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Sports management students attend Michigan Sport Business Conference

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Posted on Thursday, March 2, 2023

Two Westminster College School of Business students attended the prestigious 2022 Michigan Sport Business Conference (MSBC) in Ann Arbor, Mich., giving them a glimpse of the sports business landscape.

Tom Howell ’23, a senior business administration and marketing and professional sales major from Pittsburgh, and Gia Francisco ’25, a sophomore marketing and professional sales and sports management major from Canfield, Ohio, heard from speakers and industry professionals, including keynote presenters ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, Chicago Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren, and NFL Chief Media and Business Officer Brian Rolapp.

The pair attended networking sessions and smaller breakout panels on topics such as media; marketing; name, image and likeness (NIL); and storytelling.

During a small table session, Francisco said she enjoyed meeting Estee Portnoy, business manager and spokesperson for NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.

“She provided us with so much information on how to get involved in the sports world. Especially as a woman in business, she talked a great deal about confidence and how to break through the ‘glass ceiling,’” said Francisco, adding that she also spoke with Jared Wangler, former University of Michigan football star and CEO of the NIL management group Valiant.

Howell attended a session with Bomani Jones, an ESPN commentator and host of the ESPN audio podcast, “The Right Time with Bomani Jones.” Parts of this panel session were recorded live to be featured in an upcoming episode of his podcast.

“I felt very motivated after talking to him,” he said. “It was great to meet someone you’ve admired on TV —and then realize he’s sitting 10 feet from you.”

Howell also met with Matt Murphy, president and general manager of NBC Sports Bay Area, as well as marketing professionals from various NBA teams.

Founded by University of Michigan undergraduates, the annual MSBC brings students and industry professionals together with the purpose of inspiring innovators in the world of sport business.

“I think the coolest part of the conference was that it was all student-run. It was great to see students my age working with professionals in the sports industry,” Howell said. “It was great to be around people who don’t think of sports as just a hobby, but more of a passion and a career path.”

“I found it really beneficial to get that ‘out-of-the-classroom experience’ through engaging with all the speakers and students in attendance,” said Francisco. “It was such an amazing experience and I hope to have more like this in the future.”

Both Howell and Francisco have had numerous “out-of-the-classroom” educational experiences. Both worked with REVELxp, a fan experience and hospitality company, at home Pitt football games. They also volunteered at the 2022 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship at Duquesne University. Howell assisted with the 2021 NCAA Division III Men’s Golf Championship at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, W.Va.

Howell, a dean's list student who will graduate in May 2023, is an active member of the Westminster community. He assists with the men’s basketball program, has worked in Westminster’s Office of Alumni Affairs, serves as an orientation student leader and writes for the school newspaper, The Holcad. He also helped launch the Titans for the Kids student organization to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer.

Francisco, who has also been named to Westminster's dean's list, is an all-conference member of the women’s tennis team, writes for the school newspaper and is active with her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha.

Howell competed in the 2020 Pittsburgh Business Analytics Case Study competition, while Francisco competed in the 2022 Pennsylvania Sports Business Conference Case Study competition. This spring both students will compete in the 2023 Alliance for Sport Business Case Study competition in Columbus, Ohio, with first-year student Kim Cora ’26.

For more about the Michigan Sport Business Conference, visit

To learn more about Westminster’s Sports Management Program, visit