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Illinois State’s sport management program shines

Students on a football field in STL

Students and Dr. Nels Popp pose on the field with St. Louis Rams VP of Sales Mike O'Keefe prior to the Rams-Cardinals game during a 2012 class trip to St. Louis.

A job in sports can be a great gig—if you can find one. Illinois State’s sport management program has a great track record of training students to do just that.

The Department of Kinesiology and Recreation’s 33-hour graduate sequence has existed in its present form for about 10 years. Here’s how Illinois State’s program stands out among the 300 sport management programs across the country, according to sequence coordinator Nels Popp.

Keeping it small

The program only admits about 15 students per year to align with the job market. The program’s grads work with major and minor league teams, NCAA athletic departments, sports commissions, companies like Nike, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hands-on experience

The program has strong ties with Redbird Athletics, giving students real-world experience in communications, fundraising, ticket operations and sales, facility management, and other areas. Same goes for coursework, where a finance class analyzes the economic impact of a state volleyball tournament on a real community, not just in theory.

Making contact

Every year, the program hosts its Sport Management Symposium featuring big-name speakers, in addition to class trips to major sporting venues. Popp, who worked in sports himself prior to joining ISU, maintains a database of around 140 Illinois State alums working in sports. “I figure by the time you’re done with the two-year program, you’ve met 50 individual people outside of the Bloomington-Normal area working in sports,” Popp said.

For more information about the program, visit the program’s website.

 

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