Summer School Spotlight: Sports Management

Release Date: 7/20/2012

Summer school classes are a great way to pick up some extra credit hours, and they often focus on topics that might not be offered at any other time. The classes cover in 3 to 6 weeks what would take 16 weeks during the regular semester. The final spotlight in the series will focus on MGT 4783 - Sports Management.

In February 2012, Dr. John E. Connaughton authored a report entitled The Economic Impact of Sports and Sports Events on the Charlotte MSA Economy, which analyzed the impact of sports and sporting events had on that city during the previous year. The numbers are impressive, to say the least. The report showed that in 2011, the sporting industry generated revenue of over $2 billion for the Charlotte economy.

The report underscores a reality that many of us already know (or suspect). Sports are "big business." "When you look at the United States economy - [when] you look at [the economy] world-wide - what is a major industry that contributes a lot to that economy? It's the sports industry," Dr. Rickey Casey said. This summer, students in Casey's summer class Sports Management had a chance to find out just how many different management opportunities there are in the industry and to learn more about managing different aspects of a sports organization.

Casey said that many people tend to think of just professional sports teams when they hear the words "sports industry." "But it's not just professional," he said. "It's college. It's even the programs you have on the local level. What you don't think about are the shooting clubs - hunting. Hunting and fishing are huge in Arkansas! That's sports. We don't think about it. Think about how much money the Arkansas Game and Fish receive in licensing. It's huge! That's also a management opportunity." At every level, Casey said, from the local tee ball team to a major league baseball team, there is a need for people who understand and can manage the different aspects of the sports operation.

The class began with a look back at the history of sports, at the people and the events which have shaped the current sports landscape. The discussion then moved into a detailed review of management principles and how they apply in the sports industry. Casey said, "Look at a professional football team, such as the Dallas Cowboys. You've got Jerry Jones - he runs [the operation]." But, Casey pointed out, Jones doesn't manage the entire organization on his own. Even though he is the head of the organization, the day-to-day operations are all managed by different people. "[Jerry Jones] will have a manager who will work with stadium operations. He'll have a manager who works with the [memorabilia]. He'll have somebody who may work with managing the TV contracts. He'll have somebody else who may manage the written communications - the magazines. He may have a manager who manages the players who do public service announcements," Casey explained. "So he has underneath him managers who each manage specific operating entities within that business."

The first operating entity that Casey and his students looked at was marketing. How do you apply marketing principles to sports management? "Think about the caps, the shirts," Casey said. "I had a student in class and he had an Oakland A's cap on. I said to him 'Oakland A's!' That's the marketing. I knew [the name of the team] and I don't like baseball."

Casey said that managing the marketing division of a sports operation can be easy. "The key thing for making a profit is that you need to be very successful," he explained to his students. "A big part of [a team's revenue] is simply ticket sales. If you're winning, winning, winning, you sell lots of tickets, and you can charge more for a ticket." But what if the team you're with isn't winning? What do you do to draw people in? "We talked about that the other day," he said. "For the first 500 people that enter the stadium, you get a free cap…you get an autographed football…something to get you to come in. You may not be the first 500, but we've got to do something to get you in. Half-price hot dogs…we'll give you free Coca-Cola…something to get you to come in. So you've got to market that to keep me from wanting to sit in my chair [at home], to get me there."

Next, Casey said the class talked about financial and economic principles, specifically the large sums of money that are needed to run a big sports operation, particularly in the professional levels. "We talked about the legal principles, the contracts, how do they have to be set up, what is included in the contracts," Casey said. They talked about other areas of finance - "Many cities will help you get a bond issue," he said. "Is it better if you use equity financing, or do you use debt financing from a bank? You need people in finance. All areas of business are important. "

From there, the discussion moved on to facility management - how would you manage a large sporting facility? "Think about managing a Dallas Cowboys' football game," Casey said. "It's huge, the logistics that go into that." Sports communication, sports broadcasting, product licensing…the students learned more about the management aspects of these areas as well.

And finally, Casey said the discussion came around to ethics. "We talked about ethics - the ethical principles," he said. "What did the New Orleans Saints do? They were paying, basically, a commission, if you put somebody out of business. So if I hit the quarterback and I put him out, I get a bonus. That's illegal. But that's what they were paying. That was unethical."

Throughout the class, Casey said he puts a strong emphasis on critical thinking - the students spend a lot of time researching, and then discussing each topic. "We'll have article reviews every week," Casey said. "I have them find an article that talks about a sports organization, and a management problem they had, or a financial issue they had, or maybe a player dispute, maybe an ethical issue, like the New Orleans Saints. I will assign about four or five questions per chapter they have to answer, and we'll discuss them in class. So it's not just lecture." And, Casey said, "No tests. I don't know if you learn that much from tests, because you memorize, and you forget it. But if you do a case, or if you have to answer the questions in class, you can't memorize."

Casey said the class is structured in such a way that it really highlights the depth and breadth of management opportunities in the sports industry. "It lets our kids understand that marketing, management, accounting, communications - all of those are great opportunities in sports," he said. "If you think about the number of professions that are involved, it's huge. It's [also] a huge part of our economics in the United States. So that's why I did it. I look at more of how if you, as a manager, what would you do, and the importance of managing the operations efficiently and effectively. "