, develop and practice skills, network and generally just learn about working in their desired field. This experience provided our students with a behind-the-scenes perspective and after they volunteered for a few shifts, they were paid for Game Day. Professor Howes was able to bring two students this year, Kevin Bilbraut and Alison O’Neill.
Kevin Bilbraut ’22, remarked, “The experience was a once in a lifetime thing. It was such a unique experience in Miami being able to meet all different types of people and also interact with so many people from around the nation. We were all able to meet some really famous people because of the lucky section we were working! We were required to escort the NFL 100 Team back and forth from their suite to the field and then back to the suites! I would definitely say this was one of the best experiences of my life.” The long hours might have been tiring but the thrill of being there and the ongoing opportunities to meet other college students with similar interests and people in the industry was exceptional.
For Alison O’Neill ’22, the experience was life-changing. “I got to be a part of the behind the scenes action of one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It gave me great insight into everything that goes on behind the cameras and television aspects of a large event like the Super Bowl. The most important thing I learned from this experience is that there is way more that goes into large sporting events like this than anyone would ever expect. There are so many people who put their time into these events to make sure that, not only is the event running smoothly, but the fans are engaged and happy with their experience,” she said.
Kevin added, “I feel the most important thing I learned from taking part in the Super Bowl was how customer relations is a very big part of the experience. There were a lot of people, towards the end of the Super Bowl that were verbally expressing their gratitude towards us as workers and how much of a great job we did. It showed me that you could have a really popular event that will always get a lot of traction but, none of that matters if you are not organized and also if the people who are working are not putting the needs of the customers as their priority. It can go a long way if you go out of your way to help a customer with whatever it is they need.”
Both Howes and Bilbraut are excited to return next year and bring more USJ students along. To get more information about the Super Bowl 2021 college student experience, contact Professor Howes at [email protected]