Football is by far the most popular sport in the United States, and there is no better place to start a career in football business than the University of South Carolina School of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management. The Faculty’s Department of Sport and Recreation Management is recognised as one of the best and largest programmes of its kind, and the combination of cutting-edge academics, industry connections and top faculty has created a first-class training base for football industry leaders.
“I said, ‘Hey, I know I’m not going to college to play sports, but I definitely want to play sports.’ I did research and found that South Carolina has a highly ranked sports and recreation management program. Facts It turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” said alumnus Aaron Henderson, who now represents several NFL players.
The football industry is an economic powerhouse that continues to develop by leaps and bounds. NFL teams are worth 14% more in 2022 than they were in 2021, with an average value of $3.48 billion per team. The alliance is on track to achieve its goal of reaching $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027.
Football’s dominance in the sports business is not limited to professionals. College football generated a record $1.16 billion in revenue in 2021 and is the second most popular sport in the U.S. based on attendance and viewership, surpassing Major League Baseball, college and NBA basketball.
Graduates of the university’s sports and entertainment management degree program are employed by more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams and at the league’s headquarters — in leadership roles ranging from scouting to team operations to ticket sales and marketing. Alumni also hold college football management positions across the country (many remain at their alma mater to work with the Gamecocks).
“It goes back to the intersection of theory and practice. That’s the foundation of our college,” said Matt Brown, chair of the Department of Sports and Recreation Management. “Our students are able to be competitive in the coveted job market because they are learning from top teachers and gaining real-world experience that prepares them for the intensity of football work.”
In the classroom, students are taking specialized courses such as game day operations, sports marketing and field management, which are staffed by world-class researchers, faculty who have served as team presidents and athletic directors. Outside of the classroom, students learn by doing—helping to host SEC college football games, bowl games, the college football playoffs and the Super Bowl, America’s largest sporting event. Each undergraduate student is required to complete two practicums, and the course is quickly put into practice.
“What gave me an edge over other candidates in my post-college recruiting class was the experience I was fortunate to gain through the internship requirements of the Sports and Recreation Management program,” said alumna Maddie Ballengee, who now serves as an assistant at the Merchandise AT&T Stadium (Dallas). Home of the Cowboys) Director of Legends Hospitality. “Our field is very dynamic and having worked for two major sports organizations before I graduated gave me a ten step lead in transitioning to a career in the sports industry. I also appreciate that many of my professors are very Relevant, industry-relevant events and scenarios to structure our curriculum.”
The Department of Sport and Recreation Management faculty are leaders in sports studies, with specialist centers and academics specializing in collegiate sports, ticketing, sports law, fan experience, sports betting, economic impact, sustainable business operations, and more. While the research covers sports and entertainment, football tends to be the focus. For example, Associate Professor Tom Regan has conducted more than 80 economic impact studies for organizations including the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers and Gamecocks Football.
Putting teachers on the leading edge of research shapes the curriculum in the classroom. Professors infuse the courses with the latest findings and integrate current events happening in real time. If a topic related to the business side of football comes up in the news, it is also discussed and debated on Columbia’s campuses, often by industry leaders.
The Department of Sport and Recreation Management has a reputation for educational excellence, attracting a team of experienced faculty and industry partners. Former Carolina Panthers president and current Charlotte Sports Foundation executive director Danny Morrison joined the academy in 2017.
“Choosing South Carolina was an easy decision,” said Morrison, now a professor of practice teaching a master’s-level exercise management course. “I’ve always been impressed by the quality of the students who come to work for the Panthers, the faculty and the quality of their work are outstanding.”
The program’s reputation also contributed to the decision by Black Panther owners, David and Nicole Tepper, to create the Tepper Scholars program in South Carolina in 2020. The prestigious scholarship and professional development program is designed to attract the best and brightest sports and recreation administrators with an emphasis on supporting underrepresented students.
Increasing diversity and inclusion in the sports management field has been a focus of the program. In addition to offering multiple professional scholarships, student clubs and mentoring opportunities for underrepresented students, it continues to open its doors to anyone willing to work hard to pursue a career in football, including those who once closed their doors.
“How many Asians do you see in football? I don’t have anyone who looks like me in the NFL, so I hope one day, a little Asian girl or boy sees me and says, ‘I want to be like KJ, she’s mine role model,'” said Kjahna O, a 2020 Master of Sports and Recreation Management alumnus who is now the Atlanta Falcons’ scouting coordinator.
A key component of creating career opportunities for a growing and diverse student body is making the most of a football-related career. As part of the South Carolina School of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management, the Sports and Recreation Management program has strong synergies with the fields of study in Hospitality, Tourism and Retail Management – and this synergy is fully exploited on any given game day exhibit. Alumni from across the academy’s majors have found their way to success in football-related careers through venues, teams, leagues and companies such as Fanatics, ESPN, DraftKings, Learfield, CSC, Under Armour, Legends Hospitality, and more.
Alumna Brandon Ruth is the Director of Operations for the Falcons. Gabriela Beavers is the Club Marketing Manager at the NFL League Office. Catherine Saulino is the Associate Buyer for Fanatics NFL Women’s and Kids. Job titles vary from ticket and sponsorship sales to community relations, business analysis, merchandising, catering, facility management, and more.
“HRSM helped launch my career in a way I didn’t expect,” said alumnus Glen Ivol, who found his niche in business analytics and now works for the New York Jets. “Connecting with faculty has helped me learn that no one is going to be on the right track. Again — you just need to focus on finding the right people to help you grow, and don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith.”
While career paths are diverse and teams often compete against each other, South Carolina alumni working in the football business share a common passion for sports. When passion and readiness meet opportunity – professional touchdowns are at your fingertips.
“The South Carolina program is unparalleled in the opportunities it offers students. Faculty truly care about students and their careers, both on and off campus,” said 2017 Sports and Recreation Management alumni Lindsey Zybrick, now of Jacksonville Guest Experience Manager for the Jaguars. “They emphasize building and nurturing relationships in and out of the classroom, especially in such a small industry. I always feel ready for a new opportunity because of first-hand testimonies from professors, alumni and peers who are always more than willing Provide guidance.”