North Central College students help New Orleans host the Super Bowl

Feb 26, 2013

While the Super Bowl may already be a distant memory for many, 15 members of North Central’s Sport Management Association (SMA) are still pinching themselves as they recall rubbing elbows with sports celebrities and gaining admission to the country’s most popular sporting event, held this year in New Orleans.

“I had goosebumps the entire time I was in the Superdome,” says Matt Meindl  ’14, a management and sport management double major. “And experiencing New Orleans’ culture was also a thrill of a lifetime.”

The trip came about largely because of the College’s reputation for its sport management program. Last fall, the head of the Super Bowl host committee in New Orleans contacted several colleges with reputable programs and asked if students would like to be interns for the event. “We probably had 25 to 30 students interested so we ended up organizing a group trip,” says Matt Klosterman, assistant professor of health and physical education, men’s soccer coach and SMA faculty advisor and chaperone.

Students immediately started organizing different aspects of the trip and raising funds.  They found that their best option for accommodations was 45 minutes away in Slidell, LA, and still the price jumped from $85 to $285 nightly for the event.

They arrived the Wednesday night before the big game and one of their favorite memories happened before most left the airport. A mix-up on the rental vans required Klosterman to first drive the women in the group to Slidell and then return to transport the men. While they waited at the airport, a plane coming from the Pro Bowl in Hawaii arrived with the likes of Drew Brees, Sean Payton and other superstars. “Their trip was made before they even got to the hotel,” says Klosterman.

Over the following days, the students were volunteer ambassadors, working at public events like concerts, and providing help to visitors and overseeing activities. They staffed the NFL Experience interactive theme park in the convention center and the NFL On Location event, both available as extras to game ticketholders.  Along the way they were able to watch a rehearsal staging the halftime show, saw sportscasters at work and networked with professionals in the field.

“I enjoyed the chance to talk to three sport professionals at a panel discussion we attended,” says Kim Ippolito ’13, a broadcast communications major. ”They gave us advice about careers in the sports industry.”

The group got used to seeing people like Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, retired pro Joe Montana and NBA stars Anthony Davis and Shaquille O’Neal.

Originally, the students had little hope of getting to see the game, but that changed on Sunday. After some long lines to obtain new credentials to allow entry into the stadium perimeter, the lucky students learned they could enter the Superdome and watch the game from any vantage point they could find. Standing in tunnels and grabbing unused media seats, the North Central contingent realized they were experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But at least one aspect of the game is better on television, says Ryan Donahue ’13, sport management major.

“The confetti and trophy presentations are much cooler to see on television,” he says.