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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Two college students from southeastern CT work at Super Bowl

    Nichols College sophomore Nasir Bridgewater (bottom row fourth from left), of New London, and junior Spencer Berlepsch (top row, fifth from left) and other members of the three-credit Super Bowl Experience Operations Practicum course stand outside Allegiant Stadium, where they helped staff Super Bowl LVIII. (Photo courtesy of Communications Specialist Dean Roussel, Nichols College).

    New London’s Nasir Bridgewater, a sophomore Sports Management major at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., watches the Super Bowl every year at home.

    But this year, when the college’s sports management majors were sent an email about an opportunity to work at Super Bowl LVIII, he applied. Seventeen students, including the 19-year-old Bridgewater and Spencer Berlepsch, of Norwich, were chosen to participate in the three-credit Super Bowl Operations Experience Practicum course.

    Included was an opportunity to travel to Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and be a part of the National Football League’s stadium staff for the game.

    “When we travel, we partner with the National Football League and work the fan festival, and then Super Bowl Sunday” said Christopher Streeter, the professor for the course.

    On Sunday, the Nichols students were the first group to go inside the stadium, said Bridgewater.

    Around 11 a.m. the more than 61,000 fans started to arrive.

    Bridgewater, Berlepsch and the other students helped fans to their seats, bathrooms and common areas, managed spills and provided medical assistance if needed. After the game, they helped fans exit the stadium.

    Berlepsch, a junior, said it was great to be able to help fans out, and to get to be at the game before anyone else.

    “Obviously as a fan, I was really excited. It was a surreal experience to be at the Super Bowl,” he said.

    Berlepsch said the experience taught him a lot about “how operations are, how hectic it can be and how many things go into running a game ― let alone the Super Bowl.”

    This is the third time a trip like this has been planned for Nichols College sports management students.

    Last year, students went to Super Bowl LVII in Phoenix, Arizona, and three years before that to Super Bowl LIV in Miami. But this was the first year the course partnered with the NFL and students were actually allowed inside the stadium, Streeter said.

    Berlepsch said the experience was “a dream come true in so many ways” adding that as a New England Patriots fan, he was pulling for the 49ers to win.

    “We got to explore Las Vegas ― the opportunities that we had at being at the second ever overtime Super Bowl ― it still doesn’t feel real,” he said, recounting the weeklong trip.

    “I would say the atmosphere itself was something that I could never forget, overall,” added Bridgewater.

    For Bridgewater, a former basketball player who’s been sidelined by a heart condition, the networking on the trip was the first step of many toward turning a passion for playing sports into a sports management career, where he wants to advocate for diversity in the field and players’ mental health.

    “I feel like I’m continuously blessed to be in the position I am in,” he said. “I want to use my small platform to advocate for African American men in the sport industry ― and improve and give back.”

    Streeter, who revived the course two years ago based on the Miami trip a former professor had taken students on, said he had three goals for the trip: an out-of-the-classroom learning experience, building students’ résumés and letting them make connections with other students and professional athletes.

    At a “Super Bowl Experience” fair held the day before the big game in a nearby convention center, students, who were working that event too, got to meet former NFL players Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Drew Bledsoe, he said.

    “But really the most important piece is this idea of trying to inspire our students, giving them this idea that there are so many possibilities in the world of sport for them,” Streeter added.

    He added the trip also included a tour of the National Hockey League Las Vegas Golden Knights practice facility and attending a student sports management panel at the University of Las Vegas Student Union that attracted more than 600 students.

    The class will now have until March 1 to prepare a final project encapsulating what the experience taught them.

    d.drainville@theday.com

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