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Today@Sam Article

Alumni Promote Love Of SHSU, Rockets

Jan. 2, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Randolph posing for a picture
SHSU alumni Jerry Starkey (not pictured) and Brittney Randolph currently work for the Houston Rockets organization. The two have worked to bring their alma mater and the Rockets together for the first "SHSU Rockets Night Out with President Dana Gibson." For the event, on Jan. 26, Bearkats will receive discounted tickets, using one of the promotional codes below, and special activities are planned for the event. With Randolph is Jonathan Brenham, another inside sales rep with the Rockets. —Submitted photos


From an early age, SHSU alumni Brittney Randolph and Jerry Starkey were both athletes.

In high school, Randolph was a cheerleader, and she played intramural softball at SHSU; likewise, Starkey raced motocross and played football growing up, but after breaking both of his legs in a motocross accident, he realized he was not going to make a career out of either, he said.

Their love of sports was widespread. Starkey, a San Antonio native, rooted for his hometown team, the Spurs, but also for the University of Texas Longhorns, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Houston Oilers. Randolph, who grew up in Austin, also cheered for UT, as well as the New England Patriots and the Houston Texans, but was also a basketball fan.

“I am a huge sports fanatic when it comes to basketball; it is actually my favorite sport to watch,” Randolph said. “The Rockets are my family team, and we have had season tickets with them for numerous years.

When the two came to SHSU, their love of sports translated into different career paths.

Randolph chose to major in mass communication, with a public relations emphasis, in the hopes of becoming a news reporter and focus on sports broadcasting.

“When I was younger I had always wanted to work for the NBA, since I was always a huge Rockets fan and started attending the games at a very young age,” she said.

Starkey majored in kinesiology, with a history minor, planning to teach and coach at the high school level.

“Towards the end of my undergraduate degree I started realizing I was not living up to my full potential and started to explore my options,” Starkey said. “I took an undergraduate course with Dr. (Ryan) Zapalac where he talked briefly about careers in the sport industry. I had never really given this idea a lot of thought because, honestly, I never thought about sports as a business with a full-on front office.

“As I looked into it more and talked more with Dr. Zapalac I found out SHSU offered a master’s program in sport management, which is designed to give students to the tools needed to enter the sports industry on the business side,” he said. “The semester prior to getting my bachelor’s degree I was accepted into the sport management program and in my final semester as an undergraduate I was dual enrolled in both undergraduate and graduate course work.”

Interestingly, after graduating—Randolph with her bachelor’s degree in May and Starkey with his master’s degree in August—both found jobs with the same organization, as inside sales representatives with the Rockets.

Randolph used her family connections to network within the Rockets organization and obtain her job.

Starkey’s experiences within the sport management program opened the doors to his career.

“As part of the curriculum for the master’s degree in sport management, students are required to complete a internship within the industry. The great thing about this program is the opportunity to work side-by-side with industry professionals through the various projects through out the program,” he said. “One the main projects over the past couple years has been the ‘SHSU Night with the Houston Aeros.’ This project gave me the ability to gain hands-on experience in the industry and also allowed me to make some great professional contacts.”

After completing an internship in the Aeros’ corporate development office, Starkey began taking advantage of the career fair opportunities available to sport management students.

“In September of 2011 I attended one of these career fairs in San Antonio at the AT&T Center. I was fortunate to gain valuable face time with numerous organizations, including the Rockets,” Starkey said. “In mid-January of 2012, while still interning with the Aeros, I was contacted by the Rockets and offered a full-time spot. I jumped at the chance to come on full time in their sales department and felt very fortunate knowing I had not even graduated yet.”

Brittney Randolph and Jerry StarkeyAs inside sales representatives, Randolph and Starkey create “business solutions” for companies to show how partnering with the Rockets organization can help grow their business in the Houston area, help with employee training/retention, or help set up an employment reward program. They also sell packages for special events such as group outings and suite nights, as well as full season plans for the Rockets’ approximately 44 home games each season, and mini packs, or three-game packages.

“Our corporate clients have access to ‘VIP’ areas and events that the general public does not get,” Starkey said. “I still work with the average ‘Joe’ fan who buys upper bowl seats and that is great; however, the success in this business is targeted towards these companies and entertaining their clients.”

Their jobs are fun, but demanding.

“Once the season starts I work, on average, about 70 hours a week so I don't have a lot of extra free time, if any at all,” Randolph said.

But both agree that there are definite perks to working within the Rockets organization, including the relationships they have been able to build and the networking opportunities available to them.

“The best thing about my job is I get to attend media events for the rockets and be around NBA players all day,” Randolph said.

“I am constantly networking and have met some very interesting people along the way,” Starkey said. “I would not have thought a year ago I would be going to lunch with CEOs, presidents, lawyers, and doctors on a regular basis.”

In sharing their love of the game, Randolph and Starkey approached the organization about hosting the first SHSU-themed Rockets night.

Like the Aeros event organized each spring by the SHSU sport management program, the “SHSU Rockets Night Out with President Dana L. Gibson” will feature a pre-game reception and special Bearkat fan experiences, as well as discounted ticket pricing. The inaugural event will be held on Jan. 26, when the Rockets take on the Brooklyn Nets, a very “in-demand” team to watch right now as the NBA’s newest team, Randolph said.

While other “university” nights at the Toyota Center have featured multiple universities at the same event, SHSU is being given the “VIP” treatment for their night, with the entire arena open from which basketball fans can choose seats.

“SHSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and family members will receive a 40 percent discount on their tickets than normal cost, and the organizations that bring out the most people will get to take part in special fan experiences such as being on the court with the rockets players for half time and pre-game fan tunnel,” Randolph added. “Students should want to attend to be able to mix and mingle with alumni as well as to get involved and active with their campus.

“This is a fun event for SHSU students and alumni can be proud to show off their Bearkat spirit,” she said.

“As far as sports go, there is not anything better than the NBA for the excitement,” Starkey said. “In no other sport can you sit as close as you can in the NBA. With the NBA, people sit with their feet on the floor, we do a lot of fan interaction, tunnel experiences, taking fans down courtside while the teams warm-up and things like that.”

Because of their experience with promoting the annual Aeros event, a selected group of SHSU’s sport management students have been asked to get involved in drumming up excitement for the event.

“The project will give students a chance to gain hands on valuable experience in critical areas like selling, promotion, marketing and event planning,” Starkey said. “On the event-planning side, the students have been giving input on the events for that night. We are allowing the students to be creative and put what they think will make these aspects of the night great and unique to Sam.

“It will be good for the students to see the behind-the-scenes side of a game and all the components and aspects that are going on that make everything come together,” he said. “The students are getting a chance to work side-by-side with professionals in the industry and gain a true perspective of what we do day-in and day-out. That in itself puts them way ahead of the game in terms of being ready to enter the workforce.”

The project could be lucrative in more ways than just the experience gained and the connections they make in working with industry executives. In accepting a role with the project, Randolph and Starkey issued the 15 students a challenge: those who sell the most tickets will receive a prize.

“The group as a whole is also looking at a goal of selling a total of 500 tickets,” Starkey said. “If this goal is reached a group reward will be given, that is still to be determined. But we have mentioned the idea of a suite night to a game or concert for the group.”

As SHSU alumni, this event is both special and personal to Randolph and Starkey, because important roles the university and networking have played in shaping their careers.

“My main reason for wanting to do this promotional night with SHSU is to give back to the sport management program that gave me so much,” Starkey said. “Without the program and the experiences I had while in it I would not be where I am today and looking ahead to a long and successful career in this business.

“I wanted to do this promotion with Sam to try and encompasses a new outing with the university,” Randolph said. “SHSU is very dear to my heart; I had some of the best memories of my life there being in Zeta Tau Alpha and Orange Keys and putting numerous events together campus-wide my last four years in college. It only seems natural for me to give back and have my university represented in Houston.”

To purchase tickets at the discounted price, visit http://tinyurl.com/8or83gv. Using one of 17 promo codes will allow fans to receive the discount and will also provide students with “sellers credit.”




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