Former Oklahoma Sooner Ben Habern fields questions from the University of Oklahoma Alumni Association, looking back at what he learned in Norman and talking about the opportunity to work for the College Football Playoff.
Ben Habern joined the College Football Playoff as a full-time staff member after previously serving as the marketing and strategic partnerships intern for the 2014-15 season. Before his time at the playoff, Habern worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of Trademark Licensing at the University of Oklahoma and also spent time as an intern for Oklahoma Athletics’ Sooner Club. As an undergraduate, Habern played center and was a team captain for the University of Oklahoma football team. A native of Denton, Texas, he is married to wife, Morgan.
What was the experience of being an intern during the first year of the CFP like?
To be on the staff of the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship was an opportunity that provided incomparable professional experience that I will always be fortunate for. I am grateful to Bill Hancock and the entire College Football Playoff staff for allowing me an opportunity to be a part of the biggest event in college football.
How did that experience, as well as your experience in OU’s Trademark and Licensing Office, prepare you for the next step in your new position?
Both positions provided an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge in two external areas of intercollegiate athletics. Additionally, the opportunity to work under excellent supervisors at both organizations helped build many of the fundamentals that are necessary to have in the business of college sports.
As a former player, do you have a special feeling of fulfillment working for the CFP considering its importance to college football?
As a former player, it is an honor to be a part of the organization that prepares, plans and executes the national championship. I am elated that I have an opportunity to continue working in college football, especially because of my previous years as a student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma. College football was a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true for me that helped mold me into the person I am today. I am grateful for the game and the amazing opportunity to have played at the University of Oklahoma.
What are some of the initiatives and projects you’ll tackle immediately?
My main responsibilities will be to assist in the generation of additional revenue. Specifically, I will assist on the sponsorship and premium ticketing/corporate hospitality programs in conjunction with the College Football Playoff.
Talk about your OU experience? What did you learn both as a student and an athlete?
My experience at OU was a dream come true for me. I grew up an Oklahoma fan, as my father has family ties in Oklahoma. When I started watching football as a kid, I would always watch OU. I guess you could say it was in my blood at an early age. As a freshmen at OU, I remember being wide-eyed and feeling a little culture shock. I attended a small private high school in Argyle, TX, where I graduated with around 70 kids. Stepping on campus and knowing you are 1 of over 5,000 freshmen and 1 of 25,000 plus students was daunting to say the least. However, I took each day one step at a time and because of that, everything got a little easier as the weeks and months progressed.
I was fortunate to have attended a great high school in terms of academics so I remember feeling prepared from an academic standpoint. However, I grew a tremendous amount academically throughout my career. I am most proud of my recent achievement in graduating with my masters at OU in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. I graduated with a Masters in Adult and Higher Education, with an emphasis in Intercollegiate Athletic Administration. As a freshmen going into college, I would have never thought that I would have gotten my masters, so I am extremely proud of that accomplishment.
From the athletic perspective, I was challenged every single day I was on campus. Being a part of a football program that has so much history and tradition, there’s an additional weight that follows. You immediately gain a sense of pride knowing you are a part of a program that has accomplished so much over numerous decades. Because of this, the coaches, training staff, teammates, and fans expect the absolute best out of you every day. However, it is a tremendous honor to represent your school, peers, family and yourself every time there was an opportunity to put on the Crimson and Cream. Football taught me so much more than the basics of the game. Any student-athlete is going to know how to block, tackle, run or catch, but football is so much more than that. Football builds and reveals a person’s character; football creates an opportunity to build an everlasting bond with your teammates; and football teaches many valuable life lessons. Lessons such as time management skills, hard-work, dedication to a commitment, respect for authority and much more. I learned so much during my time at Oklahoma and will always be grateful for the opportunity.
You faced some adversity with injuries as a player. Have you been able to take those experiences and use the lessons learned in your professional life?
I have most definitely been able to take the lessons through my adversity as a student-athlete and apply them to my professional career. While most of my adversity was injury specific, the lessons I learned were things that I can apply professional and to everyday life. I learned that giving up was not an option. Going through numerous injuries and surgeries, I was unable to practice at times. Because of this, I was in the training room every day for months at a time. That was extremely difficult knowing your teammates were outside battling and you were doing rehab. However, I learned it was vital for me to rehab every day and continue to do my absolute best, even though I was unable to practice. The adversity I will face in my professional career will most likely be different than having an injury and rehabbing, however I know that doing my absolute best and staying consistent will be important for the overall success of the organization.
How big of an influence has coach Stoops and other university and athletics department personnel been on your career?
I would not be where I am today without the amazing support I received during my time at Oklahoma. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for all of the help I received as a student and as an athlete. The academics department in the athletics department is first-class and I would not have been prepared for my master’s program without their guidance, advice and assistance. From an athletic standpoint, I believe that coach Stoops is the best coach in college football. The way he manages his assistant coaches and treats his players is truly remarkable. He wants the absolute best for his team and will work 24/7 to make it happen. Wins and losses are a footnote to his passion for student-athlete success. In addition, I could not have asked for a better athletics director than Joe Castiglione. He has built an athletic department on integrity first, and success second. Because of this, success has come in many different forms for Oklahoma athletics. It was an honor to be a part what Joe and his staff has built at Oklahoma and continues to build.
Finally, you’re working for another Sooner in Bill Hancock, who is widely regarded as one of the most talented and humble executives in college athletics. What has that experience been like so far?
The success and accolades that Bill Hancock has received during his life are all extremely well-deserved. Bill is the absolute best in the business and deserves all the recognition and respect he gets. It has been an honor to work for him and to learn from him this past year. He is extremely talented at what he does and the opportunity to gain invaluable wisdom from him is irreplaceable. I am extremely fortunate for the opportunity to be a part of the College Football Playoff staff and am grateful to Bill for allowing me the opportunity to begin my career with such a credible organization.