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DEFINING SPORT CAREERS

Five alumni share how they followed their passion into professional sports while remembering their Mountaineer roots.

Confetti falls as the buccaneers celebrate winning Superbowl LV

Five West Virginia University graduates, representing three colleges, share stories about how they set their sights on a career in the sports industry and achieved their dreams. For some, it started with a focus on their family’s love of sports, for others, it began with an early interest in team sports. For Billy Bunting, Bill Eagan, Brandon Golden, Michael Pehanich and Keith Tandy, West Virginia University offered the perfect pathway to connect them with the career of their choice.

From communications, to coaching, premium club member relations and sales, each of these Mountaineers play a leadership role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization. Bunting, Eagan, Golden, Pehanich and Tandy face daily challenges to achieve goals and build meaningful relationships. As they discuss their experiences while in Morgantown, they reflect on why they chose WVU and how faculty guided them to excel, all the while developing a work ethic that remains with them today.

Each one offers advice for current and recent grads on how to enter the professional sports field and, ultimately, land the dream job. Bunting, Eagan, Golden, Pehanich and Tandy reveal a love for learning that led to fulfilling their passion for sports. Finally, they share an ongoing connection to the WVU family that was fostered during their experience as Mountaineers.

Featured Alumni

Portrait of Billing Bunting

Billy Bunting

Ticket Sales Account Executive

Hometown: Arlington, VA

B.S. Sport and Exercise Psychology, WVU, 2015

Portrait of Bill Eagan

Bill Eagan

Senior Premium Club Member Relations Associate

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

B.S. Sport Management, WVU, 2010

Portrait of Brandon Golden

Brandon Golden

Senior Premium Account Executive

Hometown: Dunbar, WV

B.S. Physical Education Teacher Education, WVU, 2008
B.S. Sport Management, WVU, 2008

Portrait of Michael Pehanich

Michael Pehanich

Director of Communications

Hometown: Mechanicsburg, PA

B.S. Journalism, WVU, 2001

Portrait of Keith Tandy

Keith Tandy

Special Teams Assistant Coach

Hometown: Hopkinsville, KY

B.A. Biology, WVU, 2011

Why a career in sports?

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Billy Bunting

I first developed an interest and considered a future in the sports industry at a young age after meeting a public relations professional who worked in Major League Baseball, while on a family vacation. That was my first glimpse of the type of jobs within the front office of a professional sports organization. I spent as much time around him as possible.

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Bill Eagan

I always had a passion for sports and when looking into possible career paths, I wanted to follow my passion. Ultimately this led me to pursue a degree in sport management.

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Brandon Golden

I developed an interest in sport management the day I realized I wasn’t talented enough to become a professional athlete. Later, a conversation with Dr. Floyd Jones set the wheels in motion. I was trying to get into classes to become an NBA general manager when I had a long discussion with Dr. Jones. He recommended that I take the time to explore my strengths, which led me to ticket sales. Dr. Jones set me up with an internship in the WVU Ticket office under Debbie Travinski. I grew my career from there.

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Michael Pehanich

From an early age, sports had been very important to me. My athletic career was not going to continue past high school, but I knew I had to pursue a profession that kept me around athletics. I always loved newspapers, and I enjoyed writing so studying journalism was a natural fit and easy choice. I knew I wanted to go to a large school with major sports.

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Keith Tandy

Originally, I chose to study engineering at WVU and fell in love with all the science classes. I always loved just figuring things out. Biology also offered more flexibility on the classes I could take. Meanwhile, I come from a huge sports family. It’s our way to escape and forget about all the pressures in life. For as far back as I can remember, sports were always involved. I never really thought about working in sports at the collegiate or professional level until my junior year at WVU. I had a pretty good season and thought I had a chance to be drafted. That’s when I realized if I didn’t play professionally, I wanted to be a coach.

What is your day-to-day like with the Buccaneers?

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Billy Bunting

My role entails contacting fans, including average fans and business groups, to learn what level of interest or experience they have in attending our home games. This consists of phone calls, emails and in-person meetings including stadium tours.

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Bill Eagan

Primarily, my day will consist of connecting with premium club members as we focus on staying in contact with our members year-round. It's all part of our effort to show value to our members and to achieve our main goal of providing the best member experience in sports.

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Brandon Golden

I am currently a senior premium account executive. My job is to connect with businesses and individuals in the Tampa Bay area to help create lifetime-lasting memories with our season passes at Raymond James Stadium. My daily job is to find potential season passholders and show the value of entertaining with Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.

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Michael Pehanich

Our department is the liaison between our organization, the media and other external areas. There are requirements that the league has in place, which make our players and coaches available to the media almost every day. We try to put our people in the best position and shine positive light on what we are doing. When it doesn’t always work out that way, we switch from publicist to providing counsel, assisting with messaging, distributing information and more. You must be versatile and flexible.

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Keith Tandy

I love special teams because I am the only coach who gets to work with everyone on the team. Early in the week, I analyze every player on every phase of the game. I let the other coaches know how talented each opposing player is and their strengths. Then I meet with the head special teams coordinator, and we develop a plan to give us the best chance at being successful. We work the plan all week in practice and then watch the film to see if there is anything we need to change before game day. On game day I’m upstairs in the booth and relay my observations to the head special teams coordinator to make in-game adjustments.

What are challenges you face at work?

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Billy Bunting

A big work challenge I face is finding the right fit when it comes to fans purchasing certain tiers of our ticket products by managing their expectations and highlighting the value each tier brings. This includes the multiple ways the tickets may be utilized, especially if those fans do not attend games often. Along with that comes the challenge of receiving a full commitment from these fans to decide to move forward with purchasing, once the seat locations are chosen.

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Bill Eagan

While a lot of what I do is focused on servicing accounts, the sales side of my job is equally as important. There are more challenges selling football tickets in Florida than other areas of the country. We're located in a transient market and a city where there is always something to do. Fans have a lot of options when it comes to where they can spend their hard-earned money. It's up to us to show them why they should continue to do so.

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Brandon Golden

Currently due to Covid-19 we have had to completely change how we do business. Instead of meeting face-to-face, I’ve used video conferencing. Before the pandemic, I would meet with prospective clients at Raymond James stadium to view seating options. Now, I walk them through an interactive 3D map. Adjusting to this new normal has been a challenge, but, thankfully, we had one of the most in demand products in the NFL this year.

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Michael Pehanich

Specific to the Super Bowl and the leadup to it, usually there were many long nights and early mornings. This year, people outside of our “bubble” were not permitted to be around our team. However, the demand and obligations were still there. So, with our communications staff down to three people, we asked other members of our organization for help on some of our heavier days. We had people from departments all over the organization – scouting, video, sports science, operations, player engagement, community relations – doing things they had never done before.

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Keith Tandy

Special teams units are on the field any time the football is kicked. There are six phases of special teams: punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return, field goal and field goal block. Early in the week I’m working in an office watching film all day while I break down opponents’ film.

How did WVU prepare you for your career?

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Billy Bunting

My experience at CPASS helped prepare me for my career by teaching me the assertiveness that is needed in the working world today, such as when applying for your first position even if you don’t think you have enough experience. The four years of patience it took to earn my degree is the same patience I kept when entering the professional sports industry and accepting an internship as my first role. This proved to be essential for learning that I wanted to pursue ticket sales following that year.

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Bill Eagan

The work ethic that was required for me to be successful during my time at West Virginia University has carried over and been the driving force behind my success working in sports.

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Brandon Golden

My CPASS degree prepared me for my career by providing me with a network of people who all ended up in the sports industry. Working in pro sports is very much like a fraternity; everyone knows someone that knows someone and word travels fast. This industry, more than any other, is never about what you know, it’s who you know. This program helped me make valuable connections that landed me my first job and then my second.

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Michael Pehanich

One key thing that I learned while studying at Reed College of Media was to always be aware of your surroundings. It was important to pay attention to detail so that you could tell a story. It’s vital to juggle and balance several different factors. I was active on campus. I wrote for The Daily Athenaeum for three years, ultimately serving as sports editor my senior year. I was involved in my fraternity, Sigma Chi, eventually serving as president. Those two things were largely responsible for my growth as a person.

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Keith Tandy

The University, coaches and entire community are a huge reason I am where I am today. Being in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences taught me to respect the process and to detail your work. Being a coach and preparing to win a football game is a lot like doing a lab experiment or studying for a final. The more time you put into planning, brainstorming and detailing your work at the beginning, the more confident and relaxed you are going into the test, final or game. The first thing you do in a science experiment is observe. The first thing I do as a coach is observe our team and opponent by watching film. Then we hypothesize what our opponent will do and test it all during the week. Game day is just our final experiment.

What is your advice for current WVU students?

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Billy Bunting

My career advice to current students is to be open to trying new things and put yourself outside of your comfort zone. Make alumni connections in your desired job field by reaching out as early as possible to become prepared and, hopefully, at an advantage for when you graduate. This includes me, as someone who always appreciates a message from a fellow Mountaineer! Finally, handwritten letters are much underrated. I recommend that students incorporate personal letters into career outreach efforts.

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Bill Eagan

Do not wait until after college to get your experience in the industry. Find an internship, volunteer, do whatever you have to do to get experience. These experiences will help you identify which path you want to take as a sports professional. After school it took me three years to get my first job in sports. Do not let failure and rejection deter you away from what your true passion is.

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Brandon Golden

Find a mentor who is currently working and stay connected throughout your college career. Never burn bridges; this industry is too small and connected. Finally, take a risk, move to a place where you don’t know anybody. This will change you; it will make you better and you will learn who you really are.

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Michael Pehanich

Get involved. Join organizations, be active on campus, gain experience. There are many activities where you can learn organization, accountability and leadership. Those three attributes can carry you a long way. If you want to follow my career path, get involved with WVU Athletics Communications. Listen to people. A wise man once told me, there is always someone smarter than you. I have had many great mentors, bosses and co-workers. Learning from them all has made me a much better professional and person.

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Keith Tandy

To all current WVU students, learn as much as you can and learn to fall in love with the process. If you learn how to learn, you can really accomplish whatever it is that you want to achieve. It’s not always what you’re learning while you’re in college. You might end up like me and doing something that has nothing to do with your major. But it was a much-needed step. To this day, I’m still trying to learn as much and add to my process for learning.

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