MU developing new sports major

The program would concentrate on venue management.
Monday, December 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:25 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources is in the first stages of developing an undergraduate degree in sport venue management.

Jim Spain, assistant dean of academic programs for the college, said the program would train students to manage the locations where sports occur or become part of a team’s administrative staff, from the high school to professional level.

Spain said he does not yet have any concrete information on exactly what the degree might look like, but it could draw on the faculty expertise already present in its degree programs in parks, recreation and tourism and in hotel and restaurant management.

“The sport venue management initiative is about leveraging strengths already present in (the college),” Spain said.

Emphasizing that it is early in the process, he said the degree could relate to marketing, advertising and communications and could tap into the MU Athletic Department for lecturers.

“We want to combine our existing strengths to target an industry that is significant to the economic engine of Missouri,” Spain said.

He said the purpose of the program would be to better prepare students to compete in that growing industry. And, he said, he expects a great deal of interest from a wide variety of students.

“We anticipate that it will attract a population of student athletes but also a population of students who just enjoy athletics — those people who love sports but can’t play for a Division I school,” Spain said.

Bryan Maggard, associate director of athletics for Academic Services, agrees a sport venue management program would be popular.

“I think we would be overwhelmed by interest across the board, not just among athletes,” Maggard said. “However, the student athlete would be interested because they already have that passion for athletics.”

Columbia College offered a major in sports management for the first time this fall. Spain said the difference between a degree in sports management and sport venue management is that the latter incorporates more aspects of the business of food service.

Columbia College basketball coach Bob Burchard said athletes have shown interest in the sports management program, but so have many other students who don’t fit into any certain profile. Burchard said there are two elective tracks within the degree program.

“One elective track is more scientific and would tend to lead you into a profession in health and fitness,” he said. “The other is more focused on the business end and might lead to working within a major athletic department.”

Terry Smith, vice president and dean for academic affairs at Columbia College, said development of the program was in reaction to growth in the sports management field.

“We noticed increased demand for professional managers of sports and leisure, and the program made sense because we only had to create four new courses,” Smith said.

At MU, Paul Vaughn, associate dean of academic programs in the agriculture college, said that because of its potential popularity, limits might have to be set on the number of people who could be admitted to the potential sport venue management degree program — possibly by setting very high standards.

But before anything else can be done to create the program, Vaughn said, the college needs to find the funding to move ahead. He said the agricultural college is working on a business plan to identify the costs of the program.

“We currently don’t have money or faculty to start up the program, so one of our plans is to seek external funding,” Vaughn said.

Steve Graham, associate vice president for academic affairs at MU, said the cost of creating a new degree varies too much to make any generalizations and private donors are not typically used. One reason for this is that the costs of creating a degree program are not adequately covered through private donors.

“A lot of times, donors provide a lump sum, which can help with start-up costs, but the main expenses of creating a degree program are recurring,” Graham said.

MU has 263 degree programs, and Rhonda Leavell, an executive staff assistant in the provost’s office, said she has seen only one or two new degrees created in the last two years.

Leavell said a degree program has to go through many steps at the university level and then be approved by the Coordinating Board of the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

“The whole process of approval takes two or three months after the degree program is drafted and proposed,” Leavell said.

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