Spotlight: Eric Novotny
Please introduce yourself (background, passion, vision on how to evolve this role and interact more with alumni)
Hello everyone, I am Eric Novotny. I have been around and involved in sports my entire life and plan to continue that. That being said, I will be interning outside of sports this summer. I will be interning at Fabick Cat in Madison as a service intern and hope to gain valuable knowledge and skills in an industry I am not that familiar with. In terms of the sports industry, I am particularly interested in partnerships and would love to work for a team in the future. Additionally, I am interested in retail and could see myself getting involved in that industry as well, in a sales or merchandising position.
I am very excited to get going next year in this new position. I look forward to bolstering the mentorship program that David and Brenden implemented over the last few years. I hope to get younger members more heavily involved with this program in order to gain valuable knowledge and make great connections with industry leaders. I have some neat ideas that I hope can work in practice next year and really make this great club better than it already is.
I can't wait to get started next year!
Bucks in 6.
Professional Sports Panel
UW Athletics Social Media
3rd Annual SBC Alumni Weekend
UW Athletics Career Fair
Alumni Spotlight: Becky VanSandt
Guest Relations Assistant,
2015 - Present
SBC Position: President 2009-2010
Marketing Director 2008-2009
UW Class of 2010 - Ohio MBA/MSA Class of 2012
Major: B.S., Journalism-Strategic Communications
Please describe your career journey and responsibilities with the Carolina Panthers:
I've basically been in event management to some degree my entire career: everything from volunteering for events in high school to working with guest services and event management at Wisconsin. At Ohio, I worked in the development office, but was on the event side of things planning coaches caravans and events on campus. After grad school, I started with the Panthers’ guest relations department as a game day employee, then did their internship and then just got lucky. It was the right timing for them and for myself and I haven’t left.
At the end of 2014/beginning of 2015 I took over our tour program, so I actually manage all aspects of Bank of America Stadium tours including booking tours, scheduling staff, handling invoicing and payroll, etc. For game days, we hire almost a thousand people each year to staff Panthers games. We also host college football games and soccer matches. I handle training for all of our gameday employees, which means I'm responsible for putting together all the materials that we need – presentations, quizzes, handouts, uniforms. It's a lot of spreadsheet work but that's kind of what I enjoy. It's good organization and Excel is my best friend!
What is the most fulfilling aspect of your role with the Panthers?
At least once a season I feel like I have to stop myself and go out into the stadium and let that experience wash over me. Sports has a way of connecting people that would otherwise never interact. It’s powerful, and the ability to provide that service for folks, make them happy and see the joy that it brings them, is really the best part of the job.
The benefit of the Ohio University MBA/MSA program?
I think I'll start with why I decided to go there just because I think it's important. To be completely honest, I was not ready for the real world, and I really undervalued my journalism degree. I think I had this idea that my journalism degree wasn't going to stack up against all these people trying to break into such a competitive industry. That made the MBA program really enticing to me; that I was going to have some business background in addition to sports management. Again, I undervalued what I had and the channels my degree offered me, but now appreciate the well-rounded education I’ve obtained.
That said, Ohio's experience is immersive and you're getting so much beyond the classroom in terms of experiences and opportunities. I wouldn't be where I am today without Ohio. My OU connections lead to me the gentleman who called my current boss while I was looking for jobs! Ohio preaches that network, and I think it gave me - as somebody who is uncomfortable with networking - a security blanket, that I already had something in common with these people because we had a sense of shared history.
Advice to someone striving to work in the sports industry:
I want to share two things, and the first is hard work. I mean it's hard work getting into the sports industry, but it's also hard work once you're in the industry. I think being prepared for that and being willing to do the work that somebody else isn't, is valuable. It's also important to recognize your limits and what you are and aren’t interested in doing. I work in the facilities/stadium operations, and I know that that may require being willing to go out and move bike rack, work in the elements, get dirty, etc., and I love that. You wouldn’t see me working that hard on sales pitches, ticket packages or marketing plans though, because it’s not what I want to be doing.
Second is recognizing the broad scope of roles that touch the sports industry. You can stay within and grow within the sports world in so many unique and interesting ways - you just need to prepare yourself for it. You may not be working for Nike or THE Green Bay Packers or THE NFL, but there are other ways to get into the sports industry. I think you’re seeing more of these through social media than I did coming out of school, but there are agencies and technology startups and ownership groups and businesses that all have people dedicated to sports properties doing the same type of work as folks working for teams or leagues. Minor leagues and Olympic sports are also terrific avenues, especially early in your career, but their jobs may not get as much publicity!
If you received two tickets to any sporting event in history, what would it be? Who would be your guest?
2000 Rose Bowl - Wisconsin vs. Stanford. Besides being a great game with Ron Dayne and company, I am a Badger by blood. My parents met at Wisconsin, and my brother and sister went to Wisconsin as well. Both my siblings attended the 2000 game, so I would take my parents. Mom for tailgating and the food – her true priorities – while Dad and I would use the tickets. Being able to share that moment with my dad, who coached for decades because he valued seeing kids learn and grow, would be incredible.
The other event I would really want to take my dad to is an Oregon track meet at Hayward Field during the Steve Prefontaine era. Being able to experience the level of talent that was on the track at that time would just be surreal, and doing it with my former track coach…indescribable.
Speaker Event: Jesse Temple
Speaker Event: Sammy Gelfand
Winter Break Edition
Alumni Spotlight: Paul Kilgas
Assistant Director of Athletics Compliance
University of Central Florida
2016 - Present
SBC Position: Events/Social Outreach Chair 2009-2010
UW Class of: 2010, 2013 (J.D.)
Major: J.D., International Studies, European History
Advice for current SBCUW members looking to break into the sports industry:
Don’t quit! Don't let other people dictate your future to you. I’ve had many opportunities to give up and go into another career field, but I was too stubborn to quit. I believed in what I wanted to do, and I wasn't going to let anybody tell me no.
I've had more failures than successes, but I am where I am because I didn't let those failures dictate what I was going to do with my life. For example, I really homed in on athletics compliance as a career path during my second year of law school. I tried to get an internship with the UW athletics compliance office before my last year of law school, and I was turned down at the 11th hour. I was devastated, but I focused on finding another avenue to get me as close as possible to what I wanted to do to show future employers that I was resourceful and dedicated.
As a result, I worked for the WIAC conference office and I tutored and mentor student-athletes at UW during my last year of law school and the summer following graduation. I was now a licensed attorney and had no job prospects at all, so I moved home. I ended up jumpstarting my career once I went to a Sports Law conference at Marquette and met the director of the Sports Management program at Northern Illinois University; he convinced me to be a graduate assistant in their Student-Athlete Academic Support Services department, and even though I wasn’t crazy about the idea of going back to school after finishing my law degree, I sucked up my pride and didn’t give up. Six months later, I had an internship with the NCAA national office and I haven’t looked back.
Additionally, regarding the conference I went to at Marquette – what helped me there is something that may help current SBCUW members: Don't network just to network, network with a purpose. Network because you want to get to know somebody and what they're about. People in the sports industry can sniff out in a second whether you care about them and what they're doing or if you're just trying to get in front of them to look good. Be willing to go with the flow during your talk, and be willing to be vulnerable. Humanity and humility get you a long way.
If you are given two tickets to any sporting event in history what event would you go to and who would you take with you?
I am Wisconsin through and through, and I've already been to some of my favorite sporting events ever. I would probably go back to the Final Four in 2015 in Indianapolis. I was doing the postgraduate internship at the NCAA, so I was able to get tickets through my coworkers. I saw the 38-1 Kentucky game. I saw the national championship game against Duke. The Kentucky game was legitimately one of the best days of my life. I had my brother and some of my best friends there; it was unbelievable.
If we're going the non-Wisconsin route I would say probably the 2008 U.S. Open when Tiger Woods won at Torrey Pines with a torn ACL. I would take my dad, because we both love golf. He’s the source of my work ethic, dedication, and passion for sports.
How is the landscape of sports law changing and has it changed significantly since you have joined the University of Central Florida?
Sports law is a broad term that encompasses most areas of the law, just with a ‘sports’ bend to it. It’s contract law, it’s employment law, it’s labor law, and it’s property law, among other things. It’s a niche that has become a huge specialization in the last 10 years. The same thing goes for athletics compliance, which is my area of specialization within sports law. Athletics compliance wasn’t a career path for the clear majority of lawyers up until the last 10 years. Previously, you would have a lot of coaches also serving as compliance officers on the side, especially at smaller schools, which screams conflict of interest. They would maybe have an administrative assistant or a graduate student helping them, but they didn’t have the time or the education to do anything more than survive and hope the NCAA investigators didn’t come knocking. As NCAA investigations have become more public and the penalties have become more severe, schools have started to hire attorneys to work in compliance (think in-house counsel) instead of paying outside counsel an arm and a leg to defend them.
The shift happened quickly, because athletic departments realized the benefit of having people work in compliance that had spent three years specializing in learning how to think critically, and think in a way that is able to see both sides of an argument, then break down complex issues into bite-size presentable pieces.
The NCAA is doing a better job of becoming a little more liberal in their rules and their interpretations. But it's up to me to keep our coaches, staff members, and student-athletes informed as well as protected. We teach them about new rules or new rules interpretations, as well as educate them on things that they can do to stay at the forefront of their profession. It mostly revolves around making sure our coaches, staff members, and student-athletes can do everything that everybody else at other schools can do (recruiting-wise, especially). The other change has been a departure from more of a black-or-white answer to seeing the color spectrum and being more creative in finding solutions for your coaches. I rarely give a yes or no answer straight-up. Those answers are lazy, and they don’t inspire much confidence from your coaches that you’ll go the extra mile for them to help them do their jobs better. We must exhaust all our opportunities and make sure that we have done everything we can to get them as close as possible to their goal while staying within the NCAA rules.
How has your experience as a student-athlete affected your career?
The first things that it taught me were discipline and time management. I didn't have a lot of free time, so I had to prioritize what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, and how I wanted to do it. Being a student-athlete helped me be more efficient because it effectively cut out the people that weren’t truly in my corner – those that weren't going to help me get to where I wanted to be or needed to be. Next, I learned how to build relationships with people that weren’t from my comfort zone – from different social, cultural, physical, or economic backgrounds.
Additionally, I’ve been relatively successful to this point in my career because I’m able to work efficiently and effectively both individually and in group settings. Being a student-athlete helped me realize that I had to hold myself to a high standard individually, and I had to make sure my teammates had standards, too. I couldn’t just do things for myself, I had to consider the mental, physical, social, and emotional needs of my teammates. I can’t rely on people unless I know how they operate and what affects them. In the workplace, I need to be able to collaborate with others and trust them to hold up their ends of our bargains, and I need to be able to lock myself down and get work done on my own projects. It’s just like playing baseball was in college; I had to rely on teammates to help turn double plays or make a relay throw, but I also had to be able to do my individual work at the plate and hit well enough to help the team.
Finally, being a student-athlete helps me now because I work with coaches and student-athletes. I know the lifestyle. I know the demands. I know the external pressures and the internal struggles. I know the highs and the lows, and I know that most people are just trying to get things off their plate. As a result, I try to adapt my work responsibilities with their schedules and I don’t take things they do or say personally.
Alumni Spotlight: Matt Fox
"I think it’s been an evolution for me and nothing I could have ever expected – that’s a lesson for the industry that sports and media are constantly changing. I majored in journalism in Madison and my dream job going into college was to be a beat writer for a New York team. The huge changes that were going on with newspapers, broadcast, radio at the time made me realize I needed to expand my options within sports. I caught on to working more with brands and added the strat. comm. element to my degree."
"My first opportunity came with IMG working on the NBA/Kia Motors account. It gave me a great taste for what agency life is about. There were a lot of good research projects and brainstorming which led me to Ketchum, a large global PR agency. I worked on their sports team working across a wide variety of accounts and some lesser known brands who really needed that recognition. That was really valuable for helping me to develop a strong work ethic and finding out what I was most interested in – where my passions were within sports."
"Working at Taylor had a totally different feel and was a great adjustment in moving to a much smaller agency. Instead of working on five or six brand accounts, I worked consistently on just two – Jordan Brand and Mercedes Benz. Those are very iconic brands in their respective fields, but presented a great challenge for going outside the box and thinking about new categories or publications for reaching new consumers. I developed some great relationships along the way and went on some meaningful trips: NBA All-Star, The Masters, U.S. Open, and Super Bowl – getting a chance to work at those events was a dream come true for me."
"This all led me to Fanatics, the global leader in licensed sports merchandise. We operate retail for over 300 partners including all the major leagues, and many pro and college teams. With the incredible resources and tech-focused approach we’ve taken, we have the ability to reach fans wherever they’re shopping – online, mobile, or in stores/stadiums like the NBA Store and NHL Store in New York City, and the Atlanta Falcons shop at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s been tremendous to tap into the daily pulse of the fan and the real-time trends, like Patrick Mahomes and his top-selling Chiefs jersey this year. We’re constantly finding ways to improve the fan experience and drive revenue from these emerging players, teams and big moments."
What is the most rewarding part of your position with Fanatics?
Because of our work across all major leagues, we have the opportunity to constantly learn about the landscape and maybe become more invested in a sport or something taking place on the field that I wasn't privy to before. I would say my overall excitement in baseball has really resurged beyond just the Mets. Whether the Red Sox or the Dodgers win the World Series, that’s going to have big business implications for us and how we’re promoting our capabilities. There’s a lot more interest in prominent fanbases around the world."
"I wasn’t a hockey person growing up but found myself getting into the Washington Capitals-Las Vegas Golden Knights series this year, two teams with incredible stories. No one could have expected that an expansion team [the Knights] would make the Stanley Cup Finals, and we were able to cater to the demand of their fans all year long. The DC market hadn’t won a title since the early 90s, so we felt that pent-up fan demand come through in the multiple retail records that were broken.”
“So I think it’s bringing that passion and creativity to the most unpredictable moments in the sports world. You never know what might happen on any given day and our model allows us to be extremely agile for any unexpected championship, trade, or record. Contributing ideas at the speed of sports is really exciting."
What is the best piece of advice, you can give to our members who are looking to break into the sports industry?
"I would say have as many conversations as you can and cast a really wide net. You never know when one opportunity will lead to the next, so it’s really about putting yourself out there and connecting with people off campus to learn about their career path. We're lucky that people are passionate about their careers in sports – you can always find your own niche within it.”
“I think you'd be surprised how many people are willing to get on the phone with you for just 10 or 15 minutes, even someone at a higher level like a director or vice president. There will be rejections but that’s not such a bad worst-case scenario. So just put yourself out there and be outgoing, friendly, and open to learning and good things will follow."
"Every generation is becoming more immersed in social media and I strongly recommend that you use it to your advantage from a career standpoint and really build your own personal brand. I use Twitter and LinkedIn pretty much exclusively for this – sharing news with my network about what's going on with Fanatics and creating new interactions with reporters."
If you could go back in time to attend any sporting event, what would it be? who would you take with you?
"A lot of good ones that come to mind but I have to go back to the reason I fell in love with sports – the Knicks. I was about eight years old living in New York City. I grew up watching every single game and being fascinated by those teams."
"It would have to be the 1970 NBA Finals. Willis Reed overcoming injury and coming back against the Lakers against all odds. He gave everything he had for the good of the team and playing just a few minutes and hitting a few baskets inspired the team to win it all.”
“That was an incredible moment in New York sports history and I would definitely take my dad. That team meant a lot to him and he still talks about them quite a bit. That would be a special moment to be a part of and feel that spark at Madison Square Garden.”
Read Brian Anderson's Speaker Spotlight
Alumni Spotlight: Tessa Ruid
"I work on all of our email marketing campaigns, which includes our digital newsletter, promotions for our internal business units, including the Packers Pro Shop, and events. Additionally, we build and deploy emails for our sponsor partners. I also work on developing all of our sweepstakes to drive fan engagement and acquire new fans, so a heavy focus is on the creation and execution of those sweepstakes."
"Then, I also run a lot of the marketing research and post-event analysis through fan surveys. We look at fan feedback closely for gameday. My role is great because it combines both the creative and data side of things, and it combines my passion for digital marketing and engaging fans."
"Being a part of an organization that is historic and one that also means so much to the community is really cool. The fact that every day I am making a small contribution to an organization like the Green Bay Packers is very fulfilling."
What is the best piece of advice, you can give to our members who are looking to break into the sports industry?
"It has been said many times before, but to gain experience in any way you can whether that's through blogging, working for your school newspaper, and joining clubs, which obviously our members have already gotten a great start since they are a part of the Sports Business Club. I know there are a lot of volunteering opportunities around campus and especially with the athletic department, so volunteering is key."
"Not being afraid to try new things. There are so many different roles within sports business and I feel like sometimes people will get one idea and that's the track they want to go down. But my advice is to really keep your keep an open mind and try a lot of different roles outside of the traditional ones. Doing research on the industry is helpful to learn all the different ways that you can take sports business. And it's really key to you work outside of your comfort zone and try new things because that shows that you can adapt, since the industry is constantly changing."
"My internships throughout my college career were in a wide variety of areas, everything from communications and social media to video production and community relations. Now I work in a different area with branding and marketing, primarily with email marketing, but I rely on the skills I’ve learned in my past roles often. So it is important to gain a wide variety of experiences because all of my past experiences have helped me in unique ways – and you can always draw from your background to accomplish a new project or help out those around you."
"Therefore as I mentioned, it is great to gain experience across a wide variety of areas – in addition to sharpening your skills and becoming an expert in the areas you’re most interested in. Also utilizing social media as a personal branding tool I think is really key especially for networking purposes and connecting with people in the industry. I have been able to connect with a variety of different individuals through social media which has helped me tremendously when landing internships and jobs, and you can also share your passion for sports business with other likeminded professionals in the industry, and can learn from each other."
Speaker Event: Peter Wilt
UW Men's Hockey Social
Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Wiener
Partnership Activation Coordinator,
2015 - Present
SBC Position: Vice President 2012-2013
UW Class of: 2013
Major: B.S., Consumer Affairs
Area(s) of Expertise:
Professional Sports Teams (NFL)
I am in Corporate Sponsorship Activation. This means that for any of the sponsorships we have, I help handle the relationship between the Eagles and that company. I have about 17 accounts that I talk to on a day to day basis. These can range from planning events, getting their signage up around the stadium, and answering any questions they have for me, like how to use the Eagle's logo on things they may want to giveaway. So basically any asset they have in their contract, I'm helping them and working with them on a daily basis. I love that it changes on a day to day basis. It seems repetitive but it's really not, and you're making great connections with some of these bigger brands that want to partner with the team.
What is the most rewarding part of your positon?
I think, seeing what I do come to life. In terms of fans, it may be super stressful to plan an event but when you see the fans show up there and they love it. or this past week we had our home opener and MillerLite is one of our partners and we gave away 70,000 visors to everyone in the stadium, we've been working on that since March. so to see all the fans walking around with them and seeing them around the city, with fans wearing them after the game, just the little things like that.
How is the atmosphere around the organization different after their Super Bowl win?
It's definitely different, I think we were kind of scared to say the words Super Bowl during our playoff run because the Eagles had never won a Super Bowl before. So as soon as the super bowl was over, all over our corporate partners and fans wanted to get involved as much as possible. So it's just been crazy because Philly fans are extremely passionate, so their perspective has changed a little bit, and it's made our jobs a little bit easier and tougher at the same time. There's a lot of extra work involved with it. It has changed in a really good way. I think there's just positivity around the team right now and everyone's just so excited, there's more support than ever behind the team.
What was your favorite memory from being a part of SBCUW?
So I guess I would kind of say the first moment I knew I had hope for having a career in sports. I was listening to someone from the UW Athletic Department talk to the club. I believe it was Daron Jones, and he introduced me to Ben Fraser, which is how I got a job with the UW guest services. That was the first time I felt like, "alright I have a connection and I think I can work in sports." This was the perfect opportunity with the UW Athletic Department that I was able to get involved in. From a career perspective, by far the best time's I have had in SBC was on the annual winter trips. We went to Chicago and Cleveland and that is where I gained the most experience and met the most people, and obviously, the friends you make in SBC are great because you spend so much time together.
What is the best piece of advice, you can give to our members who are looking to break into the sports industry?
I would say Networking, it is the number one thing and I got so annoyed and frustrated when I heard people tell me that while in the club. Networking is the only way you're going to make connections. But in order to network, you have to able to get experience, so volunteering and internships are the only way you will be able to meet people who will then become connections to get jobs. So, obviously within those volunteer experiences, you have to work your butt off because you have to lift boxes, do annoying projects, work for no money. Those are the things you have to do to get noticed and honestly, those are the people in sports who succeed, is the ones who work their butt off, and make connections, and are remembered.
If Camp Randall sold its naming rights, what company would offer the best fit as a possible sponsor?
So I thought about this for a while and I'm always remembering what the Packers told us when we went on a tour there was I don't think they will ever name Lambeau Field because it is so iconic and I guess I feel that way about Camp Randall. It could never have a sponsor that could naturally flowing name that goes with Camp Randall. Camp Randall is tough to integrate a brand into. If it were to ever happen, it would have to be a deep Wisconsin brand like American Family or Harley Davidson.
Kick-Off Fall 2018
Trivia Night Fall 2018
Check-out our Instagram Story from the event