How to Choose the Right Sports Management Program

By Brian Clapp | October 04, 2017

How to Choose the Right Sports Management Program

Hi I’m Brian Clapp – Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports Podcast.

A little history lesson to start. When I want to college in the early 90’s there was really no such thing as a Sports Management degree. There were business and management courses, but nothing with a focus on to choose a sports management program

In fact, between 1980-2010, the number of undergraduate sports management programs grew from just three in the U.S…. to over 300.

Why you ask?

Because these programs drew in applicants, and in turn grew revenue at colleges and universities across the nation.

Colleges are traditionally slow to react to changing environments.. unless there is great money to be made.

Nothing sparks change like increasing revenue.

These new sports programs were like chum to a shark – sports fans are passionate and excited about sports, but they might not carry the same vigor for accounting or secondary education. College for many was a confusing step, because it didn’t align with their passions.

Introduce a sports degree? Now we’re talking.

BUT, not all of these programs were or are created equal, many of them are downright awful not training students in the skills they need to be successful in the sports industry.

Sports Management degrees aren’t a fun way to skip through college talking about the big game this weekend – they should live up to a much different set of criteria, a set that aligns with the needs of the multi-billion dollar industry of sports.

But what is that criteria? In part 2 of our interview with Dr. Daniel Sweeney Sports Management Professor at Lindenwood University in St. Louis – Dr. Sweeney explains what makes a good sports management program so that you can make informed choices for your future.

Trust me,this is very interesting content, even if you aren’t going into college because Dr. Sweeney discusses specific things you should learn to thrive in the sports industry.

But first, as always – a fan question.

Fan Question for the Work in Sports Podcast

Hi Brian,

Great podcast and very insightful information.  I'm currently active duty, currently serving 6 1/2 years.  I will be transitioning back to being a civilian April 2019 (my contract ends).  I'm currently pursuing my Masters Degree in Recreation, Sport and Tourism Management at University of Illinois online program.  My career goal after the military is to work in the sports industry (minor or professional) or college athletic department.  I want to work in the community relations, game-day operations or events.

I've done all that I can with school, I also volunteering at USO and network (e.g., LinkedIn).  Since being active duty, I'm unable to participate in internships.  What else can I do to try and set myself up for the job I'm looking for?  I'm excited knowing that I'm pursuing my Masters Degree, but don't know what the next move is.  I would love any and all advice you have for me, I will be forever in your debt!


Alex Romero

I responded to Alex personally, but also wanted to discuss some options for him here. First and most important, thank you for your service, my father fought in Vietnam, my grandfather in Korea, so I have great respect for our military and the sacrifice of our troops.

But let’s get into this conundrum. Your position is unique, and doesn’t give you the ability to do internships and gain sports industry experience, but you are gaining other skills you’ll need to leverage on your resume.

First step – write down all the powerful things you have accomplished in the military – leadership training, technical training, versatility, flexibility, teamwork – these are your identity, and your to prepare for your sports job search ebook

When employers hire new employees, there is always a grey area. For example, someone may have the skills, experience, and handle themselves well in an interview…. But how will they be under pressure, how will they handle adversity, how will they handle working late nights or weekends or holidays.

That was always my fear when hiring – the unknown of how a new hire will react to a new environment and stimulus.

You don’t evoke that concern – what you lack in on the job experience, you make up for in the other facets – how you’ll handle adversity, pressure and working weird hours. Someone hiring you will sleep easy knowing you have the maturity to make it.

Now, second part – what can you be doing now.

You emailed me and I immediately felt compelled to answer. Your situation is unique being unable to do internships due to military service – and I felt your sacrifice is deserving of my help. I know for a fact other sports industry experts will feel the same way.

My approach would be simple – you say you want to work in community relations, game day operations, or college athletics – well, go on LinkedIn and find people in the jobs you find interesting.

Reach out with a very specific message like you did to me. I’m Alex, I’m in the Navy, I’m getting my masters, due to my service I can’t do internships – but I was wondering if I could ask you a real world question here and there about the industry and your job.

Build the relationships, ask good questions, show off your leadership, maturity, energy for the sports industry – and you are going to create a network of advocates who want you to succeed. That’s how you land jobs.

If you have questions you’d like me to answer just email me – bclapp at workinsports dot com – and do me a favor if you like what you are hearing, give the podcast a review wherever you listen. It’ll really help me build the audience, and get bigger and bigger guests!

On to my conversation with Dr. Daniel Sweeney about how to select the right sports management program!

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