The Webster University athletics department has started to even the recruitment playing field with its competitors. In the past, when potential incoming athletes asked if Webster had courses in sports business, coaches would say there were none — but they won’t be saying that anymore.
As an extension to receiving a certificate in entrepreneurship, Webster students can now pursue that certificate with an emphasis in sports business. Associate Professor Barrett Baebler, director of the entrepreneurship program, and Tom Hart, director of athletics, are both in agreement that the certificate not only helps with recruiting students in general, but specifically student athletes.
“When (coaches and the admissions department) are out talking to students and they get asked, ‘So, what type of sports business program do you offer?’ Up till now they could say, ‘None,’” Baebler said. “At least now, we’re in the game.”
Baebler sent a survey to Hart to find out what the demand from student athletes would be for new courses in sports business. A strong desire was shown, Baebler said.
“The request has been levied our way for a number of years, primarily from our student athletes here,” Baebler said. “(Student athletes) say, ‘When I get out of this place I want to be involved in the sports business.’ This entrepreneurship offering will help them when they graduate from Webster.”
The Webster coaches believe this is something that can help the university immediately.
“We do run across kids each year that have an interest in (sports business) that we have had to talk about just a straight marketing or management (degree),” said Webster baseball coach Bill Kurich. “I think having this is going to help that decision for kids who want to make sports a part of their future.”
The athletes already at Webster also seem to be interested in taking the classes. Sophomore Kathleen Kennedy of the women’s tennis team is an advertising and marketing major. She is also interning in the marketing departments at the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Jr. Blues.
“I know a lot of (athletes) as freshmen coming in were looking to see if there were any sports classes,” Kennedy said. “I wish (sports business) was offered when I was a freshman, but now this is good.”
Kennedy said she plans to earn the certificate in entrepreneurship with an emphasis in sports business before she graduates.
This is not a cornfield in Iowa. It’s not a ‘If you build it, they will come’-type deal. Part of what we’re doing with this is to test the waters and see the demand. — Webster associate professor Barrett Baebler
Hart said he hopes the new courses will help not only in recruitment, but also retention of students. Last year, the Webster women’s tennis team lost one of its top players, Marissa Lewis, because she wanted to pursue a degree in sports administration.
“I know we’ve had different students that were interested in (sports business) and some that didn’t come or some that had to transfer,” Hart said. “It’s just an example of the fact that there are students that left that maybe would have stayed.”
With the start of sports business courses, Baebler said a minor in sports business and an eventual major are steps to consider in the future. That process is based entirely around demand, he said.
“This is not a cornfield in Iowa,” Baebler said. “It’s not a ‘If you build it, they will come’-type deal. Part of what we’re doing with this is to test the waters and see the demand.”
If the demand is high enough, even more courses in the near future can be added, Baebler said.
The two new courses, Business of Sports (ECON 3737) and Sports Operations and Logistics (BUSN 4747), will in all likelihood be taught by Associate Professor Patrick Rishe. Rishe said he is excited to get started.
“I suspect it could have a positive effect on student athletes,” Rishe said. “The benefit is that it can give students a sense of the business world, entrepreneurial spirit and also some insight to the business of sports.”
Steps to earning certificate
The certificate in entrepreneurship with an emphasis in sports business is a track Rishe said will give students the background into the entrepreneurial business of sports.
Rishe was the leader in designing the new courses and said he will most likely teach both classes — Business of Sports and Sports Operations and Logistics. He said the courses will work hand-in-hand to give students a background in as many aspects of sports as possible.
“(ECON 3737) will serve as an overview of the sports business industry,” Rishe said. “The other course (BUSN 4747) is an operations and logistics course, so that goes into understanding how teams set ticket prices, marketing and public relations.”
Rishe listed many different professionals around the St. Louis and national sports business scene that may be brought in to speak to the class, or called over speakerphone.
“There’s other aspects of sports business we can include as well,” Rishe said. “That’s the beauty of it being so broad. … We can include anything that has to do with the operations and logistics of sports.”
The course load to earn the certificate will include four courses in entrepreneurship and the two new sports courses. Business of Sports will be offered only in the fall, while Sports Operations and Logistics will be offered the following spring semester.
Rishe and Baebler said students should start taking the classes going into their sophomore or junior years so there will be time to complete the four other required entrepreneurship courses.
“The one thing that I would stress to any student interested in being part of this is if they want to eventually work in the sports industry, they will need to do an internship as early as their junior going into senior year,” Rishe said.