BY RABRIA MOORE, UM Communications
The University of Mississippi‘s club hockey team made history earlier this year by winning its first South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference championship. And although the 2020-21 season has been postponed by COVID-19, the team continues to provide opportunities beyond the ice for its members.
Like other club sports, the Ole Miss Hockey Club is student-led and student-run. This also means that the students are responsible for funding and managing the operation.
Students in the UM School of Business Administration, including Colin Knight, one of the team’s co-founders, used it as an opportunity to gain more knowledge and experience in the business world.
“Getting the experience of balancing an $80,000-to-$120,000 budget was definitely something that helped me and set me apart when I first started applying for jobs,” Knight said.
Knight earned four degrees from UM: a bachelor’s degree in accountancy in 2009, a master’s degree in accountancy in 2010, an MBA in 2011 and a Master of Curriculum and Instruction, with an emphasis in mathematics, in 2013. He is an acquisitions manager for the Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C.
Business students who are part of the team have opportunities to have on leadership roles, including president, vice president, treasurer and marketing manager. In these roles, students are responsible for balancing and projecting budgets, paying bills, obtaining quotes for transportation and making sure everything is done in a timely manner.
“This was instrumental for me and my education because now I can apply the resources I’ve learned to make the things I love doing better for everyone,” said Cole Chatham, a senior marketing major from Belleville, Illinois.
Scott Harlin, an MBA student from Pensacola, Florida, and former vice president of team affairs, said he believes the experience has helped him academically.
“Working with a team environment like that (student-led) definitely helped me in my business classes, and I was able to really apply that knowledge firsthand,” he said. After graduation, Harlin plans to work in commercial banking in Dallas.
Team members raise money by selling jerseys, T-shirts and other apparel. They also receive donations from businesses in the Oxford area, including the Library Sports Bar and Grill, where owner John Desler has been a longtime supporter of the club.
Some students have enjoyed playing hockey as a club sport because it allows them to play a sport they love, but leaves plenty of time for them to focus on their coursework and other interests.
“Hockey is the first thing I ever loved,” said Nate Sullivan, a senior banking and finance major from Spring Lake, Michigan. “You get to do that while doing your own thing academically, so it’s a good experience all around.”
Others on the team believe that the Ole Miss Hockey Club is something special, and they credit it with giving them opportunities to apply skills learned in the classroom to the real world.
“I cannot think of a better way for business students to apply their education to a real environment,” said Conor Silk, an MBA student from Andover, Massachusetts. “As a board member, you not only learn the functions of each department of the organization, but you also get to watch our ideas being played out in front of us.
“Most importantly, the entrepreneurial spirit is instilled in each of us. We have our good days and bad days, just like any business or organization, but we also have learned to turn situations into positive growth opportunities.”
The Ole Miss Hockey Club began in January 2009, with Knight and Cody Johnson as co-founders. The team started with just 15 members.
Knight described the founding of the team as something that came together “unnaturally,” because they were just a group of students who had a common interest.
The 2020 roster includes 30 student-athletes, working on majors ranging from finance and marketing to biology and chemistry. Fresh off winning their first conference championship, the team members dream of someday becoming an NCAA-level team.
“The team has gone above and beyond anything that we did,” Knight said. “After I left, the progression of the people that took over did, and are continuing to do, a great job of building the team and taking it in new routes.”