Where Sports Business is Headed in 2021 and Beyond with Dr. Bill Sutton

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the WorkInSports podcast. 

My goal today, to write the shortest intro to a podcast interview ever. Dr. Bill Sutton joins me today, and we have an incredible discussion ahead for you. It’s meaty, there is a ton of info in here, life changing kind of stuff, and I’m not one for hyperbole.  

Dr. Sutton is synonymous with the sports industry.  



36 years in sports academia at University of South Florida, Ohio State, UMass, Robert Morris, University of Central Florida – meaning he has taught, trained, mentored and placed, quite literally thousands of the people thriving in the sports industry today.  
But he’s not just a classroom guy, writing research papers and repeating the same axioms. He’s been a VP in the NBA working directly under David Stern, we’ll talk about that coming up, and he’s consulted with various pro teams ranging from Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia 76ers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Mets. 

Everyone goes to Doc Sutton for advice and insight. He’s honest, straightforward, knowledgeable and I don’t think I’ve ever met someone so committed to helping the people he believes in.   

Time for me to shut up – here's Doc Sutton.  


Watch the Full Work In Sports Podcast Episode with Dr. Bill Sutton





Questions for Dr. Bill Sutton, Sports Business Expert


  1. Outside of your illustrious career in academia, your professional background is in the sales, marketing, business ops side of sports. In 2020, no sector of our industry was more negatively affected than sales. Our job board is always full of sales jobs, but in 2020 those numbers plummeted. 

You are on the front lines working with many teams, leagues, and organizations as part of your consulting business. Do you think sports sales jobs are rebounding? What is your overall outlook for 2021 concerning sales and marketing opportunities?  


Dr. Bill Sutton on the Future of Sports Sales Roles in 2021




  1. We so often hear the term analytics, and we are pre-conditioned to think player side analysis. Moneyball. Oakland A's. But in today's world, isn't it the business analysts, the revenue optimization specialists, representing one of our industry's real growth sectors? 
  1. I've often remarked on this podcast the need to continually innovate and adapt – when I first started in the industry, social media, analytics, data-driven decision models, eSports – many didn’t exist, others were not common, now they are massive.  While I don't expect you to predict the future, what do you see as the new emerging frontiers of the sports industry? 
  1. Thirty-six years of experience in higher ed, but you are retired now from the college classroom experience, so you can speak freely and be honest. The program you founded at USF, the Sports and Entertainment Management MBA program, is a little different from most, having a co-op element and focusing on students gaining real-world experience. Laura Wilhelm, a staff member on my team and phenomenal graduate of your program, learned industry best practices and how things should operate while in your program and working for the Tampa Bay Lightning. She was ready to contribute; scratch that, she was prepared to dominate on day 1. Why is this style of education the exception and not the rule in sports academia? 


Dr. Bill Sutton on Modern Sales Techniques for Today's Sports Industry




  1. Your program at USF has been ridiculously effective at placing people in the industry – what was your approach to finding the right career fit for each student and then getting them set in careers where they could grow and thrive? 
  1. You are a mentor to many people in the industry -- as you look back through your career, who would you say have been your mentors, and what were some things you learned from them? 
  1. One of my mentors, a former boss, told me that his job was to hire people who were smarter than him and then let them do their jobs.  This concept has stuck with me forever – to me, this was the ultimate example of emotional intelligence and leadership. You've worked with teams across the entire spectrum of the sports industry – in your view, what makes a good leader, and is having a good leader at the top of the org chart directly related to organizational success? 
  1. I've interviewed hundreds of sports executives, managers, directors, entry-level staffers, and more regarding their careers in the sports industry, and it seems a good lot of them know you. I bring all this up to pivot to networking. In your experience, where do people go right, and where do people go wrong in their networking efforts?   
  1. Technology has changed the way we operate in every facet of life, including how we hire. I think hiring is very personal. I like the face-to-face or video interaction because you can get a feel for a candidate outside of their resume and on paper skill set. Alas, hiring has in many instances gone the opposite direction. More ATS systems, keyword filters, match scoring – are we missing out on the high ceiling candidate that may not look great on paper but has enormous upside? 
  1. I read one of your Sutton Impact columns from 10 years ago – yes, I am a bit of a dork – and what stood out to me was you were writing about a "commitment to diversity" 10 years ago. Fast forward to today, and this still seems like a topic we, as a society, not just a sports industry, are not fully committed to; why? Progress has been made, sure, but why haven't we committed to diversity in race, gender, ideology, culture? 


Dr. Bill Sutton on Diversity Hiring in the Sports Industry




  1. Let's talk Names, Images, and Likeness legislation – we're on the cusp of student-athletes being able to receive income for their brand. I'm excited. I think we're going to see a lot of creative activations and I think it will benefit college athletics. As a marketing guy yourself, does this potential sea change in the industry excite you, or will this be the wild west wrought with pitfalls and poisonous agents? 
  1. We'll finish up with this -- when graduates of the class of 2021 entered college in or around 2017, the world, and our industry, was a vastly different place. Many of them have about 5-6 months left before they enter this version – what should be their approach over the next few months to stand out in what will surely be a competitive market?  
By Brian Clapp | April 07, 2021
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