“Instead of being a fan of sports, you need to become of fan of the business of sports, if you want to succeed in this industry,” Aaron Ryan, NBA Vice President of Team Marketing and Business Operations.
During a visit to Illinois State’s campus, Mr. Ryan captured the essence of ISU’s Sport Management master’s degree program with this single statement.
In the Illinois State Sport Management program, we work hard to help students make the jump from sports fan to sport manager. With an innovative curriculum, small class sizes, and numerous opportunities for experience and networking, our program gives aspiring sport executives numerous advantages. What exactly sets our program apart? Take a closer look…
Relationships With Sport Organizations
The ISU Sport Management program has cultivated strong relationships with the Illinois State University Athletic Department. Many of our sport management students work as graduate assistants for the Redbirds, playing a key role in the successes of one of the premiere athletic departments in the Missouri Valley Conference. In addition, the Sport Management program has close ties to several area sport organizations ranging from area minor league teams, to local small colleges, to special events coordinators, providing plenty of real world experience for students through graduate assistantships, internships, and volunteer opportunities. Approximately 90 percent of ISU Sport Management students are able to secure funding through graduate assistantships or jobs, a rate comparable to any sport management program in the country. Our program has also worked diligently to develop relationships with sport organizations throughout the country to foster learning and professional networking opportunities as students seek that first job or career advancement.
Industry-Focused Classroom Activity
Students in the ISU Sport Management program gain hands on experience in their classes through field trips, guest speakers, and class activities. In recent years, sport management students have travelled to places like Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Cleveland as part of program-sponsored trips. During these excursions, ISU students have had the opportunity to interact with some of today’s top sport managers, from major league front office vice presidents, to college conference commissioners, to administrators from organizations such as Chicago’s 2016 Olympic Bid Committee and the St. Louis Sports Commission. High level sport executives also make frequent appearances in the classroom, either live or via video conference, to share their expertise with students. In addition, the sport management curriculum doesn’t just focus on theoretical aspects of sport management, but rather is very practical and industry-focused, forcing students to get their hands dirty, whether it is debating current issues, selling tickets to games, running actual events, or conducting current research for partner sport organizations. Class sizes are also limited, with a maximum of just 15 new students admitted to the program each year and most classes having 15-20 students, allowing for extensive interaction between students and faculty both inside and outside the classroom.
Faculty With Real World Experience
Faculty in the ISU Sport Management program bring real-life sport experience to the classroom. Collectively, they have worked locally, nationally, and internationally with professional, collegiate, and recreational sports organizations. They are also active researchers, frequently sharing their findings through textbooks, published research articles, or major sport research conference presentations. They are also often cited in the media as experts on sport industry issues. This experience allows faculty to help students network within the industry and participate in cutting-edge research.
Graduates of the ISU sport management program find jobs. A master’s degree is no guarantee to landing a position in the highly competitive sport industry, yet ISU sport management students continue to gain employment with major and minor league teams, NCAA Division I, II, and III college athletic departments, sports commissions, and organizations such as Nike and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This happens in large part because of the high caliber of students admitted to the program and students’ dedication to the business of sports. Our students work hard in the field and in the classroom, helping to differentiate themselves on a resume and creating their own strong networking relationships—often viewed as the key to landing a job in the sports industry.
Nels Popp (Sequence Coordinator), Ph.D., University of Louisville
International student-athletes, national sport policies, and ticket and sponsorship sales
Ph.D., Indiana University
Recreational sports, field experiences, and facility planning and operations
Students admitted to the graduate sport management program must complete a minimum of 33 total credit hours, including 6 credit hours in the research core, 15 credit hours in the sport management sequence, 3-6 credit hours of an advisor-approved culminating experience, and 3-9 hours of cognate, or elective, courses selected by the student and his/her appointed advisor in order to best position the student to succeed in a management career in the sport industry. This curriculum is outlined below:
Cognate Area – 0-3 elective hours approved by the sport management faculty advisor
Culminating Experience - 3-6 hours approved by the sport management faculty advisor
The typical sequencing of courses for an incoming full-time student might be as follows, although this plan may be altered for students depending upon their unique situation:
Applications for admission are first sent to the university Graduate School and then are reviewed by the sport management faculty and the school graduate program coordinator. Admission to the program is competitive and admissions decisions are based on a variety of factors, including past work experiences, undergraduate grades and coursework, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and future career goals.
The ideal candidate will have experience, such as an internship, in a sport management setting, possess a bachelor's degree in an area such as management, business, or communication, have strong GRE test scores and undergraduate grades, solid recommendations, and be clearly pursuing a career in the managerial/administrative aspects of the sport industry.
To assure fullest consideration, completed applications must be filed by March 1 for fall admission, although early applications are encouraged. Applications will not be considered until all materials have been received.
Contact Dr. Nels Popp, Sequence Coordinator.