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Behind-the-scenes at the Super Bowl
(l) Frank Supovitz, former SVP NFL Events and producer of 10 Super Bowl games, speaks to (r) Professor Craig Skilling and his hospitality students, who are studying mega events.

Behind-the-scenes at the Super Bowl

Mega event students learn lessons from the game's top producers

February 5, 2021 at 3:32pm

While most people were cheering on their favorite NFL team over some chicken wings and a cold beer, some FIU students held their breath, hoping the lights stayed on after Super Bowl LV's Halftime Show. 

In 2013, during Superbowl XLVII, the lights went out. That's just one of the first-hand, behind-the-scenes stories Frank Supovitz shared with graduate students at the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in the Mega and Large-Scale Events program. 

"First, we had to find out if the problem was safety," Supovitz, who produced ten Super Bowls during his tenure from 2005 to 2014 as senior vice president of events for the National Football League, told students.

Before Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, students in Professor Craig Skilling's Event Feasibility class got to hear from the award-winning events producer as part of "Behind the Mega Event: Influencer Speaker Series."

"We had to find out very quickly if we were under terrorist attack, cyberattack or if a fire in the building was endangering people," he added. Turns out shutting off the stadium lights at half time and turning them all back on quickly after the show made the system think it was an abnormality, which set off a shutoff switch, darkening half the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, resulting in a 34-minute delay in play.

"The blackout was solvable," Supovitz, who has since left the NFL and opened his own company, Fast Traffic Events & Entertainment, said. Students also got to hear about budgets, staffing, security and bringing joy to people's lives. They also learned the key to success is planning and preparing for potential problems, which Supovitz also details in his book, What to Do When Things Go Wrong: A Five-Step Guide to Planning for and Surviving the Inevitableand Coming Out Ahead.

The Super Bowl, like the Presidential Inauguration, is a level-one security special event that requires federal agencies like the FBI and FEMA to participate. Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management Professor Ray Martinez said it takes two or more years to plan for safety and security at the Super Bowl.

The 35-year law enforcement veteran and chief of security for last year's Super Bowl held at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens discusses his experiences with students in his Security at Mega Events class. He also brings in other experts to speak. For example, FBI agent Dave Nunez told students, "FBI control lies in intelligence." In fact, more than 30 law enforcement agencies share information 24 hours a day, seven days a week once Super Bowl activities begin and even after the game.

Students not only get a behind-the-scenes look into mega-events but advice. "Education is huge," Martinez said. "A lot of events will ask for volunteers. It's a pretty good way to gain experience and learn."

Supovitz's message to students: "If you can love your job the way I do, you're going to be an incredibly happy person."

Chaplin grad student Steven James agrees. "It shows you have to have a passion for what you're doing," he said. "You never know where networking, or lending a helping hand will lead. I found that to be a great takeaway and life lesson."

If you want to hear Frank Supovitz's entire conversation with students and more about the night the lights went out at the Super Bowl, click here.