As Texas A&M University prepares to face off against Louisiana State University in the 75th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, 12 Aggies are preparing to get real-world experience in the business of big-time college sports.
For the second year, the Laboratory for the Study of Intercollegiate Athletics in Texas A&M's Department of Health and Kinesiology will take a dozen sport management students to serve as representatives and hosts for the Cotton Bowl.
The students will spend the week in the Dallas/Fort Worth area participating in "guerrilla marketing" to spread the word about the Cotton Bowl to local residents. They also will assist with event management. Graduate student Kayla Jones is making her first trip as a member of the group.
While there is added excitement with Texas A&M playing in the game, Kayla says, the agenda remains the same for the students. "We did this long before we knew Texas A&M would be in it." she says. "It's a great learning experience, and to be part of something that big is exciting."
Junior Meredith Benkendorfer sees helping with the Cotton Bowl as an opportunity for networking and a chance to highlight her sports business skills. As a participant last year, Meredith helped set up press conferences and luncheons, in addition to escorting dignitaries.
"I came back raving about the entire time," Meredith says. "My parents were jealous!" Jonathan Aldaco, a junior who also participated last year, says that the opportunity to be in the room with business heavyweights such as T. Boone Pickens, Jerry Jones and the coaches was phenomenal.
However, his trip highlight involved the football players. "The hospital visits were my favorite experience of the whole trip." Jonathan says. "Just seeing these giant football players interact with the kids is a moment that I will never forget."
Students anticipate a busy trip schedule.
The game is expected to be one of the year's most-watched bowl games. The AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic is celebrating its 75th anniversary, with more events planned than normal.
"I've learned a lot in the classroom, and anytime you can take what you learned into a real-world setting is just invaluable experience for any student," says grad student Tim Hanson. "It's going to be hard work, but it's going to be fun. We are going to learn a lot."