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Sports MBA Program Overview

Curriculum Overview

The SDSU Sports MBA program offers a carefully curated list of sports-specific, graduate level business courses. The MBA curriculum includes all courses necessary for an AACSB-accredited MBA, with each one specifically tailored to the contemporary sports business. This is an accelerated program, intended for exceptionally high performing students who thrive in an accelerated environment. The entire MBA is 18-months in duration, and begins each year in January with a cohort of approximately 30 students. Students are on campus for three straight semesters, starting in the spring featuring five core MBA courses, followed by a summer session of four courses including an international trip, and a four-course fall semester. The final semester, the following spring, students serve as graduate consultants with a sports organization. The MBA candidates complete two final courses while completing this consultancy on-site, either as interns, or in many instances, a fully employed members of the organization.

Final Semester with a Sports Organization

After completing the 12-month classroom portion of the Sports MBA curriculum, students are prepared to work with a sports organization on a full-time basis. The MBA candidates have a faculty mentor oversee their work during their final semester, with the goal of providing their host organization with a comprehensive consulting report on a specific sports business field at the end of the term. The courses in which the student is enrolled represent a six unit course load, which is carried remotely by many students who choose to pursue a consultancy outside of San Diego. Classes do not meet during this term, so students are encouraged to pursue full-time job opportunities during this portion of the program.

BA 780 Field Studies in Business:

6 Month Internship

BA 795 Integrative Business Analysis:

Final MBA Thesis Report


Breakdown of Classes

Statistical Analysis, taught by former Associate Dean Dr. Jim Lackritz, introduces SMBA students to the principles of statistics applied to the business of sports. Students in this intensive course are expected to both run and interpret statistical information in sports-specific contexts to mimic real life decision-making processes used by leaders in the industry. Dr. Lackritz combines his own research in sports business with texts like Moneyball, to provide SMBA students with the foundation for critical thinking in the sports industry. Although this is a rigorous course, Dr. Lackritz breaks the ice at the beginning of each class with his “What’s new in the world of sports and statistics” segment, in which the class collectively discusses the latest sports business issues. In this course, students look at issues facing sports organizations through a statistical lens; for example, how to measure concession stand wait times at sporting events or how athletes can be evaluated against their peers looking at undervalued traits.

Dr. Amy Randel challenges the SMBA cohort to think critically about all aspects of interpersonal communication and organization within the workplace, and how varying approaches can affect work performance and cohesion. The class is introduced to various theories and strategies associated with leadership styles, as students use these skills to analyze case studies on both successful and unsuccessful businesses. These skills are further applied through the course’s final project in which students provide analysis and feedback based on survey data and primary research for a local sports organization. Past projects have included companies such as Sun Diego Boardshop, the US Olympic Training Center, and the San Diego Padres.

Dr. David DeBoskey’s course focuses on both financial and managerial accounting principles, while progressing into further analysis of financial statements. Students learn the accounting language with the expectation that when they finish the course, they’re capable of making sound financial decisions in management roles. An annual guest speaker to the class is the CFO of the San Diego Padres, who speaks about all of the finances involved in running and operating a professional sports team. Class projects include financial statement analysis of sports teams and apparel companies, as well as NCAA conference realignment evaluation studies.

Financial Management I is the first of two courses that exposes students to the fundamental principles of corporate finance, taught by Professor Frank Ryan. This course discusses how managers use financial statements, engage in financial planning, value cash flows, understand risk, make long-term investment decisions, and how to make both long- and short-term financing decisions. Applying recently-acquired knowledge from their Accounting class, students learn about the decision-making processes shaped by balance sheets and income statements. Once the groundwork has been laid, students apply these principles to analyze sports business topics such as franchise valuation, stadium financing, personal seat licenses, athlete salaries, and more. This course provides a firm understanding of financial concepts needed to elevate professionals interested in working in the upper levels of management within a sports organization.

Sports marketing is taught by visiting professor, Dr. Vassilis Dalakas (@DrSportBusiness), who provides an in-depth introduction to the principles of marketing, and how they apply within the sports business realm. To teach sports marketing effectively, Dr. Dalakas focuses heavily on corporate partnerships and sponsorship in the world of sports, and specializes in fan behavior and the fan experience. While his lectures build a foundation of the core sports marketing concepts through various examples from sports and media, Dr. Dalakas includes real-world experience in the course as well, with course projects that include a sponsorship activation plan presented to a PGA event and its main sponsors, an analysis of EPL vs. NFL/NBA team branding, and a sponsorship deck for an auto racing team.

Students in Sports Economics are taught by SDSU Fowler College of Business Associate Dean Dr. David Ely. The course uses the sports industry to illustrate the applications of microeconomic principles, macroeconomic concepts, and analytical tools used in business decision-making. Students learn to apply industrial organization theory to analyze sports business models, and related issues when evaluating local markets for teams, and calculating the value of sports franchises. The course includes vibrant debates on sports economics issues chosen each semester by the class. Each team must support its position on a sports-related subject using economic reasoning and principles. Discussion topics have recently included stadium financing, team relocation, player salaries, athlete representation, and arena naming rights deals.
Throughout this course, Dr. Bruce Reining shares his broad range of knowledge on topics related to the managerial concepts and quantitative methods associated with the design, execution and management of operations and supply chain systems. Students are provided countless hands-on opportunities in using Microsoft Excel, Google Analytics, and SAP software to replicate real-life business situations. The course teaches students to model solutions related to project scheduling, inventory management, demand forecasting and queue management. Group presentations for this course, provide students the opportunity to discuss contemporary issues in sports management, such as corporate social responsibility, stadium-based data networks, emerging technology such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and software platforms such as Salesforce.
Marketing professor Dr. Andrew Baker focuses this course on preparing students to be both excellent consumers and producers of marketing research. After completing this course, students will possess the knowledge needed to create and analyze basic marketing research projects, which will be used to solve business problems in various sports marketing contexts. Students will learn and use first hand sports research tools used by sports organizations all over the world including: SPSS, Nielsen Market Segmentation, Scarborough, and PrimeLingo. In addition, students are exposed to popular contemporary marketing research and analysis techniques, such as conjoint analysis to identify optimal product/service bundles, and neural networks to engage in data-driven marketing segmentation. All steps of the research process are also conducted in the real world by student teams acting as "consultants" for a sports-related business.
This is a new course in the program curriculum, and it combines two units taught by program alumni. For the first unit, program director Scott Minto (SMBA ’06) leads the class on an international excursion to the Dominican Republic to study the host of labor relations, social issues, and the economic impact of baseball’s presence in the country. The other two units of the course are taught by Steve Gera (SMBA ’07), a former U.S. Marine, NFL coach, entrepreneur, and a high-performance consultant to major sports organizations. This segment of the course challenges students to develop a personal leadership plan as they seek careers in sports business, studying examples of great coaches, general managers, military officers, and C-level executives. The instructor uses case studies, articles, and texts to analyze and compare leadership principles in sport against those within the corporate, military, and cultural sectors. A highlight of the module is the students’ participation in a Leadership Reaction Course, in which the MBA candidates’ leadership small-unit leadership skills are evaluated by active-duty U.S. Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton.

This course is taught by Dr. Joe Belch, chair of the Marketing department in the College of Business Administration and co-author of the leading textbook in Integrated Marketing Communications. It focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of marketing strategy for sports organizations and companies. This course emphasizes developing the skills and experience needed to make strategic decisions, regarding the direction of the firm's marketing efforts. Attention is also focused on how strategic marketing contributes to the development and implementation of an organizations overall business strategy.

Dr. Bruce Reinig takes a hands-on approach to teaching data management techniques and statistical software, to conduct business analytics initiatives and evaluate their performance through a cost-benefit analysis. Students will work on projects that include data collection and preparation, application of techniques such as logistic regression, k-nearest neighbors and cluster analysis (among others), validating their results, and making implementation recommendations. Past students have used the techniques covered in this course to model home field advantages in NCAA basketball and football, analyze Olympic decathlon data to identify underlying performance constructs, predict whether a team will win, lose or tie a sporting competition, and to perform market segmentation to identify opportunities for expansion into new markets.

In Professor Frank Ryan's second course within the Sports MBA curriculum, students build upon the foundation set by Financial Management I. They are expected to understand the impetus behind major financial deals in the sports world, such as stadium financing and franchise valuation. In order to prepare students for tasks they will face in the sports industry, this course is heavily based in Excel.

Dr. John Francis leads this course, which studies the theories and trends that shape the evolving relationships between sports organizations and their fans. With examples drawn from all segments of sports business, this course is intended to give students a foundation of basic business principles that can be applied to the sports industry.