DOES ONE NEED A SPORTS DEGREE TO WORK IN THE INDUSTRY?

It is back to school time; my daughter is entering her senior year at Colgate University, my son will be a freshman at Gettysburg College and I start my 10th year as the Executive Director of the Manhattanville College sports business management program. As my son was going through the process of picking a school he asked me if he should major in sports management–my answer was simple, probably not.

(If and when he is ready to get a masters degree or if a school he was interested in offered a dual degree that may change my opinion).

My reasons are detailed here…we all have to use the system that is in place currently.  You can go to any school in this country–if you work hard, make the right connections, get the right internship(s) pay your dues, learn how to listen, be a good worker, get out of your comfort zone, volunteer for non profit or fund raising events and learn that being on time is important to people, you can get a job in any industry.

I was recently invited to be interviewed by Troy Kirby on his Podcast “The Tao of Sports Podcast – The Definitive Sports, Marketing, Business Industry News Podcast.” Here is a link to the podcast….

http://troykirby.com/ep-687-dave-torromeo-director-manhattanville

I don’t want to repeat everything that was said on the podcast here, but summarize my thoughts below. Let’s cut to the chase as they say; if you are a high school student and are interested in a sports career you do not need to major in sports management or the like to get noticed.

A Bachelor’s degree, internship(S), networking and an advanced degree will be a roadmap for anyone to make their way–depending on what it is you want to do. We stress our Masters is a business degree, yes it is sport business management, but we have people working at Google and other places, some who have gone to Doctoral and law school etc. and a handful that have STARTED their own businesses (we have a sports entrepreneurship class). I LOVE THAT!

SPORT MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS

  • The sports business education market is, like the industry itself, a booming business
  • There are approx. 600 sports management programs in the country and the current model for sports management programs is not serving the industry well
  • These programs are not producing superior candidates and employers in the sports industry have become “numb” to the myriads of resumes with various forms of the sloppy academic nomenclature of many “Sports Management Degrees”
  • There is a void in the education and in students landing positions and becoming tomorrow’s sports business executives
  • The pillars of a successful sports management program should be: education & training; degrees still do mean something…great internships; networking/contacts!
  • Programs must be RELEVANT however all of these programs need BETTER content!

I rather enjoyed and appreciated Troy’s line of questioning, much of it pertaining to the sport business education environment, which I have proudly been a part of for ten years. If I printed the excerpts of what he asked, one might think Troy was trying to be contentious; but I not only think that wasn’t the case, I believe his questions need to be asked, especially by every student interested in the sports business industry and parent who may be footing the bill for an expensive college education, that may not yield that “top level sports gig” that every student is hoping to land!

Although I have been in an academic environment, I do not consider myself an “academician,” so, one might find my philosophy curious, considering I run a major sport business management program that has over 300 graduates, many whom are working in and/or have moved up in the industry. I still view myself as someone who has had a long career in the sports industry who has transferred from working in the industry to helping others navigate that space….my adjunct professors all either work or have extensive industry experience and bring in their top level connections to network, speak or be a part of the ancillary events we do…it works. And to me in the area of sports business it is the only way programs like this work. We have had many of the top power brokers in sports come to campus and, yes many of them are women!

We have students in the program who work in the industry, who are career changers and who are recent college graduate’s and all have had different majors and I think the that is a good thing.

COLLEGE GRADUATES NEED JOBS!

Take no offense tenured Professors who have taught 25 years from expensive textbooks….I respect what you do as well, but please know that colleges in general need to stop the “ivory tower” thinking and realize that at the end of the day colleges need to understand that people are attending their institution because they want to get a job in a specific genre. For the ones who know that they want to be a doctor, lawyer, etc. God bless them, but the reality is the vast majority really don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their life. I have actually heard college professors say that students obtaining employment is not a concern of theirs. How sad.

That is why many people are interested in a sports management degree, because it’s something they like, they are passionate about and they figure, “hey if you’re going to work for the rest of your life you should like what you do” and I applaud their thinking, actually.

I meet with a lot of younger people to discuss their desire to work in this industry, and not just people in my program but like many people who work in sports we get approached by friends and parents who want their kids to understand how to navigate the space. I don’t mind doing it at all, and partly why we created FSBE. And I know many of my colleagues have heard the story I’m about to relate, as it is all too true common:

I will not name the individual nor his school but I will tell you that the school is actually a pretty well respected college. The young man was graduating and in his last semester of his “sport degree program” and I asked him to tell me about his internshipS…he looked as if he saw a ghost, and I thought it was because I used the plural form. He was entering his last semester and he had done NOTHING…yes, he was partly to blame, but I told him his college had done him NO favors…I knew the area where his college was and I rattled off three or four places he could have gone to AT LEAST volunteer…I gave him strong advice to get involved when he went back to school. I never heard from him again.

RESPONSE FROM INTERVIEW

Joseph Rixon posted on Twitter that “Weak programs that produce unprepared kids hurt our industry and credibility of our degrees.”

 Very true,  Joseph.

Barney Carleton asked through Twitter; “…your opinion on curriculums, higher ed grade inflation & impact of the ‘college’ that houses the program.”

CURRICULUM

As far as curriculums go, I think they are wide and varied—and to some degree that could be a part of the problem with some of these programs. Textbooks are dated almost the minute they go to print…yet we have “non” experts putting out fourth and fifth editions to $400 a text…why? Again, these are part of the traditions of the collegiate environment for many, many, many years – – and it needs to change at some level if not all. Hey, not a bad gig if you can get it, but again, this is part and parcel with what is wrong at many colleges.

We have a class in “sports marketing.” THAT could be an entire degree program in my opinion with all of the various pillars of the field. Years ago we had a terrific adjunct who was a baseball expert in Sabermetrics etc. He also happened to be a consultant and the President of that organization, so we actually put a class in called “The Business of Baseball” which is now “Baseball Analytics.” We had agents from every sport teaching, so we added a course called the “Role of an Agent.”

My point is I think curriculum varies with programs. It seems like UMASS is putting out a lot of great facilities people these days and Ohio is getting a great name for college athletics administrators…Manhattanville is more of an “umbrella” program so we have people in many various capacities, from Athletic Directors, personnel with teams and leagues and, quite frankly people outside of sports.

HIGHER ED GRADE INFLATION

Higher Ed grade inflation is a very interesting question. As someone who has only done this on the academic side, I can only answer from what I have seen here: I believe that when people come into a graduate (Master’s or above) program they are much more focused. They are taking a concentrated course of study in an area they have a strong desire in working hard to do well. So, unlike as an undergraduate where they have to take a class to fulfill certain requirements (for me at URI it was Geology—I could NOT stay awake in that class!) they are motivated to learn and excel. Plus the fact of the matter is in a program that is only 36 credits and the need to maintain a 3.0 GPA, anything below a B is almost a failing grade…and while I have not had to do it often, I have had to dismiss people from the program for falling below that threshold. But, yes, we see a lot of A work, A-, B+ and B, which again to me is a red flag. Do professors have a more lenient method of a grading knowing that essentially anything below a B is going to actually be a failing grade in that there is not more of a runway to make up that GPA? It is possible that seeps into their psyche. But I would hope at least that our school that they are keeping the students true to the graduate level performance that they need to maintain. In addition, students in our program have to do a final portfolio in which all of their main work is reviewed so there is an assessment piece aside from the grades. If someone was doing poor quality work, we (my advisory board, and final portfolio review team) would know…we would also know that we need to hire a new professor!

As far as the college “reputation,” yes, there will always be cache to saying one has a degree from a top flight institution. I have never, nor will I ever disparage any college that is either a competitor or getting into the space. In fact I have encouraged candidates to explore other colleges and compare their programs to what we are offering at Manhattanville. There is no arguing that if someone is capable, qualified and can afford it, there really isn’t a reason not to go for the golden ring, unless the college, even though it has the powerful moniker, fails in any of the criteria mentioned here.

AS ALWAYS I WELCOME ANY PERSONAL OR PROFESSIONAL OUTREACH

Will it change?  I feel it almost has to–especially with the tuitions being charged at the undergraduate level!  If you’re the top dog at Harvard business school, you are a very marketable person and I believe that the top finance companies are going to be at your doorstep. It’s just the way it is, we didn’t make up the rules were just playing by them. (By the way I have had a Harvard graduate earn a masters degree program at Manhattanville –but I digress).

Yours in SPORTS, BUSINESS and EDUCATION!

Dave Torromeo
Executive Director
Sport Business Management Program
School of Business
Manhattanville College
2900 Purchase Street, Purchase, NY 10577
Tel: 914.323.5301 | Fax: 914-694-3488
E-mail: David.Torromeo@mville.edu

http://www.mville.edu/programs/ms-sport-business-management

FUTURE SPORTS BUSINESS EXECUTIVES (FSBE)
www.fsbe.org

http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidtorromeo

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