University of Tennessee

Super Bowl Trip Gives Students Work Experience, Networking Opportunities

February 19, 2020

Nine University of Tennessee, Knoxville, students, including six from the Haslam College of Business, spent the week of Super Bowl LIV in Miami working behind the scenes before and during the big game. Debbie Mackey, distinguished lecturer and coordinator of undergraduate human resources management at Haslam, and Ashley Smith, director of student-athlete development for the Thornton Athletics Student Life Center, led the trip. This is Mackey’s sixth year leading a student trip to the Super Bowl.

Known collectively as the Big Orange Combine, the students who made this year’s trip were:

  • Alyssa Andreno of Stafford, Virginia, a senior majoring in sport management and a member of the volleyball team
  • Erin Gilroy of Bellmore, New York, a senior majoring in supply chain management and a member of the soccer team
  • Ruth Ann Reason of Birmingham, Alabama, a senior majoring in human resource management
  • Wade Harrison Sluss of Knoxville, a senior majoring in human resource management
  • Mariah Nicole Smith of Clarksville, Tennessee, a junior majoring in kinesiology and a member of the golf team
  • Trey Smith of Jackson, Tennessee, a junior majoring in sport management and a member of the football team
  • Mary Joanne Swearingen of Ooltewah, Tennessee, a senior majoring in human resource management with an international business collateral
  • Waverly Whiston of San Diego, California, a junior majoring in accounting and a member of the golf team
  • Tyler Harrison Young of Halls, Tennessee, a junior majoring in business analytics and supply chain management

The students underwent interviews to be selected from a large pool of applicants. Mackey and Smith chose individuals they believed would represent the university well and take advantage of the opportunity to network and add some unique work experience to their resumés. The group used VolStarter to raise money for the trip.

The students spent three days working at the Super Bowl Experience, where they threw footballs with children, helped young visitors run through sports obstacles and learned about the history of football’s biggest game. On Super Bowl Sunday they worked at a variety of events, helping fans find their way and answering questions about game day.

Mackey calls the trip “an amazing experience” not only because it enabled the students to attend one of the world’s largest sporting events but also because it let them see firsthand the enormous scale of the business side of the event and how many different companies are involved.

The trip also offered the students numerous opportunities for networking and professional development. The group met with the staff of the Miami Dolphins, visited the Orange Bowl office, toured Royal Caribbean headquarters and discussed internships at the Super Bowl. 

For student athlete Erin Gilroy, networking with the Dolphins and the Orange Bowl was particularly exciting. “Speaking to these organizations gave me more insight on what I may be interested in doing in the sports industry in the future,” she says, adding that she hopes Super Bowl trips will continue to be available to UT students in years to come.



Stacy Estep, business writer/publicist (865-974-7881,