Making Their Case

SDSU's Sports MBA Program wins its own international case competition for the first time

When universities announce major victories in a sports competition, the good news usually comes from the athletic department. But San Diego State University's College of Business Administration gets the credit this time after four of its graduate students in the SDSU Sports MBA program won an international competition featuring some the world's brightest graduate business students.

Competing at the 8th Annual SDSU International Sports MBA Case Competition, the SDSU team competed against and beat teams from such elite level MBA programs as Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, the University of Oxford, the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, UCLA and USC.

SMBA 2013 Case Competition Team

From left to right: Roberto Cornejo of the Xolos, Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, dean of the SDSU College of Business Administration, SDSU team members Ryan Kaltenbach, Micah Porter, Christian Jensen, Johnny Du, Scott Minto, director, SDSU Sports MBA Program, Esteban de Anda of the Xolos, and Alejandro Serrano of the Xolos


The Challenge

Teams were given 24 hours to come up with a strategy for the growth of the Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente (Xolos), the professional soccer team in Tijuana which is the reigning champion of Mexico's first division. The MBA students came up with dozens of ideas to help the team strengthen its brand in the southwestern United States and devise the ideal plan to manage the expansion of Estadio Caliente, its home stadium.

After working well past midnight to develop their ideas, each team had twenty minutes to anonymously present to a panel of judges that included:

  • Roberto Cornejo, the Xolos' Assistant General Manager
  • Esteban de Anda, the Xolos' Director of Marketing
  • Alejandro Serrano, the Xolos' Administrative Director
  • Mark Zeigler, a sportswriter from UT San Diego
  • Jorge Arangure, a freelance sportswriter

The winning idea

After reviewing all of the students' ideas, the judges deliberated and selected the team from the SDSU Sports MBA program as the winner. This marks the first victory for SDSU Sports MBA in the eight years of the competition, thrilling the winning students, all of whom are now excited fans of the Xolos.

The winning ideas included the creation of a Xolosmobile, a merchandise truck similar to the popular food trucks seen throughout San Diego, that would reach fans in their neighborhoods to sell jerseys, scarves and other Xolos apparel.

"After withdrawing from school for a year because of my wife's health challenges, the case competition was something I'd been looking forward to for a long time," said SDSU team captain Ryan Kaltenbach. "Winning against such talented competition was the cherry on top of my entire Sports MBA experience. I'm grateful to have been a part of the team that finally broke through. It's not something I'll ever forget."

Embracing the region

Scott Minto, director of the SDSU Sports MBA program, expressed gratitude to the Xolos organization, whose front office eagerly embraced a partnership with the university.

"Here at the SDSU Sports MBA program, our goals are to train future sports business executives and serve the local sports community," Minto said. "The Xolos were a perfect partner for this competition because their situation allowed us to achieve both of these objectives. Managing the growth of a brand after a championship provided a great challenge for the assembled MBA students, and we were thrilled to provide a member of our community with such valuable top-level consulting expertise."

The event was live-tweeted on Twitter: