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OHIO Sports Administration students tackle Super Bowl LI

Monday, March 20 2017 12:00am

MSA students gain hands-on experience, work behind the scenes at Super Bowl LI in Houston

For many sports fans, having a seat in the stadium at certain high-profile events is a “bucket list” item. For American football fans, the Super Bowl is at the top of the list.

Five current Ohio University Master of Sports Administration (MSA) students recently had the opportunity to check that item off of their bucket list by working Super Bowl LI in Houston.

Picture6The trip marked the second consecutive year that MSA students were given the opportunity to participate in the largest sports event in the country. Last year, seven members of the MSA Class of 2016 worked Super Bowl 50.

MSA students , Kiki Cunningham, Shauna Happel, Michael Pelfrey, Terrance Thomas and Abby Vlastuin, traveled to Houston to work with SP+GAMEDAY and their Mobility Assistance Program. The group was accompanied by current faculty member Dr. Heather Lawrence-Benedict.

“It’s one thing for students to experience classroom instruction, simulations, or even on-campus events. But it’s something entirely different to put them in the line of fire with Super Bowl Fans. SP+GAMEDAY provided them the opportunity to put their education into action and had to navigate all types of customer service scenarios. The students represented OHIO in a first-class manner and I am very proud to be part of their experience in Houston,” said Dr. Lawrence-Benedict. 

The students worked a variety of events leading up to gameday, including the NFL Women’s Summit and the annual NFL Honors awards ceremony. Happel (MSA ‘17) also had the opportunity to work the Commissioner’s Party.

“I was able to experience the logistics that are associated with the coordination of an event involving high profile individuals. Every external aspect of the operation was coordinated down to the minute and it was really interesting to see the detail that went into putting on the event,” said Happel.

On game day, each MSA student managed one of the many parking lots outside of NRG Stadium. Their primary responsibility was to manage a group of local area staff in order to provide mobility assistance to fans that were attending the game.

“The day of the Super Bowl was such an awesome experience. I was really appreciative to have had the opportunity to help individuals that needed assistance and it was really rewarding to make a positive impact on their game day experience,” said Thomas.

Super Bowl Sunday was a quite a long day for everyone, as the shifts began at 7:45 a.m. and most staff members didn’t leave the stadium until after 1:30 a.m. However, the long hours didn’t stop everyone from having a fantastic time during at the event.

“Being at the Super Bowl on the day of the game was a surreal experience. Knowing that you were at the biggest sporting event of the year and that the eyes of the world were on that stadium was a pretty special feeling. It was a true privilege to be part of Super Bowl LI,” said Pelfrey.

Before kickoff, Pelfrey and Cunningham connected with OHIO MSA alumna, Mallory Glazier (MSA ‘16), who was Picture2attending the game as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. 

Glazier recently completed a corporate partnerships internship with the Falcons and felt lucky to have the opportunity to cheer on her employer as they competed for the ultimate prize. The group was also able to connect with MSA alumnus Drew Digby (MSA ’16), who was in Houston for his job as a sponsorship activation coordinator for ESPN. Friend of the Sports Administration Program, Bill Squires led the group on a tour of NRG Stadium. Don Hardman (MSA ‘95) was also in attendance, providing services to SP+ GAMEDAY to support the event. 

Cristine Paull (MSA ‘95), vice president of operations at SP+ GAMEDAY and project executive of NFL Events for SP+, is excited about what the OHIO team brings to the game.

“Our partnership, beginning with Super Bowl 50, has been a nice add to the overall transportation operations team. The students bring a lot to the table from an operational and customer service perspective, our hope is to continue this program into Minnesota (Super Bowl LII),” said Paull. 

Given their incredible experience, the group hopes that future MSA students will continue to have the same opportunity. Happel reflected on how much she learned while at the Super Bowl.

“I gained so much from my experience, including: managing a team of various ages and abilities, making decisions on the fly, resolving problems using my own discretion, and more. Between working the game itself and all of the preparation that went into the event, we gained so much practical knowledge that is difficult to put into words,” said Happel.

However, the trip was probably best described by Cunningham.

“Well, if I had to describe our experience in one word, I guess it would be…SUPER,” said Cunningham.