Panel shines light on business of sports

By Megan Kelly
Staff Writer

The College’s School of Business hosted a “Business of Sports” panel on April 24 at 6 p.m. in the Library Auditorium, where panelists discussed their careers, businesses and advice for those in attendance.

The panel, which was moderated by alumnus Rob Roche (’93), an adjunct professor at the College and president of Robert S. Roche Sports Management, consisted of three people — Executive Director of Athletics at the College Amanda DeMartino, President and Managing Partner of Today’s Business Chaz Cervino and Robert Raiola, an accountant and the director of sports and entertainment at the accounting firm O’Connor Davies, LLP.

The panelists discuss the dedication required of student athletes (Miguel Gonzalez / Photo Editor).

The discussion began with panelists’ introductions and explanations of how they got into the business of sports. Whether it was through playing college sports, as DeMartino and Cervino did, or dealing with sports from a different lens, as Raiola does through accounting, each panelist brought a different perspective to the business panel discussion.

DeMartino began her sports career as a collegiate basketball player and employee with her school’s athletic department, where she washed the team’s uniforms as a freshman. After graduation, she took an assistant coaching job at Northwood University in Florida, moving up the chain to head coach and eventually athletic director. Finally, she left Florida and accepted her current position at the College two years ago.

“The one piece of advice that I really share with anybody I talk to is to just meet as many people as you can, and learn as much as you possibly can,” DeMartino said. “Even if you can’t get a job in an athletic department, being an intern and working for free in this competitive industry is sometimes how you gotta get your foot in the door.”

Much like DeMartino, Cervino was also an athlete in college. He played football at Syracuse University for two years before transferring to Hofstra University to continue his sporting career, but a fractured rib, a punctured lung and a canceled football program halted his progress. After thinking about what his next steps would be after graduation, Cervino created Today’s Business, a digital marketing company that specializes in social media and search engine optimization, which was followed by Today’s Athletes in 2016.

“Network endlessly,” he said. “You never know who you’re going to meet while you’re at school, after school, extracurriculars, at the bar, wherever it may be. You never know who you’re going to meet and how you’re going to interact with people.”

Raiola’s relationship with sports is solely through taxes, as he has explained himself to have “zero athletic ability.”

He began exploring Twitter and, through social media, has been able to establish his own brand, through which he creates sports-related content from an accounting standpoint.

“SportsCenter called me up. This 54-year-old accountant went on SportsCenter, are you kidding me?” said Raiola, whose Twitter name is @SportsTaxMan. “(Twitter has) really helped me make my persona up, and people will know me, like when I show up at places, they don’t know my real name, but they know ‘Sports Tax Man.’”

The discussion moved to the 2019 NFL Draft and its potential effects on the panelists’ businesses. Beginning at the initial decision to go pro, DeMartino advocated for attending a college or university for at least two years before leaving to play in the big leagues.

“There’s millions of dollars to be made, and a lot of these guys are coming from situations where they are the financial provider, or will be the financial provider, and there’s a lot of pressure to take care of people and themselves, so I completely understand all of that,” DeMartino said. “But I also think it’s just a really tricky world for a 19, 20, 21-year-old to navigate because the reality is that they started playing sports truly for the love of the game.”

Raiola then spoke more about how he analyzes the draft from his own point of view, whether it is on Twitter or through his articles in Sports Illustrated. Depending on where a contract is signed and the what the respective state’s tax rate is, the difference between the gross deal and the net deal could be significant, he explained.

The panelists also discussed how the dedication required of student athletes can translate into life lessons that help people succeed in adult life. The panelists agreed that the needs of an athlete — determination, hard work and resilience — have helped them, as they have advanced their sports careers over the years.

“I’ve been in business for eight years,” Cervino said. “You can get burnt out sometimes. There are days where you’re like, ‘This is tough, I don’t want to do this right now,’ but at the same time you have to push through, and that’s part of the makeup of who you’ve become.”

Following the set panel topics was a Q&A session, where the panelists answered questions revolving around topics such as potential draft picks and contracts, monetizing digital marketing for athletes and the panelists’ most memorable moments in their careers.

Through each of their sports careers, the panelists exemplified what can be achieved through following their advice of working hard and being passionate about what they do.

“I always say to my class, you know, somebody has to work in sports,” Roche said. “It might as well be you. I went here at TCNJ myself, and at that time I thought, ‘I’d really love to work in sports, but I don’t know how to go about it.’ And I wish I had someone to speak to me about how to do it, what advice they’d give me, and that’s why we’re here.”

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