Students harvest knowledge of sports industry from alumni

By Miguel Gonzalez
Sports Editor

Students got a glimpse outside the stadium and inside the world of a career in sports at the “Business of Sports” conference, hosted by the School of Business on April 25.

Nine alumni shared advice with students interested in working in sports communication, marketing, event planning and sales operations. After a brief introduction by William W. Keep, dean of the School of Business, alumnus Luis Perez (’86) delivered a keynote address on the profound impact of the business of sports.

While he never played or coached professional sports, Perez, who was the former chief financial officer for the Baltimore Ravens and the Detroit Lions, emphasized that the business of sports is like an ecosystem of opportunities and careers, rather than simply selling concessions.

Perez recalls his experience establishing grocery stores in Detroit. (Miguel Gonzalez / Sports Editor)

“Typically when people think about (the business of sports), they think about selling tickets, selling beers, selling viewership.” Perez said. “Their view is usually very narrow. I spent all of my 20 years in sports at teams. That is just one narrow path within this vast ecosystem.”

Perez spoke about his tenure with the Detroit Lions and how he used the team’s platform to give back to the community of Detroit. Perez renewed the team’s sponsorship with Meijer, a regional grocery chain concentrated in the midwestern U.S., to introduce more grocery stores in the heart of Detroit. Once the negotiation was made, Perez and the Detroit Lions marketed Meijer to the community.

“We drove brand awareness, we drove foot traffic,” Perez said. “We drove attention to those stores in the neighborhoods. They did that off of our platform. We had players there. That’s the business of sports.”

After the first lecture, students broke off into four different presentations facilitated by two alumni in different rooms of the Business Building.   

In one presentation, alumnus Craig Haley (’91) and alumna Megan Hueter (’07) spoke about their careers in sports journalism and digital marketing, respectively. Haley, who currently is the senior editor of STATS’ Football Championship Subdivision, emphasized creativity and determination

“Be persistent,” Haley said. “Get those doors to open. Don’t just knock on doors. Sports is a fast-moving industry. It’s all about business development. You want to have ideas, whether you’re a writer or into sales.”

Hueter explained how she turned her passion for sports into a career at Endeavor, a prominent sports, fashion and entertainment media company.

Hueter seized the opportunity to go into digital marketing when her public relations firm was acquired by the International Management Group, the world’s largest sports marketing company at the time.

Once IMG was purchased by William Morris Endeavor and the firms merged into Endeavor, Hueter had her hands full.

“I spend a ton of time working on events,” Hueter said. “This is a global business. We have over 800 plus sporting events we produce annually. My group has a quota of producing 120 events across 26 countries and four continents.”     

At the sales operations and event execution presentation, alumnus Christoph Schoenbeck (’10) and alumna Kristina Shemming (’10) spoke about the importance of gathering internship experience. Schoenbeck competed on the College’s men’s basketball team, while Shemming played on the women’s soccer team. Schoenbeck spoke of how he became the senior manager at Major League Soccer.

After finishing his career with the College’s men’s basketball team, he interned for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority at what is now MetLife Stadium.

Haley emphasizes the importance of persistence as a tool for success. (Miguel Gonzalez / Sports Editor)

He then interned for the New York Red Bulls before making a fortunate connection.

With the help of Shemming, Schoenbeck received a referral from the College’s women’s soccer assistant coach, Bob Turner. Schoenbeck has been at Major League Soccer ever since. At the other side of panel, Shemming underscored the importance of hands on experience.

After college, Shemming navigated through a series of internships at Sirius XM Radio, MTV Network and MLB Network before landing a sales associate job at the WFAN Yankees Radio Network. In 2013, Shemming moved over to the New York Mets and eventually became a Senior Account Executive for iHeartMedia.

Shemming urged students to be patient while pursuing a career in the sports industry.     

“It puts a lot of pressure on you to take any job, especially if you’re doing something part-time,” Shemming said. “Sure, it’s not as sexy as what your friends are doing. For me, I took an internship after I graduated but I stayed on the path I wanted to be on.”

Other notable alumni who presented at the conference were Bradlee Downs (’05) and Rob Roche (’93), who discussed entrepreneurship and management. Alumnus Jason Cantor (’10) also collaborated with Perez to present on community relations. Many students, especially student-athletes, gained valuable advice on pursuing a career in sports during the lectures.

Randall Walko, who is a guard for the men’s basketball team and a sophomore health and exercise science major, benefited from making connections with alumni.

“As a basketball player, I’m always been interested and involved in sports,” Walko said. “I definitely want to stay motivated after college. This event has been very helpful, as I got to meet many former college athletes.”