As the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens battled it out on the field, a team of UT students were behind the scenes at the NFL’s Super Bowl XLVII preparing special events and working VIP hospitality suites.
TEAM UT, which included 15 undergraduate and graduate students and three faculty members, worked directly with M Group Scenic Studios, the Super Bowl event planner, at the February 3 game. The group was in New Orleans from January 30 to February 5.
“As a student, it’s one of the best professional development things you can do,” said Andrew Busa, a senior in sports management (minor in business) and co-director of TEAM UT. Busa, who attended the Super Bowl last year, said that helped him learn how mega-events work on a big stage. “This year, I wanted to hone my leadership skills,” he said.
This is the seventh year that UT students have worked the Super Bowl. TEAM UT has been part of Super Bowls XLI (Miami), XLII (Glendale), XLIII (Tampa), XLIV (Miami), XLV (North Texas) and XLVI (Indianapolis).
TEAM UT aims to give students a real-world learning experience as they prepare for careers in the sports and management industries. It was created by Fritz G. Polite, a UT clinical professor of sport management and director and founder of UT’s Institute for Leadership, Ethics, and Diversity. He also is director for community outreach and global engagement in the UT College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.
New this year was the addition of a student and faculty member from the UT FUTURE Post-Secondary Education Program, an initiative that gives students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to attend college.
“This is part of our diversity initiative and providing opportunities that normally wouldn’t come their way,” Polite said. “Students with learning disabilities should be entitled to the same privileges as all other students.”
During the week that they were in New Orleans, TEAM UT helped with the NFL Experience, an interactive event that allows professional football players to interact with the community by offering drills, participatory games, football clinics, and entertainment. UT students also performed community service with the UT New Orleans alumni chapter by cleaning up a playground.
Dani Polk, a UT sophomore and co-director of TEAM UT, compared attending the Super Bowl to “on-the-job training.” She was one of the youngest members of the team and also attended the Super Bowl last year. The team’s third co-director was UT junior Kristen Petway, who also attended the Super Bowl last year. The remaining team members were:
· Abigail Benson (senior in recreation and sport management)
· Brad Briggs (dual MBA-MS sport management)
· Darren Brown (dual MBA-MS sport management)
· David Cihak (associate professor of special education)
· Sarah Frazier (senior in recreation and sport management)
· Taylor Hathorn (junior in journalism and electronic media with a concentration in sport broadcasting and a minor in business)
· Nickie Lancaster (senior in sport and recreation management with a minor in business)
· Destini Long (sophomore majoring in retail and consumer science)
· Bryan Lundquist (first-year MBA)
· Debbie Mackey (director of the UT human resource management program)
· Matthew McCarter (second-year FUTURE student)
· Alice Mitchell (senior majoring in journalism and electronic media)
· Erika Morris (first-year sport and recreation management major)
· Kristen Petway (junior in recreation and sport management)
To pay for trip expenses, TEAM UT raised $30,000 through a silent auction, a golf tournament, and donations. To be part of the team, students went through a rigorous selection process that included writing essays about their five- and 10-year career goals and how being a part of the team would hel p their career aspirations. They also were interviewed and were required to submit a professional portfolio with business cards and resumes.