Hawkeyes were everywhere at Super Bowl LIV. Three UI sport and recreation management alumni recount their experiences in Miami and how their time at Iowa helped them get to where they are today.
Emily Nelson
courtesy of Abimael Cruz, Alex Martin, and Scott Schneider
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University of Iowa sport and recreation management alumni (clockwise from left) Alex Martin and Brock Baumert (with the Kansas City Chiefs), Abimael Cruz (with the San Francisco 49ers), and Scott Schneider (with the Miami Dolphins) attended Super Bowl LIV, working before and during the game in various roles—or in the case of Cruz, enjoying the game as a show of appreciation from the 49ers organization.

While four former Hawkeyes took the field Feb. 2 for Super Bowl LIV in Miami, others were working in the owners’ suites and elsewhere behind the scenes before and during the big game.

Eight University of Iowa sport and recreation management alumni work for the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and Super Bowl host Miami Dolphins in a variety of roles, including football operations assistant, manager of membership development, and account manager of suite services. 

Alumni from each team credit the program for helping set them up to work for major national sports leagues straight out of college. 

“The NFL is a league that some people work their whole lives to get into, and for me to get in right away and move up quickly is truly amazing,” says Alex Martin, foundation and civic affairs assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs. “It seems like everywhere I go I meet someone from Iowa who was in sport and recreation management. Iowa did a great job of exposing us to the business of sports, and I can’t thank them enough for putting me in that position.”

The 2016 graduate from Council Bluffs, Iowa, says his first connection to the Chiefs, of whom he has been a lifelong fan, came during a sport and recreation management field trip.

“We participated in a panel discussion with the Chiefs,” Martin says. “I got their information and kept in touch. Now my office is next to some of those folks on the panel.”

Like Martin, Scott Schneider says he participated in almost every field experience offered through the program, including the Iowa Energy Practicum, John Deere Golf Classic Practicum, and San Diego Sports Consulting Practicum.

Now an account manager for suite services for the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium, the 2017 graduate from San Francisco, California, ended up in Miami through the Mount Union Sports Sales Workshop and Job Fair.

“It was really all those hands-on experiences at Iowa that made me a good candidate and set me apart from everyone else,” Schneider says. 

Abimael Cruz, who also got his first job (with the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA) through the Mount Union Sports Sales Workshop and Job Fair, is now a stadium builders license (SBL) consultant with the San Francisco 49ers and, among other duties, builds and maintains relationships with season ticket holders. He credits the field experiences he got at Iowa with helping him figure out what he wanted to do within the sports world.

Super Bowl Hawks

The following University of Iowa sport and recreation management alumni work for the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and Miami Dolphins.

  • Brock Baumert (BBA and BS ’17, MA ’18), Kansas City Chiefs football operations assistant
  • CJ Beathard (BS ’16), San Francisco 49ers backup QB
  • Abimael Cruz (BS ’18), San Francisco 49ers stadium builders license (SBL) consultant
  • Jake Flathers (BS ’16, MA ’18), Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium membership development associate
  • Kyra Hassman (BS ’19), Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium membership development associate
  • Alex Martin (BS ’16), Kansas City Chiefs foundation and civic affairs assistant
  • Riley McMinn (BA ’14, MA ’16), Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium manager of membership development
  • Scott Schneider (BS ’17), Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium account manager, suite services

“My first practicum was with the Chicago Blackhawks dealing with corporate sponsorships,” says the 2018 graduate from Chicago. “I loved it, and it’s what I’d eventually like to get into. Then I did the Fans First Practicum, which is basically customer service. It was a great experience, but I learned that’s not quite what I wanted to do. Then I did a sales practicum with the Iowa Wolves, which was enjoyable and challenging and, along with my coursework, gave me a great preview for what I’m doing now.”

Although they were technically on the clock, Martin and Schneider had some of the best views of the Super Bowl, spending it in the Chiefs’ and Minnesota Vikings’ owners’ suites. 

Schneider, whose position entails overseeing half of the Dolphins’ annual suite member accounts, was assigned during the Super Bowl to the Vikings ownership team as their “white glove liaison.” He worked with their assistants on logistics, accommodations, and anything else they needed to make their Super Bowl experience the best possible.

“I was their shadow. Everywhere they were, I was there ready to assist,” Schneider says. “I saw the game from a unique point of view. Without that position, I would not have done or seen half of the things I did.”

Martin works closely with the Hunt family—the Dallas-based owners of the Chiefs—as their point person for ownership operations and other family matters in Kansas City. He was responsible for preparations for the family’s trip to Miami, from lining up accommodations to working out logistics for attending the many Super Bowl-related activities. Because the family attends the Super Bowl every year, this was actually Martin’s second year at the title game. 

“Last year was sort of a dry run for me because not as many family members attended,” Martin says. “It prepared me well for this year, when about 50 family members went.”

While Martin and Schneider were on duty, Cruz was able to just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. When he started in May 2019, he says he certainly didn’t expect to be going to the Super Bowl on the 49ers’ dime.

“The owners offered all full-time employees the opportunity to go,” Cruz says. “They gave us the full VIP experience, treating us like players. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”

“Having that (sport and recreation management) degree doesn’t just qualify you to start in the sport world—Iowa did a great job of exposing us to the business of sports, and I can’t thank them enough for putting me in that position.”

Alex Martin
Kansas City Chiefs foundation and civic affairs assistant

The game didn’t quite turn out the way Cruz and Schneider—a lifelong 49ers fan—would have liked, but for Martin, seeing the Chiefs win their first Super Bowl in 50 years in person was a thrill. However, the Chiefs’ fourth-quarter comeback came with a bit of nail-biter.

“Early in the fourth quarter I said to a co-worker, ‘We haven’t really talked about what happens if we lose,’” Martin says. “There was supposed to be a party back at the hotel, and I wasn’t sure if the family would still want to do that. Thankfully, we didn’t have to worry about it.”

As the three alumni reflect on their Super Bowl experiences, they say they are grateful for the relationships they built at Iowa.

“The support I received and continue to receive is top notch,” Cruz says. “It’s like a family at Iowa. It’s not like that everywhere. I have a friend in San Francisco who says her SRM program probably doesn’t know who she is. That the professors and advisers at Iowa stay in contact with me and know I’m in this position is amazing. They always have your back and give you the resources and opportunities to succeed.”

Sport and recreation management

Students with a degree in sport and recreation management can pursue a variety of career paths, including community recreation, intercollegiate athletics, high school programs, commercial fitness, and minor and major league sport teams. The degree offers a comprehensive curriculum with a unique integrative business approach and opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. Iowa’s goal is to prepare leaders to meet the challenges in the global sport arena. 

While the Super Bowl marked the end of the NFL season, Cruz, Martin, and Schneider didn’t get much time to catch their breath.

The Miami Open tennis tournament begins March 23 at the Hard Rock Stadium, and Schneider is hard at work selling tickets and making sure his clients have a great experience. 

“There was still confetti on the field when they started tearing it up and taking down the banners,” Schneider says. “You’d never know we had the Super Bowl here just last week.”

Cruz says the 49ers’ great season means his phone is ringing off the hook with people seeking season tickets.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Cruz says.

Meanwhile in Kansas City, more than a million people turned out for a parade three days after the Super Bowl to celebrate the Chiefs’ 31-20 win. Next, the Chiefs will host the 50th annual 101 Awards—Kansas City’s salute to professional football—on Feb. 29.

“The longer you’re in the playoffs, the shorter offseason you have,” Martin says. “But no complaints whatsoever.”