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Sport management degree exceeding expectations

WSU’s bachelor of arts degree in sport management — expanded from its 1985 beginning within the Recreation and Leisure Studies program — is five years old and rapidly exceeding expectation. The 2002 projection of 125 students was surpassed with an enrollment of over 200, according to director Joanne R. Washburn. The only established program in the Pacific Northwest to award the B.A. in sport management is attracting students from neighboring states and Alaska, and also from Japan, China and Korea.

The popularity of this undergraduate degree reflects the rapid development of a new area in the U.S. private sector. Since the mid-1980s, demand by professional sports organizations and fitness companies for professional managers who are trained in product sales, customer service, marketing and organizational development has accelerated.

Sport management has been meeting that goal since its inception, as seen in the examples of some success stories:

John Felver has worked in marketing operations as assistant athletic director with North Dakota State and later with Texas Tech. He is now with Mizzou Sports Properties in Columbia, Missouri.

Tracy Peck has coached collegiate swimming, was an administrative intern with the Big Eight Conference, worked in marketing and promotions for both Oklahoma State and the now defunct American Basketball League, and is currently in retail sales with a specialty running store.

Kevin Kalal interned with the minor league Tacoma Tigers (associated with the Oakland Athletics) in the Pacific Coast League. Kalal became the team’s public relations manager in 1992, the director of baseball operations in 1995 and assistant general manager in 2000.

Christos Pallakis, a former WSU pole-vaulter, is on the Athens Olympic Organizing Committee; Kim Glanville is the athletic academic advisor at Portland State University; Brenda Nelson is executive assistant with the Spokane Chiefs major junior hockey club, and she handles baseball star George Brett’s endorsements; and Kim Kwock, database-marketing manager, is one of seven program graduates working for the Seattle Seahawks.

Washburn attributes the program’s growth to the strength of its faculty, all acknowledged experts in a variety of fields. They offer courses that differ from the standard curriculum for a degree in physical education. Typical course offerings include sport law, sport governance, sport sociology, ethics, marketing and finance. This makes the degree an attractive entrance point for careers in amateur and professional sport programs, sport merchandising and radio/TV. Graduates are finding employment in the private sector, in university athletic programs and community agencies.

The faculty’s research and professional activities also are raising the program’s national profile. Sue M. Durrant, a national authority on gender equity in sport, is past president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports, a national advocacy group for women and girls. Washburn is a past officer of the North American Society for Sport Management and the Northwest College Women’s Sports Association (Region 9), and she is currently on the executive board of the Northwest College Women’s Sports Foundation.

Two recent additions to the faculty, Cathryn L. Claussen and Yong Jae Ko, both present their research at national and international conferences. Claussen is an attorney who specializes in sports law, and her research is published in national and international peer-reviewed journals. She is president-elect of the Society for the Study of Legal Aspects of Sports and Physical Activity, and she is a member of the editorial boards of the “Journal of Legal Aspects of Sport” and the “International Sports Journal.” In her sport law course, Claussen stresses legal issues that sport managers encounter today, like the H.I.V. athlete, Title IX and drugs.

“There are many legal challenges in U.S. sports today, and our graduate students are well equipped to handle a variety of problems,” said Claussen.

Ko, who has a Ph.D. from Ohio State University, joined the faculty last year. He researches consumer perception of service quality of the sport and leisure industry, especially issues like customer satisfaction, loyalty, switching behavior, and customer retention. He taught at the University of Texas, Seoul National University and Ohio State University, where he was the Taekwondo team coach. At present, he is on the council of the U.S. National Collegiate Taekwondo Association and serves as the advisor to the Washington State Taekwondo Club and team.

Another strength of the sport management program is that students complete a practicum of 120 hours, usually working in WSU’s PAC-10 athletics and in the university’s intramural sports program, one of the largest in the country. Once course requirements are complete, an internship of 10 to 12 weeks provides work experience in some aspect of the sport industry. Course work also emphasizes writing skills and has relationships with the Murrow School of Communication, the College of Business and Economics, and Leadership Studies in the College of Education.

The program’s graduates are also adding to the program’s national profile. Adam Love, the program’s 2002 major of the year, received one of just five post-graduate scholarships awarded by the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators. Love is using his award to pursue a graduate degree in athletic media relations at the University of Tennessee.

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