Reprinted with permission of the News-Register. By Starla Pointer, January 24, 2019. Sports is the sixth-largest industry in the U.S., a $500-billion business reaching all ages, interests and skill levels, from children involved in recreational leagues to college and professional athletes to fans. It’s also a rich field for careers, from coaching to marketing to broadcasting to making athletic apparel.
With that in mind, Linfield College created a sports management career minor in 2012 and last fall added a major in the subject. It’s one of only a few schools in the Northwest to offer the interdisciplinary program to undergraduates, said Denise Farag, who teaches business law and oversees the sports management program.
Farag, who played softball for the Wildcats and coached at McMinnville High School, is a 1988 Linfield graduate who went on to obtain a law degree.
She said the focus on sports-related careers makes sense for the college, since so many of Linfield’s students are athletes or have a keen interest in athletics.
The program’s rapidly growing popularity is proving her right. A dozen students have declared sports management majors; many high school students who are considering Linfield for next year have shown interest in the major as well.
And, Farag said, sports management is the college’s No. 1 minor, continuing to be popular with students from many disciplines, from math to psychology, who choose it out of personal passion or to augment their expected career plans.
Taylor Cole, a communications major, and Brooke Snyder, a business major, both have sports management minors. They said they can imagine themselves working in sports marketing or media someday.
Their dreams were only strengthened by their opportunity to spend time with professionals at the recent college football playoffs.
Based in the business department, sports management incorporates classes from several other disciplines: economics, health and human services, journalism and media studies, and philosophy.
The new course of study joined five other business-related majors offered at Linfield: management, accounting, international business, finance and marketing.
All majors require a common set of business courses, so sports management students received a foundation of knowledge in the subject, Farag said. Students go on to choose additional electives such as “Philosophy of Sports,” “Economics of Sports” or “Sports in American Society.”
A Jan Term course, “Sports Marketing Careers,” is being offered by the Linfield’s career office for the third time this year. Each time it’s available, students vie for the 20 available slots.
Many students taking the course this month are sports management minors; most of the rest are majors, Farag said. Only one is neither majoring nor minoring in the program.
Snyder and Cole won places in the course after being selected to attend the college football playoffs with students from Shenandoah University.
The Winchester, Virginia, university is the former school of Miles Davis, who became Linfield’s president in 2018. He was dean of Shenandoah’s business school when it developed its sports management program.
“Sports is a multi-billion dollar industry, throughout the world, everything from the Super Bowl to the World Cup to local games,” he said, and it offers students a broad range of related career opportunities.
Davis said he was pleased to see his former and current schools collaborate on the playoff experience. He hopes to arrange other collaborations in the future — sports-related and otherwise.
“We think we have to go out of the country to have different cultural experiences, but that’s not true,” he said. “We can learn about differences and similarities by going across the country or even going to an adjoining state.”
While only two students were chosen to spend time at the college football playoffs, their classmates in the Sports Management Career class were able to take advantage the opportunity.
They joined Cole, Snyder, Farag and her husband in the Bay Area to visit sports-related businesses and sports management graduate programs. The Shenandoah students and their professor, former coach and athlete Fritz Polite, were invited along, too.
The site visits in California were among many included in the Jan Term course, Farag said.
Closer to home, students visit Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Adidas headquarters in the Portland area, along with the Thorns and Timbers professional teams. They often travel to Seattle, as well.
In class, they work on building résumés and creating an “elevator pitch” to describe their skills and abilities succinctly. Those majoring in sports management prepare for internships.
Throughout the Jan Term class, students also talk with Linfield alumni who work for sports-related companies and organizations. Speakers aren’t difficult to find, Farag said.
During a daylong visit to Nike this week her students spent time with 20 Linfield graduates — only about one-fifth of the Wildcats who work for the company.