When Jacob Tingle calls, people answer.
That might sound laughably pretentious for a professor known for his humility, but in the sports industry, it’s all about who you know. And Jacob Tingle ’95, Ed.D, knows a lot of people.
“When I call [an organization] and there’s a Trinity alum who works there, they immediately pick up the phone,” says Tingle, the director of Trinity’s sport management minor and business administration professor.
Tingle explains, though, that it’s not about him. Organizations want to hire Trinity students because they’re Trinity students—smart, creative lifelong learners who answer questions and question answers. The University’s reputation precedes him.
“There are so many other places who have no direct connection with Trinity, but have had either Trinity interns or volunteers, or know someone that went to Trinity, that they are taking my call,” Tingle says. “They want to provide opportunities for our students.”
Who’s on the receiving end of those phone calls? Well, sometimes it’s Terris Tiller ’00, the manager of athlete engagement and inclusion for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC). Going on 17 years with Team USA, Tiller believes he has “one of the most unique jobs in the United States.” In addition to his day-to-day work, Tiller is working his sixth Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer, managing athlete services in the Olympic Village for Team USA.
When asked what his job entails, Tiller laughingly refers to himself as “the Dr. Jacob Tingle of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.” Tingle provides Trinity students career education, opportunities, and resources; Tiller does the same, but with Team USA Olympic and Paralympic athletes. He helps them with personal and professional development both during their time as athletes as well as afterward.
While their jobs seem to be in separate spheres, when they overlap, that’s when the magic happens. Together, the power pair has placed more than a dozen Tigers in mentorship programs, internships, and full-time positions with the USOPC.
“The sports industry is so massive, so it’s helpful to have Trinity connections that can give students that insight to what opportunities are available,” Tiller says. “Like with any industry, I think the sports industry even more so, a lot of it is the people who know you and can vouch for your character and skillset.”
“The network of Trinity Tigers connected to the Olympics via the USOPC runs deep, and that has everything to do with Dr. Tingle and Terris Tiller,” Veronica Oviedo ’13 says.
She would know: She’s one of the Trinity alumni the duo worked together to place with the USOPC both as a student and as brand-new graduate.
In 2011, Oviedo and two other Trinity students set off for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the FLAME (Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere) Program. FLAME’s weeklong program gives underrepresented college students an in-depth look at the Olympic Movement, where they brush elbows with Olympic and Paralympic athletes while heading to motivational presentations, leadership seminars, and networking and financial literacy workshops.
Oviedo, a business administration major and a sport management minor, met Tiller, a FLAME mentor, during her time with the program. She explains that Tiller is more than just a LinkedIn connection or entry in a Rolodex—he’s committed to helping students like her reach for more.
“Terris provides opportunities to Trinity students, but goes beyond just sending a job posting or FLAME application,” Oviedo says. “He’s not only an Olympic/Paralympic Athlete mentor—he’s the best kind of Trinity mentor, and we’re lucky to have him as the foundational connection at the USOPC.”
Oviedo kept in touch with Tiller during the rest of her time at Trinity, leaning on him for advice for post-graduate plans. Tiller helped her secure an internship with the USOPC after graduation, where Oviedo worked in training sites and community partnerships. She wrote press releases, ensured brand alignment across Olympic training sites, and helped plan part of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly. She focused on the multi-sport organization portion, which more than 35 organizations such as the YMCA and Boy Scouts of America would attend to learn safe practices and resources for their combined 75 million participants.
She says her most meaningful work during that internship, though, was serving as a mentor to a Ugandan delegate through the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP). She helped the delegate develop a business plan, promotional tools, and a budget for the Uganda Women’s National Soccer Team head coach to implement in her country.
So, not even a year out of college, Oviedo had already secured the FLAME mentorship program, a USOPC internship, and global community service with GSMP. That type of resume-building is Tingle’s dream for his sport management students.
“If you want to work in the sports industry, you need to be really good at something, and there are millions of people really good at liking sports. But liking sports isn’t a job qualification,” Tingle says. “If our students can say they have engaged in significant project-based learning or can demonstrate the value of an internship they have done, then those are things that can set them apart.”
Those experiences certainly set Oviedo apart, who, after her time with USOPC and with a “huge thanks to Dr. Tingle for his advice, direction, and opportunities he sent my way,” accepted a position with Spurs Sports and Entertainment (SSE). She now leads marketing strategy for the San Antonio Spurs as well as Spurs Give and Spurs Sports Academy.
Through SSE, Oviedo has had the chance to serve with GSMP again. She’s spent the last couple of years acting as a mentor for international delegates who create business plans to implement in their respective countries, “forging paths of opportunity for women and girls through sports,” Oviedo says.
“Working for the Spurs in the marketing department was my ‘dream job,’ and while I’m so fortunate to have that opportunity, participating in the GSMP, whether while at the USOPC or at SSE, has been the most rewarding and impactful experience of my career,” Oviedo says. “The opportunity to use my skill set and experience...to help women from around the world change their country through sport—it’s big.”
“The power of sport is remarkable,” she continues. “In some ways, it’s seeing what we learned in class come to life in more impactful ways than I could have imagined sitting in that classroom. The Olympics is the same concept on the grandest scale—watching the world come together and celebrate cultures and opportunities through sport.”