This interview is presented to you by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration.
By: D.J. Podgorny, @DJPodgorny
For Steve Beck, President & Executive Director of the MiIlitary Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, the journey to working in sports is, without a doubt, one of the most intriguing. Starting as a varsity football player at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa., he [JB1] initially thought he was destined to be an accountant.
Upon graduation, Beck took an internship with an attorney before starting a few businesses of his own. These experiences proved extremely valuable for Beck, as he reflected:
“I had experience reviewing contracts and working with attorneys. I was lucky enough to have some of that background.
“I think that the two areas, if you want to run a bowl game or a company, you need experience in, are accounting and legal. You need to know how to read a financial statement and what impact certain things will have on the business. The understanding of contracts and what representation you need is also very important.”
Through his entrepreneurial ventures, Beck was able to connect with some prominent figures in the sports industry, including Bob Geoghan, founder of Sports America, Inc. and the McDonald’s All-American Game Beck would go on to join Geoghan at Sports America, thus beginning his long and illustrious career in sports promotion and event management.
Beck’s career continued to progress, as he held a variety of roles in the sports industry prior to 2008, when he received a call from Barry Watkins, president of EagleBank.
“It was sheer luck that Eagle Bank decided to sponsor a bowl game and the president was a friend that knew I had experience in events.”
Watkins and his team were in search of someone with the proper expertise and passion to lead the team behind their inaugural bowl game. Originally named the EagleBank Bowl, the game was proposed in 2006 as a means to boost tourism and the local Washington, D.C. economy. The event was approved by the NCAA for the 2008 season, opening the door for Beck to spearhead the event.
“When they brought me in at the end of September in 2008, we had a game three months away. There wasn't much structure at all. All we were trying to do was get the ball kicked off at the right time. The first month was very hectic.”
Despite the aggressive timeline, Beck and team thrived in the event’s first year. On December 20, 2008, more than 28,000 fans packed into RFK Stadium to watch Wake Forest beat Navy, 29-19.
“The most rewarding thing was the accumulation of the seven days a week of work prior to that, for a long period of time. Just to get it to happen at the right time, landing sponsors and making it a profitable first year; that was special.”
For the past eight years, the game has continually improved. In 2010, Northrup Grumman was added as the title sponsor and the game was rebranded as the Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman. In 2013, the game moved to its current home, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in nearby Annapolis, where it is a terrific fit.
Additionally, as the scope of the game began to increase and Beck settled into the role of President & Executive Director of the D.C. Bowl Committee, his mission and vision began to take form. Today, the Committee also oversees the D.C. Touchdown Club and The Bill Phillips Memorial Fund. For Beck, the opportunity to combine sports and charity is a dream come true.
“In everything I've done, I have tried to have a charitable component to my career, even dating back to my time in the restaurant business. That's part of what makes America great, there's so many people out here doing so many things for others that are less fortunate. There's no end to that, there's no end to the need and the support.”
“[This role] combines a lot of what I love. It's the combination of sports and a charitable perspective. Giving back is very, very important in any path that people choose. It makes it so rewarding. And now, being the executive director of a college bowl game, I couldn't be happier. I couldn't be in a better position. I don't think I would find a better job with a better group of people.”
Recently, the DC Bowl Committee doubled down on its commitment to our nation’s men and women in uniform, purchasing a 290-acre property in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This property, renamed Patriot Point, will be used as a retreat for wounded service members and their families. The DC Bowl Committee will support Patriot Point in addition to maintaining and growing its relationship with the USO, an organization that it has donated more than $600,000 to over the last six years.
“[Patriot Point] is something that our board members, the Touchdown Club Executive Committee members and our supporters and sponsors can reach out and touch and be involved. We are really excited about it.”
For Beck and the entire DC Bowl Committee, the biggest challenge ahead is improving on an event that is already stellar. Since 2011, the event has seen increased attendance at each contest. It is apparent that the hard work of Beck’s team is paying off in big ways.
When asked about what career advice he would give to a young professional interested in pursuing a career in the sports industry, Beck had these words of wisdom:
“We are starting a Junior Board for ages 21-40 and I would recommend getting involved in groups like that. Take whatever you're passionate about and try to align yourself with that type of group. Mine was sports and charity, and also the military. So, when this came along, it was a job made in heaven.”
Front Office Sports is proud to have spoken with Steve Beck. We would like to thank him for his time and insight and we wish him the best in all his future endeavors. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.