A Conversation with Al Guido ’03 and Luis Perez ’86; Moderated by Tom McCarthy ’90
On November 28th Al Guido, President of the San Francisco 49ers and Luis Perez, whose vast experience includes high-profile gigs with the Pistons, Lions, and Ravens, met with business students to discuss their respective career paths from TCNJ/TSC to the business side of professional sports. For their formal presentation, they were joined by moderator Tom McCarthy, Announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies, for a campus-wide program in Kendall Hall with an audience of 300+ alumni, faculty, and students from across disciplines.
Guido compared the comradery of working in the world of sports with its inherent ups and downs to being in the locker room again. “I pinch myself that I get to do this – it’s my passion.” He cites accountability and a strong work ethic which he learned on TCNJ’s football team as the necessary attributes for success, urging students to always believe in your strategy, and choose a vertical you are passionate about as your goal. “The world of sports is cyclical, there are days when you win and days when you lose,” it comes down to working in a great culture with great people. When asked for one accomplishment or experience he would call his mark of success, Guido responded “The Super Bowl was a proud moment, Levi’s Stadium practically brought me to tears.”
Perez started out in accounting, when an early mentor introduced him to a client – the CFO of the Phillies, and his career path took off in a completely different trajectory. He credits his years on TCNJ’s baseball team for learning teamwork, which you can’t get from a text book. He stressed the importance of corporate brands building relationships to drive positive impact in the community. “You have to de-link yourself from the team’s performance […] Good relationships will carry you through when the team’s performance is on the down side.” A memory he will always be proud of was the January, 2001 “Super Bowl that I won with the Ravens [as CFO]. I was very much involved with and felt a part of the football side.”
Discussing TCNJ mentors who most influenced them:
- McCarthy remembered Professor Gary Lipton who challenged the young Biology major demanding “What are you doing?” with pushing him out the door, to seek a degree and career in communications.
- Guido spoke about Coach Eric Hamilton approaching him after a high school football game, when he was preparing to enlist in the Army, and convincing him to apply to and ultimately attend TCNJ.
- Perez said Professor “Enrique Menocal wasn’t the easiest guy to take, but he cared more for his students than most, and pulled me aside saying ‘you’re doing just enough to get by’ impressing me to push harder.”
Our guests agreed that some of the major differences across different sports are:
- NFL players’ careers are shorter, averaging 4 years
- The NFL enjoys tailgating as a social experience regardless of the team’s performance
- They have different business models: the NFL has 32 entities with half their revenue driven by national broadcast rights
- This differs for the NBA where 70% of the revenue comes from the local level
Another shared belief was that a degree in Sports Management is not necessary for success — from their personal experiences as well as from the hiring perspective. Tom McCarthy stressed the importance of internships and taking a speech class or two, to be comfortable in front of large groups. As Luis Perez said, “Find what you are passionate about. Sports is an industry like others. There are many agencies around the sports ecosystem.” Al Guido counseled students to study a vertical you are interested in. “If you hate sales, you won’t like sports sales!” He encouraged students to seek inspiration by reading Start With Why, by Simon Sinek.
In keeping with the School of Business’ mission to provide engaging and professional programs that develop mutually beneficial relationships between students and alumni, Dean Keep remarked, “Students often underestimate the willingness of successful alumni to share, give advice, and connect. These three busy people took the time to travel to campus and make themselves accessible. Students lined up to ask questions and they were not disappointed with the message of passion, hard work, and accountability. Plus, how cool is it to spend an hour or so with someone so close to the action?”
Read more in The Signal, “Alumni speak on sports opportunities,” by Michael Battista, 12/7/16
Tom McCarthy ’90, Play-by-play Announcer, the Philadelphia Phillies
Tom McCarthy spent five seasons with the Phillies as the host of the pre- and post-game radio shows, and radio play-by-play announcer; and one season as a radio broadcaster with the New York Mets; before returning to the Phillies in November of 2007, doing their television play-by-play.
Al Guido ’03, President, San Francisco 49ers
Prior to being named President in February 2016, Al Guido served as the team’s chief operating officer, overseeing the construction and year-one operations of Levi’s Stadium, which was the site of Super Bowl 50, and was named by Sports Business Journal as the Sports Facility of the Year for 2015.
Luis Perez ’86, former EVP & COO, Palace Sports and Entertainment
Luis Perez joined Palace Sports & Entertainment as Executive Vice President of Business Operations in 2015. As EVP and Chief Operating Officer, he oversaw finance, business strategy, data and analytics, information technology and corporate partnerships operations for the Detroit Pistons organization.