by Jack Bechta
July 02, 02009
In the first part of this series, I wrote about my own path to becoming an NFL agent and whether a law degree can be a valuable asset. Today, I’ll discuss grad school and the various sports management programs now available to would-be agents and sports team executives.
When I read the Sports Business Journal or other industry papers, I often see advertisements for universities’ sports management programs. More and more, colleges are offering MBAs in sports management and/or marketing.
What I find interesting is that a majority of these schools’ professors have never worked as agents, negotiators or in any other capacity in sports. Many of them have been professors all of their adult lives. So where's the beef? Where’s the real-world experience? Many of these programs can be akin to the class attended by Thorton Mellon in “Back to School.”
Some of these programs charge between $30,000 and $60,000 for a one- or two-year program. They offer internships and even a relation of some sort with a real pro team. However, the problem is that most of the time, no one in the campus building has ever worked in sports. Additionally, the programs may claim to have an internship component, but only one of every 30 students can actually obtain an internship.
I spoke recently to a very smart woman who had undergrad degree from Harvard and plopped down $40,000 for one of these programs. She told me that she doesn’t really feel like she’s learning anything special and that the well-known university oversold the program. She said she learned more in two hours talking to me and an MLB executive than she did in her first year in the program. I’m not saying I know everything, but I try to give young people real-world practical advice, as I’m doing now.
If you’re considering grad school for a sports management program, check to see who the professors are and what their experience is. I would advise you to look for professors like my colleague here at the National Football Post, Andrew Brandt, who lectures at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Andrew has been a GM, a player’s agent, a salary cap manager and, most recently, an entrepreneur. He’s currently consulting for the Eagles. These are the kind of people you want to learn from. Make sure you get your money’s worth.
I’ll tell you from experience that most sports people get hired because of their personality and real-world experiences than their educational resume.
And now, the two most important ingredients you’ll need to break in and succeed in the sports industry (especially as an agent) are:
1) a competitive nature
All the people I know who work at top of the sports stratosphere possess these two intangibles. The top agents in our business might not have the greatest educational background, but when it comes to these two traits, they’ve got plenty.
So whether you go to law school or graduate school or pass on both, be ready to compete. And know that your determination can get you through the door -- and ultimately help you to succeed.
In a future series, I’ll be writing about the first-hand experiences of agents, executives and team presidents and how they broke into the business.