Jeff Vinik's ties to the University of South Florida continue to get stronger, as a Muma College of Business program now bears his family's name.
The Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management Program was started five years ago with the Tampa Bay Lightning owner's assistance. Since then, USF officials say he and his wife, Penny, have contributed more than $6 million to the graduate-level initiative.
"We think it's a tremendous program here, where every one of the students who go through this program actually get two years of experience working for professional sports teams or entertainment companies while they're at school here," Vinik said.
That includes more than 40 students who have worked in residency programs for the Lightning. According to Vinik, the team has also hired six graduates for full-time positions.
And in the program's first four years, Program Director Bill Sutton said all of the 112 graduates have found jobs at more than 50 firms in the sports or entertainment industries.
"When (a prospective student) go interview at another school, they'll say, 'That school's been around for 30 or 40 years, they have all this alumni, what do you have?' and that's what I tell them I have, I have 30 years of doing this on my own before I came here, plus the opportunity and the reputation that we put out talent that is trained in the workplace by professional teams," Sutton said.
Speaking to a crowd in the atrium at the Muma College of Business, the normally mild-mannered Sutton seemed unusually excited about the announcement.
"This gives us a name that people across the country are attracted to and can relate to," Sutton said. "We're the Vinik Sport and Entertainment Management Program - not even in my wildest dreams if I could have picked somebody, we could never do better than that."
In addition to the knowledge and advice Vinik has provided, Sutton said the family's ongoing financial backing will make a big difference going forward.
"Fifteen years of support (is) guaranteed to our students and faculty, so I can concentrate on raising additional funds to do other things, but knowing that the basics, mainly my students, are taken care of," Sutton said.
"Every great city has a great university," Vinik said. "USF adds so much on so many folds, the research budget here is one of the tops in the country. With almost 50,000 students and almost 10,000 graduates a year, this is a very rapidly growing economy we have in Tampa, we need these students to fill jobs in this area, so USF fulfills a very important mission here for Tampa Bay."