By Chaz Lilly
When Western Carolina University senior Ali Schreiber walked into Mercedes-Benz Stadium to interview with the Atlanta Falcons, she stood out.
As a sport management major, her coursework and professors had readied her for the moment.
“Being a Catamount was an advantage. One of the senior managers told me they love Western grads. They knew about our program and the quality of education offered at WCU. They’ve hired a handful of our students,” Schreiber said.
Landing the interview with the Falcons was a lifelong dream. Since high school, Schreiber knew the end goal was a career in the NFL. But coming to WCU was not initially on her roadmap. As a volleyball player, she had interest from other Division 1 programs, some Ivy League schools.
“I was set on Dartmouth until I took an official visit to WCU. Something felt right. I met professors in the sport management program who showed me the type of individual attention and care I’d have as a student,” Schreiber added.
Through the program, she learned how to craft the perfect resume and cover letter. In conjunction with the university’s Center for Career and Professional Development, she went through rounds of mock interviews on campus. That preparation, along with her two years working under Todd Shealy, director of football operations at WCU, helped her in Atlanta.
Schreiber starts her new job with the Falcons in February. She will be working in inside ticket sales.
She credits professors like Charles Parrish, director of the program, and newly hired Steve DeLay for her success.
In his sports ticketing class, DeLay shares valuable lessons from decades of experience. As a leading marketing and sales expert in the sports industry, he consults with and trains staff for teams in the NBA, MLB and NHL. Recently, he was part owner of the Savannah Bananas baseball team and is current owner of the Macon Bacon and Florence Flamingos collegiate Coastal Plains League teams.
“Having Steve DeLay working with our students at WCU is incredible,” Parrish said. “Steve is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of sport marketing and sales. Our students are getting incredible insight and will be well positioned for their careers after graduation.”
DeLay said he aims to give students like Schreiber the training they need to hit the ground running when they enter the workforce.
“If you want to work in sports, the number one opportunity is in ticket sales,” DeLay said. Selling tickets, getting people to come to games and generating revenue are by far the most important things anyone needs to know about working in sports. That’s where the great executives start and that’s what we want undergraduates to know.”
As founder of The Ultimate Toolkit Company, a sports marketing consulting business, DeLay is co-author of “The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House,” a comprehensive ticket sales strategy, tactics and training system for teams, schools and special events and “The Ultimate Toolkit – Sponsorships,” a complete sponsorship sales strategy and training system.
Senior John Moore, who is enrolled in DeLay’s course this semester, said he has followed DeLay online for years, watching his content and learning about marketing and sales.
“His class, even in the first few weeks, has been life-changing,” said Moore. “I’ve learned strategy to sell out stadiums, how to bring in the fans and give them an experience they won’t forget – and how to keep them coming back. Professor DeLay has also shown us how to help struggling organizations, to incentivize new fans.”
Moore said he will be applying for ticket sales positions when he graduates.
Alumni DeAngelo Jacobs, who works in ticket sales for the Charlotte Hornets, said he is excited about the addition of DeLay to the faculty and that more students might now discover new career opportunities.
“I haven’t seen any schools offering this sort of course. This type of innovation will prove invaluable for students. It will help them to create memories for a lot of fans in the future,” said Jacobs, who was on the track and field team during his time at WCU. “I am thankful for my time at Western. I can’t thank the university enough for helping me achieve my dream of working in the NBA.”