Sport Management Program Prepares Sport Leaders of Tomorrow

Posted: October 20, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Sport management students, from left, Kris Mengle, Kelly Goodwin, Allison Agee, Erin Myers and Javan Corniffe, document their great ideas in sports marketing “brainstorming” notebooks for their class taught by Marc Williams. The team’s current project is a celebrity weekend centered on a celebrity basketball game.
Photo by Evan Cantwell

By Jennifer Edgerly

For many college students, watching ESPN is the closest they’ll ever get to sporting giants such as the Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Pirates and NFL Players Association. However, for students in Mason’s Sport Management Program, interning with organizations like these is a required part of their curriculum.

“I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience through my internship with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but don’t let the movie ‘Jerry Maguire’ fool you into thinking the sports business is as easy as it looks on the big screen,” says senior sport management student Lindsey Campbell. “The sport industry is one of the hardest to break into. Students need to have superior skills, knowledge and work ethic to have a chance at a real career in sports.”

Road to the Big Leagues

Since the mid-1960s when the first academic programs emerged, sport management — designed to prepare qualified professionals to operate sport organizations — has been a rapidly growing and evolving field. Today there are more than 200 collegiate-level sport management programs throughout North America.

Lindsey Campbell

Having interned with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Lindsey Campbell is right at home on a baseball field.

Mason has offered a concentration in sport management since October 2000. The program provides course work in sport marketing, finance, ethics, law, operations, planning and program leadership.

“When I joined Mason in 2005, students typically transferred into sport management from other programs,” says Bob Baker, associate professor and coordinator of the sport management program.

“The program has really grown in the last few years, especially with the addition of some outstanding faculty, and now significant numbers of students are coming to Mason as freshmen, specifically for our sport management program.”

Housed in the School of Recreation, Health and Tourism (RHT) within the College of Education and Human Development, sport management is one of RHT’s fastest growing programs.

Tiffany Reaves
Tiffany Reaves spent three weeks in Australia learning about the international aspect of sport as part of her program.

As part of the program’s expansion, Baker is currently developing a proposal to move sport management from a concentration under Health Fitness and Recreation Resources to a degree program. The proposal is subject to approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Build It and They Will Come

Since taking over the program, Baker has not only increased the number of sport management courses offered but he has also increased the number of faculty members dedicated to the program.

Two notable additions to the roster include NFL veteran Charley Casserly, who spent 23 years with the Washington Redskins, moving up the ranks from an unpaid intern to general manager; and Craig Esherick, former assistant and head men’s basketball coach at Georgetown University.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to have industry powerhouses like Charley Casserly and Craig Esherick at my fingertips via e-mail or in the classroom,” says senior Allison Agee.

“Having spent years working with high-profile sports organizations, they know how the industry really is, and their experiences are just as important to learn from as any business lingo out of a textbook.”

Another endeavor that is part of the growth of the sport management program is a new Center for Sport Management. Housed at the Prince William Campus, the center will facilitate collaborative, interdisciplinary sport research. It will also foster industry-academy interaction to enhance the knowledge of the sport industry and the conduct of sport.

Dan Washburn interned with the Indianapolis Colts and is now an intern with the Washington Redskins.

The center’s proposed structure will ultimately allow for initiatives such as a sport industry archive, coaching academy, youth sport initiatives and an international sport business office.

“The sport sector in North America alone is estimated to be a $300 billion industry, but as sport rapidly continues to grow and garner increased attention, the issues and problems affiliated with sport are apparent,” says Baker.

“Mason is in a unique position to meet the challenges facing the sport industry. Our location, the lack of sport management academic programs in the area and our critical mass of faculty expertise combine to make Mason the ideal place for the establishment of a center for sport management.”

Living the Dream

Along with classes taught by high-profile faculty from within the sport industry, a significant advantage of Mason’s sport management program is the opportunity to gain practical experience through required internships. Whether managing Mason’s basketball teams or working with the NFL, all students in the sport management concentration are able to put what they learn in the classroom to work.

“Having started out as an unpaid intern himself, Charley Casserly knows how hard it can be and does everything he can to help us get internships,” says senior Dan Washburn.

“Thanks to Charley, I had the chance to work training camp for the Indianapolis Colts this past summer, and now I’m interning with the Washington Redskins. During training camp, my day started at 5:30 a.m. and did not end until at least 10 p.m., but I was surrounded by football all day and living out what most kids only dream about, so I could not complain.”

Stanley Martin
Currently manager of the Mason women’s basketball team, Stanley Martin had an internship with the Bowie Baysox.

For Mason students Allison Agee, who manages the Mason men’s basketball team, and Stanley Martin, who manages the Mason women’s basketball team, the experience gives them an inside look at how the players and coaches interact both on and off the court.

“Working under Coach Larranaga was such a blessing,” says Agee. “I was really jaded after a bad experience while trying to work with another basketball coach before transferring to Mason. Coach Larranaga is really a genuine person who reminded me that I needed to get into sport so that there were more good people in the industry, and more people who want to do good things for the industry.”

Adds Martin, “It’s a lot of work to manage an athletic team. I’ve been the student manager of the women’s team since my freshman year, and it’s a great experience. A lot of the work I do is behind the scenes, but I enjoy seeing the players’ and coaches’ sides of everything.”

Write to at