SMU Sport Management: Bucking the Trend of Traditional Sport Management Programs

SMU Sport Management students working on the set of ESPN's College Gameday. Photo via SMU Sport Management
SMU Sport Management students working on the set of ESPN’s College Gameday. Photo via SMU Sport Management

A common gripe from industry professionals is how sport management degrees fail to offer real-world training on subjects such as sales, negotiations, marketing, and other aspects of business. Thus, these professionals are now challenging programs around the country to consider a new teaching philosophy.

With the help of Michael Lysko, Director and Professor of Practice of the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Sport Management program, the private university in sports-heavy Dallas, Texas has quickly answered that challenge to offer a hands-on program where students learn from tried-and-true industry experts.

Developed together with the Simmons School of Education and Human Development and the Cox School of Business, SMU offers a highly-selective Master of Science in Sport Management (MSSM) program, with fewer than 25 full-time students enrolled per year, as well as an undergraduate Sport Management concentration.

The Master’s degree is a full-time, 12-month program, with a part-time option, built upon business fundamentals such as finance, ethics, and negotiations. The degree is a combination of MBA and sport management courses, preparing students with a well-rounded sports business curriculum.

“We are able to provide our students with invaluable experience and access to a robust network of executives who provide guidance and mentorship to the next wave industry professionals.”

— Michael Lysko

A four-credit-hour internship is required to complete the degree, allowing students the experience to practice what they learned in the classroom.

The internship component of the degree has placed students across the country in positions for collegiate properties and professional teams, sporting goods manufacturers, sports marketing agencies, and facilities.

“One of the advantages for our students is access to unique experiences, such as sales and consulting projects and event management with SMU’s industry partners, including the Dallas Stars, Dallas Mavericks, ESPN College Game Day, Super Bowl XLV, the NCAA Men’s Final Four, NBA All-Star Weekend, and Legends Sales and Consulting, the National Football Foundation, Learfield Sports and the College Football Playoff,” said Lysko. “We are able to provide our students with invaluable experience and access to a robust network of executives who provide guidance and mentorship to the next wave of industry professionals.”

Lysko himself is a seasoned veteran in the sports industry. Before arriving at SMU in 2009, Lysko served as the Vice President of Marketing Partnerships at Intersport, the Director of Athletics at the University of Western Ontario, and the Commissioner of the Canadian Football League.

In addition to holding a Master’s of Science degree from Indiana University, an Honours B.A. from the University of Waterloo, and a Sports Administration Diploma from Durham College, Lysko has also completed the Strategic Negotiation Program at Harvard University, the Strategic Persuasion program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and is a graduate of the Advanced Executive Leadership Program at the Richard Ivey School of Business at The University of Western Ontario.

Lysko brings a wide-ranging background to the table as the Director of the SMU Sport Management program, and he leverages his connections to help his students obtain their dream jobs.

“We understand the importance of exposing the students to our network,” said Lysko. “My background in various segments of the industry allows me to connect with a wide range of executives who serve as guest speakers and advisors, as well as to provide our students with valuable connections to internships and full-time jobs.”

SMU is one of the leaders when it comes to quality of faculty. Photo via SMU
SMU is one of the leaders when it comes to quality of faculty. Photo via SMU

While Lysko’s credentials are impressive, his faculty is also full of sport business veterans, all of whom have at least 20 years of experience in their respective fields. Industry veterans serving as adjunct faculty include: Ryan Luckey, Associate VP of Corporate Sponsorships at AT&T; sports lawyer Christian Dennie, named as a 2013 Rising Star by Texas Monthly; Peter Carton, who worked in the Commissioner’s Office of Major League Baseball as Director of the International Division; Bill Glenn, former senior vice president at The Marketing Arm and current CMO of Predictive Fitness; and Paul Monroe, former VP of Marketing & Communications for the Dallas Mavericks.

With the firepower of the faculty, location of the school, and the program’s commitment to their students, SMU Sport Management students are ready to take on the sports industry right after graduation.

“If you look at the placement rate around the country for SMU Sport Management alumni, you would have no idea our program is so young,” said Lysko. “The sports teams, leagues, and agencies love our students because they come in already knowing how to do what they need to do. I believe that our commitment to experiential learning sets SMU apart, and allows our students and alumni an advantage in breaking into a very competitive industry.”

If you would like to learn more about the SMU Sport Management program, you can visit their website and follow them on Twitter. You can also follow Michael Lysko on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: The SMU Sport Management Program is a sponsor of FOS.