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Hitting the big time with a Sports MBA

The sports industry is a big business. Two months before the 2012 London Olympics, its organizing committee had sold more than $930 million in tickets, according to U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the sports market rakes in between $400 billion and $435 billion yearly, according to Plunkett Research. To prepare business school students to enter this thriving industry, some MBA programs have introduced sport business concentrations.

"The sport industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors of business around the world," said Dr. Eric C. Schwarz, associate professor of Sport Business and chair of the Department of Sport Business & International Tourism at the Donald R. Tapia School of Business of Saint Leo University in Florida. "The MBA in Sport Business was designed to meet the needs of working adults by allowing them to expand their professional competencies in the dynamic industry of sport -- including professional sports, amateur sports, nonprofit sport organizations, sport facilities and events, and more."

Sport business MBA programs combine core business courses with sport business classes. These programs also offer internship programs in which students put into practice what they've learned in class. The target market of these MBA programs includes those looking to advance their careers in the sports industry as well as those who want to enter the field upon completion of the degree.

Sport MBA programs

At Saint Leo, students in the Sport Business MBA program can take classes online. They can start during any of the six yearly online terms and take up to two courses per eight-week term. Students can complete the 36 credits required for graduation in as little as one year or extend their studies for up to five years.

The program is broken down into seven business core classes, accounting for 21 credits.

  1. Professional Development
  2. Organizational Behavior
  3. Human Resource Management
  4. Managerial Economics
  5. Financial and Managerial Accounting
  6. Global Business Management
  7. Strategic Management

Five sport business courses, accounting for the remaining 15 credits, are also required.

  1. Foundations in Sport
  2. Risk Management and Legal Concepts in Sport
  3. Facility Planning and Management in Sport
  4. Sport Marketing
  5. Financial Aspects of Sport

Students can also receive credit for internships. The idea is to expose these students to the inner-workings of sport organizations so they can acquire pertinent experience and if possible come out of an internship with a full-time job in the industry. Sports management programs should prepare graduates for careers at sport franchises, facilities, sporting goods retailers, and athletic departments. Schwarz said Saint Leo MBA students have interned at the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning, the National Football League's New York Jets, and the Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays. ESPN Wide World of Sports and the Minor League Baseball corporate offices have also offered internships to Saint Leo business school students.

Currently, Schwarz said, an MBA student is working on the U.S. Military All-Star baseball team's Red, White and Blue Tour. This he explained is a barnstorming tour where active military personnel play minor league baseball teams around the country and make appearances at major events, such as the Major League Baseball All-Star game in Kansas City.

From business school to the sport industry

A 2010 Sport Business MBA graduate, Katie Cox now works as the director of marketing for the Gator Bowl Association. The Gator Bowl is a popular post-season American college football game.

"I was very pleased with the education that I received in the Sport Business program at Saint Leo University," Cox said. "When I entered the program, I was working full-time in the sport industry and did not want to compromise my career for school. The Sport Business program was a perfect fit for my schedule."

For now, Schwarz said, Saint Leo staff members are focusing on identifying changes in the industry that may warrant the modification of the Sport Business MBA curriculum. They're also concentrating on attracting more sport business enthusiasts to their business school program. The 2012 Summer Olympic Games -- gathering more than 14,000 athletes from more than 200 countries in London -- as well as the myriad sports transmitted on a regular basis could spark that interest.