Students Intern at the Super Bowl

SHU interns at SB

From left, Gina Cerniglia, Nicole Eastman, Stephanie Kanner and Erin Murtagh check out the view from the stands in Cowboys Stadium on Super Bowl weekend

News Story: February 1, 2011

Four Sacred Heart University students have memories to last a lifetime of Super Bowl XLV – thanks to their teacher, Brian Thorne '05, an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies. Thorne, who works with NFL Films Core Group, arranged to have the students intern at this year’s Super Bowl, pitting the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.

Thorne says the opportunity arose after he asked his production manager if extra runners might be needed for the event. He offered to bring some students who would serve as unpaid interns. At first, there was little interest, but shortly before the Super Bowl, he was told he could bring four of his best students. “The whole thing happened very quickly. They had to be credentialed within 48 hours of when I found out they could come,” he said.

There was so much interest, Thorne decided to make a contest out of the selection process. Each student had to write an essay explaining why he or she wanted to participate. GPA was also a consideration. Dr. Andrew Miller chose the winners – Gina Cerniglia, ’11, Nicole Eastman, ’11, Stephanie Kanner, ’11 and Erin Murtagh, ’12 – from approximately 20 entries. The interns had to provide their airfare and accommodations.

Football fan or not, the experience was incredible. As runners, the women did everything from escorting broadcasting talent to the field to setting up cameras and running errands between the equipment trailers and staff. They also spotted plenty of celebrities, including A-Rod, Cameron Diaz and Owen Wilson. A big perk was a tour of the brand new Cowboys Stadium. “It was massive. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kanner said. Even Thorne, who was working at his fourth Super Bowl, was stunned. “It’s amazing. It was the first time I was ever in awe of a structure. There is a 60-yard wide television screen on each side of the stadium. From the seats it’s almost tempting to watch the screen instead of looking down at the field!”

The newness of the stadium also meant problems for the production team. “We couldn’t take the shortcuts of banging through walls like we often do. The stadium crew would not let us do that,” Thorne said.

Kanner, a Giants fan, says it was amazing to see just how much goes into a Super Bowl broadcast. “The regular team had already been there three weeks before we got there. I can’t thank Professor Thorne and NFL Films Core Group enough for bringing us out there. I learned things I could never have learned in a classroom. It was the most eye-opening experience I have ever had.”

Murtagh, also a Giants fan, concurs. “Our credentials allowed us access to all different parts of the stadium and other places,” she notes. One highlight for her was a visit to the Media Center in Dallas. “I got to see them filming some of the interviews they record to show leading up to the game. For example, I saw Tiki Barber being filmed as he gave his input on the game.” she said. “I hope to be a broadcaster or TV personality, so it was wonderful to see everything that goes into a production.”

Eastman, who is not a football fan, was thrilled to have the chance to see how a major television event is put together. A highlight for her was watching live broadcasts by the television personalities from Mexican networks Televisa and TV Azteca. “I speak Spanish, so it was really cool to listen to their commentary. This experience definitely pointed me in a new direction. Although I have always wanted to be on-air, now I think I might want to be the one calling the shots as a director or producer,” she said.

The experience brought an added punch for Cerniglia, a lifelong Steelers fan. She realizes that very few people have a chance to see their team play in the Super Bowl. “We sat on the Steelers side of the field for most of the game. My Dad, who is from Pittsburgh, and my brother are so jealous! I’m so grateful for this experience. I want to be a broadcaster someday, so I loved watching the on-air talent and observing how they act and how they carry themselves.”

Thorne is glad to have been able to provide this experience for the students, but confesses to a bit of jealousy. “They were there for the four best days of a Super Bowl. It took us two weeks to set everything up and then three 10-hour days to tear everything down. They didn’t see that part,” he says, laughing. He adds that he is extremely proud of his team of interns. “All the feedback from the production coordinator was positive. They were willing to learn and did everything they were asked to do.”

Perhaps Murtagh sums it up best: “It’s an experience that’s impossible to put into words and impossible to forget.”