The Main Difference in Sports Management Programs (and how to choose the right one)

Georgetown Masters Sports Industry Management

Teachers like Nicola Murphy, Senior Director of Marketing at Octagon, provide a relevant learning experience for students at Georgetown University

Critics of Sports Management degree programs will often point out that the sports industry is a practical field, where experience is valued over an ability to craft research papers or translate irrelevant studies conducted by professors who are far removed from true experience themselves.

It’s a harsh criticism…which has merit.

Many programs in sports management have failed to intertwine a practical experience with a classroom one, instead focusing on tasks that don’t result in post-graduation work and ignoring those with the highest rate of success.

That is the frustration that many take with them after they enter the real world, repeating the refrain, “I wish I had chosen another major.”

Their frustration is real, their conclusion is wrong. It’s not the major, it’s the program you choose.

[bctt tweet=”The main difference between Sports Management programs and how to choose wisely #sportsbiz”]

Take Georgetown University’s Masters in Sports Industry Management program for example – their courses are taught by active professionals with practical and current experience. They are able to relate information and teach with relevance, which greatly benefits students.

“We are very proud of our outstanding faculty, who inspire, challenge, and engage our students,” said Bobby Goldwater, Interim Associate Dean of the Sports Industry Management program. “The top-level sports executives who serve as our instructors are the backbone of our program and we are grateful for everything they do on the students’ behalf.”

Being taught by active participants of the sports business world doesn’t just result in a top-notch education, it also helps bridge the gap to employment.

“I’m open and available to my students, if they are looking for connections in the industry I am more than happy to help them connect the dots,” says Nicola Murphy, Sr. Director of Marketing, Octagon and Georgetown Sports Industry Management faculty member.

You Have the Power

When you interview for jobs you are interviewing your potential employers just as much as they are interviewing you. You get to determine if they are your right fit, right culture, right title and provide the right career path.

The same is true when you choose an academic program, you have the power to choose if it is the right fit.

Study the faculty biographies of every school that interests you and discover what level of practical and relevant experience they have. If they are out of touch, or far removed from practical experience, your chances of graduating with the skills employers want diminish.

The starting line-up of faculty at Georgetown is an industry who’s who: Vice Presidents in the NBA, Advisor to the Commissioner of MLB, NFL executives, financial leaders of sports conglomerates and more.

These are the people that can change your future.

The decision making pressure you face is real. Choose the wrong program, rooted in the wrong philosophy, and you have a strong chance of building debt rather than skills. Choose the right program, taught by industry leaders who are on the front lines of the sports industry daily, and you will build a foundation of knowledge and skills that employers want, and a network of contacts that can introduce you to real-world opportunity.

Now get out there and choose wisely.

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 &

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

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  1. I believe the Ohio University Sports Management Program is the best in the country. I went back to school to get my master in Sports Management and could not believe the how the family of graduates/alumni are connected. The people they brought in to teach our classes were the best in the industry. I would highly recommend their PMSA program (very hard to get accepted) or going to Athens for their graduate program. You will not be disappointed. One of the best dicisions I ever made.

  2. Jack Good says

    Dear Mr. Clapp,

    Im a high school senior from Orange County, CA looking to pursue a future in Sports Management. This is a great article and I will use it as I decide among many schools. I applied to quite a few and have narrowed it down to the following:

    University of Oregon
    Oregon State
    University of San Francisco
    University of New Haven
    University of Miami
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst
    University of New England
    Endicott College
    University of Tampa

    Do you have a knee jerk pick among them? My future is in the balance and I am feeling overwhelmed about the pick. I’m an athlete myself and love all sports. I was a varsity captain in football and wrestling and a black belt in kempo karate. I’ve been passionate about sports for as long as I can remember, and I always thought I’d be a professional myself, but I was sidelined with a shoulder injury and four intense reconstructive surgeries. I know this is the industry for me, and I would so appreciate some guidance from a pro like you. Many thanks

    • I can’t speak to all of them but my knee jerk reaction is UMass, Amherst for two reasons – 1: I was speaking with a director of a really great program (not on your list) last week and he referred to UMass as one of the best in the country. This is a guy with a practical background, so the fact he admires their curriculum means it’s action oriented rather than just research and papers. 2: Both Ben Cherington GM of the Red Sox, and Chris Antonetti GM of the Indians, graduated from the UMass Sports Management graduate program — that’s a pretty good endorsement for the program ceiling. Hope this helps… but don’t rely on me, I hope you are doing your own research! – Brian

  3. Sawan Salhotra says


    I have just completed post-graduation in marketing from a renowned B-school in India. I, also, have 24 months of experience in IT industry. But, I wish to follow my interest in soccer and do MBA in Sports Management from an institute which is renowned for its soccer related sports management course. I have been doing my own research but your suggestion will matter a lot.
    So, could you please suggest me some good college ?


  4. So what your saying is if we attend one of these institutions we’ll immediately get a job when we graduate. That having actual working experience doesn’t matter, just the college. Cool. Guess I’ll go start taking out more loans since my education at a non-listed college is clearly worthless according to this.

    • Sorry Dave but that is not at all what I wrote and definitely not what I implied. There are no guarantees, there is no ‘just add water’ solution and work experience trumps all – this article was pointing out if you choose the path of an advanced degree, you should be sure the program you choose has a practical curriculum taught by professors that are active and relevant in the sports industry. I get that you are frustrated Dave, what is it you want to focus on in your career? – Brian

  5. Chris Lubrano says

    Received my Sports Management Masters Degree from St. John’s University in NYC. Awesome experience, taught by many veterans of the industry. Even got to serve as grad assistant for the athletic department for the two years I was there, which gave me great work experience in the industry. Connections were only decent though, graduated almost a year ago and still working my channels for a job but no success yet.

  6. Mr. Clapp,

    How do you feel about the online programs? I know they will never compare to the in-person experience, but for a person who is unable to relocate for a program, but is still very much interested, will the online program benefit them at all?

    • Monique – not to skirt the question but some are good – some are awful. Be very, very choosy or else you will waste your money – I know Georgetown has a great online program, as does UMass and Ohio University – other than that I’m not all that sure. Best of luck – Brian

    • Baber Sami says

      Hi Brian,
      I just wanted to ask how difficult is it to get into the Georgetown Masters in sports industry management program? would you have any idea? …. I applied with a 3.6 GPA decent ( but not sports relevant) work experience, and a strong sporting background in cricket, and mixed martial arts. They don’t require gmat or gre. Thank you


    • Sorry Baber – I don’t know their application, acceptance requirements or policies – but from my view, you seem to have the right stuff! – Brian

    • Monique,

      I am the Program Director for the MS in Sport Management Studies online program at California University of Pennsylvania (CALU). I developed our program over ten years ago and we have an excellent reputation within the sport industry, as our curriculum is focuses on applying sport management theory in a practical setting that meets the career goals of each individual student. For more information log onto our program website at Best of luck with your search!

    • Well, there you go! -Brian

  7. Aldephi or Univ of Miami?

    • Erika, Are you asking me which school you should go to? Sorry I don’t know enough about your career goals or the specifics of either program, that is research and a decision only you can make. Best of luck – Brian

  8. Anthony Embry says

    I graduate Saturday from Belhaven University. I achieved my Master’s in Sports Administration and I am filling out apps to be an AD or Assistant AD. I also filled out apps for other positions in athletic departments. I haven’t had any luck yet. What is done advice that you can give?

    • Congrats on graduating Anthony! Our blog has over 200 articles of advice for getting jobs, all of our best ideas are in there so go back and read more of our content, I think it’ll really help! – Brian

  9. Stephen Harvey says

    Hey Mr. Clapp,
    I am wondering if you have herd of Sports Management World Wide? I would like to get your opinion on this website that does online classes for Sports Management Degrees?

    • Stephen thanks for reading – I know a little about SMWW – they are an experienced group, their classes are taught by active practitioners (agents scouts etc) and have a really good reputation. – Brian

  10. Brian-

    I’ve been looking at many Sports Management graduate programs. Have you heard anything about Southeast Missouri State’s program? They have multiple accreditations, but I don’t know how much that ways on a program.


    • Hey Dan – I don’t know amuch of anything about their program – what I recommend is you go through their curriculum and see what kind of classes and opportunities they offer. For example, if you are into stats and they don’t offer any sports analytic classes there is your red flag. Also, see if they have an alumni directory and try reaching out to graduateds of the program…do a search on linkedin for graduates of the program too and see what they have to say. Just a couple more ways to keep digging. Brian

  11. First, let me say that I am looking at enrolling in an online Sports Management grad school program. Also, Georgetown happens to be one of the programs that I am heavily considering. That being said, I find it rather interesting that the article is basically a sales pitch for Georgetown. You also mention in the comments that they have a great online program. I’m wondering what information you based that on, especially considering that their online Sports Industry Management (SIM) program has not taught a single student yet. It is a brand new program that is scheduled to launch for the fall 2015 semester. I’m not trying to criticize, but it seems awfully suspicious to me. Did Georgetown pay for advertising on the site in exchange for a nice article? If so, that should be disclosed. Otherwise, keep up the great work! 🙂

    • Hey Adam – if you are looking for other great online programs check out Ohio University and UMass – you are right this article has a Georgetown slant partially because I’ve spoken with many people behind the program and feel confident in their product. That said, there are other great schools out there! Best of luck – Brian

  12. Gary Jacobus says

    I have been on the board of advisors of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center for 20 years. First and foremost, the program is focused on the world of business so students are getting an MBA with emphasis on sports marketing. This gives the students a chance to succeed in business first, sports marketing second. It’s a broader view of the world and a more well-rounded education.

  13. I am going to graduate school to attain my masters in sports managment/administration. Currently stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have a decision to make between
    – University of Miami
    – Georgetown University
    – Florida State University
    – Georgia State Univeristy
    Which school gives me the best chance to progress my career in the sports industry.

    • Justin I don’t have first hand experience with these programs other than Georgetown, which appears to be very impressive. Like I mention in the article, make sure to analyze the curriculum and the professors to make sure you get practical experience taught by practicing executives. – Brian

  14. Hi thanks for writing this, as a PR student I needed to know this. I plan to go for my masters in Sports management or admin. Which schools in Texas do you recommend other than UT??

  15. Gonna go back and read more about what you have posted in the past as you’ve said to a few others but I graduated in May with my Undergrad in Business Mgmt, Sports Mgmt, and HR Mgmt and currently looking at Georgetown, University of Miami, Texas A&M, and West Virginia for Grad Schools for my Masters in Sports Management. Ideally I want to either get on as an AD or Assistant AD for a school or a front office job with an MLB or NBA team and work my way up to GM one day… Thoughts on those schools as to what I want to do in the future?

    • From that list the only one I am that familiar with is Georgetown, and my experience with them has been positive. What I would advise is to look at the courses offered at each school and each program, usually you can find an emphasis in their teaching, make sure it lines up with who you want to be. -Brian

  16. Hello Brian,

    What have you heard about NYU’s Sport Business program?

    • While I don’t have knowledge of it personally, NYU is a great school, so it’s hard to imagine their program is anything less. Check their curriculum, classes offered etc and make sure it matches up with who you want to be. Make sure they have a strong internship program, you need to get experience out of the classroom. Check to see what kind of placement services they have after graduation. See what kind of relationships they have with organizations in town… do they work with the local teams/organizations? – If they aren’t leveraging the fact they are in New York City, then I’m wrong and their program isn’t that great. – Brian

    • Hello Brian,

      What have you heard on the University of Washington’s IAL program?

    • Do NOT attend NYU’s sports management program. The professors are always coming and going and none of them are relevant, active leaders in the sports industry. I recently graduated and I have been struggling to get interviews. Sure they have fancy events and prominent leaders come talk to their students–but aside from that, what can they do for you? Mind you I graduated with honors. They fail to teach their students practical skills that they can apply to the field.

      I spoke to an Exec from the Houston Rockets and he said he thought SU did a good job preparing their students for sales that’s why he recruited from them (just a comparison). Unless you have great internship experiences and a solid network, you’re just paying for the NYU name. Don’t get me wrong NYU is a phenomenal school, but their Sports Management program is an embarrassment. The Stern School of Business won’t even acknowledge it.

      Honestly, it was a complete waste of money and I am now going back to school for computers. I should have majored in something else.

    • Wow – Jessica, this is so far outside of the experience other students have shared with us about the NYU program. We have heard great things and I felt during my interview with Wayne McDonnell that he was extremely passionate and informed. I liked that the program had a focus in finance, since that is the backbone of the industry, and I’ve heard from many students that they have put the specific skills they were taught to good work. I’m sorry you didn’t like the program, it seems you are in the minority, but yours is a voice and an experience to be respected and shared. – Brian

  17. Hows west virginias sports management MBA program

    • Sorry Ashwin – not personally familiar with their program. I’m sure their curriculum and approach is posted on their website, check that out and see if it matches who you want to be, but also what employers want! Brian

    • Steve Culem says

      What do you think about the undergraduate degree in sport management at Elon NC

    • Sorry Steve, don’t know much about it… study their curriculum and research their past graduates and where they are in their careers – Brian

  18. What do you think about the MS in Sports Management program at Columbia University? How does it compare to UMASS?

    • Yazad – it’s hard to compare across schools since I haven’t attended them all and have to go on what I have heard from students, professors or employers. The best advice I can give you is to get lists of the courses offered and see how they compare. Study the graduates and see where they work. Study the professors and see what kind of real world experience they have. When you do these things you’ll have a good idea about the strength of the program. -Brian

    • Yazad Bilimoria says

      Thanks a lot, Brian! I did my research and have decided to join Columbia University’s program. Let’s hope I’ve made the right choice!

    • Congrats Columbia is a great school! – Brian

    • Congratulations Yazad – great program! Brian

  19. I have looked through hundreds of different websites seeing everyones different opinion on the best sports management programs. In your opinion could you rank the top 5? 10?

    • That’s a hard thing to do because so often it requires a deeper knowledge of what you want to do in yoru career – some program emphasize sales, others management, others research. That said, from my information and knowledge (fully admitting I haven’t attended these schools) UMass has a pretty great program (both former Red Sox GM Ben Charington and current Indians GM Chris Anotonetti graduated from there) I just wrote on the SMU program and left very impressed with their curriculum and faculty, I’ve heard concordia university in chicago is very good despite a lower profile name, Georgetown has a great online program (or campus), University of Michigan and finally Temple in Philly I’ve heard has the kind of program I like best – based on getting real world experiences and internships. Hope this helps – there are many great programs out there, I’d say study the curriculum requirments and if you get excited just reading the class names, chances are you are in the right place! – Brian

  20. I am accepted to the University of Miami, and have applied to Georgetown and the University of Florida. My only option is to attend online. Do you have any thoughts on Florida’s program? As of right now, they are first on my list, but I have found the decision making process difficult to say the least.

    • Robert – I’m not well versed in the Florida program, the recommendation I make to everyone is to study the professors, the curriculum offered, and the alumni – make sure these things align with your desires. If you want to be an NBA general manager and the curriculum is all about sales, the professors are all researchers not experienced sports practitioners and there are no alumni working in the NBA …maybe it’s not the right program for you. Just an extreme example, but you get the idea. -Brian

  21. Hi Brian,

    What are your view on the sports management program at AISTS, Lausanne. I am currently bit confused between offers from Columbia university and AISTS. With your experience which of these programs have better jobs prospects. I am making a career switch from accounts/finance to sports management, so not sure of the impact these programs will have in my career.Columbia is much more expensive and that is what is becoming a major factor for me to choose AISTS over Columbia.

  22. Colby Vlieger says

    Have you heard anything about Minnesota State Mankato? I know they have an advisory board that is made up of a few sports professionals ie. president/vp of pro teams, d1 athletic directors, director of ops. Any thoughts or opinions would be greatly appreciated.

  23. Collin Miller says

    Hello, Mr. Clapp,

    I have a bachelor’s in Sport Management and currently looking to get my Master’s in either Sport Management or Sport Leadership (however, I’ve been told Leadership is not as appealing). I consider myself an athlete and well versed in many sports, but my true passion is soccer! I’ve played soccer at a higher level for many years and would love to coach professionally or at a college level. I’m currently working for a pro soccer team and plan to work my way up. I’m finding the pay is not great in sport unless you’re at a high level. That said, I’m motivated to get my Master’s, can you please recommend programs that will best serve my passion.

    Thanks so much!

    • Collin – so funny you ask this question, the podcast I just published about 20 minutes ago is on the path to becoming a successful coach. I interview Patrick King who is the Director of Coaching and Player Development for Arizona Soccer Club. He has his masters from Ohio University and he talks about that…but his big education came from working at New York Red Bulls. Give the podcast a listen, I think it’ll help massively. – Brian

  24. Hello Mr. Clapp

    I have completed my post graduation in Finance and working as a financial analyst. However I would like to do my career in sports management.Kindly guide me on which programs and universities I should look for . Also , I have heard about program offered by AISTS Switzerland, please share your views on this as well.

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Kausta, I don’t know anything about the AISTS Switzerland program…sorry. As for programs in the US — Georgetown, UMass, SMU, Ohio University, Northeastern, Lindenwood…all really great programs. Brian

  25. My son wants to study sports management in Ohio.
    What would you say are the top 5 schools in Ohio for that?


  26. Hi,

    Do you have any information about the Sports Management programs at Alfred and Ithaca, both in NY? I am trying to help a student make some decisions. The goal at this point in a BA in Sports Management, maybe some Sports Law at some point. Thank you!

  27. sansitha nandakumar says

    I have got into NYU sport business and MTA sport administration in George Washington. Which one of these programs are better? Are these programs good in these schools? How are the job opportunities after that? Are they with?

  28. sansitha nandakumar says

    I have got into NYU sport business and MTA sport administration in George Washington. Which one of these programs are better? Are these programs good in these schools? How are the job opportunities after that? Are they worth?

    • Sansitha — It all depends on what you want to study. Better is a very relative term. Both are good schools but I know little about the specifics of their programs or what it is you want to do in your career, so it’s impossible for me to point you in a direction. – Best of luck, Brian

    • sansitha nandakumar says

      I love sports and media. I know NYU is great with TIsch Institute. Do you think NYU would be a good fit for me since the description of the program says master in sport, media and management. Have you heard anything about the program if its good?

    • Varun Jay says

      Hey Sanshita I’m actually going through the same dilemma! I am not able to pick between NYU and GW. Have you made a decision as yet? If so would love to hear which program you picked and why.

      Anybody have advice on which program has better internship opportunities ? Which school works closely with its students to help them with internships and jobs ?

  29. Sandy Howard says


    My son is a senior in high school and wants to pursue sport management in college. His top 3 schools that he has been accepted to are Temple University, Syracuse University, and Towson University. We’ve been to all 3 and talked to professors and administrators at all 3. I was very impressed with Temple’s program as they have 2 internships and have to put in many industry related hours which means you networking with a lot of people in all the professional sports teams in Philadelphia. Syracuse seems to have the connections and alumni for jobs. We are headed back up in a few weeks to talk to them again and refresh my memory about their program. Towson is my least favorite but it keeps coming up on lists of top sport management programs when I google it. I saw one comment you made about Temple. Do you have any insight or knowledge on Syracuse or Towson? Any information you can provide me about these 3 programs would be greatly appreciated.


    • Hey Sandy — I think it depends what he wants to do in sports, not all sports management programs are created the same. Some are rooted in the business school, which is great because you learn the business of sports (sales, marketing, revenue creation, promotions, event management etc) some are in the college of education (geared towards research and becoming educators in the field) some are in the communications school (geared towards journalism, broadcasting etc). My recommendation is to look through the curriculum of each program and read through the classes that are available — all three schools are good, but you want to make sure the classes offered fit your sons interest. Also, your instincts are right, look for the schools that put an emphasis on internships and gaining experience while there. Good luck!! Brian

  30. Grayson Thai says

    Hi Brian,

    I am currently a senior-year economics student at the University of Manchester (UK), wishing to pursue a career in either a sports agent company or in sports revenue management sector. I plan to continue a master/graduate degree in the States. May I ask you for some advices or guidances on how I could achieve these goals? I have read it off somewhere that, in order to become a sports agent, I have to obtain the J.D. Law degree first (which takes another 3-4 years). Is this true? Right now, I’ve applied for a Sports Management course at a few schools. Is this the right move or do I really need the J.D. degree?

    Also, I’ve noticed that different schools offer Sports Management programs from different departments – some from the School of Kinesiology, some from the School of Education, or School of Professional Studies. Are there any significant differences? What about the differences between Master of Science in Sports Management (e.g. University of Michigan), Master of Art in Sports Management (e.g. University of San Francisco), and Master of Tourism and Administration in Sports Management (e.g. George Washington University)?

    Thank you very much in advance.
    Grayson Arkarslueng

    • You don’t need a JD to become a sports agent – but check with the player association of each league to be sure. The school a program originates from will influence the style of and focus of the education and curriculum. It also tells you the type and style of faculty. My suggestion — get in there and check the curriculum and offered classes, see if it matches up with who you want to be. I think the sports management programs within the school of business tend to be the best, but that’s just a personal preference, I have no data to support that. – Brian


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