Fifty students were expected to begin the program in August, but the department exceeded that goal and welcomed 68 majors.
The new program capitalizes on the department’s rich heritage of preparing graduate students for careers in the thriving sport industry, which includes all of Chicago’s major professional teams and other pro baseball, basketball, football and hockey clubs across the country.
Adding the degree also positions NIU over key in-state competitors such as Illinois State University, Western Illinois University, Northwestern University and DePaul University, all of which only offer Sport Management at the master’s level.
Chad McEvoy, chair of the department, and Steve Howell, an associate professor of Sport Management, are eager and excited to begin enrolling students as the culminating moment of more than two years of program development.
Enrollment projections forecast 50 students in the program next fall and 200 majors within five years.
“We’ve successfully offered a Sport Management degree for more than 20 years, and we also see an opportunity to similarly help undergraduates to learn more about, develop skills and experiences in and pursue their passions for working in the sport industry,” McEvoy says.
“There are areas of the sport industry, particularly in college sports, where a master’s degree is almost a requirement for an entry-level job,” he adds, “but there are others where a bachelor’s degree and good, old-fashioned experience is the right combination. We believe that offering both programs will provide different opportunities to students with a variety of career goals related to sports.”
Demand for the program already exists, Howell says, and the department already has proven its ability of attracting highly qualified students who go on to distinguished careers.
“In our conversations with other colleges and departments, such as the College of Business and the Department of Communication, we’ve heard that students have asked if there was a bachelor’s in Sport Management,” he says. “While we have a track in our Kinesiology program that focuses on Sport Management, we didn’t have a full major.”
KNPE academic advisors and NIU admissions counselors likewise field frequent inquiries about a B.S. in Sport Management; those prospective students now have one more reason to become Huskies.
Market analysis also yielded compelling evidence for the program, which secured Illinois Board of Higher Education approval this summer.
Existing bachelor’s degree programs in Sport Management across northern Illinois are at smaller, private schools; the reputation of their faculty cannot match that of NIU’s Sport Management team, which including McEvoy, Howell and Rodney Caughron.
Job growth in the sport industry, meanwhile, generally ranges between 6 and 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet some sectors, such as sports analytics, are expected to climb by 27 percent.
The bureau also ranks Illinois as third among the 50 states for its concentration of employment in sports and entertainment.
“The sports industry continues to be a big part of American society, particularly as an entertainment form,” McEvoy says. “With Chicago being a national center of activity in sports and entertainment, it provides a great platform for our students to study about sports in our classrooms and to experience and work in sports organizations throughout the area and region.”
Courses in the program include Psychological Aspects of Sport and Exercise, Social Aspects of Sport, Sport Sales and Sponsorship, Sport Event and Facility Management, Legal and Ethical Aspects of Sport, Promotion and Marketing of Sport Programs and Finance in the Sport Industry.
An internship also is required.
Given the amount of national competition in Sport Management programs – U.S. colleges and universities offer more than 300 such degrees – NIU’s faculty consciously ensured that theirs boasts key differentiators.
One is the proximity to Chicago and the professional connections of the faculty. Another is the hands-on learning experiences available with NIU Intercollegiate Athletics, regional sport corporations and the College of Education’s Engage U.S. program.
Chief among the unique aspects, however, is the minor in Sports Sales.
More job opportunities exist in sport sales than in any other area of the sports industry, McEvoy says. Students in the minor will take half of their classes in KNPE and the rest in the Department of Marketing, which is nationally renowned for its Professional Sales Program.
“Students who earn this minor will really open the door to careers in selling sports sponsorships, selling tickets to sporting events and to other entertainment events,” McEvoy says. “Ticket and sponsorship sales are some of the most common entry-level jobs in the sport industry, so students with this credential will be extremely well-prepared to gain employment upon graduation.”
The minor “is a well-rounded mix of traditional sales techniques offered through the College of Business, complemented with coursework in ticket sales and sponsorships,” Howell says, “which will include practical experiences in sport sales.”
KNPE also is building on the creation of the new bachelor’s degree to launch a minor in Sports Management open to students across the NIU campus.
“This will be an opportunity for students in other majors – it could be Kinesiology or Business or Communications or Economics, for example – to take some coursework in Sport Management,” McEvoy says.