Building on Success

Sport management students earn programs 11th national championship

Abigail Vito (’23) came to Loras College knowing that she wanted to be a part of the sport business industry.

“I grew up in a house where life revolved around sports and I loved it,” she explained. “My siblings and I all played various sports growing up. My dad, brother and I are all Illinois High School Association (IHSA) licensed officials, and my mom works in the sports business industry. So I had a pretty good idea during my campus visit that sport management was going to be my intended major.”

One of the determining factors for the Marengo, Ill. native that helped steer her to Loras was the string of accolades and successes the sport management program has earned, including 10 national championships against some of the best competition in the nation. After talking with Anne Marx, Ed.D., associate professor of sport management, she made up her mind.

From left: Brad Coen, Abi Vito, Gabriella Garcia, Sam Brickley

“Dr. Marx talked about all the awards the program has received and all the teams that Loras was competing against and beating. When I heard that, I was sold. I wanted to be a part of a program that was going to be continuously pushing me to be better, and that is exactly what this program does.”

On October 22, Vito, along with Brad Coen (’22), Gabriella Garcia (’23) and Sam Brickley (’22), claimed the programs eleventh national championship by winning the SBRnet Case Study Competition at the annual Sport Marketing Association Conference in Las Vegas.

The newly-crowned national champions earned their title by creating a marketing plan for the Henderson Silver Knights hockey team in Nevada in a way that differentiated them from the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights. They focused on fans through promotional events and effective social media planning.

“The overall experience was amazing. Being able to work with Gabby, Sam and Brad on this case study — which allowed for a lot of creativity — was so much fun,” she said.

For Coen, that past success for the program helped provide confidence as he took part in his first national competition.

“I didn’t know really what to expect as I had never been to the national case study conference before, but we knew Loras had won before, and we had prepared with a practice case study at Loras to try to simulate what it would be like,” he said.

 “The thing that set us apart from everyone else was avoiding an obvious marketing strategy.  The data — provided by Mason McMillen (’22) and Davis Pasco (’22) — did not support us focusing on gambling and a few of the judges called us brave for stepping away from it since we were in Vegas,” Vito explained.

“The experience was great,” Brickley, a Galesburg, Ill., native, said. “It was stressful having only two days to come up with a full presentation. But doing it under a deadline was a good experience.”

Like Vito, Garcia arrived at Loras from Austin, Texas, knowing she wanted to pursue a career in sports business. She credits both Marx and Matthew Garrett, Ph.D., professor of sport management, for getting her ready, not only for the competition, but also for real-world experiences.

“Both of the sports management professors encouraged us as students to participate in extracurricular opportunities to learn about the field. For instance, currently in my sports marketing class we are working with the Dubuque Fighting Saints to complete a market research project. This project aided me with some background knowledge of ice hockey and what it takes to encourage fans to come to a game.”

Each student stressed the important role the faculty played in ensuring they were ready for whatever lies ahead for them in their sports business pursuits.

For all four students, the support of their fellow Duhawks has been one of the biggest takeaways.

“I am overwhelmed with emotions of celebrating our win and transitioning back to my life back on campus,” Garcia said. “It has been a great honor to receive a congratulatory email from President Collins and reading all the incredible messages on social media.”

With the full support of the faculty and Loras community behind them, all four students are proud knowing they have upheld the tradition they have heard so much about.

“The bar is set so high and our classmates are continuously raising it. I saw that firsthand when we walked up to the stage and people started saying it is a dynasty because Loras has won this competition so many times,” Vito said.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2020, Loras was ranked the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 12th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).