SMA at the Super Bowl

Article by Parker Brown

The Sport Management Alliance (SMA) is sending 32 lucky Bowling Green State University (BGSU) students to one of the largest sporting events on the face of the Earth: Super Bowl LII. Come February, they will spend a week in Minneapolis, getting a first-hand glimpse on what it takes to put on such a massive entertainment spectacle.

On February 2, 2014, 112.2 million Americans tuned in to watch the Seattle Seahawks defeat the Denver Broncos in a 43 – 8 affair. It remains the last time SMA had student representatives working the Super Bowl until this coming year.

But it’s not just the game that matters to SMA and the students. What matters is what the opportunity represents.

“This trip provides the opportunity for our members to get experience in the field, build their resumes and network with professionals,” said Courtney Burson, Travel Coordinator for SMA and Junior in the Sport Management program. “Ultimately though, the goal is help them with professional development.”

Trips like these are where SMA’s main purpose truly comes to life. The organization is founded on the belief that providing students interested in the sports industry with real life experience and opportunities to pick the brains of executives and employers not only directly benefits the student but gives SMA and BGSU more prestige as well.

This aspect goes beyond just the students preparing to graduate, extending to the underclassmen who likely have little to no professional athletic experience in a collegiate or professional environment.

Out of the 32 students who will be heading North to Minneapolis in late January, just under half are either freshmen or sophomores at BGSU. Juniors lead the way by overall numbers with 15 attendees, but there are mix of all classes including one graduate student.

Some may be getting the opportunity early or late in their college careers, but learning how to come together to put on a sporting event is the underlying theme that unites them all.

What better way to get a crash course in event management than watch the professionals do it at one of the largest sporting events in the world?

“First off, I think they will realize how tough it is to organize an event like this,” said SMA President and Junior Sport Management major, Brian Lobban. “This is something the Host Committee has been working on for probably over two, three, maybe even four years.”

Lobban, who has seen multiple iterations of SMA through his years as a committee member, leader and president, is hopeful the trip will help inspire some to take the industry a little more seriously.

“I think the big lesson you can learn is that there are so many things that go into an event,” said Lobban. “When people think of the Super Bowl, it’s not just the game that you see on the field. All these things that lead up to it, like fan events, that people don’t think of but are just as important.”

There is one unfortunate side effect in undertaking such an ambitious endeavor: the cost.

Sending 32 students to Minnesota for a week is a significant financial burden on SMA. Despite being one of the larger student-run organizations at BGSU, early predictions for attendee cost was hovering around $270, a hefty sum for many college students.

While university funding through the Office of Campus Activities (OCA) may help to alleviate a good amount of that cost, Burson and other SMA executive members opted for a more proactive approach in reducing that sum.

On numerous occasions, the organization has issued a call of arms of sorts to its members in the effort to drive down the cost.

After some Falcon football and hockey games, a small army of SMA volunteers will converge on the littered stands of Doyt Perry Stadium and the Slater Family Ice Arena. During the games, a small group of volunteers will even help out in the concessions stands to sell beer or pizza.

They are not the most glamorous jobs in the world, but these jobs provide a significant boon to help decrease what the members pay to go to the Super Bowl. Working closely with athletics also gives the volunteers a foot in the door to help or potentially intern in other avenues with BGSU sports in the future.

SMA members have shown up and worked because there is one bright, exciting light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Cory Radebaugh, junior Sport Management major and one of the members who will be volunteering at the Super Bowl.

Radebaugh, the oldest member going on the trip, only recently returned to pursue his bachelor’s degree after spending years working in a factory. For him, trips like these are what makes his decision worth it.

“Not only did I come back to school to work toward a career in sport management, but to be involved in SMA and be able to build the relationships I have and get this opportunity is seriously going to go down as one of the best opportunities I have ever had in my life,” said Radebaugh.

Many sports fans dream of attending the Super Bowl, but few get the chance to go behind closed doors. SMA hopes that the volunteers, like Radebaugh, will come to remember the opportunity as one of the best experiences in their professional lives. Only time will tell.

Super Bowl LII will premiere around the globe on Feb. 4, 2018 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Kickoff time will be announced closer to the event.


u.s. bank stadium

Minneapolis, MN

- Home to Minnesota Vikings

- $975 million to construct

- Opened for 2016 NFL Season

- Host of Super Bowl 52

- First Super Bowl hosted in MN