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Defining sports careers

Five WVU alumni share how they followed their passion into professional sports while remembering their Mountaineer roots

Five West Virginia University graduates, representing three colleges, share stories about how they set their sights on a career in the sports industry and achieved their dreams. For some, it started with a focus on their family’s love of sports, for others, it began with an early interest in team sports. For Billy Bunting, Bill Eagan, Brandon Golden, Michael Pehanich and Keith Tandy, WVU offered the perfect pathway to connect them with the career of their choice.

From communications to coaching, premium club member relations and sales, each of these Mountaineers play a leadership role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization. Bunting, Eagan, Golden, Pehanich and Tandy face daily challenges to achieve goals and build meaningful relationships. As they discuss their experiences while in Morgantown, they reflect on why they chose WVU and how faculty guided them to excel, all the while developing a work ethic that remains with them today.

Each one offers advice for current and recent grads on how to enter the professional sports field and, ultimately, land the dream job. Bunting, Eagan, Golden, Pehanich and Tandy reveal a love for learning that led to fulfilling their passion for sports. Finally, they share an ongoing connection to the WVU family that was fostered during their experience as Mountaineers.

Read about all the alumni. 

Keith Tandy

Keith Tandy

Special Teams Assistant Coach
B.A. Biology, 2011

How did you choose to study biology?

Originally, I chose to study engineering at WVU. While studying engineering, I fell in love with all the science classes, and I always loved just figuring things out. Biology also offered more flexibility on the classes I could take.

How did you become interested in a career in the sports industry?

I come from a huge sports family. It’s our way to escape and forget about all the pressures in life. For as far back as I can remember, sports were always involved. I remember being in elementary school and wanting to watch sports on TV instead of cartoons. I never really thought about working in sports at the collegiate or professional level until my junior year at WVU. I had a pretty good season and thought I had a chance to be drafted. That’s when I realized if I didn’t play professionally, I wanted to be a coach. 

How has did your time at WVU and in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences prepared you for your career so far?

The University, the coaches and the entire community are a huge reason I am where I am today. Being in the Eberly College taught me to respect the process and to detail your work. Being a coach and preparing to win a football game is a lot like doing a lab experiment or studying for a final. I just have to do that every week during the season. The more time you put into planning, brainstorming and really detailing your work at the beginning, the more confident and relaxed you are going into the test, final or game. The first thing you do in a science experiment is observe. The first thing I do as a coach is observe our team and opponent by watching film. Then we hypothesize what our opponent will do and test it all during the week. Game day is just our final experiment.   

What is your role with Tampa Bay? What do you do on a daily basis? What is a typical day like in your job?

I am the special teams assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Special teams units are on the field any time the football is kicked. There are six phases of special teams: punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return, field goal and field goal block. I love special teams because I am the only coach who gets to work with everyone on the team.

Early in the week I’m stuck in an office watching film all day. I break down opponents’ film. Breaking down the film is just watching and identifying what the opponent did and the result of the play. I analyze every player on every phase of the game. I let the other coaches and know how talented each opposing player is and their strengths. Then I meet with the head special teams coordinator, and we develop a plan to try to give us the best chance at being successful. After that, we work the plan all week in practice. After practice, we watch the film to see if there is anything we need to change before game day. On game day I’m upstairs in the booth. I relay my observations to the head special teams coordinator to make in-game adjustments.  

Did you have any favorite professors or classes in the Eberly College? How did those individuals help mentor you?

I have a lot of professors and classes that helped me at WVU. A lot of the professors don’t even realize how much they helped me out. I’m constantly reaching out to the football coaches because that’s the profession I’m in. Professors Clif Bishop, Stephanie Young and Daniel Brewster all left a lasting impact on me. Also, I put to work the things I learned in my communication studies classes every day. 

What advice do you have for current WVU students, especially biology majors?

To all current WVU students, learn as much as you can and learn to fall in love with the process. If you learn how to learn, you can really accomplish whatever it is that you want to achieve. It’s not always what you’re learning while you’re in college.  You might end up like me and doing something that has nothing to do with your major. But, it was a much-needed step. To this day, I’m still trying to learn as much and add to my process for learning.

Is there anything you’d like to share that these questions didn’t cover?

Let’s go, Mountaineers!

Photo credit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tagged with Biology