Flagler Alumna Katie Cox named one of Jacksonville Business Journal’s 20 Women of Influence
Mar 10, 2023
by Lauren Piskothy
Flagler alumna Katie Cox was recently named among Jacksonville Business Journal’s 20 Women of Influence for her work as Vice President of Marketing at the Gator Bowl, the sixth-oldest college bowl game in the country.
“I'm humbled, and weirdly embarrassed,” Cox said. “I don't think I deserve this. But very grateful. If this is our pathway and it allows us to put more eyeballs on college athletics and what we're doing in the community, then let's do it and be proud to do it.”
While Cox always knew she wanted to work in athletics, she also knew her hometown in rural Arkansas wasn’t exactly a mecca of professional sports.
“I tell people this all the time, my best life choice was choosing to go to Flagler College,” Cox said. “That's because I grew up in the Midwest. I grew up in a farm town. I had aspirations of wanting to work in athletics, which was a little crazy coming from a town that size.”
Cox had little hope she’d succeed in athletics in her small town.
“I was not gonna be successful in a career of sports business in rural Kansas, right? There was really nowhere to work,” she said. “Coming here afforded me a lot of opportunities to meet people.”
Finding Flagler College was the first step in making her dreams of working in athletics a reality. As it turns out, Cox happened to be in the right place at the right time, interning for the City of Jacksonville the same year it hosted Superbowl XXXIX in 2005.
“Gosh, timing's everything, right?” Cox said. “The Super Bowl was in Jacksonville the year I graduated from Flagler in 2005. It really afforded me the opportunity to do something incredibly cool as an intern.”
Cox had the opportunity to intern for the City of Jacksonville’s Special Events Department and prepare the community of Jacksonville for the biggest football event of the year, just miles away from Flagler.
“I knew it was cool, but I don't think I realized in that moment what we were creating,” she said. “The way you work through government is very different than what you do in for-profit business or non-profit, which we are now. So, at the end of that internship, I think I learned that that's what I didn't want to do.”
This incredible experience left Cox eager to explore other opportunities in the sports industry.
“If you’re not happy, keep looking,” Cox’s parents and Flagler mentors told her.
And so, she did. Cox found herself scouring the internet for opportunities in her field when she came across an internship with the Denver Broncos— her childhood team.
“I probably called that guy every day,” she said. “I am not a particularly aggressive person at all, but I wanted to work there.”
Her persistence paid off. Cox spent a season in Denver working in game operations. During her time there, she gained experience in post-game operations, learned how to deal with rivalry games when the Las Vegas Raiders came to town and how to manage fans during adverse weather conditions. But by the end of her internship, something didn’t feel right.
“I got to the end of that internship, and I wasn't content," she said. "It wasn't that I didn't like athletics. It just didn't feel like the right fit for me.”
Having missed her friends in the sunshine state, Cox wanted to find a way back to North Florida. Katie reached out to an old mentor who had also introduced her to Flagler College.
“I called him and said, ‘I think I want to be back in Florida,’” she said.
As Cox experienced ahead of her first internship in Jacksonville, timing was everything during her move back to Florida. The Gator Bowl, a non-profit run on a membership base, was looking for a Marketing Manager while her mentor was actively involved in the organization.
With no prior experience in marketing, Cox took a leap to be back in the city she loved with her friends. Determined to turn her assistantship into a full-time job, she spent her first year at the Gator Bowl listening and learning intently.
Cox said her mentality at the time was that she had to nail it. What she found was the perfect role in athletics for her.
“People were important here,” she said. “People were prioritized. I think I didn't know that's what I was looking for, but that became sort of the glue for me that made it work.”
Now, after 17 years working for the Gator Bowl, Cox said she never would have expected to be named one of Jacksonville Business Journal’s Women of Influence.
“I joke especially internally if the progression of women in anything was on me, we're not going anywhere because I'm just not loud about it,” Cox said. “I have just always sat at the table as though I was confident in my abilities. I just want to be at the table and be treated as an equal. That has always been the goal.”
She gives a lot of credit to her mom for giving her the courage and confidence to chase a career in such a male-dominated field.
“I have a great mom,” Cox said. “I have a mom that very much felt the same way. She had a career and she aspired, and it grew. Seeing that- I didn't know any different.”
In hindsight, Cox said she recognizes how impactful female representation in the workplace was to her.
“I had a female boss at the City of Jacksonville who was very, very well respected,” she said. “And I think I was fortunate to see that early in my career. She has been an advocate for me the whole way. “
Cox said she realized just how important it was to have other professional women to confide in.
“It was important for me to have colleagues and mentors that were female because there are times when I'm just like, man, I don't really know what to do in this situation,” she said. “You need a woman to hear that. I have a strong group of female friends that are all very business-minded, and that's a safe space.”
It was this concept of creating a safe space for women in sports that led Cox to found “Bowld Ladies,” a cleverly named organization for professional women with the goal of creating awareness and getting people more comfortable and involved in the business of sports.
While humbled by the award, Cox said she chooses to see her recent accolade in the Jacksonville Business Journal as an achievement for the community of women in athletics and the Gator Bowl.
“You know, I think it does make you proud, but I'm not proud for me,” she said. “I am proud of our organization and these people who have leaned in to support us.”Tagged As