Super Bowl Brings NFL Experience to UT Students

Published: Jan 30, 2009
University of Tampa student Alex Miles stands in the middle of a sea of people, speaking into a walkie-talkie as he scans the crowd. Around him, thousands of people enjoy a variety of games, throwing footballs at targets, making field goals, and practicing their touchdown dances.

Miles is what’s known as a “zuper.” That’s “super” with a “z.” He is one of five zupers charged with overseeing the smooth operation of the Tampa’s NFL Experience, and one of about 40 UT students working with the 5,000 volunteers staffing the temporary theme park in the week leading up to Super Bowl XLIII.

A junior sport management major, Miles has helped manage and maintain a number of sporting events, including Tampa Bay Lightning hockey games, but none of this size and magnitude.

“You have to make sure everyone is happy and that people who maybe can’t afford a Super Bowl ticket still have the ability to take part in it,” Miles said.

Miles has direct authority over the area managers in his zone, one of five zones into which the many attractions are divided inside the NFL Experience. UT senior Alfonso Hernandez and sophomore Amy Kerr each maintain one of the other five zones, directly supervising the area managers who oversee volunteers staffing each attraction.

Their basic task is to ensure that each of the NFL Experience’s attractions is adequately staffed at all times and that all volunteers are keeping the attractions running smoothly.

It is a job that keeps them on their feet, hustling through crowds and dispatching volunteers to areas receiving heavier traffic. The job also has its perks – like sightings of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jeff Garcia and Derrick Brooks and an up-close view of the Vince Lombardi trophy.

“I came to school thinking that I wanted to be a professional sports agent,” Miles said. “But ever since, it’s really opened my eyes and showed that you don’t just have to be an agent or a coach to work in sport.”

Miles co-founded the Sports and Entertainment Management Society (SEMS) in the fall of 2007. The organization helped provide a path toward volunteer opportunities with events like the Clearwater Ironman competition and the United Soccer League’s Super Y soccer fest.

Miles added that he has considered a career in academia, teaching sport management at the college level, or possibly becoming a college athletic scout.

The event is also one of a wide range of sport experiences with which Hernandez has been involved. In his time at UT, he has done everything from conducting post-game interviews for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to managing the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“The NFL Experience is one of the biggest events I’ve done,” said Hernandez, also a sport management major. “The opportunities are always there. You’ve just got to grab them. The business is so broad, I’m basically trying to experience a lot of things.”