Sports Management Careers by Patrick Tutka, Ph.D.

With March Madness and the start of the baseball season upon us, there may be an increased interest in programs that teach students to become executives in sports organizations – from team managers to scouts, GM’s, sales executives and owners.

Careers in sports management can include any of the following and many more that relate to those on this list. Those in the field can work at colleges and universities, major or minor league teams, sports facilities, talent agencies, public relations and marketing firms and sports broadcasting and reporting organizations. Specific careers include, but are by no means limited to the following:

  • Sports administration, coaching, scouting
  • Representation -Sports Agent/Managers
  • Sports Marketing
  • Game Day and Event Coordination
  • Facility Operations
  • Financial and Contract Analysis
  • Guest Relations Management
  • Corporate Partnerships Managment
  • Sports Reporting and Broadcasting

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth in sports management will grow faster than average for some areas of the field through 2026 because of expansion due to multi-billion dollar profits from the sports industry. Competition for these jobs is high.

Salaries in sports management vary and may begin low, relative to some other occupations, but there is great room for advancement. Salaries vary according to field, location, experience and a number of other factors.

Niagara University’s master’s program in sports management, run by Patrick Tutka, Ph.D., is an experience-based part of the College of Hospitality and Tourism management. Students go on to great careers via their classroom studies and exciting internships, some with Buffalo’s professional and semi-prof sports teams. There are undergrad programs in this discipline as well.

Below is the text of an interview Professor Tutka gave to Buffalo Business First, which summarizes the Niagara University program and how it helps students realize their dreams of working in pro sports.

Buffalo Business First: Where do they come from?

Dr. Tutka: There are really three groups of students who come into the program. We have students who come out of undergraduate programs who really want to get into sports. The second group is Canadian students who are required to have a thesis, and they are more interested in doing our program than, say, a Brock University (in St. Catharines, Ont.). The third group is people who are working in athletics but who see a master’s degree as a way to move their careers forward. There are a lot of jobs now in college athletics that are driven by how much education a person has.

BBF: How do they typically fare upon graduation?

Dr. Tutka: We are always trying to figure out how we can best support our students, and I think that resonates in the success we have had. Out of 25 graduates in the past four years, I think only one of them didn’t get a job in sports. And one or two others left sports for various reasons. Being up over 90 percent is a pretty high standard compared to the rest of the industry.

BBF: Why do you think the program has been successful?

Dr. Tutka: From day one when students walk in the door, we tell them, “You have to get experience.” We have an internship requirement like a lot of other programs, but what separates us is the expectation is that’s not enough. If you just have one internship, when you start looking for a job, rarely will you get that phone call back. So, they use connections from our faculty and our own sports program to get more experiences and opportunities. A lot of our success is because we have a Division 1 program here on campus with 18 teams and it operates much bigger than its budget size. That’s a good thing for us because students can get experience across the organization. Most of it is volunteer work but they can walk out the door with several hundred hours’ worth of experience and a strong resume going forward.

BBF: You mentioned there are summertime opportunities, as well.

Dr. Tutka: One of the things that’s been buzzworthy for us in the past couple of years is the launch of the Niagara Power baseball team, which plays at Sal Maglie Stadium in Niagara Falls during the summer. The team is owned and operated by the university and gives us a unique opportunity to get involved in the baseball or sports operations. … The students are running the team. We have about 24 interns getting ready to work on the team this summer.

BBF: How have changes in the sports industry driven the program?

Dr. Tutka: With the rise of social media, teams are now controlling a lot of their own information. Digital media is driving significant changes in all sports, so we’re making sure our students understand different social media platforms and Adobe tools.

TutkaAbout the Author: Dr. Tutka joined Niagara University in spring 2015 after completing his doctoral studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dr. Tutka teaches sport management courses in event and facility management, sport finance, sport marketing and promotions, and the Introduction to Sport Management class.

Dr. Tutka’a area of study involve analyzing various organizational aspects such as innovation diffusion, legitimacy and isomorphism within the sport industry. Dr. Tutka’s preferred context is through the sport of football at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdvision (FBS) competition level. Most of Dr. Tutka’s work reviews these institutional theory concepts through the development of college football stadiums throughout history. Dr. Tutka’s historical research focuses on using heuristic devices such as ideal-types to explain organizational phenomena.

Dr. Tutka’s prior academic background includes a master’s degree in sport management from Louisiana State University and a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan). His research has been published in refereed academic journals such as the International Journal of Sport Management and the International Journal of Sport Finance, and he has presented at international sport management conferences, including the North American Society for Sport Management, Sport and Recreation Law Association, College Sport Research Institute, and the Applied Sport Management Association.

Prior to his doctoral work, Dr. Tutka also worked for the National Senior Games Association, Louisiana State University Athletics, Grand Valley State University Athletics and served as a teacher/coach at Shelby High School in Shelby, North Carolina, where he served as a basketball and soccer coach, winning two state championships.

About Niagara University

Founded by the Vincentian community in 1856, Niagara University is a comprehensive institution, blending the best of a liberal arts and professional education, grounded in our values-based Catholic tradition. Its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Education, and Hospitality and Tourism Management offer programs at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral level.

As the first Vincentian university established in the United States, Niagara prepares students for personal and professional success while emphasizing service to the community in honor of St. Vincent de Paul. Niagara’s institutional commitment to service learning has led to its inclusion on the President’s Honor Roll for Community Service every year since its inception in 2006, and its recognition with the Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement.