MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College faculty members Jen Braun and Tom Prince combined their “Foundations of Kinesiology” and “Administration and Organization” classes on Monday for a valuable look inside major college athletics – specifically the Capital One Orange Bowl – when alumnus John Mas ’02 shared via Skype his experiences that first brought him to Monmouth and eventually to a job at the Orange Bowl Committee where he serves as the Senior Director, Partnerships.
“I played football in high school in Miami and knew I wasn’t going to play college ball at the University of Miami,” explained Mas. “Coach (Kelly) Kane was the head football coach at the time and sold me on the idea of playing at Monmouth. It was a bit of culture shock seeing snow for the first time.”
That shock quickly turned into a warm feeling as the Floridian acclimated to college life, the Midwestern weather and the eventual skills which would land him a job at an iconic bowl game organization.
“What I loved about Monmouth was the sense of community and the support students receive,” said Mas, a topical major who earned his master’s degree in sport management at Western Illinois University. “With the support of the coaches, faculty and staff, it’s impossible to fail. I really got a lot out of the marketing class and Professor (Dick) Johnston’s economics class. We had the opportunity to work in small groups and on our own. We learned how to recognize and use those ‘hot buttons’ in our marketing class. That’s something I use every day. It was during my junior and senior year that Coach (Chad) Braun steered me toward the sport management program at Western, which ultimately led to my return to south Florida.”
Mas’ return path to his hometown didn’t take the most direct route. Rather, it was a chance contact for another position that opened the door to his dream job.
“Following my classes at Western, I had contacted the sports information director at Clemson University looking for an internship,” explained Mas. “He didn’t have any internships open at the time, but told me the Orange Bowl was looking for an intern. I applied, got the internship and have been at the Orange Bowl ever since. You never know what contact you may have that will begin your journey.”
Now in his 13th year with the Orange Bowl Committee, Mas explained that his job isn’t just one event a year. It’s more of a series of events leading up to the Capital One Orange Bowl in January that requires interaction will all the facets within the organization.
“We try to have at least one event a month leading up to the actual Capital One Orange Bowl,” said Mas. “We do other things besides just football. We also do community outreach year ’round. We collect shoes and school supplies for needy kids and work to convert single-use athletic fields into multi-use facilities. All of the monies generated by the main event fund our other activities.”
A non-profit organization, the Orange Bowl, now in its 84th year, relies on sponsorships to keep the game and community outreach programs going. With more than 60 sponsors each year, Mas’ job entails keeping all parties happy – sponsors, fans and the teams.
“The Capital One Orange Bowl is our one chance each year to get it right,” admitted Mas. “We sell a marketing concept and have to keep everyone happy and keep them coming back. We’re the only bowl which produces a halftime show and that in itself is huge. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes details that need to be taken care of for every event. Nothing happens without a lot of preparation, communication and teamwork.”
Mas’ ability to work within groups had been crucial to his success, and the Orange Bowl’s. Mas gave a glimpse of what was to come with the display of his leadership skills while a member of the Fighting Scots’ football team, where he served as a team captain.
“I’m a hands-on type of guy,” said Mas, who is especially proud of being among the players who began Monmouth’s current 19-game win streak in the Bronze Turkey game with rival Knox. “I think that’s an important characteristic if you’re going to be in a leadership position. You need to be willing to work in the trenches with those around you.”
Mas’ leadership philosophy was especially impactful for sophomore Laura Dulee, a business and public relations double major from Bloomington, Ill., who also does double duty as a member of the Scots’ volleyball and softball teams.
“When John started talking about leadership, I was able to see areas that I want to apply to my life,” she said. “Instead of telling your employees to do something for you, you need to be willing to be the one going to do it. He stays late to help clean up the events that he puts on, or he goes early to hand out coupons from his sponsors. All of those actions help people to see the passion he has for his events.”
As part of the planning staff that has hosted three BCS national championship games during his tenure, Mas has rubbed elbows with countless future NFLers, including a number of Heisman Trophy winners. Mas warned the class it wasn’t all fun and games.
“It’s really not as glamorous as you think,” said Mas, citing the demanding hours. “Thanksgiving weekend was the first full weekend I had off in six weeks. There are no holidays, either. Events happen regardless of your personal timetable. Working in the sports field is a grind with long hours, but it’s also very rewarding.”