Campus & Community

For Students, a Super Opportunity to Make a Difference

No matter what the result of a Super Bowl is — be it the nail-biter between the Giants and Bills in 1991 or the rout by the Seahawks last month — fans talk about the games for years after the winner is crowned.

But what happens to the local host communities when the teams and fans leave, the media trucks pull away, and the spotlight heads elsewhere?

For Dr. Rich Petriccione, it’s important to create an impact that lasts beyond the hype of the big game.

“Most Super Bowls raise about a million dollars for charity,” he said. “We felt very strongly that it made no sense to just check the box and do what all Super Bowls have done, because this is the most generous area to live in in the world.”

Petriccione, who served as a senior vice president of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee and president of the NY/NJ Snowflake Youth Foundation, was speaking to a packed Babbio Center lecture hall as part of the Heath Lecture Series sponsored by the Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens Institute of Technology. His talk focused on the leadership, marketing and sponsorship challenges unique to such a huge event, and how he leveraged resources to benefit the host region.

The most important step, he said, was not diving right in. When he was hired in September 2011, he had a few weeks to think about where the impact could be, and what nonprofit work was already taking place that was not well recognized. That’s a good lesson for future managers, he said.

“There’s nothing like being able to spend some time in thought, and thinking about what are some real needs you want to address, and not just jumping in and doing the work,” he said.

Among the highlights for the host committee were record donations of coats, blood and trees, as well as some $12 million donated by sponsors to improve the facilities of after-school programs, particularly those that had been hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Petriccione’s presentation included before and after photos of wrecked gyms and playgrounds that were rebuilt. The host committee’s logo figures prominently in such projects, a reminder of the transformative power of the big game.

A Super sequel

People living in those communities and using those facilities will then provide support for a possible return of the game to MetLife Stadium.

“It would be the moms and the dads and the grandmas saying, ‘Remember when the Super Bowl was here, remember all the good they did when the Super Bowl was here?’ And so that was what I tried to do,” he said.

Of the 55 such projects his team either completed or is working on, more than half are in New Jersey, Petriccione said.

Furthermore, the efforts to support efforts like the Jersey Cares coat drive are not about how much was donated so much as it is raising the baseline. Last year, the group got 87,000 donated coats. The Super Bowl spiked that to 117,000, and while the group may not get that next year, they expect donations to be at around 95,000.

“That’s the legacy that we leave behind,” Petriccione said.

That legacy, he said, is important for business students to consider going forward.

“As you move through your careers, remember there’s a responsibility to give back,” he said. “There are always good people in these companies assigned to making sure profits and assets are given back to the communities they serve.”

Petriccione’s previous experience includes coaching basketball at NCAA Division 1 schools, working as athletic director and later a vice president at Iona College, and serving as vice president for development at White Plains Hospital Center, in New York. The Bronx native earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Iona College, and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy from Fordham University, where he was advised by current Stevens associate professor Dr. Donald Lombardi.

Dr. Gregory Prastacos, dean of the Howe School, said Petriccione’s message is “really tremendous” for business leaders of the future.

“We really believe the learning you get out of managing these huge athletic events is very important and relevant to management,” Prastacos said.