New club offers sports business opportunities

by Ashley Ulrich | 2/9/12 11:00pm

Sports Business at Dartmouth has been increasing in membership and influence since it was officially recognized as a student organization in October of 2010, according to club president and co-founder Bianca Smith '12. The club's formation and growth reflects heightened student interest in sports management careers both at the College and in the Ivy League.

Sports Business was founded to expose students to the breadth of career options in the sports industry and to help students with alumni networking that could lead to future internships and job opportunities, Smith said.

"Our goal is to introduce sports business to Dartmouth, which not a lot of people know about," Smith said. "We want to show how many options there are out there, besides just coaching or marketing."

Sports Business at Dartmouth began its planned events this term with a panel discussion on Jan. 31 that featured a number of administrators from the College athletic department, including Annie Shepard, associate athletics director for compliance; Bill Johnston, assistant athletic director for marketing; and Rick Bender, director of varsity athletic communications.

The club plans to bring a major speaker to campus by the end of the Winter term or during the Spring term, Smith said. In March, the club hopes to attend a New Hampshire Fisher Cats minor league baseball game, meet with the team's management and tour the team's facilities, Smith said.

The club's email list currently contains 50 to 60 students, though an average of about 10 to 20 students consistently attend club meetings, Smith said. The club meets as a whole at the beginning and end of each term, and the club's six-person executive board meets once every three weeks, according to Smith.

"A lot of the club's members are athletes, so attendance can be a little difficult," Smith said. "We haven't had a lot of events yet, and we are still trying to form connections between members and with alumni."

Plans for the club began in May 2010, Smith said. Smith had been contacting people about her interest in creating a club related to sports business when she found out that Katie Horner '11 was putting together a similar club.

The two decided to collaborate and form a club together, Horner said.

"It was kind of serendipitous," Katie said. "I was contacted by one of the founders of the Ivy League Sports Business Network about starting a sports business club at Dartmouth at the same time [Smith] contacted me."

The Ivy League Sports Business Network which has since changed its name to the Ivy Sports Collaborative is the umbrella organization for sports business clubs at Ivy League colleges, universities and law schools, according to the organization's co-founder Chris Chaney, a Princeton University alumnus. Last year, Chaney was featured in the Forbes list of "30 under 30 Leaders in the Entertainment Industry" for founding the Chaney Sportainment Group, a consulting firm that works with emerging small businesses in the sports industry.

Chaney founded the club in 2010 with Brandon Bagley, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, who at the time was the president of Penn's Undergraduate Student Business Club.

There are currently 13 clubs involved in the Ivy Sports Collaborative, including undergraduate sports business clubs at all eight Ivy League colleges, Bagley said. Graduate schools at Dartmouth, Penn, Brown University and Harvard University have clubs affiliated with the collaborative, including Tuck School of Business Sports, Entertainment & Media Club, according to Bagley.

When Chaney and Bagley established the Ivy Sports Collaborative, only Penn, Harvard, Cornell University and Yale University had sports business clubs, Bagley said. One of the collaborative's earliest goals was to reach out to students at Dartmouth, Brown and Columbia University to talk about arranging similar groups, Bagley said.

Chaney said he first connected with Bagley through the Princeton Sports Symposium, an annual event held at Princeton for industry leaders to speak about their careers in sports management, which Chaney first organized in 2006. Bagley registered a group of about 20 members of the Penn Sports Business Club to attend the 2009 symposium, and Chaney called Bagley to hear more about his club.

"When we first met up at the symposium, I was really surprised I hadn't heard about this thriving club," Chaney said. "Bagley had the same impression that it was crazy the symposium had been around for four years already, but he hadn't heard of it. And Penn is the closest Ivy to Princeton."

Following this encounter, the two began working together to outline plans for the Ivy Sports Collaborative, Chaney said. The two also decided to rename the Princeton Sports Symposium the Ivy Sports Symposium and have the symposium travel between schools, Chaney said.

This fall, the symposium was held at Penn, and next fall the conference's seventh year it may be held in New York, though the location has not been finalized, Bagley said.

The 2011 symposium included Ivy League students and recent alumni from Brown, Cornell, Penn and Princeton in its planning board, Bagley said.

The 2011 symposium attracted students from over 30 colleges and universities, and the event continues to grow and attract new speakers each year, Chaney said. Over 250 unique speakers have made speeches at the symposiums, and many return to speak multiple times, he said.

Among the notable speakers were Chris Overholt, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee; David Gross, commissioner of Major League Lacrosse; Mark Waller, chief marketing officer for the National Football League; Ryan Donovan '96, vice president of marketing for NBC Sports Group; Terry Lefton, editor-at-large for SportsBusiness Daily; and Tom Crawford, chief executive officer for USA Ultimate, according to the Ivy Sports Symposium website.

"Part of the incentive for us to start the Ivy Sports Collaborative was that some clubs are further along than others," Chaney said. "Without patting us on the back, some of the work that new clubs are doing right now is the result of conversations going on across Ivy League clubs because of the collaborative."

The collaborative helps clubs foster an "exchange of best ideas and practices," according to Chaney.

"Presidents are in touch to talk about how to best run clubs, retain members and talk about upcoming events," Chaney said. "They talk through obstacles with administrations or offices of student life and deans of student life."

The collaborative sends out a weekly email to involved clubs that lists upcoming events, alumni highlights and job opportunities, Bagley said.

The group also sends out a quarterly newsletter and maintains LinkedIn and Facebook groups, according to Bagley. The LinkedIn group has over 170 listed members, he said.

So far there has not been much collaboration between Ivy League undergraduate sports business clubs, though Bagley said he hopes that will change in the future. The goal is for club presidents to interact once a semester through phone conferences, as more frequent conversations have proven unworkable with the presidents' busy schedules, Bagley said.

Each undergraduate student business group has its own spin, Bagley said.

The Undergraduate Sports Business Club at Penn was founded six years ago and focuses on bringing well-known alumni and leaders in the industry to campus for speaking events, according to club president Rob Dearborn. The club has about 850 students on its email list and attracts more than 350 students to its flagship sports business job opportunities fair each spring, he said.

In March, the group is planning a trip to Madison Square Garden to visit the offices of the New York Rangers and New York Knicks and to meet with representatives from NBC Sports, Dearborn said. The group also has a March Madness social event and plans on hosting a number of speakers throughout the semester, he said.

Harvard's sports business club, Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective, focuses on sports analytics and maintains a blog on which it posts analysis of popular sports topics, according to club president David Roher. The group has been featured on ESPN and in scholarly journals, he said.

Sports Business at Dartmouth is still carving out its own niche but hopes to continue to grow and expand its contact with alumni in the future, according to Horner.

"We want to get students information about sports medicine, law, finance and other fields," Horner said. "There are so many different aspects of sports business and it is an under-utilized area on campus."