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Industry professionals provide career advice for Sport Management students

A group of sport management master’s students shifted their end-of-semester research presentations into a lesson in virtual partnerships — and it’s paying off.

CPASS Associate Professor Floyd Jones explains how the semester-long sport industry partnerships with graduate students worked in the realm of remote collaboration.

“This was novel, innovative and rare. We had eight industry experts from Genesco, Momentum, a high school athletics specialist, professional gambler, Madison Square Garden rep, New York Liberty ticket sales director and an African sport industry specialist,” Floyd says.

“Although we originally planned to host the group on campus for the College’s research day in April, we simply switched to remote presentations with COVID-19 keeping the students off campus,” Floyd added.

During the on-campus sessions, students met with industry mentors weekly, establishing what proved to be critical ties with the sports business representatives. When COVID-19 forced students to shift to remote learning, they easily transitioned their ongoing research projects to the virtual platform along with their mentors.

Alumni and Mentor Support

According to Floyd, Alex Brucki, director, partnership marketing, BSE Global, and WVU sport management graduate, was instrumental in forming the group of industry experts for the unique enterprise.

“In collaboration with Dr. Jones, we developed a vision to provide current WVU Sport Management students the opportunity to interact with sports industry professionals along with the real-world business challenges they are currently facing in the marketplace. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that those entering the industry have hands-on experience they can use to further their career path,” Alex says.

“As a WVU Sport Management alumnus, it’s my goal to inspire WVU students to pursue a career in the sports industry. I am fortunate to have an opportunity to align my two passions in life: to help grow the next generational leaders and leave the world better than I found it. That’s what is driving me today,” he added.

The graduate sport management spring class began their final research presentations via Zoom. The students experienced considerable challenges with the current Pandemic. “It significantly limited their ability to meet up as a group and work face-to-face; however, the success of the initial two presentations set the stage for six more high quality, informed, science-based demonstrations from late April into early May,” Floyd says.

Alex also recruited many of the high-powered cohort of Industry professionals. “Alex has been amazing. He has let our graduate students borrow some of his most prized friends and colleagues to help our students with their research projects,” he said.

“We had other former sport management students answer the call, among them was Kina and eLance Frazier and former sport management students Matt Brady and Frank Coppola. Dr. Gerard Akindes, one of the top African professionals and scholars, volunteered to help a group researching the status and future direction of the NBA in Africa,” Floyd says.

Chris Morales, of Genesco Sports, was introduced to Floyd through Alex. “Alex had previously worked for me and knew I had a passion for employee development and continued education for those in the industry. I was fortunate enough to provide guidance to the class for two different groups. One of which focused on a luxury automotive client, another on the future of sports activation.”

“In retrospect with the events of the world now, these case studies couldn’t have been timelier. The research and information that was discovered from these groups can be used for future understanding of the sports event space,” Chris says.

“My advice to students is to be unapologetic and relentless in your desire to succeed in the sports industry. There will continue to be high demand to get into this business world. Learn how to make a difference and separate yourself from the crowded field of more-than-qualified candidates,” he says.

Chris believes that advancing students’ education at West Virginia is just one part of a bigger process. “Build off this experience and education as you enter your career. Finally, remember how you started. One day, you’ll be able to look back and see the road you charted. Don’t forget to provide others with guidance and leadership, just like others helped you to advance,” he says.

“To those willing to take the leap for a career in the sports industry, there are three characteristics that I believe bring success: Have an intellectual curiosity of learning. Be a great teammate. And work unreasonably hard. All three of these values were embedded from my time at WVU and my industry mentors,” Alex says.

A Student’s Perspective

Sport Management master’s student Rachel Mazzie and her team analyzed the partnership between Jaguar Land Rover and US Ski and Snowboard. “We spent the whole semester studying and learning the characteristics of those who follow US Ski and Snowboard. Our main goal was to decide if the sponsoring of US Ski and Snowboard by Jaguar Land Rover was going to increase their revenue. To do this, we needed to determine whether these two brands aligned closely enough in order for the partnership to be beneficial,” Rachel says.

Rachel and team members Abhik Bera, Kalista Gioglio and Olivia VanHorn valued the feedback they received from their industry representative — Chris Morales with Genesco Sports Enterprises. “It was amazing to have his expertise and knowledge firsthand as we worked through our research. But even more exciting was the feedback after we presented our final solutions,” Rachel says.

“Basically, we did some research on an actual partnership currently under contract and we presented what we thought would work. To receive feedback from someone who is currently working closely with this sponsorship on our solutions was uplifting and encouraging. To work that closely with an industry expert and hear their words and opinions improved our overall perception. It was an amazing experience working with the industry experts and gave us confidence within ourselves,” she says.

Rachel has some advice for students looking toward a career in sports management. “To anyone considering the WVU CPASS sport management graduate program, to find success, you should love sports and everything that comes with it. You must come in ready to learn [everything from] the history of sports to current events in sports. You will talk about everything that’s going on in sports in these classes. Be prepared for countless presentations, but don’t let this scare you. This is what you need to be ready for in the real world,” she says.

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