Alumni Spotlight: Conor Caloia Found Passion for Sports Communication at SJMC

J-School Alum and Forward Madison FC COO Conor Caloia welcomes Olympic gold medalist Lindsay Tarpley to the Breese Stevens Field in Madison, Wisconsin during a “Women in Soccer” Night last June (Will Jenkins / Photo)

When the Madison Mallards, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, the Kenosha Kingfish or the Green Bay Booyah take the field, it’s because Conor Caloia has been doing his job. 

A 2004 graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Caloia found his passion for strategic communication while studying at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and, like so many J-School alums, Caloia says the time he spent in Vilas Hall paid off. 

Now the chief operating officer of the collective brand Big Top Sports and Entertainment, Caloia oversees and manages several northwoods baseball teams as well as the Forward Madison FC soccer team and the Breese Stevens Field in Madison.

When Caloia first came to UW–Madison, he thought he wanted to get a degree in business but soon realized that writing and communications was a better fit for him. He wrote for the student-run Daily Cardinal, the Wisconsin Athletics Department and eventually did a public relations internship with the Madison Mallards. 

“The J-School taught me how to write and the ability to write well and clearly is so important,” Caloia says. “I got to embrace and show my creativity in the journalism classes I took.”

Before becoming chief operating officer and managing partner of Big Top Sports and Entertainment, Caloia spent some years moving around the country for various sports communication roles. He was a director of marketing in the Western Athletic Conference in Denver, Colorado and was the director of operations at Wilmington Sharks Baseball Club in North Carolina. 

Eventually the opportunity to return to his Madison Mallard roots presented itself and Caloia’s career path came full circle. 

Looking back at his time with the J-School, Caloia had many experiences he sees as having a strong impact on his career, including a hands-on project during his time with Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). 

“Pat Hastings was our advisor and we were doing a project centered around a messaging campaign based on credit cards and debt,” he says. “We learned how to communicate in a PR approach and it applies to what I do now. Today, it is of the utmost importance to me to be a good community citizen and send the right message out.” 

Caloia eventually returned to UW–Madison to pursue an MBA degree from the business school to broaden his skill set. The MBA helped him gain the confidence he needed to help expand Big Top Sports and Entertainment.

“My role in building this brand was absolutely influenced by my education from the journalism school,” Caloia says. “My degree in strategic communication set me up for a successful and fun career path.”