MBA Programs in the Business of Sport

Business schools offer specialist courses for those wanting to jump-start a career in sports management, as well as former athletes and coaches looking to deepen their business acumen.

Sport is a vast, multi-billion-dollar industry that spans the globe. The recent Super Bowl typically ranks as the most watched US television event of the year, garnering a viewership of more than 100 million people. However, there is a need for more talent with key business underpinnings as well as a grasp of industry-specific issues. Business schools have stepped in to fill that gap by offering specialist MBA programs in the business of sport.

The MBA programs help cultivate those skills, and access a vast and supportive sport industry network. “The MBA level training differentiates students in the market, and provides them with the practical training and skills needed to work across any and all sports management sectors,” says Will Norton, senior lecturer in the Department of Sport Management at Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The school offers a dual MBA/MS in Sport Management. Students gain expertise in sport-related disciplines ranging from marketing, law, and finance, to applied sport market research and analytics. “Our program prepares graduates for leadership roles in sectors such as marketing, sales, agency, corporate sponsorship, college athletics administration, business intelligence and more,” says Norton, the program’s director.

A wide variety of careers in sport

The school also has a network of over 3,000 alumni working in sports, which helps students identify and prepare for a wide variety of careers in the industry. “We conduct a macro-level scan of the industry and help students find their sweet spot,” Norton adds.

The program is right for candidates who are driven to learn, and self-motivated to make an impact across the sport management industry.  “Ours is a competitive industry, and students are best fit for our program if they come to Amherst ready to grow personally and professionally,” he explains.

The school typically enrols individuals with a couple of years’ work experience who are looking to shift tracks and jump-start a career in sports. The program also attracts former athletes and coaches looking to funnel their passion for the playing side of the game into the business side.

It is one of a number of options offered by business schools not just in the US but around the world. The University of Miami runs an Executive MBA program designed specifically for current and former NFL players, while Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands runs an EMBA focused on the sports industry.

A broad array of MBA options 

Gert-Jan de Vreede is interim dean at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business, which offers a Concentration in Sport Business for students in its full-time MBA program. The Concentration began in 2012 to fill a need for more talent with the key business underpinnings of an MBA program as well as a grasp of industry-specific analytics, sales, and operations functions.

The school’s location was a natural advantage too, insists de Vreede. The Tampa area is home to Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, the NFL’s Buccaneers, and the Tampa Bay Lightning ice hockey team, among others. 

“Ideal degree candidates have a passion for the business and industry, rather than simply a love of sports,” says de Vreede. “They are able to handle the rigor of the MBA classes and are disciplined enough to be able to participate in part-time fellowships while in the program.”

These fellowships place the student in a local sport or entertainment organization where they can learn, grow, and contribute while gaining professional experience that helps them to identify their career goals and find a good job upon graduation from the MBA.

“With the fellowships offered at USF, students build a network,” says de Vreede. “It can lead students to almost anywhere. Our alumni work in sales, analytics, marketing, event management, and operations roles in the NFL, NHL, MLB as well as the sports commission, sports venues, casinos, and major theme parks.”

Nearly 100 percent of the program's students have one or more job offers within six months of graduation. They actually earn two degrees over two years, an MBA and an MS in Sport and Entertainment Management.

“Students complete coursework in management, finance, marketing, information systems, and accounting, as well as industry-specific electives in negotiating and conflict resolution, the economics of sports, communications, and strategic marketing,” de Vreede says.

“In their second year, students attend classes two days a week, with the rest of their time devoted to a job with a pro team or sports business. They work, get their tuition paid for, receive a stipend, get experience and then go out in the job market.”

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Amherst, Massachusetts 12 Followers 24 Discussions
Tampa, Florida 11 Followers 13 Discussions
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Maastricht, Netherlands 33 Followers 33 Discussions

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