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Online business course connects students with alumni thriving in sports industry

Digital Demons: Rising Up Remotely

Emma Reilly and Maggie Specht
Emma Reilly (left) and Maggie Specht (right) both took Andy Clark's Introduction to Sports Management course during the spring 2020 quarter. (Photos courtesy of Emma Reilly and Maggie Specht)
Most of Andy Clark’s students are big sports fans, so when his Introduction to Sports Management class transitioned online this past spring quarter due to the pandemic, he knew he needed to find ways to provide memorable learning opportunities to make up for the lack of in-person opportunities like touring Wrigley Field and meeting with Chicago sports industry leaders. Clark wasn’t sidelined for long, however, as he was determined to find inspiring ways to teach his students about careers in the sports industry by connecting them with successful DePaul grads.

Clark reached out to DePaul alumni coast-to-coast working in organizations including the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and Adidas with an invitation to record Zoom messages and lectures for his students.

Andy Clark
Andy Clark is a senior instructor in the Driehaus College of Business and director of the university’s sports business program. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
“My goal with this course is to give students an inside look at the sports business industry,” says Clark, a senior instructor in the Driehaus College of Business and director of the university’s sports business program. “Many young DePaul alumni were willing to offer their time to help our students learn a bit more about the variety of opportunities available in the sports industry. Students were also able to connect with these alumni following the class, which can be an important step in the process of finding that first job following graduation.”

One of the students who made the most of the opportunity was Maggie Specht, a junior management major. After she listened to a talk by Kevin Magnuson, a DePaul College of Law graduate and current partner with KO Sports Inc. where he serves as an agent for NHL players and prospects, Specht connected with him for a conversation about his job and steps he’s taken in life to reach his goals.

“Kevin definitely piqued my interest in being a sports agent,” Specht says. “The connections with all the alumni alone were extremely valuable to me, and it was helpful to see all the different areas these alumni ended up in. I enjoyed seeing the variety of their career paths, and this reassured me that I could do a lot with my degree upon graduation.”

While many students have a passion for sports, being a fan will not get a graduate a job, Clark notes. 

“What makes students and graduates attractive to prospective employers is how their business skills relate to that specific sports industry position," Clark says. "A major goal of our program is to teach students how their business skills are relatable in a wide range of sports industry careers.”

For Emma Reilly, who graduated from DePaul in June with a degree in sports communication and a concentration in sports promotion and publicity, the three courses she took with Clark during her DePaul career were transformative.

“Before taking Professor Clark’s classes I didn't know anything about what life would be like after graduation,” Reilly says. “He really helped me prepare for that. He’s one of the most genuine professors I have ever had because his curriculum goes beyond the course subjects. H​e makes us challenge ourselves to become better people.”

For Reilly, the alumni speakers were “the best part of the class.”  One speaker who stood out to her was Tom Lubinski, a “triple demon” who is a product manager for Adidas. 

“He oversees the process of getting shoes from concept to store, which I didn’t even realize you could do as a career,” Reilly says.

Lubinski, who earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a master’s degree in taxation and an MBA, all from DePaul, spoke to the class from his home base in Portland, Oregon. He shared his path from DePaul to Adidas and his role in the 18-month journey shoes take from a sketch to the shelves.

It doesn’t surprise Clark that a DePaul grad landed such a creative job. 

“The industry continues to grow in size and complexity. DePaul students are getting sports industry roles in sales, marketing, analytics, operations, hospitality, communication and media,” Clark says.

Other speakers talked about their careers in diverse fields including business analytics, partnership activation, suite services, catering sales, group sales, ticket sales, sponsorships, events, communications, and revenue planning and analytics. Some of the alumni who shared their stories included Yami Garza (B.S., 2018), account manager for Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo; Steve Polheber (B.S., 2012), director of ticket sales at the University of Arizona; Wahaj Tariq (B.S., 2011), director of revenue planning and analytics for the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders; and Kelsey Horvath (B.S., 2018), suite operations coordinator for MLB’s San Diego Padres.

Clark is set to teach Introduction to Sports Management during the fall quarter. The course can be taken as either part of the Sports Management concentration in the Driehaus College of Business, as part of the two-year-old sports communications major housed in the College of Communication, or as an elective.

For Specht, the class is a must for anyone interested in working in the sports industry.

“I was so appreciative of how involved Professor Clark was with the transition to remote learning,” Specht says. “He took the time to create meaningful lectures, helped our class interact with each other through discussions, and gave us so many opportunities to build meaningful connections with individuals in the sports industry.”