| College of Business
Two decades after St. Petersburg resident Steven Grant earned an MBA from USF, he read about USF's new partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning to create an MBA in Sport and Entertainment Management. He sent a high-priority text to his daughter, Jamie, in Georgia.
"When he read that the Lightning is working in tandem with USF to create a graduate degree emphasizing the foundational business aspects of the sports industry, he was excited," recalls the younger Grant, who works in community relations with the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena in Atlanta. I awoke to a one-word text from him that simply said 'apply'," she laughs. She will soon be the first student to enroll in classes in the new MBA program, which launches in the fall.
Grant enjoys her work with the professional basketball team but aspires to work in the corporate offices of organizations such as the National Basketball Association or the National Hockey League.
"I have a great job working for an NBA franchise — and previously with an NHL team — that has given me some great experience in arena operations," says Grant. "I love my job and am fortunate that I have been able to gain some real-world sports experience, but I have long known that I would need a graduate degree to catapult my career upward into league operations."
Made possible by a partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning and The Lightning Foundation (which will fund the program for four years), the two-year degree will emphasize business fundamentals. Degree seekers will complete foundational MBA coursework tailored to the industry, including classes in management, finance, marketing, information systems, and accounting, as well as elective courses that focus on the sports industry, such as negotiation and conflict resolution, sports communication, and marketing strategy. The full-time program includes two residency experiences designed to give graduate students on-the-job opportunities that help them experience how those lessons taught in the classroom play out in the industry.
USF President Judy Genshaft joined Tampa Bay Lightning owner and Chairman Jeff Vinik to announce the program prior to a recent Lightning game. She envisions a program unlike any other in the nation.
"USF brings the brightest minds of our business school, our reputation as a top-tier global research university, and our unwavering commitment to student success to this partnership," Genshaft says. "Our metropolitan location is rich with sports and family entertainment businesses and our region has been the host to the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, the World Series, and NCAA tournaments and championships. Our partnerships will help prepare students for careers in sport and entertainment management all over the world."
William A. Sutton, formerly of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida, will spearhead the business degree program. A distinguished academic, industry columnist, and proven sports-marketing practitioner, Sutton's work includes notable academic appointments and 30 years of sports industry experience. When Grant learned that Sutton was leading USF's new program, she immediately decided to learn more.
"Once I learned that Dr. Sutton was going to lead the program, I knew it was a program I needed to investigate," she says. "Few people in the industry are as widely known and respected as Dr. Sutton," Grant explains, adding that she earned an undergraduate degree from his former university. "He is an engaging educator with NBA experience. He knows how to connect with students — and how to connect students to the industry."