Expert Roundup: Is Mark Cuban Right About Sports Management Degrees?

mark cuban sports management degrees

This is how exasperated Mark Cuban was after our debate on sports management degrees. (OK, that’s not true)

A few weeks back I posted a video debating Mark Cuban’s assertion that sports management degrees were a waste – I tried to get Mark to face off against me First Take #embracedebate style, but apparently he has no idea who I am.

To rehash through the art of paraphrasing –

Mark Cuban: Don’t major in Sports Management or Marketing, there are only 120 pro teams and therefore a limited number of jobs, major in business and learn sales, that is where the jobs are.

Brian Clapp (me): There are actually 465 pro teams, so that is poor research, and a sports management degree doesn’t require you to work for a team, there are jobs in broadcasting, marketing, sports agencies, event production, promotions, manufacturing, merchandising – just to name a few other career paths. A sports management degree can give you a leg up in sports specific industries.

The one point we did agree on is learning sales skills. That is where the jobs are and I have written on that fact many times (like here and here).

The video has had a plethora of views and many strong responses, so I reached out to more sports industry experts for their opinions and here are a few I found worthy and insightful:

Anonymous from the comments:
“I think Cuban is right. Your video is a good example. Learning something other than sports management might have even assisted you in structuring your argument against Mr. Cuban’s idea, not premise.”

(Editors note: OK, that wasn’t worthy or insightful, but it made me laugh)

Alan Gromest, Manager, Human Resources Washington Nationals: “We as an organization don’t make it a requirement to have a sports management degree. I think it really depends upon what sort of job you are applying for. If you are sports management major with a concentration in marketing and you are applying for a marketing position then it is more relevant. For the most part I would say that if you have a basic business degree with the skill and qualifications for the job, then that is what is going to make you stand out.”

JB from the comments: “Brian – good points regarding Cuban’s thoughts. Yes – there are many more jobs in the sports industry that reach outside of team jobs. Many times these jobs may be a perfect match for people with skills they have gained through a sports management degree. Having worked for several teams and also organization that support teams, broadening your target job to companies that directly service the team side can open many more opportunities.”

mark cuban on sports management degree

“Teach kids sports management and you improve their chances of getting a job at Fridays” – Mark Cuban

Michael Gettelin, Director, Compensation at NBA: “Whether your degree in Sports Management, Business or English if you don’t complement your degree with work experience it really doesn’t matter what your major is or where you go to school. I am sure everybody agrees that the internship experience is the thing that is going to propel you to the front.

Mark Andrew Zwartynski, NBA Business Executive Veteran/Author/Publisher: “Mark Cuban is correct. Brian Clapp is correct.

“All throughout my career the one thing that stands out is Mark Cuban’s remarks regarding the fan experience. He is absolutely correct! Wins and fan experience are what people are looking for while at the game.

“Brian Clapp is correct that there are many ancillary studies that one learns in a sports management program. That is true.
Sell tickets. That will help you sell sponsorship. Create a great fan experience. Win games. That will fill your arena and fulfill your life’s ambitions. That is the reality of the business.

“Mark Cuban v. Brian Clapp – tied going into overtime. Next blog/video coming to you after a word from these sponsors.”

(Mr. Zwartynski’s full response was longer than most of my articles –  this was just a paraphrase of his big points)

Patrick Nero, Athletic Director, George Washington University:  “There is a philosophy from leadership that if you are going to add positions within an organization it sure helps if that position can more than pay for itself. For instance in the field in college sports, sales positions are being added over and over again because that person can pay for their salary and can bring in more money.  There are many different types of positions in sports sales, like ticket sales and corporate sponsorship sales. I know that a lot of students don’t want to get into those fields, but that is where the jobs are.

“I think that is what Mark Cuban was talking about is that is if you can show that you can bring revenue into an organization it is going to be easier for them to create a job for you or to create open positions in there offices. For those people that can bring in revenue.”

John Quinones, Vice-President Recruitment, MLB: “I agree with Cuban that learning sales skills are paramount to success. Let’s focus on ticket sales careers. I think it demonstrates to employers that you are willing to really do whatever it takes to break into the sports industry. A lot of people come into my office and I ask them what they aspire to do and a  lot of them will tell me that I want to be a GM of a baseball team.

“Ok…so there are only 30 of those jobs.

“How can you then prove that you are willing to do whatever it takes. I like people coming up from the minor leagues. I will ask them, ‘have you been the mascot? Will you sell tickets one day?’ Because to me that is saying that you love being around the game of baseball. That really proves that to me.?

Angela Deeb, Account Executive, Cal Athletics:  “I would say that I do agree with what Mark Cuban said, although it’s not entirely fair for me to say that as I don’t know what I missed in the sports management major.

“What I do know, is that the best class that I ever took was my Business Sales class with Professor Jim Mullen my junior year of college. I learned more from him about business and sales in one semester than I did from any other class I’ve ever taken. I can most certainly see where Cuban is coming from and having a business degree, you learn the ins and outs of so many different fields and can utilize the learned skills in most any career.

“At the end of the day sports teams are businesses after all.”

Conclusion

The truth is most of the respondents focused on the part Cuban and I agreed on – learning sales skills – which is clearly the most readily available way to break into the sports industry.

I’ve searched through the curriculum of over 30 sports management programs and they all teach sales courses, so I ask again, if your passion is sports why not major in sports management and learn the skills that will put you in front of the teams you love.

Here’s the trick – most sports management degree programs allow you to choose your elective coursework, if you don’t opt to take sales courses – the major isn’t to blame, you are.

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About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

And if you want to know where our privacy policy is before you submit your comments below, it's right here.

Comments

  1. Brian, I was enjoying my morning cup of joe until I came here and saw Cuban’s spidery armpit hair on my 30-inch flat screen… now I can’t shake the sensation of hair in my mouth. Damn you!!

    • Ha! Sorry about that Hank I’ll post something fresh later tonight to get that image out of all of our minds… I’m working on a San Antonio Spurs article i.e. 10 things you can learn from a true champion…I’ll see if I can find a Popovich armpit picture for you to feature.

  2. Liz Ball says:

    I think it is bad marketing for you to pile on Mark Cuban, or any other individual for that matter, to try and stand out in your field. Cheap, negative remarks should not get attention, the way they seem to, in our current culture.

    • Liz – I appreciate your response, I don’t consider this piling on Mark Cuban – it’s disagreeing with his perspective and pointing our factual reasons why. Matter of fact in this article I published many people who support his view and think I am an idiot – I think that is the very definition of journalism where I show both sides of the discussion. Where are the cheap negative remarks you reference? I start out by saying how much I respect Mark Cuban and I am a fan of his even though I disagree with his perspective on this issue – I fail to see where I have been unfair can you help me understand? – Brian

      • Let me begin by saying that Mr> Clapp, in my opinion , did not pile on Mr. Cuban. Both people have a right to express themselves. We do live in a society where we can and are encourage to express our opinion. Sparing the all whales are mammals example, let me provide everyone with some insight. Mr. Cuban is a smart man. Smart enough to calculate everything for the Mark Cuban marketing plan. However, i cannot tell you how many times I have heard since 2000 from people who work for him and do not work him blatantly state that they are afraid of disagreeing with him or “getting on his bad side” for taking an opposing opinion. The two reasons I hear are we don’t Mark Cuban to not like us. A Wall Street executive once questioned a person why he was so afraid of Mark Cuban? he continuing asking, “Will he stop you from doing business? Will he cause you to lose your livelihood?” The answer provided to both was, “Yes.”

        So, I say is this the way people should live? Is this the way that people who have the opportunity to guide young people should counsel a young one in life’s potential perils?

        Better take note people. it is about how you garner your education and experience in life that will drive you to a reasonable quality of life. What am I saying? Here it is. Work for people that will care about you, truly. Not in circumlocution and superficial speech.
        It is the responsibility of our superiors to elevate the play of our team mate. The true value of a player is his/her ability to elevate their team mates level of play. Quote: John Wooden

        • So what you are saying is the boiling bunny that was on my stove last week was probably from Mr. Cuban? (Just kidding everyone) I it’s very important to question things other people say and not just accept what you are told. You shouldn’t just accept what I tell you – you should think for yourself. Don’t let anyone whip you into a panic, thinking you degree is worthless – take the time to evaluate yourself, what you need to do to succeed what changes you need to make. We all too often rely on others to tell us what to do or how ot live – no one knows you better than you do, so ask questions and question others. – Brian

          P.S. And I really don’t get how anyone would think I piled on Mark Cuban, I disagreed with his argument and pointed out facts to back up my side of the story, is that somehow not allowed?

  3. Hey Brian, I am a huge Mark Cuban fan. With that being said I am also a graduate from WSU sport management program. I have to say that it is interesting article but what seperates successful sport management degrees is the practicum and internship opportunities provided by your degree program. I am not in the industry but do know of many peers currently working in numerous fields mostly that came through internship experiences.

    • Completely agree Ryan – this industry is all about experience and the skills you develop, which is most likely garnered through internships, volunteering or on campus opportunities. I am also a Cuban fan, but sometimes he ignores the facts and just tries to make a grandiose point. – Brian

  4. Funny is that Mark Cuban is a smart guy but over exaggerates his role in everything. If you ask the fans of the Mavs if he should concentrate in winning instead of all the esoteric nonsense he gets involved in, they would say yes. But he spends his time on many other things that do not bring about winning for the Mavs. Maybe
    He should intern for the Lakers, Kings and other winning sports franchises that have won MULTIPLE championships. Then he would know what it takes to be successful on a daily basis. One championship doesn’t a genius make. He could learn from many people but he is just too arrogant to know that! Eric

    • Great points Eric – I’m a Cuban fan, I find him entertaining, but sometimes you want to just tell him to stop already! The guy loves his own opinion, and while many times he makes good points, sometimes he’s just being a showman. I wouldn’t like him as much if I was a Mavs fan… oh and by the way as Celtics fan, I’d say he should intern there and not with the Lakers 😉 – Brian

  5. Anirban says:

    Brian: I am a big fan of yours. you really speak mind of other people. I think degree is important but more than degree nowadays people want experience. But one thing i don’t understand. if you don’t give jobs, how will we get experience?

  6. While Mark Cuban can be a blowhard, he has been an extremely successful businessman. Not only do the Mavericks make money and have successful seasons but so do his other interests.
    As for the need for a sport management degree, that is hard to say you gotta or not.
    I studied journalism and did work for a local newspaper for 12 years. Sadly, I am unemployed and my skills are limited. Thus, I have been unable to secure anything despite continued efforts.
    I added various electives while in college and that is on thing I would tell a prospective student-take good electives.
    At the end of the day,both of you know your stuff and are right. Just play nice the next time.

    • Thanks for writing in Stuart – couldn’t agree more on Cuban, I find myself listening to and modeling successful people and he fits that category. BUT, that doesn’t mean he’s always right…so I felt obligated to disagree. As for you personally, as a journalism major myself I’ve reinvented myself a few times and come out better on the other side. I’ll tell you this, there are more content creation related jobs than ever before – when I first graduated college in 1996 you had newspapers, magazines or TV stations…now you have all of those plus websites, team run content, video content, podcasts…there are so many more avenues to market yourself! I spent 15 years on broadcast media and transitioned to digital media…it’s been awesome. You’ll find your niche Stuart…just keep thinking outside your degree, and don’t think your skills are limited, there are jobs out there for people that can write well, trust me!! – Brian

    • The Mavericks do not make money – equity yes – not money.

  7. Gustavo Lin says:

    I’ve read a few comments from others on the top. Being a fan of someone does not mean you agree with everything they say. So good for you on standing on your point, which by the way, it actually makes sense. A sport management degree does not mean you have to work for a team, nor a pro team. For one thing I know as now being a sport marketing intern at Balloholics, which is a semi-pro basketball team, is that this field can teach me so many other things that are applicable in other areas as well. Sales is a very important part as well as all the others, such as marketing, production, broadcasting, etc; however, I believe that majoring in Sport Management will give me a lot more options and deeper understanding of the sport industry, rather than just learning sales or the usual business. This of course applies only if you really want to work in the sport industry.
    -Gustavo-

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