Wilmington College sports management students working at Super Bowl LVI

A dozen Wilmington College students followed the hometown favorites Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles this week, as the group spent five days participating in one of the hands-on learning experiences of the College.

These sports management students flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday to spend the next six days working on America’s biggest annual sporting event — do this event, period.

As volunteers, they will serve as ambassadors, hospitality and customer service personnel to assist the thousands of guests who attend a myriad of events and activities associated with “The NFL Experience” during the Super Bowl week at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

They’ll also be working game day at SoFi Stadium and hope to see some of the star event: the Cincinnati Bengals vs. the Los Angeles Rams.

Sports management program director Dr. Alan Ledford said students will experience Super Bowl week and game day behind the scenes to learn the ins and outs of hosting a mega-event.

“They will gain a practical understanding of what it takes to plan, organize and execute a true sporting event giant,” he said. “They will also interview, meet and learn from top people in the sports business world.”

WC students’ Super Bowl experience over the past few years has had positive ramifications as they engage in securing internships and professional jobs.

Accompanying the group to Los Angeles are Dr. James Mattern, assistant professor of sports management, and Steve Cukovecki, senior admissions counselor who works with sports management students. Both strongly promote these high-level hands-on learning opportunities.

“We talk about what we do in the classroom, but taking students to the Super Bowl and other major sporting events is what sets us apart from other schools,” Mattern said. “As students interview for internships and alumni seek employment, it’s those experiences that will stand out as talking points and take-back points.”

Indeed, these are once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

However, for Trafford Dunn, lightning struck twice. This will be his second Super Bowl experience. In 2020, he traveled with his WC contemporaries to work at Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

“My advice to those going for the first time is to make the most of it – it’s a very special experience,” said the Wellston junior, noting that such opportunities sold him to study the management of the sports at Wilmington College. “It had a huge influence on my decision to come here. I knew I wouldn’t get opportunities like this anywhere else.

Senior Heidi Edens is the only non-sport management major on the trip. The Middletown Agriculture/Communication Arts major was thrilled when a spot opened up for her to join the trip. She expects this to prove educational in terms of her interest in communication. Plus, she loves the adventure opportunities after spending last summer as an intern working with loggerhead sea turtles on the South Carolina coast.

“The Super Bowl will be a great opportunity to learn and network,” she said. “It’s exciting to be able to flesh out my resume with so many different experiences that I had at Wilmington College. This should start some great conversations in my sharing of a wide range of interests.

The Super Bowl is just one of the many hands-on learning opportunities available to sports management students at WC. In January, a contingent worked for the NCAA Division I football championship, while later this month others will outfit the National Basketball Assn. All-Star weekend and, in April, WC students will be at the culmination of March Madness, the NCAA DI Final Four.

In addition to Edens and Dunn, other students working at the Super Bowl are Owen Baumann, James Kluth, Natalie Sparling, Simon Heys, Andie Dolven, Griffin McCauley, Austin Bondurant, Noah Tobin, Jalaun Covington, and Rachel Kennedy.

Left to right, WC students Trafford Dunn and Heidi Edens chat with Steve Cukovecki and James Mattern about what to expect while working the Super Bowl.

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