For the past two years I have been fortunate to attend Canisius College in one of the best Sport Administration Master’s programs in the country. Having finished my Master’s last week and with graduation ahead, all of my experiences, professional connections, and knowledge I have gained from the MSA program has prepared me for my future career path in athletics. The MSA program, along with my graduate assistantship, gave me hands on experience in professional sports with the Buffalo Bills in game day guest services, planning and executing a bowling charity event for the Special Olympics from the ground up, soliciting sponsorship, sports marketing, and writing press releases. My classes also gave me extensive knowledge in managing sports facilities, risk management, moral issues in sport, and sports business.
The personal connections I made through the program are beyond measurable. The professors are experts in their field and are always willing to assist their students with anything they need. The more connections you can make, the more opportunities you will have. Each and every experience and opportunity allow you to discover your area of passion and move closer to your dream job. Not to mention the MSA program contains over 500 alumni spread across 38 states and 8 countries. With an alumni network this big, the possibilities are endless.
I am confident that this program has provided me with the knowledge I need for a career in sports while also opening many doors of opportunity. During this program, the opportunities in sport are always presented to you as a student and it is up to you to go after the opportunities that you feel best fit your career goals and aspirations. I am excited for what the future holds and I am ever grateful for my education and experiences during the MSA program.
The month of March marks the biggest tournament for NCAA basketball and each season teams from different conferences compete in hopes to advance to this annual March Madness tournament. Since Canisius is in the MAAC conference, every year they battle for the final spot against ten other teams: Marist, Quinnipiac, Siena, Rider, Monmouth, St. Peters, Niagara, Fairfield, Iona, and Manhattan in order to make it to the NCAA tournament. This year the 36th annual MAAC Basketball Championships were held in Albany, NY at the Times Union Center, March 3rd through March 7th, and I had the privilege to volunteer as a Canisius MSA graduate student throughout the course of the tournament.
I attended the tournament with another graduate assistant in the MSA program, James Donovan. As student volunteers, our main responsibility was to conduct the Economic Impact Study for the MAAC. In order to obtain the data for the direct financial impact of the MAAC tournament on the city of Albany, surveys with economic questions were developed with input from the MAAC administration to analyze the expenditures of several groups of people associated with the MAAC Basketball Championships. The survey contained 20 questions, which asked demographics, affiliation, method of transportation, travel distance, attending habits, and spending behavior. All of the surveys were conducted before the start of the games, during halftime, and after the games. In order to entice fans to fill out a survey, Canisius sport administration gear, MAAC gear, and each school’s marketing signs were given out. James and I spent three full days collecting surveys, attending 14 games total, focusing on not only getting as many surveys as possible, but getting a range in the variety of local fans to out of town fans.
This experience was extremely interesting being a participant in business side of sports in order to learn how large tournaments economically impact the city in which they are being held. After meeting with Rich Ensor, the MAAC commissioner, and conducting the surveys over 3 days, I learned how significant economic statistics are when dealing with large sporting tournaments. The sports industry is a billion dollar business and if a city is holding a sporting event, they want to know if the event is financially benefiting the city. Conducting surveys such as the MAAC economic impact survey are crucial for providing an accurate sample size of money spent throughout a specific event, and in turn, discovering the direct financial impact on the city in which the event is being held. James and I are in the process of reviewing the results and analyzing the data from the survey before we send our results directly to the commissioner.
Last semester I had the privilege to take a new class being offered called Guest Service Professional. This new class was designed to give hands on, practical experience outside of the classroom and into the professional sports world. The class required us to work home Bills games in the guest service department while also working with a company called IMG, coordinating season ticket holder seat sales and installation of the seat cushions on Saturday mornings and Sunday home games. I will take you through the ups and downs of my personal experience, laying out the game day responsibilities of NFL guest services through the eyes of a graduate student.
If you have ever attended a Bills game, you know how exciting the atmosphere is: tailgating for miles, screaming fans, a sea of red, write, blue, and Zubaz, and fan loyalty through blizzards, rainstorms, wins and losses. The Buffalo Bills are known for their immense spirit and nutty behavior and making sure these fans have a positive NFL experience is the job of the guest service department, especially when it comes to making sure they are content with their seats.
This guest service experience required installation of IMG seat cushions for the season ticket holders. My fellow classmates and I would get a list of seats purchased weekly by season ticket holders and we would install them on Saturday mornings before a home game. Any seats purchased or seats needing repairs on game day would be taken care of before 12:30 pm. Any issues after this time would be handled and completed before the next home game. Game day responsibilities included us handling any problems with the seat cushions, installations, or seating concerns in general. Many of these “in general” seating concerns required us to move fans’ game day seats due to medical conditions, disabilities, duplicate tickets, and the all time favorite: fans vomiting on other fans from intoxication.
Although some of the fans were irritated and unhappy having been in these unfortunate situations, either having to leave their seat or having to forgo a game without their seat cushion installed that they ordered, all were compensated. During my experience working, fans were always moved to a different or better seat location or refunded for their seat cushion for that game, while also given free drinks and free food to accommodate them further. Although many of the seating situations can be unpleasant, it is rewarding to be able to offer fans an extra gift as a way of showing our sincere apologies for any inconveniences. Working in the professional sports industry, especially the NFL, it is crucial to keep fans happy and to continue to instill a positive brand image for the team. The Guest Service department for the Buffalo Bills does an incredible job achieving, implementing and instilling this mentality.