Business of Football – UofSC News & Events

Leandro Mortenegro

Football is the most popular sport in the United States by far, and there is no better
place to launch a career in the business side of the game than the University of South
Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. The college’s Department
of Sport and Entertainment Management is recognized as one of the best and biggest
programs of its kind, and the combination of cutting-edge academics, industry connections
and top-tier faculty has created a first-class training ground for football industry

“I said, ‘Hey, I know I’m not going to go to college to play sports, but I definitely
want to work in sports.’ I did my research and found out that South Carolina had a
sport and entertainment management program that was very highly ranked. It turned
out to be the best decision I made in my life,” says alumnus Aaron Henderson, now
an agent representing several NFL players.

The football industry is an economic powerhouse which continues to grow by leaps and
bounds. The NFL’s teams are worth 14% more in 2022 than 2021, an average value of
$3.48 billion per team. The league is on track to meet its goal of $25 billion in
annual revenue by 2027.

Football’s dominance in the business of sport is not limited to the pros. College
football generated a record revenue of $1.16 billion in 2021 and is the second most
popular sport in the U.S. based on attendance and viewership, surpassing Major League
Baseball and college and NBA basketball.

Graduates from the university’s sport and entertainment management degree programs
are employed by more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams and the league’s home office
– with leadership roles ranging from scouting to team operations to ticket sales and
marketing. Alumni also hold college football management positions across the country
(with many staying at their alma mater to work with the Gamecocks).

“It goes back to the combination of theory and practice. That’s what our college is
built on,” says Department of Sport and Entertainment Management Chair Matt Brown.
“Our students are able to be competitive in the dream-job market because they are
learning from top faculty and gaining real-world experiences that prepare them for
the intensity of working in football.”

2019 sport and entertainment management alumna Alexandria Hill now works for the LA
Rams in football operations.

Inside the classroom, students are learning in specialized courses like gameday operations,
sport marketing and venue management from a combination of faculty who are world-class
researchers and who have served as team presidents and athletic directors. Outside
the classroom students are learning by doing – helping to run SEC college football
games, bowl games, the College Football Playoff and the biggest of all U.S. sporting
events, the Super Bowl. And with every undergraduate student required to complete
two internships, lessons are quickly put into practice.

“What put me at an advantage over other candidates in my hiring class out of college
was the experience I was fortunate enough to gain through the internship requirements
of the sport and entertainment management program,” says alumna Maddie Ballengee,
who now works as assistant merchandise director with Legends Hospitality at AT&T Stadium
(home of the Dallas Cowboys). “Our field is very hands on and having experience under
two major sports organizations before I even graduated put me ten steps ahead when
transitioning into my career in the sports industry. I also appreciated the fact that
many of my professors built our course work around very relevant, industry related
events and scenarios.”

The Department of Sport and Entertainment Management’s faculty members are leaders
in sport research, with specialized centers and scholars dedicated to college sport,
ticketing, sport law, fan experience, sport gambling, economic impact, sustainable
business operations and more. While the research spans the spectrum of sports and
entertainment, football is often the focal point. For example, Associate Professor
Tom Regan has conducted more than 80 economic impact studies for organizations including
the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, as well as Gamecocks football.

Group of UofSC alumni standing on the football field with professor Danny Morrison.
Danny Morrison, 4th from the right, teaches master’s level courses on sport management
at UofSC and gives students and alumni the opportunity to gain experience with Charlotte
Sports Foundation where he serves as executive director.

Having faculty leading the way in research shapes the lessons in the classrooms. Professors
infuse the curriculum with the latest findings as well as integrating current events
happening in real time. If a topic related to the business side of football is in
the news, it is also being discussed and debated on campus in Columbia, often by industry

The Department of Sport and Entertainment Management’s reputation for education excellence
has attracted a roster of uniquely experienced faculty and industry partners. Former
Carolina Panthers President and current Charlotte Sports Foundation Executive Director
Danny Morrison joined the faculty in 2017.

“It was an easy decision to choose South Carolina,” says Morrison, who is now a professor
of practice teaching master’s level sport management courses. “I was always impressed
by the caliber of students from the program who came to work for the Panthers, and
the faculty and quality of work they are doing is excellent.”

The program’s reputation also contributed to the decision by David and Nicole Tepper,
owners of the Panthers, to create the Tepper Scholars program at South Carolina in
2020. The prestigious scholarship and career development program is designed to attract
the best and brightest sport and entertainment management students with an emphasis
on supporting underrepresented students. 

Increasing diversity and inclusion in the field of sport management has been a focus
for the program. In addition to several specialized scholarships, student clubs and
mentorship opportunities for underrepresented students, it is continually opening
doors for anyone willing to work hard to earn a career in football, including those
for whom the doors were once closed. 

“How many Asians do you see in football? I didn’t have anyone who looked like me in
the NFL growing up, so I hope that one day, there’s a little Asian girl or boy who
sees me and says, ‘I want to be like KJ, she’s my role model,’” says 2020 sport and
entertainment management master’s program alumna Kjahna O, now scouting coordinator
for the Atlanta Falcons.

Kjahna O on the field with Atlanta Falcons player and coach.

Kjahna O graduated from UofSC with her master’s degree in sport and entertainment
management and is now a scouting coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.

A key component to creating career opportunities for an ever-growing and diverse student
population is tapping into the full range of football-related careers. As part of
South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, the sport and
entertainment management program has powerful synergy with areas of study in hospitality,
tourism and retail management – and that synergy is on full display on any given gameday.
Alumni from across the college’s majors have found open doors to football-related
career success with venues, teams, leagues and companies like Fanatics, ESPN, DraftKings,
Learfield, CSC, Under Armour, Legends Hospitality and more. 

Alumnus Brandon Ruth is director of operations for the Falcons. Gabriela Beavers is
manager of club marketing at the NFL league office. Catherine Saulino is associate
buyer for NFL women’s and kids’ apparel for Fanatics. The job titles are diverse and
range from ticket and sponsorship sales to community relations, business analytics,
merchandising, catering, equipment management, and more.   

“What put me at an advantage over other candidates in my hiring class out of college
was the experience I was fortunate enough to gain through the internship requirements
of the sport and entertainment management program.”

Maddie Ballengee

“HRSM helped launch my career in a way I didn’t really expect,” says alumnus Glen
Ivol who found his niche in business analytics, now with the New York Jets. “Connecting
with the faculty helped me learn that no one’s path will be the same – you just have
to focus on finding the right fit to help you grow and not be afraid to take a leap
of faith.”

While the career paths are diverse and the teams often rivals, the South Carolina
alumni who are working in the business of football all share a common passion for
sport business. And when passion and preparation meet opportunity – career touchdowns
are in reach.  

“South Carolina’s program is unmatched in the opportunities it provides to its students.
The faculty genuinely cares about the student and their career, while on campus and
beyond,” says 2017 sport and entertainment management alumna Lindsey Zybrick, now
manager of guest experience for the Jacksonville Jaguars. “They put an emphasis on
creating and fostering relationships inside and outside of the classroom, especially
in an industry so small. I always felt prepared walking into a new opportunity, because
of the firsthand testimony from professors, alumni and peers, who were always more
than willing to offer guidance.”

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