To Bristol, Buenos Aires and back: Winter Term class offers students an inside look at the business of sport

Assistant Professor David Bockino and 14 students in his Through the Lens of ESPN class enjoyed an expansive media tour in the Northeast, visiting ESPN, Fox Sports, DAZN and the NHL, before making their way south to examine sports outlets, athletic venues and South American culture in Argentina.

During a sweeping sports media tour during the course of five days in New York City and Connecticut, visiting notable brands such as ESPN, Fox Sports, DAZN, MSG, CAA and the NHL, Assistant Professor David Bockino and the 14 students enrolled in his Through the Lens of ESPN class received an insider’s perspective into how sports media companies and sport-related entities operate.

During an expansive tour of ESPN’s Bristol campus, the students visited the set of “SportsCenter,” the flagship program of the sports television company.

The students enjoyed unparalleled access during their travels in the Northeast in January, including a tour of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and “NFL Live” studios, thanks in large part to Elon connections.

The all-access visit to Bristol was coordinated by Norby Williamson, ESPN’s executive vice president of studio production, and Elon alumna Amanda Braunlich ’09, a production coordinator at the sports network. A longtime member of the School of Communications’ national advisory board, Williamson was instrumental in providing the experience, which included an hour-long conversation with anchor Sage Steele.

The class encountered several other Elon alumni at other stops who were eager to offer professional insights. Monica Fee ’04, a property sales agent at CAA Sports, welcomed the class to CAA’s iconic Chrysler Building offices, inviting her colleagues to discuss the agency’s work in sports and, more recently, esports. Emily York ’15, a sales planner at Bleacher Report, provided a personal tour of the digital publication’s Broadway offices. And Maddy Rozynek ’18, a recruiting coordinator at the Madison Square Garden Company, outlined the organization’s Student Associate Program, where she got her own start as an intern.

Nick Wright, co-host on Fox Sports 1’s “First Things First,” speaks to Elon students on Jan. 14, during a commercial break. The show featured extensive discussion on the previous night’s 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship game featuring LSU and Clemson.

During their five days in New York, the students also visited the offices of ESPN’s ad sales and streaming divisions, the National Hockey League’s headquarters, the Fox Sports ad sales research floor, and DAZN’s breathtaking office space on the 72nd floor of the One World Trade Center. While at ESPN’s New York City offices, the class spent an hour with Russell Wolff, executive vice president and general manager of ESPN+. He laid out in detail the network’s commitment to the streaming platform and how ESPN is driven by two missions: making decisions that serve sports fans and how to make profits for the company’s shareholders.

Additionally, the New York City visit included a live taping of FS1’s “First Things First,” where students watched about 30 minutes of the show and spoke with hosts Nick Wright, Jenna Wolfe and Chris Canty during an extended commercial break.

Tripp Hill ’22 (left) takes a selfie while touring El Monumental, home of Club Atlético River Plate.

To view a comprehensive photo gallery documenting the course, visit the school’s Flickr account.

For Lauren Belk ’22, a sport management major and Communications Fellow, the opportunity to travel extensively in a sport-based course was too much too pass up.

“I honestly loved just about everything about the course” Belk said. “However, my favorite company visit was probably with CAA Sports. Despite knowing Monica Fee beforehand, I really enjoyed how in depth they were when they described their jobs. Also, they work so closely with athletes and other famous individuals, so it was neat to see the behind the scenes of sponsorship endorsements – which is what I want to do.”

It wasn’t lost on Belk how incredible the access she and her classmates received during the class, or how welcoming the professional staffs were.

While in Buenos Aires, the students met with executives of TyC Sports, an Argentine television sports channel, and toured the company’s studios.

“This sounds sort of cheesy, but people in the sport industry are not mean. I always have this image that they don’t have time for college students and they only want to focus on their work. That is not the case,” she said. “They loved answering questions and never wanted to stop going more in depth with their responses. It was so easy to connect with them, and now I have a bigger network.”

Cinema and television arts major Jared Bunder ’22 echoed Belk’s sentiments, acknowledging the investment people like Steele, Williamson, Wolff and Wright made getting to know them.

“It was encouraging to see them so willing to provide us, college students, with advice,” Bunder said. “They wanted to pass along advice and share what they have learned along the way.”

After New York, the entire class packed up and headed to Buenos Aires for seven days.

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While abroad, the students toured the city, visiting athletic facilities through the Argentine capital, and immersed themselves in the country’s culture. This included tours of the iconic soccer stadiums La Bombonera, home of local club Boca Juniors, and El Monumental, home of Club Atlético River Plate. A group of students, accompanied by Bockino and staff member Tommy Kopetskie, also took in the Jan. 19 match between River Plate and Club Atlético Independiente.

Additionally, the students met with executives of TyC Sports, an Argentine television sports channel, and the Argentine Football Association, the country’s governing body of football. Juan Franchini, a sport consultant and sport management professor based in Buenos Aires, helped facilitate the company visits.

While Bunder was initially convinced to enroll in the Winter Term class because of its exposure to sports media outlets, he said his personal highlight was playing polo on horseback.

Sport management major Lauren Belk ’22 reaches with her mallet while playing polo at Estancia Villa Maria, about 45 minutes outside of Buenos Aires.

Yes, the entire class visited the beautiful Estancia Villa Maria, located about 45 minutes outside of the capital, for an introduction to polo, complete with students riding horseback and playing in an abbreviated game.

“While I really enjoyed the opportunity to see ESPN, Fox Sports and all of these sports media companies up close, my favorite part of the whole experience had to be playing polo,” Bunder said. “It was something entirely different, and just a cool experience to have with the other students. It is something I won’t forget.”

Bockino credited the Elon University network, particularly the institution’s alumni, for making the course and the students’ experiences worthwhile.

“Putting together a course like this requires an extensive network – of colleagues, of alumni, of and of people simply willing to help out a group of students interested in learning about other countries and the sport media business,” Bockino said. “And the fact that we got to visit so many great places really speaks to the quality and breadth of graduates that Elon is putting out there and of the connections the school has been able to make not only in the United States but also around the world.”