By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
The New England Patriots aren’t the only team at the Super Bowl in Atlanta who will be there for the third time in five years.
Students from Bowling Green State University’s Sports Management Alliance are on site in Atlanta for the week, working as volunteers at the event.
The 24 students headed down Tuesday before the break of dawn, with their first 14-hour shift on Wednesday.
While that sounds grueling, two sports management majors who made the trip last year agreed it was chance of a lifetime.
“It was the best week of my life,” said Cory Radebaugh, a senior in sports management.
“Eye opening,” said Kyle Edmond, also a senior sports management major. “I think that’s the easiest way to summarize it. … Every step of the way you saw something different, something you never anticipated. None of us could have dreamed the amount of manpower that’s behind it.”
That includes security with military on every corner and rooftop and a tank parked outside the stadium.
In the days leading up to the game, the students will be working with the fan experience at the stadium. These are a series of activities for families. The volunteers guide visitors through exhibits and help them get photographs with the Lombardi Trophy that the winning team will hoist after Sunday’s game.
Kids also participate in a pass, punt, and kick skills competition. Radebaugh said last year, youngsters had the chance to don a helmet equipped with the same communications technology the pros use, and Radebaugh and other volunteers would call out instructions to them as they maneuvered.
Those participating in the activity include local families who can’t afford the tickets, which are going for several thousands of dollars. Others have tickets, Radebaugh said, but come early to get the most out of the trip.
On game day, BGSU students will assist the 1,700 fans who bought $20,000 Super Bowl packages — airfare, hotel, and game tickets. They primarily will help them find their way around Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This will be the sixth time in just over a decade that BGSU students have worked the Super Bowl.
“Going to the Super Bowl they can see what they learned about in the classroom enacted in the real world ,” said Amanda Paule-Koba, the Sports Management Alliance advisor.
The application process is competitive. The two dozen students — 16 men and eight women — had to apply early last semester to go.
Paule-Koba said the 60 applicants were screened for how much sports management experience they had as well as for their academic abilities.
They have to show that they can manage missing a week of classes early in the semester — the first week of classes this year because of Winter Session.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” she said, “but we don’t want to set anyone up for failure by having them miss the first week of classes.”
Often students will be back in their hotel rooms after a day of work completing assignments.
“Our faculty across campus understands what a fantastic opportunity this is for students to network, to increase their skills, and to get something like the Super Bowl on their resumes,” she said.
Clay George, a junior, said that professors told him “to have fun and talk to me when you get back.”
George, Radebaugh, and Edmond all hope that what they learn here will translate to future careers as athletic directors on the collegiate or high school level.
“This is a big as the sports industry can get,” George said. “It’s huge on a resume. Some of our friends have gotten big internships because of having this on their resumes.”
The students do fundraising to help pay for the trip that cost of the trip, which was $6,200 last year. Each student will kick in about $150 of their own money as well as paying for their own food.
They will come back with Super Bowl gear worth hundreds of dollars. Any time they are in the stadium, Radebaugh said, they have to be wearing Super Bowl branded gear. “And they want to keep us warm.”
Edmond said he hasn’t worn the clothing he brought back last year. Instead he keeps it stored. “It’s something you can look back on.”
In terms of seeing the game, that’s not a given. The past two trips, students have seen the game, Radebaugh said. But this year no volunteers will be allowed on the concourse after kick off.
In 2013, Paule-Koba said, the students were heading back to Bowling Green on the Saturday before the Super Bowl. But they’d already scored what they hoped was game-changing experience.