April Facts & Figures
SBC Year in Review
- 226 Members -
- 18 Students in Leadership -
Eventful School Year
- Total of 29 Club Events -
- 45 speakers from 30 organizations -
- Heard from 31 UW-Madison Alums -
- Local Stories (See Below) -
Milwaukee Brewers Re-branding and Stadium Name Change
Business and Entertainment of Summerfest
Forward Madison FC Launch and Branding
Milwaukee Bucks Playoff Game Protest
Minnesota Wild Creation of the 'State of Hockey'
Wisconsin Athletics Brand Message
UW in the News
An excuse to return to Madison ;)
Retirement of a Legend
Alumni Feature Spotlight
Q & A
When/how did you know you wanted to pursue a full time career in sports?
Truthfully, I knew before I even stepped foot on-campus that something - anything - in the sports orbit was what I wanted to do. Instead of submitting applications at a dining hall, etc. during my incoming SOAR experience, I went to the administrative offices at Kellner Hall of Camp Randall Stadium and inquired about any potential student opportunities that may have been available at that time. Thankfully, John Finkler - then head of Guest Services for Wisconsin Athletics - indicated to me that an opportunity had opened up on his team prior to the 2008 football season and that he wanted me to come aboard for that fall. I didn't care what I was doing, what the weather was like, how early I got up, how late I got home, or the fact that my game day experience probably wasn't nearly as "traditional" as many of my student peers. All I cared about was the opportunity to represent Wisconsin Athletics and be a part of one of the best Athletic Departments in the county as an 18-year old who grew up idolizing the Badgers. That being said, in my first two years I didn't see one second of a football game played inside Camp Randall; however, the connections I formed along the way in those two years - Joe Simler (Senior Manager, Corporate Partnerships - Dallas Cowboys) who was previously a part of John's staff and graduated the year prior, David Cohn (Executive Director at First Tee of Southeast Wisconsin) who was the outgoing SBC president at the time and a former Athletics Marketing intern under Adam Ahearn, Becky (Nelson) VanSandt who was then a veteran on John's team - helped pave the way for the rest of my time in school, the internships I pursued while a student, and my career after Madison.
What about being in the college donor space really motivates you to succeed?
The thing that excites me every day about the work we do is simple: not only are we serving young people through the power of scholarship but we're connecting with fans, friends, and alumni who share a passion for the schools we represent, none of which have the exact same story for why they support. Whether it's in memory of a loved one, because they're a third or fourth-generation graduate, or simply because that was their adopted team growing up, I enjoy what we do because every day is an opportunity to learn and discover a new story about the positive impact that a University had on someone's life. In addition to the relationships that you form with donors along the way, I'm also motivated by the fact that working in sports means you have a scoreboard attributed to your efforts every day. Our efforts mean that someone wins, someone loses, and ultimately, it's our job to make sure that we're surrounding our coaches, student-athletes, and administration with the resources they need to excel on and off the field and get us in the W column more than the L column. I'm hyper-competitive by nature so given how intertwined our careers are with counterparts across the SEC and throughout the country, it always makes for a good story (...or two) to share when we're able to get together. At the end of the day, while there's undeniably issues that have shaken the foundation of amateurism over the years, I'm a firm believer in the transformative and generational power of education and what our efforts do to ensure that our young men and women are adequately equipped with the skills they need to achieve success wherever their lives may take them.
What types of skills are required to be good at your current role?
I've always said that we're each blessed with two ears and one mouth for a reason and that it's our responsibility to use them. I think listening is tremendously important, not just hearing someone but meaningfully distilling what they have to say and using it in a way that can not only enrich their experience around the things they care about but hopefully advance many of the funding priorities we're responsible for. In some ways, our job is part fundraiser and part therapist and as has been shared on numerous occasions by others in the past, authentic, genuine relationships take time to invest in. Just as you wouldn't propose to someone without treating her (him) to dinner without cultivating and nurturing the relationship, the same is true in our world. It takes patience and persistence and the willingness to tangibly invest in relationships even if you may not see an immediate return. As I touched on previously, there's a scoreboard attributed to what we do - how much money we raise and how that positions us for success - but sometimes you need to know when to go hurry-up and when you need to take the air out of the ball. Divorces, deaths, changes in employment, children's college decisions, etc., they all play into our ability to secure the private support we require; however, while we're judged on our ability to successfully raise money, our job is to educate others and connect their passions with priorities in ways that excite them. If we can listen, educate, and make meaningful investments in relationships along the way, money flows from that because whether it's in ticket sales or capital fundraising, people give to people. Period. Again, sometimes that means you're a problem-solver. Other times it means you're a therapist. Other times it means you're a confidant. Whatever that moment requires, acting with integrity, honesty, and authenticity is core of what we do.
What are some major differences between your experience at WVU and Florida?
Other than the warm weather and sunshine, I think there's actually some strong parallels between the two schools. Both have a ton of history around their programs. WVU's the 14th-winningest program in the country and has a future Hall of Fame coach in men's hoops. Florida had a rich tradition of recent success in football and men's basketball during the late-2000's and has enjoyed comprehensive success in many of their Olympic sports en route to an unprecedented run of Learfield Sports Directors' Cup Top-10 finishes (37 years and counting). In many ways, though, both schools have seen major infrastructural investments in recent years which has made my role more enjoyable because there are vital updates to share with our fans, friends, and alumni about ways they can be involved. WVU underwent a $100 million campaign to renovate their football operations center, Olympic sport weight room, and golf practice facility. UF has made over $285 million in key capital investments since 2016 (academics, men's/women's basketball facility, football indoor practice facility, baseball, softball), over 60% of which has been privately funded during that time. Currently, we're still in the process of tying off our Heavener Football Training Center that will operationally serve football day-to-day as well as act as a social and dining hub for all of our student-athletes. In that regard, while the population and demographic make-up of the state may be different between Morgantown and Gainesville, there are still many similarities between how I approach my job and the priorities that the job requires from a funding needs perspective. Fortunately, at the University of Florida, much of our core base of donors reside in the state whereas much of that pool of wealth resided outside the state in WV in states like Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, District of Columbia, New York, etc.; however, coming out of COVID, it's been proven that what worked ten years ago doesn't work today and candidly, what works today what won't work in ten years. It's incumbent on us to be proactive in developing the next generation of philanthropy because the transactional nature of giving - putting 90,000+ fans in the stands every Saturday - won't be sustainable in the long-term as consumer habits shift and evolve. That's as true at Florida as it was at West Virginia as it is at Wisconsin.
Could you comment on NIL? Does it affect your day-to-day? Do you see it changing the future of the major gifts space?
Fundamentally, there's only one job in the country where you can get paid to be right half the time and that's being a meteorologist. That being said, I don't know exactly what the landscape of NIL will do other than to say I think it will be beneficial in some regards but I also think there's going to be a brevity of unintended consequences from it that are going to result in it be legislated even further at either an NCAA, state or federal level. Truth is, right or wrong, there are only so many transcendent student-athletes (...think lottery NBA picks, first round NFL picks, etc.) that could command a national and/or regional sponsorship; however, where I think NIL will be enormously beneficial is for those student-athletes whose "talent" or "service" that they'll profit on has nothing to do with their athletic ability... writing a book, producing music, being a social influencer, etc. I think it will be equally beneficial for those from smaller, more rural communities where he/she may be the biggest name to come out of that city/town (i.e. Joe Burrow in Athens, OH) and can do more regionalized things where they're from vs. being just "another" student-athlete on-campus. Again, none of that is with an absolute degree of certainty but from industry trends I follow, I do feel that's the general gist of where we're going.
From a day-to-day perspective, I personally don't feel as though it will radically re-define my role because we're still responsible for securing the private investment necessary for scholarship obligations and major infrastructural improvements. Where I do see it changing is if student-athletes - select and/or more broadly - are given the choice to take the value of their scholarship up-front as taxable income vs. being awarded scholarships. If the route of truly paying student-athletes is the direction we find ourselves tilting (...one I hope we never do), then yes, there could be wholesale changes because how they money flows, how it's earmarked, how it's disbursed as taxable/non-taxable, etc. could change. Personally, I think the NIL conversation too broadly paints all student-athletes because the back-up center or RS-freshman outside hitter won't command what Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson or Trey Lance did on the first night of the NFL Draft on a national level. It will though level the playing field for those to better earn money off their non-athletic talents, no different than that of their peers, especially considering the scheduling demands of a Division I, II, III student-athlete with travel, film, practice, lift, etc. often inhibits them from doing so via internship, part-time job, etc. Along those lines, I don't feel as it will necessary change 30,000-foot funding priorities but it will demand that Athletic Departments find the resources necessary to support NIL-related areas of study that help student-athletes enhance and develop their personal and professional brand (i.e. INFLCR, PAW[Clemson]) while in-school.
For those of us looking at grad school, how has the Ohio MSA/MBA program helped you achieve your career goals?
It's been immeasurable. I don't think it's possible to quantify the extent and profound impact that Ohio has had on not only my career goals but my life. I met my fiancé in Athens along with some of my best friends, confidants, and people that I often find myself leaning on with different industry trends and responses to those trends. It's bigger than any one person or class but rather is best summed up this way: Ohio represents a two year investment for the next 20-25 years of your career. Period. Compound that with the proliferation of higher education and the need for advanced or terminal degrees as you progress throughout your career, Ohio laid the framework and foundation from which I've built my career and the values I hold going through it. I could speak endlessly on the impact OU has had on my life but it's done an exceptional job of surrounding myself and others with the intellectual resources and network of mentors, friends, and counterparts as we collectively navigate many of the common challenges the industry presents. There's been a long line of Badger Bobcats that have helped set picks for me in my career and I am always happy to return the favor and pay it forward in any/all ways that I can because that is the embodiment of what OU is all about: it's bigger than any one person but rather the larger #OHIOFamily and leaving it better than when we found it.
As we head into the summer, how would you suggest taking advantage of the extra free time and setting ourselves up for careers in sports?
Naturally, if there's an opportunity for an internship - either this summer or next summer - always find ways to add practical experience to your resume because in my opinion, handling your business at a high (enough) level in the classroom is important but people hire people who they can trust in the trenches, not those they can trust in the library for an exam they won't remember in 5-10 years. If you're not in a position to have an internship right now, try to spend this summer learning a new craft or making new connections with people you aspire to be one day. For the most part, I've self-taught myself everything I know in the Adobe Creative Suite which has been helpful in key presentations and solicitations to donors. My knowledge of Excel and some key formulas has been helpful in prospect research and uncovering trends within donors to identify future major gift donors. End of the day, it's about finding something - anything - that will allow you to sharpen your axe during this period for when you need to chop wood (...see Kevin DeShazo book). It may be an internship. It may be a book. It may be a publication (i.e. D1.ticker in college). It may be familiarizing yourself with LinkedIn searches to locate key Badger grads in sports and setting up informational interviews during the offseason. Whatever it is, do something that will allow you to say you came into next semester stronger than when you left last semester. It doesn't have to be big but it should be progress. Depending where you're at in your academic career (i.e. freshman - senior), I'd also work on starting to develop a list of "nice to haves" and "need to haves" as you consider a first role. Those things can naturally evolve over time but it's never too early to start developing your "code" and the things, values, and priorities that will guide your decisions. Heck, nine years ago when I was preparing to graduate from Wisconsin I thought I wanted to be Athletic Director. That was my singular focus. Now? Now my focuses and priorities are a bit different. If I'm blessed in my career to one day assume that chair, fantastic but if not, my career successes don't define my personal successes. It's about living a life of balance and fulfillment, not overwhelming or obsessing yourself with the "rat race". Yes, I am competitive, driven, and goal-oriented; however, I will never deliberately sacrifice those things for the things that matter: my health and time spent with those I care about. I think the earlier you can start formulating those things and developing hobbies outside of work, the better off you'll be. FWIW, this was a very helpful document that talked about self-reflection in my most recent interview process with Florida. By the time you get back to campus this summer, hopefully you can help answer some of these questions.
What’s one sports related fun fact about yourself that you have never told the Sports Business Club?
Good question. Very very few people know this but in the fourth year or so of SBC's existence, we had pursued hosting a second-annual charity event at University Ridge, an event designed to give members experience in a variety of fields (sponsorships, event management, etc.). After benefiting the American Heart Association the year prior, we decided to make a run at JJ Watt and his JJ Watt Foundation. Amanda (Wiener) Groen, Eric Shainock, and I had driven to JJ's parent's home in Pewaukee for a visit with him, his mom, and his marketing agent. Mind you, this was pre-DPOY, $100 million contract JJ Watt. Needless to say, even with the backing of ESPN 100.5FM and Ken Rovak, we were woefully ill-equipped to manage and handle what JJ was asking for financially or from a time-commitment standpoint... we were focused on graduating, ha! Maybe not a huge "fun fact" per se but definitely a more unique SBC story that never truly was public. I always look back at that experience and think about not only the doors that SBC opened for us but also why it's important for alumni like myself and others to give back because admittedly, we were flying blind through that ordeal and could've used additional guidance on how to approach such conversations.
Sports Business Badgers Forum Recap
4/12: Selling Panel
The job is not about selling, but more so learning, listening, and engaging with the consumers. Getting to know people and educating them about our team, goals, and what we have going on. Connecting their passions with the priorities that we have.
Somedays we’re playing therapists, some days playing salesmen, you have whatever conversations that are going to get you to the end goal.
You're selling your ideas everyday whether you know it or not. Having a sales mindset is important in everyday life. You're gonna make 100 phone calls a day. Of the 20 that will pick up the phone. 5 will have a conversation. And 1 will purchase. Be comfortable with rejection. There are gonna be a ton of no's throughout your career. The sooner you can get comfortable with that frame of mind, the better off you'll be.
No one cares how you did on that Finance exam, a better measure of how you'll do on the job is your experience, likability, and if you got my back.
Relationships are like checking accounts. Make meaningful and thoughtful deposits in those relationships. The more you can be thoughtful and meaningful, it'll take you far.
Get a hobby and be selfish with your time. Stick to that and grow it. Don't define your life just by what you do for your work.
4/13: Marketing Panel
UW Athletics Brand: Hardworking. Gritty. Likes to have fun (EX: Jump Around). Do the work with integrity. Win without cheating or cutting corners. Bringing in student 'athletes that will take care of both sides of the equation. Classroom and on the field.
Find brand partnerships that make sense for both sides. What’s your partner's objectives? Brand awareness, community involvement, etc. Do their core values align with what our brand is? For example, Wisconsin athletics can't align with alcohol or gambling brands. Do they also help support our brand? All questions to consider.
Athletes have distinct personalities and styles that are best served on their own. For example, Lebron James has a bigger following than the LA Clippers on social media.
Always try to stay learning. Learn new skills and platforms. Be an early adopter. Teach yourself software, video editing, etc. Be good at a lot of little things all the time.
Treat the Janitor and the CEO the same. Don't be afraid to outwork someone above you or below you.
There is a lot to balance as a woman with career aspirations in sports. Learn how to communicate and be assertive. Be polite, but directive. Avoid being passive aggressive.
4/14: Leading Panel
As a a leader, you need to adapt to your teammates and those that you're working with. Our co-workers are changing in terms of age and demographic. It's important that we adapt to this new generation of employees and make sure we're responding to their needs, communicating well with them, and being a little more flexible with time at work.
As a leader, learn how to prioritize and delegate. It’s about having good people around you and trusting them to be able to make decisions especially in this line of work.
Women are needed in leadership. If we want to have young women attend our games, there is no better way to do that then having women the same age working for us. This includes race too. There are so many perspectives that need to be applied. Leagues can’t grow without opening up to all people.
When you say you went to Madison, you instantly get credibility with a group of people and an advantage over someone else. Use that to your advantage.
If you want to stand out, pick up the phone! It's amazing the impression a simple phone call can make.
Most important thing is to get a job out of school that challenges you. Half the front office executives with the Brewers came from outside of sports. There's very few careers that can't be launching pads to sports.
4/15: Keynote Speaker
- Cause & Community: Brands want to play here and have a purpose.
- Women's Sports: Huge moment in time for growth in women sports and equality.
- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion: The use of sport as a platform to unite people and stand for something.
- Gaming, Livestreaming, New Media Channels: Generational shift to the way people view sports.
- Cross-promotions: More organizations are open to trying things. Tapping into multiple passion points and exploring new audiences.
Growth / Career Opportunities
- Social / Digital
- Women’s Sport
- Emerging Niche Sport Properties
- New Roles for Individuals With Outside & Diverse Experience
Perspective and attitude is everything. Be that one person that is positive and that moment or conversation can leave a lasting impression. Your attitude or the way you approach problems is a game changer.
Tips for Success
- Your Personal Brand
- Set Goals (Dream Big)
- Differentiate Yourself (Experience, Website, Relationships)
- Be a Good Person
- Be a Go-Getter! (Move Without the Ball)
- Help People Help You
- Don’t Underestimate The Badger / SBC Network!
Best Practices in Networking
- Be open to meeting new people and be friendly, you never know where a new friendship or connection could lead to.
- Important to have a smaller core group of 3-4 people rather than racking up hundreds of LinkedIn connections
- Take the extra step with connections- reach out to say thank you, congrats, check in occasionally
- The risk of not hearing back from someone is outweighed by the reward of a new connection
- Get to know your peers and other club members, these could become lifelong friends or connections in the industry
Best Resources in Sports & Business
SBC Graduating Seniors
2021-22 Club Leadership
A Word from the New Alumni Director
Hello alumni! My name is Nathan Bay, and I am the Alumni Relations Director for the 2021-2022 school year! I’m truly grateful to have been selected for this position, and I can’t wait to get to know all of you while facilitating meaningful connections between yourselves and current SBC members. I had a fantastic time at the Alumni Weekend panel/networking session my freshman year and enjoyed tuning in to speakers a couple weeks ago, but now I’m even more excited for the opportunity to plan this wonderful event! Our senior executive board members have made a great impact on SBC as a whole and I’m eager to follow in their footsteps!
Now for a little bit about myself. I’ve lived in Highland Park, Illinois for my entire life and am a die hard Chicago sports fan (sorry Wisconsinites), however, these past couple years have been especially rough on my fandom. I’m in the business school, majoring in Management and Human Resources with a certificate in Sports Communication. I’ve gotten very involved on campus: along with being an executive board member in SBC next year I will be the Vice President of a recently reestablished fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma, and a director of Humorology, a music show that takes place every year which helps raise money for its philanthropic partners. Other athletics experiences that I’ve been involved with are a camp leader for the Badger Basketball Experience and a coach/scoreboard operator at the Highland Park Recreation Center.
I’m looking forward to getting started in the Fall!