Fresno State program breeds sports business professionals

Brian Glover, part of the Fresno Grizzlies ownership group, also teaches sports marketing courses at Fresno State.Brian Glover, part of the Fresno Grizzlies ownership group, also teaches sports marketing courses at Fresno State.Sipping champagne in lavish luxury boxes and swapping stories with playing field heroes is often the dream bubble Susan Geringer has to pop as the faculty coordinator for the sports marketing major at Fresno State.


Long, odd hours, time away from family and low entry salaries are some of the realities Geringer exposes to students in order to sort out the truly committed and produce focused, qualified sports industry professionals.

The program was long overdue in the eyes of the team executives in Northern and Southern California.

“Everybody we talked to said, ‘Where in the world have you guys been?’” Geringer said. “This is exactly what we’ve been waiting for.”

The graduates of the program receive a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an option in sports marketing.

Although athlete-level salaries are highly unlikely, there is money in sports. An oft-cited 2002 report from the Sports Business Journal estimates the size of the sports industry at $213 billion, which was more than double the U.S. auto industry at that time.

“The sports industry is a growing piece of the economy and a tremendous place to get a career in a number pf different acumen,” said Brian Glover, a partner for the Fresno Grizzlies triple-A baseball team.

The Grizzlies have been involved with the major since its creation in 2008. The team provides about five to eight internships each semester to students at Fresno State.
Two years ago, Glover took the relationship a step further by becoming a member of the adjunct faculty and teaching the Marketing 150 course, an introduction to sports marketing.

Glover said he always loved teaching, but the decision to join the staff also involved an organizational decision by the Grizzlies to develop and recruit locally to find potential candidates with an attachment to baseball as well as the San Joaquin Valley.

“People generally pursue a career in the sports industry because they have an affinity for sports, and they typically move from anywhere in the U.S. to Fresno to be involved with sports,” Glover said. “That’s changing for Fresno, because Fresno State offers the sports marketing major.”

The program has a proven track record of placing its graduates in internships and entry-level positions. Those jobs tend to be low paying or even volunteer positions, but there are opportunities to advance to more stable salaries.

The graduates of the program have found jobs with college, minor league and professional teams.

“Just like the players, everyone wants to work at the highest level, it’s just a whole different energy and atmosphere,” said Chris Kutz, the media relations coordinator for the Grizzlies. “You just see it and aspire to be there.”

Geringer formulated the coursework from her conversations with those team executives in Southern and Northern California.

In addition to the general marketing class, students must take the introduction to sports marketing and a sports marketing law and ethics course. The required electives classes include sports economics, facility booking and promotion, licensing, sponsorships and more.

Geringer also asked the executives if requiring an internship was a good idea or a waste of time. The consensus response from the executives was it was a necessity.
“It helps them understand the hours and days they’re going to have to work, it’s not a Monday through Friday job,” Geringer said.

Glover has 47 students in his class this semester, including four international students from Germany.

“I asked them why they’re taking a sports marketing class, and it’s because it’s something they’re not offered in Europe,” Glover said.

Despite the enormity of the fan base in Europe, Glover says European soccer is still in its infancy as far as sports marketing is concerned.