The word “sport” conjures up images of chiseled athletes, screaming coaches and passionate fans. Here in the land of Lakers Nation, specifically, Jack Nicholson and Rob Fukuzaki may come to mind.
However, the billion dollar sports industry involves more than just the people on the court or on television. An abundance of careers exists within the industry, which is why professors Dr. John Watson, Dr. Don Shores, Dr. Michael Feltner and Dr. Ken Waters pushed for the creation of a Sports Administration major.
The University Academic Council approved the major last Friday, with students being able to officially declare it beginning in the spring. It consists of 12 required GE units, 17-19 lower-division requirements and 28-31 upper-division requirements. Only four new classes have been introduced, two of which are internships.
“It’s an interdisciplinary major composed of primarily communication and leadership and business,” former Pepperdine Director of Athletics Watson said. “I think it is a rigorous program, but it will prepare students for the industry itself or prepare them for graduate school or law school.”
Watson added that the program is modeled after the one at Rice University. At Rice sports administration majors have gone on to work in sports-related industry fields ranging from professional sports organizations, to media outlets, to law firms.
Sophomore Hannah Choe and men’s tennis player junior Kento Tanaka-Tamaki are already on contract major for Sports Administration, meaning that they will be able to add the new major to their current one. Several other students have expressed interest in pursuing the major in the spring, according to Watson .
As the director of Athletics from 1998 through 2010, Watson became aware that, “sometimes student-athletes selected majors to accommodate their practice and playing schedule as opposed to their lifelong ambitions.
“In some cases that was because there wasn’t a major available to them or it just didn’t fit into their schedule. That concerned me because I think students do so much better when they’re passionate about what they’re studying,” Watson said.
Tanaka-Tamaki demonstrates an athlete who fits that mold. But the students who aren’t athletes are equally apt to join the program.
Choe’s reason for taking up the degree perfectly fit Watson’s description of potential students who he thought might be interested. She entered Pepperdine as a Math major, but realized that wasn’t her true passion and she jumped at the chance to switch.
“Growing up with a dad who loves the LA Dodgers and a brother who has been playing baseball for over eleven years, I naturally grew up around the baseball field,” Choe wrote in an email. “It has influenced me so much that I actually study better while listening to baseball games. I would love to work for the Dodgers after I graduate.”
Following a similar path, Arizona-native freshman James Gehrels is now declared as a Pre-International Business major and hopes to swap over to Sports Admin.
“I grew up around college sports,” Gehrels wrote. “Sports are a huge part of my life and the possibility of being able to make a living being involved with what I love is an awesome opportunity.”
Opportunities are ample in the City of Angels with the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers and Clippers in close vicinity, something the Sports Administration program is aiming to take full advantage of by incorporating two internship experiences.
The objective of the first internship experience is to expose students to the industry and to encourage networking. The second will remain within the capstone class.
“[In the capstone class] a major project will be controlled by the student,” Watson said. “It will allow them to network even more and have their talents become known to those that are already out in the business world.”
Although Choe is a female student almost enrolled, Watson admitted that he has concerns about the male to female ration that may play out as the program gains momentum. He looks to work “diligently” and “encourages some women to see that there are options for them in this industry.”
Choe and Gehrels both said they believe the major will grow in popularity with time, and that it is a rational, positive contribution to the academic catalog.
“It takes someone who is innovative, someone who is industrious, someone who is hardworking,” Watson said.
Follow Alysha Tsuji on Twitter: @LYSHTsuji
As published in the Oct. 31 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.