By Sophia Harris
Framingham State will offer a bachelor's degree in sports management starting in fall 2023. The major will be housed in the College of Business.
Framingham State already offers a concentration in sports management, but because of increased student demand, a push was made to create a designated major, according to Michael Harrison, Marketing Department chair and faculty athletic representative.
Harrison said he first proposed the program five years ago.
He said, “The beauty of starting with the concentration is you see if there's a demand there.”
Harrison added there is definitely a growing demand not only from students, but also from athletic coaches and the sports industry itself.
He said, “It's a growing industry. The sports market is just growing exponentially.”
Harrison added students in the College of Business are “looking for a little bit more specialization.
“So there's a market from the student perspective and the business perspective for a specialization in the industry,” he said.
Harrison said the process to develop the new major started with surveying athletic coaches because of their close ties to student athletes and recruitment, in order to get a better understanding of their perspective on the demand for the major.
He said the results of the survey indicated some students did not come to Framingham State because there was not a sports management major offered.
When the survey was taken, he said approximately 135 students over the past four years did not choose Framingham State because there was not a designated sports management major.
“Overwhelmingly, the numbers were strong,” he said.
Harrison added another question posed on the survey was, ‘How many students left FSU because there was not a sports management major offered?’
The answer was approximately 20, according to Harrison.
Once the survey further validated student desire for the major, the next stage of the process was to research what courses were needed in the curriculum to fulfill the major requirements, he said.
Harrison said he examined what core courses were required by the accrediting body of the Council on Sports Management because they were “industry specific.”
When the sports management concentration was developed, it was accredited by the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.
According to the letter of intent (LOI) for the major proposal, the courses that will be required in this major related to the core business curriculum are Financial Accounting; Managerial Accounting; Analytical Techniques for Business; Introduction to Business Systems; Microeconomics; Managerial Finance; Legal Environment of Business; Organizational Behavior; Operations Management, Marketing Principles; Business Statistics, and Business Policy and Strategy.
The required sports curriculum courses are The Economics of Sports; either Mental Dynamics in Sports and Physical Activity or Meaningful Play; The Business of Fantasy and eSports; Sports Management; Sports and Facilities Management; Sports Marketing, and Sport in Society, according to the LOI.
Students majoring in sports management will still have six free electives, so they will also be able to add a minor, Harrison said.
Harrison said one of the benefits of taking this major is students can take classes from different departments, and do not have to take only business classes.
“We're partnering with different departments. That's one of the beauties that I really like about this major. We're not siloed,” he said.
Harrison said the major was approved by the University’s Curriculum Committee and the All University Committee before being sent to the provost, President Nancy Niemi, and the Board of Trustees for final approval.
Once the Board of Trustees approved the major, a 27-page LOI was submitted to the Department of Higher Education outlining the rationale for the program, the demand for the program, competing schools, why this is a need for FSU, and how the program is positioned against other schools, he said.
Now that the Department of Higher Education has approved the major, which took place “several weeks ago,” the next steps are advertising and setting up DegreeWorks, Harrison said.
He said there have already been transfer students who have applied and been accepted into the sports management program.
Harrison said the competitive advantage of Framingham State offering a bachelor's degree
in sports management is its affordability and location.
Compared to other schools in the area that offer sports management degrees, such as Lasell University and the University of Connecticut, “we're less expensive,” Harrison said.
The location of FSU also impacts the demand for this degree positively, not only regarding sports teams, but also affiliated organizations in the area, he added.
Harrison said students have interned for the Pawtucket Red Socks, the Woosocks, the New England Patriots, the Bruins, the Manchester Monarchs, and with 98.5 Sports Hub.
He said, “We're in the middle of the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins, Worcester WooSocks, and Manchester Monarchs - the opportunities in sports are just growing.”
Harrison said, “We've gotten our students amazing internships” with both major and minor sports teams.
“And they're getting jobs,” he added.
Harrison said he is pleased with the success of the concentration in sports management and hopes that will only grow with the addition of the major.
“So we're excited that with the concentration, our students are getting internships and jobs. And we hope with these relationships, that it'll get even deeper,” he added.
He said, “I think the leverage of the existing relationships with the organizations and the success of our interns and employees” will only make the program stronger.
Harrison said advertising for the major is being conducted strategically through athletic recruiting, but has faced some challenges reaching other prospective students due to the fact that it is not set up on DegreeWorks yet.
He said, “For four Saturdays in a row, we brought on 20 to 30 potential Framingham State students and student athletes for football on campus, gave them tours, talked with them about the different majors. I talked about sports management as a major.”
Harrison added, “We believe it's going to grow and hopefully pretty quickly.”
President Nancy Niemi said the new sports management major will “allow students to shape their learning about the underlying ideas of sports, the business of sports - gain the knowledge and skills that they need to participate in this energetic and growing field.”
She added, “FSU already had a strong sport management minor. By changing that set of learning experiences into a fully fledged degree, employers will be able to see that our students have focused specifically on this field.”
She said the major will give students “opportunities and time within their program to learn about multiple aspects of sports business, variations in sports careers, and participate in internships that often lead to jobs after graduation.”
Dwayne Thomas, a professor of sports management, has been teaching the Sports Management course for eight years.
He said his classes have always been filled or overfilled.
Thomas said there are “tons of students who are already in the concentration” for sports management.
He said the course curriculum covers topics such as the nature and scope of sports; sports law; sports marketing; sports finance; sports administration; sports operations and facilities; contracts and negotiations; management and organizational leadership; sports governance; and policy development.
Thomas said, “It's a really broad course … because we have students who come from all types of backgrounds and I used this Sports Management course to introduce all of these various segments.”
He added there are classes within the concentration that dive into these topics deeply.
Thomas said this major will be “the gateway to careers in the sports industry.”
He added he thinks the addition of the designated major is “great - it's timely, it's something that there's going to be lots of success in for students.”
Thomas said the benefit of earning a degree in sports management at Framingham State is it is cost-effective compared to the surrounding private institutions that offer the degree.
He supported Harrison's view that FSU also has an advantage given the location of the University. “Some of the key pieces are that there are so many sports segments of the sports industry within a 30- to 50-mile radius of Framingham State.”
Thomas said one of the most valuable aspects of the concentration becoming a major is the requirement for an internship.
He said, “To me, the biggest piece is building relationships and being able to network with people already working in the industry.”
He added being able to build those relationships with professionals in the sports industry in order to prepare students for the job market and help them transition there is essential.
Laura Lamontagne, professor of economics, has taught the Economics of Sports class for the past 15 years. She said the sports management major is a “great addition to the College of Business. It is very popular and an in-demand major.
She said she hopes it will help increase enrollment by making Framingham State more appealing to a broader audience.
Ira Silver, a Department of Sociology and Criminology professor, has taught the Sports In Society class since the spring of 2020.
He said the addition of the major “gives more roundedness to people that are going to be working in the industry to kind of have a sense of what's going on.”
Larry Miller, head softball coach and assistant sports information director, teaches the Sports Facility and Events Management course at FSU, where he has been teaching for approximately seven years.
Miller said he has a bachelor's and master's degree in sports management from SUNY Cortland, where he graduated from in 2011.
He said he is “really excited” about the addition of the sports management major and thinks “it's a great field and there's definitely a lot of interest in it across the student population - especially in the athletics world.”
He added, “We have a lot of our athletes and prospective student athletes that are going to be interested in it.”
Miller extended his gratitude to Harrison “because he really spearheaded it from the beginning and drove it home.
“Shoutout to him,” Miller said.
Malia Shields, a junior communication, media, and performance major, said the new major is perfect for Framingham State because of the strong recruitment strategies from the Athletic Department.
“We have a lot of student athletes coming to Framingham State. I think a lot of people want to learn more about sports. It's a very interesting topic,” she said.
Cam Lau, a senior computer science major who holds the left-back position on the men's soccer team at FSU since his freshman year, said he thinks it's significant that Framingham State is adding another major.
“It's always great to have other opportunities for other people to come in and have the education that they want. I think that sports is a big part of campus and we have a lot of great athletes that want to go into the field and continue working in athletics. I think adding that major benefits everyone,” he said.
Flannery O’Connor, a junior health and wellness major who is on the women's basketball team, said she thinks the major is a “great addition and something that would fit in perfectly into Framingham State’s programming.”
She said she believes a lot of students will be transferring into the major.
Olivia Renda, a senior English major who is a member of the track and women's soccer teams, said she is “so excited there will be a new sports management major.”
She added she knows “several people that would love to enroll in that major.”
Renda said she also thinks the major “opens up a lot of opportunities to better our athletic teams by expanding the abilities of the Athletic Department as well as attract more promising athletes to the school.
“This could be a great opportunity to expand athletics as a whole on campus,” she said.
Jared Nardizzi, a senior business management major who was captain of the soccer team in the fall of 2022, said he thinks a major will “definitely attract more student athletes.”
He added, “I wish it was available when I enrolled, but I think it's going to be good for the program.
“Go Rams,” he added.