Not often do students get to learn from those in the field that they wish to pursue, and it is even rarer to get to meet so many recognized professionals in one place. However, UConn students who took the time to attend the Sports Business Conference hosted in Storrs for the first time on Saturday, Jan. 28 got this opportunity.
UConn SBA president Christos Schwarz put together the event along with the rest of the Sports Business Association and managed to bring several high-profile professionals to speak in front of students from not only UConn but also other schools around New England. The conference, which started with an 8 a.m. check-in and breakfast, was followed by opening statements from the club and got off to a fantastic start with a keynote speech from T.J. Quinn, an investigative reporter for ESPN and fill-in host for Outside the Lines. Quinn’s speech outlined the difficulties of being a journalist in today’s society, and made the point that sports and current issues in society can never be completely separate.
Several UConn alum spoke at the conference as well, including ESPN Vice President of Communications Mike Soltys, who was ESPN’s first ever college intern in 1980. Soltys graduated magna cum laude in 1981 and joined ESPN full-time before climbing up through the communications department to his current position. Soltys is one of the most active and successful UConn alumni in the field of sports. Other UConn alum who attended the conference were Marcus Lynam, a 2007 graduate and senior manager of sports brand partnerships at Fox Sports, and Christina Andrews, another 2007 graduate who currently works as director of suite sales and service for the New York Mets.
ESPN’s Manager of Advertising and Marketing Billy Haubrich, an UConn alum, also spoke at the conference. Haubrich was especially influential for many members of the UConn SBA, as he helped the club during much of the planning stages of the conference.
“[Haubrich] is one of my greatest mentors,” Schwarz said. “He’s been a part of our process since the beginning of our planning stages, giving feedback on things he liked from conferences he’s previously been to and has been an active member of the UConn sport management alumni community, often speaking at the SBA and coming for networking nights.”
The SBA conference also provided attendees with workshop sessions in the morning and in the afternoon, as well as several networking breaks to get in touch with companies such as the aforementioned ESPN and Fox Sports before closing remarks ended the event around 5 p.m. Each of the high-profile speakers complimented the professionalism and organization of the event, giving video testimonials with very high praise for the SBA conference.
“We believe an event of this magnitude (152 attendees) can only help the UConn Sport Business Association grow and continue to challenge not only the executive board to reach new heights, but also members of the organization,” Schwarz said of the experience. “[It will also] draw recognition from professionals outside of our own networks in the future. We believe this continues to show our place on campus as the premier sport career development and networking opportunity.”
The UConn SBA hopes to continue to host a sports business conference annually, looking to further expand the networking opportunities for students in the sports’ business field.