The McCormack Department of Sport Management today unveiled its newest class of alumni award recipients. The class includes four alumni who will receive the program’s highest honor, the Harold J. VanderZwaag Distinguished Alumnus Award, and four alumni who will receive the program’s Alumni on the Rise Award.
“We’re thrilled to recognize another group of distinguished alumni not only for their achievements in the sport industry, but as importantly for their continued engagement with our program and our students,” said Department Chair Steve McKelvey. “Connections with industry and with our alumni are the lifeblood of our program, and we’re fortunate to have so many loyal alums who continually give of their time and talents to help make our program and our students better.”
The new class of alumni award winners will be recognized at the annual McCormack Awards Banquet on Thursday, May 4, at the UMass Campus Center. Below are this year’s recipients:
Since 1993, the McCormack Department of Sport Management has awarded the Harold J. VanderZwaag Distinguished Alumnus Award in honor of Dr. VanderZwaag’s unwavering dedication and commitment to the department. Honorees are alumni who display professional excellence, outstanding achievement in the sports industry, and dedication to the McCormack Department of Sport Management.
Erin McDermott, MS 1996
Erin McDermott is Harvard’s eighth John D. Nichols ’53 Family Director of Athletics. Leading the largest Division I intercollegiate program in the country, with 42 varsity teams, she also oversees recreation, athletics facilities, and the department’s internal and external operations.
McDermott arrived at Harvard after a seven-year tenure in the same position at the University of Chicago. Under her leadership, the Maroons experienced a total of six top-20 finishes in the NCAA Division III national rankings, and women’s lacrosse was added as the 20th varsity sport. Prior to the University of Chicago, McDermott spent 16 years in the Ivy League, at Princeton and Columbia.
A Division I student-athlete at Hofstra, McDermott was senior captain of the women’s basketball team and was awarded the Senior Scholar-Athlete Award, graduating with a BBA in international business. A Massachusetts native, she was a three-sport athlete at Oakmont Regional and is a member of its Hall of Fame.
Marc Ross, MS 1997
Marc Ross is the executive vice president of football operations for the XFL. In this role, Marc is responsible for all aspects of football operations, including rules and gameplay, logistics and league planning, as well as innovation, data and analytics. He works closely with the executive leadership team to develop the strategic football philosophy, a core component of the league’s vision to bring dynamic football product to the XFL fanbase. Ross is also an analyst on NFL Network, appearing on various programs such as NFL Total Access and NFL Now. Prior to the NFL Network, he also worked for the NFL as a consultant for football operations. Ross has more than 20 years of professional football experience working across both league and team levels within the NFL. Ross began his career in football in 1995 as a public relations intern with the NY Giants. He then worked for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he became the youngest college scouting director in NFL history at age 27. After spending eight years with the Eagles, he moved on to the Buffalo Bills, where he spent three years as their national scout. In 2007, Ross was hired as the director of college scouting with the Giants before ultimately being promoted to vice president of player evaluation. During his 11 years with the Giants, they were two-time Super Bowl Champions (XLII, XLVI). Ross graduated with a degree in sociology from Princeton University. As a member of the Tigers football team, he was a 1992 Ivy League Champion, two-time All-Ivy League wide receiver/return specialist, holds five school records, and was named to the Princeton All Time Ivy League Era Team. He also earned a master of science in sport management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Mike Unger, MS 1994
Mike Unger is currently the senior advisor at World Aquatics (formerly FINA), based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Over the last 18 months, he has helped lead the international federation’s efforts at all major aquatic events, such as the World Championships and Olympic Games.
Beginning in 1993, he spent more than 28 years at USA Swimming in Colorado Springs, serving in a number of roles throughout the organization. Over his final 18 years, he served as the chief operating officer and assistant executive director. In his time at USA Swimming, American swimmers won an astonishing 212 Olympic medals over seven Olympic Games, the most of all sports from all nations.
Since 1996, Unger has also worked “on loan” for NBC Sports & Olympics as a co-producer and associate producer at dozens of events, including the past seven Olympic Games. For his work in helping produce the Olympic swimming coverage, Unger has received three Emmy Awards and five nominations.
He and his wife, Lisa, an engineer for the city of Colorado Springs, have two daughters: Nicole, a senior at DePaul, and Natalie, a junior at Wisconsin.
Frank Viverito, MS 1978
Frank Viverito is chief advisory officer of the St. Louis Sports Commission, which attracts, creates, and manages major sporting events for St. Louis—and uses the power of sports to enhance the area’s quality of life and generate economic and social benefit. Viverito served as president of the Sports Commission from 1995-2022, when the organization hosted high-profile events including the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Fours and Frozen Fours, PGA Championship, U.S. Figure Skating Championships, U.S. Olympic Diving Trials, and U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials. Additionally, the organization developed an impactful sportsmanship initiative that produces the annual nationally televised Musial Awards, which celebrates those in sports who embody class and character. Under Viverito's leadership, the St. Louis Sports Commission was named national Sports Commission of the Year three times. He began his career as assistant general manager for the AAA Tidewater Tides and as athletic promotions director at Old Dominion University. He later managed marketing and promotions for Anheuser-Busch/Busch Stadium and served as vice president of the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. Frank is married to fellow UMass sports management alum Patty Viverito. They have two sons.
This award, which was launched in 2013, recognizes alumni who have graduated within the past five to ten years and have demonstrated exceptional achievement within the sport industry while giving back through time and resources to the McCormack Department of Sport Management at Isenberg. In 2022, the award was renamed in honor of Professor Steve McKelvey in recognition of his passion for industry engagement and the career development of McCormack students and alumni.
Nick Avanzato, BS 2013
Nick Avanzato is the director of minor league operations for the New York Yankees. Based in Tampa, Nick oversees the daily operations of the New York Yankees’ minor league affiliates. In his role, Nick is responsible for minor league roster management, player and staff travel, budgets, and affiliate relations. A native of Pittsfield, Mass., Nick began his career in Major League Baseball as a player development intern with the New York Mets in 2013. Nick joined the Yankees as a baseball operations intern in 2014 and held roles with the team as affiliate video manager, assistant minor league operations, assistant director of minor league operations, and manager of minor league operations, before being promoted to his current role in January 2022. Avanzato graduated from Major League Baseball’s Scout School in 2017. While at UMass, Nick helped plan and host “Covering the Bases: An Evening with our MLB GMs.”
Michael Fish, MBA/MS 2012
Michael Fish attended UMass from 2010 to 2012, earning an MBA and MS in sport management. During his time in the program, he completed an internship at the PGA TOUR headquarters in the business development department. The experiences and opportunities presented to him through the sport management program were instrumental in professional development to break into his career at Titleist. Michael joined Titleist in 2012 on its golf ball marketing team in consumer insights. In 2014, he moved over to the product management team and has served in several roles over the past nine years. He is currently managing the flagship golf ball line of Pro V1 and Pro V1x and is responsible for guiding the process of new product implementation from concept to market. Michael relishes the opportunity to partner with the Titleist R&D team and work with the best golfers in the world on professional tours to help deliver improved products to golfers worldwide. He lives with his wife Jennie and their son Tommy in Stratham, NH.
Rachel Krasnow, MBA/MS 2013
Rachel is the head of strategic partnerships at Hudl, a leading sports data and analytics company helping teams and athletes win through comprehensive video technology and data resources. She is also an advisor for NextUp Partners, a sports business consultancy focused on supporting start-ups in the sports technology space. She’s on the board of Women in Sports and Events (WISE) Boston, a professional membership program that provides resources and career advice for women in the industry. Rachel previously worked as the director of global sales for Fenway Sports Management (FSM) (Red Sox, Liverpool, and more), and Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) (LA Kings, LA Galaxy, 300+ venues, and more) and before that in partnerships for the PGA TOUR. She has her BA from Cornell University and MBA & MS in sport management from UMass Amherst.
Brody Mankus, BS 2015
Brody Mankus is a member of the properties division at Excel Sports Management, where he is primarily responsible for securing premier partnerships on behalf of sports rights holders including teams and leagues globally. Prior to his time at Excel Sports Management, Brody spent seven years with BSE Global and the Brooklyn Nets, where he held a variety of positions within the ticketing and premium hospitality departments. The signature moment of his career at BSE Global came in 2021 as he held the lead role in securing Webull as the Brooklyn Nets jersey patch partner, the largest jersey patch deal in NBA history to date. Brody graduated from UMass Amherst and the McCormack Department of Sport Management in 2015. During his time in the McCormack Department of Sport Management, Brody was the president of the McCormack Student Leaders Club and one of the co-founders of the McCormack Future Leaders Conference.
See the full gallery of photos here.