University of Tennessee

UT Students to Work Historic Super Bowl 50

February 2, 2016

KNOXVILLE—Twelve lucky students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will attend Super Bowl 50 and the historic showdown on football’s biggest stage between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.

The Big Orange Combine, now in its 12th year, involves students majoring in communications, marketing, human resources and sports management. The students will travel to San Francisco Feb. 3-8 to work the Super Bowl and other events leading up the most-watched television program in America. The game is set for Sunday, Feb. 7, at 6:30 p.m.

“This is an educational networking week that exposes the students to executives in sports, event management and touring companies,” said Debbie Mackey, director of the Human Resource Management master’s program in the Haslam College of Business and adviser for the group. “The students will meet with sports professionals, tour Google and interact with numerous executives.”

Students will also have the opportunity to meet executives with the San Francisco Giants and work the NFL Experience, pro football’s interactive on-site theme park, which highlights the sport’s history including the Super Bowl.

“Game day is an amazing experience for these students to work with event management and fans and experience a rare behind-the-scenes look into the Super Bowl,” said Mackey.

Of course, the students are excited for the chance to see three former Vols playing in the game, particularly the Bronco wearing no. 18.

“We get to be in the presence of Peyton Manning,” said Christine Austin. “It will be a true honor to represent his alma mater at Super Bowl 50. I hope that we represent UT as well as he has over the years.”

This year’s Big Orange Combine includes four UT student-athletes—Mack Crowder and Kyler Kerbyson from football, Alexis Dempsey from volleyball and Megan Hatcher from soccer.

Brian Russell, director of student-athlete academic support services

of UT’s Thornton Athletics Student Life Center, will advise and work alongside the students.

Team members include:

  • Mack Crowder, a graduate student in human resource management from Bristol, Tennessee.
  • Alexis Dempsey, a graduate student in communication studies from Palm Springs, California.
  • Stan Norris, a graduate student in sports management from Knoxville.
  • Kyler Kerbyson, a graduate student in sports management from Knoxville.
  • James Dugan, a graduate student in sports management from Johnson City, Tennessee.
  • Olanda James, a graduate student in sports management from Knoxville.
  • Christine Austin, a graduate student in human resource management from Knoxville.
  • Megan Hatcher, a senior in marketing from Knoxville.
  • Emily Corley, a senior in sports management from Hendersonville, Tennessee.
  • Julie Fish, a junior in communication studies from Franklin, Tennessee.
  • Sam Gilliam, a senior in sports management from Kingsport, Tennessee.
  • Christine Steffen, a graduate student in sports management from Carmel, Indiana.


“This game is very special to us,” said Mackey. “Peyton Manning is the best quarterback to play the game and he is a Vol for Life in every way. He supports UT in so many ways, and we are honored to be at the 50th Super Bowl while Peyton is there. We will be sad if this is his last game but hope he might possibly return in some capacity to UT.”

Several news outlets have interviewed students regarding the trip, including:






Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,

Debbie Mackey (865-974-7014,