Drexel’s Sport Management Program Has a Heavy Hand in Packed Sports Weekend

The Penn Relays

As the NFL Draft roars into town this weekend, blocking traffic and locking in the attention of the league’s devoted fans, Drexel University’s Department of Sport Management will be playing its regular position: hustling behind the scenes of the sports business.  

Graduating senior Emily Tome, who is currently working with the Philadelphia Eagles and will continue there after graduation, will be on-site assisting in event operations. Additionally, eight members of the program’s freshman class will serve as volunteers for the three-day event, which begins April 27. After making it through a competitive application process, the students will handle event management, analytics, marketing and public relations during the draft, among other responsibilities. 

Just two miles away from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where the draft is being held, the 123rd Penn Relays will be underway at Franklin Field — not surprisingly, with a helping hand from the program. Three sport management students — Carter Caplan, Jake Moss and Margaret Stetson — are currently on co-op with the University of Pennsylvania’s Athletics Department, using the sports marketing and business analytics skills learned in the program to help with social media, produce graphics, make recommendations for future events and analyze the event’s performance.

The busy weekend comes as the sport management program is redefining its role in the business of sports. Earlier this month, Drexel received the 2017 MVP Award at the Northeast Atlantic Sport Psychology Conference, an honor given to the person or program that has made the most significant impact on sports, exercise and performance psychology in the Delaware Valley.

The NASP MVP Award took note of the contributions of two of Drexel’s Department of Sport Management faculty and their support for Temple doctoral students, research in significant areas of importance to the sport industry, and programming that has been national in scope.

Such recognition signals the significant strides the department has made in recent years as it overhauled its curriculum on the way to establishing itself as a destination for those looking to make it in the world of sports. The shift has focused the program more closely on the business of modern sports, where billion-dollar valuations are the norm and what happens in the C-suite attracts as much attention as what happens between the sidelines.

“In order to be a player in the sport industry, you can be a fan, but you really need to have your eye on the ball in terms of the business world,” said Ellen J. Staurowsky, EdD, a professor in the department. “In our program, students receive a core business curriculum that includes law, accounting, economics, governance and regulatory systems, management, marketing, media, and social issues along with specialized courses that focus on the sport industry itself. Our curriculum really reflects the high stakes nature and complexity of this industry.”

The program has been gaining prominence of late through a series of noteworthy events. Just a few weeks ago, the department partnered with CSN Philly to host a forum on women’s sport that drew 18,000 viewers in an online stream. Last year’s College Athletes’ Rights & Empowerment Conference gathered speakers from across industry and academia. In the fall, the program’s head, Joel Maxcy, PhD, spoke about the economics of college sports at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Public Policy Forum. Last month Drexel participated in the Pennsylvania DECA Conference, a conference that prepares high school students to excel in business, with Assistant Teaching Professor Larry Cohen, JD, doing a talk on sport marketing and senior Chris Hampton serving as a reviewer for the case study competition. This month, Staurowsky was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Research by the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina.

Cohen, who spent 25 years working as an executive with the Anaheim Angels, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the hometown Philadelphia 76ers, has led the department’s development of an advisory board. The board includes top executives from each of the major sports teams in Philadelphia, from national major league offices and more. The advisory board helps guide the department, but all of those connections also directly serve the students.  

Staurowsky said the key in the classroom is the program’s focus on case-based educational experience. Each day, classes interpret the biggest news in the sports industry within the confines of their academic disciplines and discuss how they look from inside executive offices.

“It’s intended to show our students that if you are working in this industry, this is the level of engagement you need,” said Staurowsky. “You cannot wait weeks, months or years to be thinking about these things. You need to do it in sync and in real time.”

By pairing that practical, hands-on approach with what Maxcy described as the “updated rigor and nature of the courses,” the sport management program is having a moment — and the future is bright.

“Our mission is to be recognized among the top handful of programs, if not one of the top two or three in the country,” said Maxcy. “Sport management is young, and it’s a place where programs can build their reputations quite quickly. We haven’t been around for a tremendously long time, about 10 years, but as we make strides we will be part of the elite group.”