“Seize opportunities.” “Widen your scope.” “Become the utility player.” We’ve heard these words from speakers all summer, and once again we heard them tonight from our college sports panel. It’s a good thing I’ve been paying attention.
I did exactly what our MSBA mentors told us – I volunteered to help. Because of that, today was a fantastic day at my internship with Mission Athletecare. Before I knew it, I booked my flight to Mississippi for the weekend to represent Mission at an event! With my eagerness to help, I like to think I’m slowly becoming that utility player.
However, the already exciting day didn’t end there. We heard from a fantastic panel of speakers in the college sports industry who offered a variety of viewpoints and knowledge about the current collegiate model that is under a lot of scrutiny.
First Jason Belzer, Founder and President of Global Athlete Management Enterprises (GAME, Inc.), shared his insights about building relationships with coaches and teams, as well as the importance of building a brand. One very valuable tip for any relationship though: celebrate the important things. A little gesture such as framing a picture or sending a thoughtful gift can go a long way in retaining friends and clients.
Next Lenny Kaplan, the Director of Athletics for NJIT (the only Division I program without a conference) highlighted the collegiate sports model while detailing its challenges from funding and fan bases to facilities. Different from the pro model in many ways, college athletics must engage fans and alumni to sports through the excitement of their alma mater. To do that, a program has to show how donors and fans can make the college or university a better place.
Finally, we had Scottie Rodgers, the Associate Executive Director of Communications and External Relations for Ivy League Sports. Scottie was definitely a crowd favorite as he often gave his down-to-earth “Scottie Rodgers” view about everything, especially with his diverse NCAA background from the SEC to the Ivy League. Aside from echoing the value of learning the way an athletic department works by being active in one, he gave us a great way to think about college athletic programs’ funding resources and fans – college is the longest relationship you’ll ever have. Think about it…
Bottom line: the collegiate sports model is changing with technology and sponsorships. However, the nostalgia of a campus from alumni should last forever, and programs have to leverage that physical connection to a campus to grow and improve. With those closing thoughts, thank you Jason, Lenny, and Scottie for taking the time to be honest, insightful, and share your passion. I really appreciate it. As for me, next stop is Mississippi!