Does Your Choice of College Determine Your Success? Work in Sports Podcast

Where you choose to go to school is extremely important, but does it determine your career success? We investigate.  

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast.

I’ll admit March Madness kind of snuck up on me this year. I was trying to book a guest for the show and her publicist said: “She’s at the conference tournament all next week and then on the March madness – can we wait until after that?”

Of course, I played it off, sure sure sure, but in my head, I was thinking…wait we’re in March already?

Then we sprung forward our clocks last night, so when I got up with my daughter this morning to take her to school it was pitch black… I’m all out of in sports podcast with brian clapp


I’m a weirdo, so I decided to read a bunch of articles on this history purpose and intention of the daylight savings shift.

I’ve always thought that it was related to farming, more daylight hours for the farmers, which if you think about it makes no sense because farmers can regulate their schedule based on available sunlight, not what the clocks say… it’s not like they punch in and punch out, and furthermore, it’s not like changing the time on the clock provides more sunlight… it just hits at a different time of day.

Anyway – I’m enjoying this tangent so I’m going to continue. Fact: people are more active in the daylight, which means they spend more money. Adding the hour of daylight to the evening, versus the morning, dramatically increases consumer spending.

To tie this into sports – way back in 1986, when even I was only in 6th grade -  the golf industry argued that an extra month of daylight savings would increase their revenue by 200-400 million per year – just one month! Adjusted for today’s economy that’s 450 to 900 million for one month of daylight savings!

You’ll hear people share that it was a move to reduce energy consumption – the theory being people awake during the time of most daylight would result in fewer lights being turned on etc. …but over time that has been debunked.

A Yale economist found that there was actually a 1% increase in energy consumption when Indiana switched to daylight savings time statewide in 2006 - estimating a cost of $9 million

I guess Ben Franklin forgot to include air conditioning in his economic forecasts.

How’s that for a tangent this Monday morning! Nothing wrong with being curious about things that aren’t just sports.

Alright on to today’s question ---

Daniel from New Hampshire –

“Hi Brian – big fan of your podcast, I’m a high school junior and our entire athletic department and all of my friends listen as often as we can.  

I’m starting to narrow the field for my coming college decisions, I want to major in sports management, and pursue a career in Major League Baseball. What suggestions do you have for this process and how I should go about it?”

Daniel, great question, in fact, I get this one about once or twice a week, so it feels like a good time to have this conversation again.

For all of you who are already in college, or grad school, or out of school – there are parts of this conversation that will be extremely relevant to you as well, so don’t tune out. For those of you with education decisions still ahead of you… buckle up and listen.

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

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

I just did some quick research on our sister site and they have over 600 sports-related bachelors and graduate programs.

Why the growth?

Because these programs are exciting, fun and drew in lots and lots of applicants. More applicants, more revenue.

Remember this in life --- follow the money. That is generally going to lead you to the answer you seek whether it’s daylight savings time or sports management degrees.

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 that aligns with the needs of the multi-billion dollar industry of sports.

Why am I explaining all of this history? – well, like I said some programs added sports management programs to make more money for the university, and if you are going to pursue this degree you want to make sure you choose a program in the right place with the right intentions.

Before we get into the criteria you should use for choosing a program – I want to make one point really really clear.

Your success in sports is about what you have inside you, not the name written in cursive on the top of your degree.

No matter where you go to school, if you have the drive and determination to focus and succeed, you can.

I’m interviewing someone this week in a high-ranking position with one of the biggest brands in all of sports. Do you know where he went to school? Adrian college.

I’m pausing to give everyone a moment to determine if they have ever heard of Adrian College.

Let’s play a game. What state is Adrian College in?

Jeopardy theme…

Don’t know?

Ok, how many students are at Adrian?

Don’t know?

Alright – Adrian in is Michigan about an hour southwest of Ann Arbor. They have around 1600 undergrads…which is smaller than some of your high schools.

My point is this. No one looked at this person's resume and said “Adrian?” Huh? No way. I guarantee they looked at his internships, his volunteer activities, his skills profile, his work in the athletic department on campus…and other features of who he is and what he can do for their organization – when deciding to hire him.

Success is about your drive to achieve. Are you willing to sacrifice some parties to intern? Are you willing to volunteer at a road race one weekend rather than hang in the dorms? Are you willing to spend a summer interning with a minor league baseball team rather than living at the beach?  Are you willing to set up informational interviews? attend conferences? join industry-specific groups? Are you willing to research the skills the industry needs and wants and make sure you know them?

If not…none of this matters. If you have no drive and no sacrifice in your game, then it doesn’t matter where you go to college. What’s in you matters most.

Now all that said – let’s imagine for a second you all have the drive – because you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast if you didn’t have some level of motivation to succeed.

5 things to look for as you choose your college or university, and this applies to undergrad and grad school:

1: First and foremost – I believe the best sports management programs reside within the college of business. As you’ve heard me say countless times before, sports is a huge business, it runs under the same principles of a product company – accounting, marketing, HR, operations, sales etc. – revenue makes the world go round. A vast majority of your classes should be related to business and taught through the prism of sports.

Unless you know you want to be a sports trainer or kinesiologist – these are obviously different fields with a different background.

Those of you interested in sports management programs, strongly consider those with a distinct business influence.  

2: Study the professors in the program, especially the adjuncts. Adjuncts are professors who aren’t on the tenure track and aren’t researchers – they are out in the field working, and then come to the classroom to teach. So for example, if a local college asked me to come to teach an Intro to Sports Management course, I would keep my day job and come teach as well. That would make me an adjunct.

I mention this because some of the best programs have really impressive adjunct professors. Former guest Josh Rawitch the VP of Content and Communication for the Arizona Diamondbacks is an adjunct professor at Arizona State – if I wanted to work in that field, boy I would LOVE to learn from him!

If it were me, I would look deep into the people who teach the courses with a particular emphasis on the expert practitioners in the program.  

3: Curriculum – most schools have an emphasis on the sports industry. Some are really focused on preparing their students for marketing careers, others in college athletics, still others in sales. Most schools have a specialty. Since much of this is kind of discussed behind the scenes, and not exactly part of their marketing campaigns, the best way to discover this is by looking at their available courses and how they break them down.

For example, if it says “In order to graduate from this program you need to take 5 courses from this group and 3 courses from this group” or something like that…check out the groupings and see what is the emphasis. If they are all focused on Mass Media Law and Collective Bargaining Agreements – well, maybe this program focuses on the legal side of sports management.

Also, look at alumni – see where graduates of the program are working. Does it interest you?


4: Personal comfort – this gets back to my original point about Adrian college – it’s still more about you than it is about the school. So decide base on your comfort for learning. If you want to stay close to home, if you want a smaller school, if you want to go online, or spend less money – go where you fit, because you will be a better learner if you do.

5: Alumni – Go into LinkedIn. Click in the top search bar and a menu appears where you can search for people, jobs or content. Choose people. A search bar appears below the original top nav. On the far right, it says “All filters” click here.

You now arrive at a powerful search tool to filter the entire database of LinkedIn users. My suggestion – start broad and work to refine. So for example, if I was considering friends of the podcast Seattle University I would go to the school's filter and type in Seattle University. Then I’d go to the industries filter and add in sports.

Conduct this search…and I get 333 results. I see a writer for USA Today Sports, a special events coordinator with the Washington Redskins. An associate producer for Fox Sports. A Director of Media Relations for the Western Athletic Conference. These are some great alumni! This gives me a feel for where this program could lead me.

If you conduct this level of analysis…you’ll be well on your way to a great college career, but again, I want to emphasize, it’s about you more than anything else.

Now get back to work.

By Brian Clapp | March 11, 2019
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