KNOXVILLE-As the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens battle it out on the field, a team of University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students will be behind the scenes at the NFL's Super Bowl XLVII preparing special events and working VIP hospitality suites.
TEAM UT, which includes 15 undergraduate and graduate students and three faculty members, will work directly with M Group Scenic Studios, the Super Bowl event planner, at the Feb. 3 game.
The group will be in New Orleans Jan. 30 to Feb. 5.
"As a student, it's one of the best professional development things you can do," said Andrew Busa, a senior in sports management and co-director of TEAM UT.
Busa, who attended the Super Bowl last year, said that helped him learn how mega events work on a big stage.
"This year, I want to hone my leadership skills," he said.
This is the seventh year UT students have worked the Super Bowl. TEAM UT has been part of Super Bowls XLI (Miami), XLII (Glendale), XLIII (Tampa), XLIV (Miami), XLV (North Texas) and XLVI (Indianapolis).
TEAM UT aims to give students a real-world learning experience as they prepare for careers in the sports and management industry. It was created by Fritz G. Polite, a UT clinical professor of sport management and director and founder of the Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Diversity. He also is director for community outreach and global engagement in the UT College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.
New this year is the addition of a student and faculty member from the UT FUTURE Post-Secondary Education Program, an initiative that gives students with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to attend college.
"This is part of our diversity initiative and providing opportunities that normally wouldn't come their way," Polite said. "Students with learning disabilities should be entitled to the same privileges as all other students."
During the week they're in New Orleans, TEAM UT will help with the NFL Experience, an interactive event that allows professional football players to interact with the community by offering drills, participatory games, football clinics and entertainment.
UT students also will perform community service with the UT New Orleans alumni chapter by cleaning up a playground.
Dani Polk, a UT sophomore and co-director of TEAM UT, likened attending the Super Bowl to "on-the-job training." She is one of the youngest members of the team and also attended the Super Bowl last year.
The team's third co-director is UT junior Kristen Petway, who also attended the Super Bowl last year.
TEAM UT raised $30,000 through a silent auction, a golf tournament and donations to pay for trip expenses.
To be part of the team, students went through a rigorous selection process that included writing essays about their five- and 10-year career goals and how being a part of the team would help achieve them. They also were interviewed and were required to submit a professional portfolio with business cards and resumes.
For more information, visit http://www.team-ut.com.
• Abigail Benson, of Franklin, Tenn., is a senior in the Recreation and Sport Management program. She plans to attend law school and hopes to work as a lawyer for a professional sports team.
• Brad Briggs, of Manhattan, Kan., is a first-year dual MBA/MS-Sport Management student. He majored in business management as an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University, where he played football, assisted in student-athlete development and facilitated event operations. He has a year of experience working in the finance department of Magnetrol International in Chicago.
• Darren Brown, of Austin, Texas, is a first-year dual-MBA/MS Sport Management candidate. He received undergraduate degrees in economics and business from the University of Texas in 2008, where he was a three-time All-American on the track and field/cross country teams. After college, Brown continued competing professionally, achieving four top-10 national finishes. He is the founder of a USATF-designated elite athlete-training center in Austin, Texas. Brown plans to continue his career in business development within the sports industry upon graduation.
• Andrew Busa, of Louisville, Ky., is a senior in sport management with a minor in business administration. Busa spent his first two years as a manager for the UT men's basketball team and is currently a manager for the UT baseball team. He has interned for FC Dallas professional soccer club and the New England Patriots. He plans to attend graduate school and earn his MBA.
• David F. Cihak is UT associate professor of special education. His research interests include the use of effective instructional and behavioral strategies, specifically video technologies, for improving educational, functional and social/communicative outcomes for students with severe disabilities and autism. As one of the primary investigators of the FUTURE Post-Secondary Education Program, Cihak was instrumental in the development of a two-year program for college students with intellectual disabilities and autism.
• Sarah Frazier, of Cleveland, Ohio, is a senior in the Recreation and Sport Management program. She hopes to pursue a career with a professional sport organization. She worked with TEAM UT for the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
• Taylor Hathorn, of Kountze, Texas, is a junior majoring in journalism and electronic media concentrating in sports broadcasting with a minor in business administration. Hathorn is involved in the Student Alumni Association, Zeta Tau Alpha and the Chancellor's Honors Program. She has traveled to more than 10 countries and lived in four.
• Nickie Lancaster, of Franklin, Tenn., is a senior in sport and recreation management with a minor in business administration. She has interned with the Nashville Predators and Knoxville Ice Bears hockey organizations. She is currently a member and the social chairman of the Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity. Lancaster is in her second year as a spring sports ambassador at the university. She is currently employed with State Farm Insurance.
• Destini Long, of Orlando, Fla., is a sophomore majoring in retail and consumer science. She is involved in the National Retail Federation Student Association. She plans to pursue a career in retail marketing.
• Bryan Lundquist, of Marietta, Ga., is a first-year MBA student. Lundquist previously worked in operations for the Auburn Athletic Department and currently works for UT as a graduate assistant in the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center.
• Debbie L. Mackey is director of the UT Human Resource Management program in the College of Business Administration. She also teaches human resources and compensation and benefits. Mackey assists students with internship and job placement. She is a Society of Resource Management faculty advisor.
• Matthew McCarter, of Sevierville Tenn., is a second-year student in the FUTURE Program. He works at cross-country meets with the UT Athletic Department. He hopes to work as an assistant track coach after graduation. He aspires to work in a leadership role in sport management.
• Alice Mitchell, of Washington, D.C., is a senior majoring in journalism and electronic media with a concentration in sports journalism. She is a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, Adidas Partners in Sports and four honor societies. She wants to work for ESPN, NFL Network or a NFL franchise after graduation.
• Erika Morris, of Austell, Ga., is a first-year graduate student in the Sport and Recreation Management program. Morris earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in physical education and health. She is an assistant hall director in UT's Clement Hall. Morris is also a member of Adidas Partners in Sports and aspires to work in collegiate athletics as an athletic director.
• Kristen Petway, of Nashville, Tenn., is a junior studying recreation and sport management with a minor in business administration. She has studied abroad in multiple cities in Spain and has interned for D1 Sports Training at the corporate marketing office. Petway served as co-director for the 2012 Kentucky Derby. She was part of last year's Super Bowl team.
• Danielle Polk, of Fishers, Ind., is a sophomore majoring in marketing with a concentration in American Sign Language. She is one of the leaders of TEAM UT this year after being a part of last year's Super Bowl team and the co-director for the team that attended the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
• Ladina Poltera, of Zurich, Switzerland, is a senior majoring in recreation and sport management. She is a member of the UT wakeboard club and Adidas Partners in Sports and created her own fundraising event over the summer to support the UT Center for Sport, Peace and Society.