New UI sports business major gives students broader knowledge of the field


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Sports enthusiasts can finally find their niche in higher education through a new major geared toward combining business and athletics.

The University of Iowa launched the recreation and sports business major last fall. University officials said the degree will help students integrate business strategies with sports.

"It involves a concentration area of courses related to all of the aspects of operating a recreation or sport enterprise," said Dan Matheson, a UI lecturer in leisure studies. "Legal liability, facility issues, business-management issues — all of the things that occur in a sports-run office."

Mike Teague, a UI professor of health and human physiology, said the department expects close to 225 students in the major by the end of the spring semester — a 33.9 percent increase over the fall.
Teague said interest from recreation business program students in Interdepartmental Studies influenced the creation of the major, part of a rapidly growing sports-business field nationwide.

"That's because sports is big business," he said.

The UI joins 284 other universities nationwide offering a bachelor's degree in sports management, according to the North American Society for Sport Management.

Julie Work, an assistant executive director of the National Association of College Directors of Athletics said universities with stable athletics departments help students in the major gain more experience.

"The biggest thing is the internship and getting into the athletics departments — getting your feet wet," she said.

Teague said the major is a good option for any student interested in the sports industry as a career.

"Athletes, for example, have a natural affinity to sports business as a career interest," he said.

Students who major in recreation and sport business explore careers as publicists, managers, agents, athletics administrators, among many other positions in sports industries.

UI officials said a lack of faculty and advisers led to smaller promotion for the program last fall, which wasn't able to meet student demands.

"We chose to delay marketing of the sport business track until spring 2012," Teague said. "It's a popular major at many universities, and we knew meeting student demand would be an issue."

Currently, the UI has 25 adjunct faculty members in the Health and Human Physiology Department.

Since the new major, department officials are preparing to add more faculty, advisers, and lecture lines.

Matheson, also a former NCAA employee, promoted the major last fall by sending students interested in sports business careers to visit the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. Leading a group of 45 students, Matheson introduced students to the Indiana Pacer vice president of marketing, the director of basketball administration, and the vice president and general counsel in addition to staff members of the NCAA.

Nicholas Stachowiak, a UI junior in the program, said it has helped him better understand the sporting world and how it operates as a business. He said he is interested in becoming a sports agent.

"The sports world is very complex, and with this major, and Dan Matheson as a mentor and innovator, I feel like I am ready to enter the sport business world," he said.

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