Sports management students get hands-on experience in college football playoffs

FSU Sports Management Students and Faculty Member Jason Pappas Watch the National Championship Game

Education is a journey, and some journeys are epic.

For Jason Pappas, a teaching professor and director of undergraduate internships in the Department of Sports Management, helping students have epic experiences is only part of the job. Recently, Pappas brought eight FSU sports management students to San Jose, Calif., for the College Football Playoff Championship Game on Jan. 7 for a truly epic educational experience.

One of the main advantages of students in the FSU Sport Management program is the extensive network of alumni and friends who work in the industry.

Occasionally, students will have the opportunity to meet these people and organizations during interviews and ad hoc meetings or internships. There are also annual events such as the FSU Sport Management Conference, where students can meet potential employers, listen to industry talks, and network with professionals.

And then there are trips like the one that took place in early January. For students with a passion for sports management, these trips offer unique opportunities to gain hands-on experience and work closely with professionals.

“The opportunity for our students to learn and gain hands-on experience with one of the top entertainment and event management companies in the world while participating in the nation’s second largest sporting event is invaluable,” said Pappas said.

FSU sports management students meet with representatives of the Sacramento Kings.
FSU sports management students meet with representatives of the Sacramento Kings.

From Sacramento
The trip started with a busy but exciting schedule. After landing in San Jose, the group of sports management students and Pappas made the long drive to Sacramento, where they participated in a roundtable with employees of the Sacramento Kings organization. The NBA team also provided students with lower-tier tickets for the night’s game.

On the second day of the trip, the group gained hands-on experience working with live event agency Etzel. As part of the job, students set up scrim (a material put on fences to make them more attractive), set up the tailgate area and more. During this time, the students networked and asked questions. The whole process took two days to set up and take down after the college football playoffs were over.

“Florida State University’s sports management program began working with the Etzel agency five years ago during the first-ever college football playoff national championship game in Dallas,” Pappas said. “Since then, the students have done an exceptional job. Thus, we are now the only university that organizes this event every year.

FSU Sports Management students prepare for the tailgating event during the 2019 National Championship game.
FSU Sports Management students prepare for the tailgating event during the 2019 National Championship game.

Rain or shine
Due to weather conditions, the original plan for Sunday was cancelled, meaning the students worked very hard to fulfill their responsibilities for the championship game. They set up tents, more canvas and prepared the tailgate area. During the morning of the game, the students split into two teams and took on various responsibilities, such as hosting family and friends from the Clemson and Alabama teams and preparing the stage for a performance by Keith Urban.

The trip contained another surprise: the Etzel agency provided the students with tickets to the championship game itself. Tired but excited, the students watched as Clemson won the college football championship.

For some of these students, this is the first of many events designed to give them real-world experience in sports management.

“This trip has been very beneficial to me personally as it has helped me realize what I want to do in the sports industry,” said undergraduate student Chelsea Boretti. “I was able to learn and experience event operations and what it’s like behind the scenes at a major event.”

For the eight FSU students, the trip was more than just listing on a resume. Opportunities like competing in the college football playoffs aren’t just about gaining experience; they build memories that will last a lifetime.

Learn more about the sports management program at Florida State.

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