News & Features

Learning the Ropes of Sports & Entertainment Management

By: St Louis Post-Dispatch staff reporter

March 24, 2006


Fontbonne University OPTIONS student Lori Payne said she's wanted to go back to school for years, but the timing was never right. After just five weeks in the Bachelor of Science in Sports and Entertainment Management degree program, Payne is certain she's found the right time, the right school and the right degree.

"When I ran across the description of this program, I knew I had to find out more," she said.

At 46, the mother of two has many interests and talents, including music, writing and working with older people. But sports, especially competitive swimming, falls into the passion category for her.

"Sports has always been there and it's kept me sane all these years," she added. "I think people always have a way of falling back into what they do best."

It's safe to say that Payne "does" swimming. She still swims competitively herself, and coaches a group of serious, master-level swimmers. She has an intimate knowledge of swimming as a sport and what some would call "the swimming world."

Payne said she's not sure exactly what she'll do with her completed degree from Fontbonne, but she knows having it will give her the competitive edge on the career front, when her children - ages 9 and 10 - are older.

"With this program, I'm giving myself more validity for where I want to be down the road," she said. "Finally, the kind of training I want to have has a name to it!"

Fontbonne OPTIONS' BSEM degree program provides a broad-based business foundation in sports and entertainment management, which is highly transferable to any industry. While there are other sports management programs out there, OPTIONS offers the only combination of focus on sports and entertainment in the area.

The dual focus offers a wide range of topics from a business and management perspective. The curriculum includes a focus on fan behavior, laws and regulatory bodies affecting the management of sports and entertainment personnel, agreements between professional athletes, as well as endorsement contracts.

The classes are taught by professionals in the field, who navigate the complicated terrain of the sports and entertainment worlds on a daily basis.

One instructor, Barbara Graham-Alexander, an attorney who represents a number of musicians in the St. Louis area, including major label-rap artists Potzee and Shorty, said the need for people in the field with good business acumen and sound management skills is great.

"The entertainment industry is a business in which people really need solid know-how. There's a false sense out there that anybody can be a manager, but without the right kind of training, big mistakes can be made. Incompetent management can lead to mismanagement of funds, costly lawsuits, and lost opportunities for the artist," Graham-Alexander said.

The same risks are there in the sporting arena, said consultant Christina Schellhardt, who teaches a marketing class for the degree program.

"Many people who consider entering sports management are there for one reason: they love sports," said Schellhardt, who cautions, "People often think their passion is enough, but it really isn't."

Schellhardt, who has worked for the Sporting News, as well as for an agency that services sports marketing clients, said she has enjoyed sharing her knowledge of the field with OPTIONS students. She likes to point out how many different kinds of opportunities there are out there.

"If you have the right kind of training, you can be involved in sports management at many different levels, and not just the obvious, such as working directly for professional mainstream sporting teams," she said. "Promotions departments or sports marketing divisions of large companies need people with solid training and there are all kinds of opportunities in other engaging sports, such as NASCAR racing and professional bull riding."

As with all of the Fontbonne University OPTIONS programs, the BSEM is designed to accommodate the needs of busy working adults. Groups consist of about 15 to 20 career-minded men and women from a wide variety of backgrounds, providing a wealth of knowledge and backgrounds. Classes meet on the same evening each week. Degree programs are accelerated and begin throughout the year at several convenient locations: Clayton, South County, North County, and Chesterfield.

For more information, call 314-863-2220 or Visit the Web site

with permission, copyright (2006) St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Education for Life section