Sports Management students working behind the scenes at Boca Raton Bowl

Students with Professor Smith at Don Drumm Stadium

Liz Nedved ’20 (Circleville, Ohio) didn’t expect an opportunity like this in her first semester of Marietta College’s Sports Management program.

After changing her major following her freshmen year, Nedved has dived right into her new program of study with a passion and will accompany six other students from the program this December to Florida to gain experience at the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl.

“I was very surprised to be given such a great opportunity so soon,” she said. “But it meant a lot that (Assistant) Professor (Rick) Smith saw potential in me to travel to Florida with the program.”

Nedved and her classmates will spend six days and five nights in South Florida working all aspects of the bowl game, including team airport arrivals, pep rallies and fan engagement activities, leading up to the Dec. 19th game that features Florida Atlantic against Akron. They will also work at the game, which is slated to kick off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.

“I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to work the Boca Bowl because it gives us a chance to apply what we have been learning in the classroom on a large scale,” Nedved said. “The environment of collegiate athletics is the reason I chose to go into the Sports Management field, so I am looking forward to being able to provide the excitement of the fan experience.”

The other students making the trip to Florida are Hunter Gallagher ’18 (Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania), Kristina LaRocca ’18 (Beach City, Ohio), Brett Mattson ’18 (Parkersburg, West Virginia), Jack Hirschfield ’20 (Marietta, Ohio), Brandon Larsen ’20 (Newport, Ohio) and Gavin Linkous ’21 (Waynesville, Ohio). They will be joined by Assistant Professor Rick Smith and golf coach Tom Arison.

LaRocca is excited about the upcoming Boca Bowl experience.

“This is a great opportunity for the major to get a hands-on experience as well as make known connections for Marietta College,” she said. “I hope to gain a better understanding of how behind the scenes of a bowl game works. Seeing all the events that will be going on and how they are presented are what I am most interested in seeing.”

Smith, who earned his bachelor’s degree from FAU, is excited to show the students around his alma mater, but also to provide this valuable opportunity to learn what it takes to organize and execute a bowl game.

“This will be an unforgettable trip for the students. The work they will complete is something that cannot be taught in the classroom,” Smith said. “They will have stories to share with friends, family, and most importantly, job-relatable experiences to share with employers.”

Nedved said she has spoken with her classmates about the multiple opportunities for a career in sports management, and this experience should help all of them get a better understanding if this is a direction they’d like to go in the future.

“I am particularly excited for this trip because I am interested in event management as a career, so working one of the largest events in Division I football will provide me with on-the-job training you cannot get by sitting in a classroom,” she said.

Larsen agrees that this is an opportunity that many students don’t get early in their academic career.

“It is really nice to be able to get a head start and put this on my resume early, because I feel like it is something that will stick out and help me get internships and also jobs that I apply for in the future,” he said. “It is also great to be able to represent Marietta College at such a large event.”

The game is played at FAU's home stadium — Howard Schnellenberger Field. The Owls finished the season 10-3 and won the Conference USA championship with an 8-0 record and by defeating North Texas 41-17 in the title game.

Akron is 7-6 and finished 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference. The Zips lost to Toledo 45-28 in the MAC championship game, but still qualified for their third bowl game in 32 seasons.

“The Boca Raton Bowl is one of the premier college football bowl games,” Smith said. “The events surrounding the bowl game are first-class, and I’m glad our students will have a chance to experience the events from a behind-the-scenes and fan perspective.”

Another draw for many of the students is getting an opportunity to work with ESPN.

“I believe it will be a great experience for us and we will get to test what we have learned in the classroom and network with some people who have many years in this industry,” Mattson said. “We have been looking forward to this ever since it was announced back in September. It’ll be a great opportunity to represent Marietta College down in Florida.”

Doug Mosley, Executive Director of the Boca Raton Bowl, said he is looking forward to working with Marietta’s students.

“I believe it is our obligation to offer opportunities to students like those in an outstanding sports administration program like the one at Marietta College,” he said. “We began our careers in similar ways, and I'm forever grateful to those people who invited me to learn at their side.”