Wharton takes on sports


Take a look at most any top business school, says Kenneth Shropshire, and you’re likely to find lots of the same old, same old—programs in finance, real estate, retail and management.

What you won’t find, he says, is much emphasis on the business of sports.

“ Forever, colleges and universities have cast that field into the physical education or athletics departments,” says Shropshire, the David W. Hauck Professor of Legal Studies at the Wharton School and author of several books about the business of sports. “They’ve not taken a real serious look at it.”

Given that sports is, today, a $375-billion-dollar industry, Shropshire says that doesn’t make much sense. So Shropshire and likeminded colleagues in the Wharton School recently launched the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, a new center that will bring together industry leaders, faculty and students to generate and share knowledge about the massive business of sports—now the 11th-largest industry in the United States.

“ What we want to do is take the same kind of serious look at this business as schools do with real estate and other fields,” says Shropshire, whose books include “Sports and the Law” and “The Business of Sports Agents.”
The launch of the Wharton initiative comes as the world of sports management is changing, Shropshire says. For years, the executives running sports franchises and leagues had followed a similar career path—player, then coach, then management. Today, the demand is growing for top-level business minds who can handle the pressures of a dynamic industry.

Shropshire says the center will provide mentoring and other opportunities for students, publish a newsletter, offer executive education programs and host regular special events. This spring, those events include an appearance by George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, and a conference focusing on the phenomenon of athletes turning pro at a young age.

“ This will be a way students can get a great education about, and also get a better understanding about, a business where MBAs generally don’t find themselves,” Shropshire says.

Originally published on March 17, 2005