Alexis Wayne, ’13, M.S.’15: Pursuing a Sporting Career
December 9, 2019 by Lisa McMahon, M.A.'09
Alexis Wayne’s experience as a student-athlete at Niagara University, coupled with her undergraduate and graduate degrees in sport management, has given her a well-rounded background for her current position as associate commissioner for women’s basketball and Olympic sports for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Sports has played an important role in Wayne’s life—she remembers watching her father coach football when she was just two or three, and she started playing Tee-ball and soccer just a year or so later. At Depew High School, she was a member of the soccer, basketball, and softball teams.
Wayne knew that she wanted a career in sports, although she wasn’t certain what, exactly, that career would be. She knew that Niagara University’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management had a good sport management program and wanted the small classroom experience the university could provide. She also knew NU had a good softball program, and its location was close enough to her Cheektowaga, N.Y., home that her parents could come and see her play.
“When I signed up for sport management, I didn’t even know what that meant,” she admits, “but I knew I wanted to work with people and thought if it could be around sports, that would be pretty cool. When I went for my official recruiting visit for softball, and did an academic visit and toured the college, I realized I was going to get a close-knit, small classroom size and also get the opportunity to be a student-athlete not too far from home, so it just kind of was a fit.”
While at Niagara, Wayne volunteered with the athletics department during basketball games and, in her senior year, traveled to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. There, she worked behind the scenes at many of the activities in the days leading up to and during Super Bowl Sunday, getting a first-hand look at what goes into organizing one of the world’s largest sporting events.
“That was really my first big sporting event,” she says. “The experience I gained was invaluable.”
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Wayne decided to pursue a master’s degree and attended another university on a graduate assistantship, but soon realized she wasn’t getting the hands-on experience she had gotten at Niagara. So she returned to Monteagle Ridge and worked as a graduate assistant in the athletics department ticket office while completing her degree.
Her first job in the field was as an administrative fellow for the MAAC. She relocated to Edison, N.J., for the 10-month position, in which she served as the primary media contact for selected sports, aided in both MAAC championships and special events, and assisted with the conference’s social media strategies.
When the fellowship ended, Wayne came back to Buffalo, working in sales until a job as director of women’s basketball operations at the MAAC opened up in 2017. In that role, she served as the primary liaison for the 11 women’s basketball teams in the league, responsible for developing their schedules and for planning and operations of the MAAC women’s championship game. Additionally, she assisted in the development of in-season and championship policies and administration agreements and with hosting the NCAA championship event. She oversaw the MAAC's ancillary events at its men’s and women’s basketball tournament and served as the event manager for the annual MAAC Honor Roll Dinner and the 2018 and 2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Regional.
“That was really big for me,” she says of her work with the regional tournaments. “I grew as a person, because I had people who have been in the business 20 years come to ask me questions.”
In August 2019, Wayne was promoted to her current position, adding oversight of the MAAC’s 23 Olympic sport operations, supervising championship staffs, and serving as the primary director of softball and its championship to her duties with the women’s basketball and the MAAC Honor Roll. She also works as the assistant tournament manager for the 2020 NCAA Division I men’s basketball first and second rounds in Albany, N.Y.
“It’s a lot of different things,” she says, but that’s one of the things she likes best about her job. That, and the ability to interact with people.
“Even in the short three years I’ve been here, I’ve made contacts literally all over the country,” she says. “Creating relationships with people and making those relationships last is something I really pride myself on.”
As she learned during her time with the Super Bowl, days in the sport management field can be long, but the time management skills she honed as a Purple Eagle help her organize her time so she can complete her work while staying current with what’s happening in the industry. She has also learned that stepping out of her comfort zone and asking questions are crucial to success in her role, and advises students interested in a similar career to be willing to do the same.
As for where her career will take her, she isn’t sure, but hopes it might bring her back to school.
“I like the campus part of what we do, so ideally, I’d like to work on a campus,” she says. “But who knows? Life changes every day, so I guess we’ll see what happens.”