Bowl game experiences prepare Sport Management students for future careers

Students kneeling and standing

The main reason Zach Boyd ’22 (Kent, Ohio) transferred to Marietta College in Fall 2020 was to play baseball for the nation’s premier NCAA Division III program.

But he also had another good reason.

“Opportunities like working the Boca Raton Bowl,” he said. “I am most excited to meet industry professionals and build connections that will help me as I transition into my future career. I am also looking forward to building upon my leadership skills while enhancing the event experience for all of the participants involved during bowl week.”

Boyd will be joined by 11 Marietta classmates in Boca Raton, Florida, for the Boca Raton Bowl from December 13th through December 18th when Western Kentucky faces Appalachian State at 11:00 a.m. at FAU Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.

This is the fourth year Marietta College students have worked behind the scenes at the Boca Raton Bowl. The students will attend and assist at all bowl week events including team functions, fan pep rallies and multiple other activities.

Associate Professor of Sport Management Rick Smith has organized and volunteered each year in Boca.

“Two of our recent graduates are working at Florida Atlantic University right now and the Boca Raton Bowl work experience at that very stadium helped them land their jobs,” he said. “We do more than scan tickets and help fans enjoy the game. Bowl games are week-long celebrations with activities every day. We are at each bowl event assisting the management with every aspect of the event. In-between events we set up the stadium from top to bottom. And when we have downtime, we set up professional networking opportunities with industry professionals for lunch and dinner.”

The other students working in Boca Raton are Justin Blasko ’22 (Youngstown, Ohio), Micaela Bradley ’23 (Greenup, Illinois), Alexis Darlymple ’22 (Marietta, Ohio), Natalia Facchinato-Sitja ’23 (Washington, D.C.), Walker Feick ’25 (Belpre, Ohio), Charley Herman ’23 (Medina, Ohio), Josh Mudgett ’23 (Duncan Falls, Ohio), Tucker Nelson ’25 (Coshocton, Ohio), Kaylie Ward ’24 (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio), Evan Wells ’25 (Belpre, Ohio) and Tyler Wise ’22 (Marietta, Ohio)

Ward is looking forward to working and learning at the Boca Raton Bowl.

“Going to the Boca Raton Bowl is such an amazing opportunity that the students in the Sport Management program get,” she said. “Going to this is a great experience because we get to see behind the scenes of setting up and successfully executing a bowl game. Since I want to work in college athletics after graduating, it gives me a glimpse as to what I have coming my way. This will give me a great hands-on experience to help prepare me for my future after Marietta College.”

The experience at the Boca Raton Bowl, along with multiple other job-shadow and internship experiences, are a reason why Marietta’s Sport Management Program enrolls almost 60 students. The increased student enrollment is a critical reason why Smith has worked hard to find even more opportunities. This year, students will also complete internships at the Capital One Orange Bowl and the Myrtle Beach Bowl.

Following his obligations at the Boca Raton Bowl, Wise will transition to the Orange Bowl. He will be joined by Mudgett, David Sher ’22 (Merion Station, Pennsylvania) and Brady Vincent ’24 (Cambridge, Ohio) in Miami. The game features No. 2 Michigan against No. 3 Georgia in a College Football Playoff Semifinal on Friday, December 31st and it will be televised on ESPN.

“I have only heard stories about the trips in the past. Getting to experience the trip firsthand this year is what I’m most looking forward to,” Wise said. “The opportunity to work and intern for the Orange Bowl is something I’ve only dreamed about. For that dream to come true is surreal for me. I look forward to learning how a College Football Playoff Semifinal Game is handled and how involved it is.”

Mudgett is also working in Boca Raton and Miami over the College’s winter break.

“This experience will give me a step up on my competition in the sports operations field,” he said. “Through this experience, I will get the opportunity to get real-life experience working and executing two large-scale events that will translate to any career I choose. And in addition, it will be a great chance to have a blast meeting and connecting with new people.”

Two Marietta students — Jaelon Quiero-Gordon ’24 (Westerville, Ohio) and Cullen Zaferopolos ’23 (Olmsted Falls, Ohio) — will intern at the Myrtle Beach Bowl from December 15th-21st. The game features Old Dominion against Tulsa at 2:30 p.m., Monday, December 21st. The game will be televised on ESPN.

“The sports industry requires industry experience for entry-level employees. Sure, many programs require internships,” Smith said. “But what makes Marietta College stand out? It’s these job shadow experiences that many, many other schools are not doing in the way that we structure the experience to balance hands-on work with meaningful professional networking and learning on-site.”

Marietta’s Vice President for Advancement Josh Jacobs said the College has received gifts from generous donors help support Sport Management students with these experiential learning opportunities.

“We are very grateful for this support,” Smith said. “It lightens the financial burden on our students while they enjoy amazing and valuable experiences.”

Over a 22-day span, 16 Marietta students will complete an intense, real-life experience at three college football bowl games that not only help them connect the lessons they have learned in class, but also boost their resumés when they begin searching for their first jobs.

“I would like to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a way to expand my network in sports,” Vincent said. “I want to build off what I learned at Marietta College. I also will learn from experienced individuals how to prepare for the future.”