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

By Brian Clapp | June 11, 2014
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.

sports management jobs

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