Gridiron Gigs: UNE students paid by NFL to staff Super Bowl Experience

Four students pose wearing NFL-themed shirts
From left: Class of 2024 sports management students Matt Place, Ryan Kiley, Tyler Calhoun, and Bryce Clemons-Baker.

Four students from the University of New England’s College of Business recently returned from Nevada, where they immersed themselves in the heart of the sports industry during the events leading up to Super Bowl LVIII.

Class of 2024 sports management students Tyler Calhoun, Bryce Clemons-Baker, Ryan Kiley, and  Matt Place were given the rare opportunity to work various events for the National Football League (NFL) in the days leading up to football’s biggest night. The students were paid by the NFL for their efforts and were the only group from New England represented on the trip, which saw them managing fan experiences and networking with sports management students from across the country.

The students were joined by Assistant Teaching Professor Aimee Vlachos, Ed.D., CPRP, and Patty Williams, associate director of Athletics for Club and Intramural Sports.

“The Super Bowl trip was not only an opportunity for the students to see the operations and ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of putting together a large sporting event, but they also made a number of industry connections, which should be extremely helpful for them as they start their careers in sport,” Vlachos remarked.

The group spent five days in Las Vegas, where they primarily staffed the NFL’s Super Bowl Experience, a series of events held from Feb. 7 to 10 at the Mandalay Bay Resort.

Reflecting on the experience, Place said he was able to put the skills he has learned through his studies into action.

“I learned how much time, effort, and planning goes into executing these events, and I put a lot of skills and ideas learned from UNE into practice on a very large scale,” he said. “I’m very happy I got the opportunity to connect and talk with a variety of different people in many different aspects of sport.”

The students attended an NFL networking panel, where they were able to interact with over 700 sports management majors from schools nationwide. The panel featured industry professionals who shared insights into their careers in sports, with keynote speaker Devon Lewis-Buchanan, a former player for the Oakland Raiders who is now the team’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Kiley said the experience provided invaluable networking opportunities that gave him insight into the professional sports industry.

“It was a massive opportunity to work for the NFL during the most-watched event in America,” he remarked. “One networking experience allowed me to meet many students with a future in sports and even inspired me to reassess what I want to do within the industry.”

In their off-hours with the NFL, the group explored the inner workings of professional sports organizations in Las Vegas, including a visit to the corporate offices of the Golden Knights hockey team, where they met with Nick Trujillo, the team’s director of global partnerships. Trujillo, himself a former sports management major, shared insights into his career trajectory with the students. The group also witnessed hockey star Jack Eichel on the ice as he practiced before a game.

The group also toured the turf of the Las Vegas Ballpark, home of the Las Vegas Aviators, and met with Director of Broadcasting Matt Neverett, who provided the students with a glimpse into the operation of a professional baseball organization.

The Super Bowl trip was the opportunity to put their education into action, Kiley said.

“I was proud to be a part of the team that ensured that the Super Bowl Experience was running effectively for its over 50,000 eventgoers, and I hope to do this again in the future,” Kiley said.

Inside the Super Bowl Experience

Professor Aimee Vlachos, Ph.D.

Patty Williams

Students convene at the convention