A fusion of business and communication: New sports communication degree at DePaul University this fall

Chicago Cubs
Located in the nation's third-largest media market, the new DePaul sports communication program will have access to an array of professional sports franchises, global sports organizations and world-class media. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)
CHICAGO — Sports in the U.S. is a major force for economics, entertainment, education and culture with PricewaterhouseCoopers predicting that the industry will reach $75 billion in revenue by 2020. For college students that means a variety of career opportunities that require a sophisticated application of communication, business and digital skills.

DePaul University is one of the pioneers in higher education to offer a sports communication bachelor’s degree — a fusion that balances communication and business classes. Classes are slated to begin this fall.

“There is a clear need in the industry for higher education to serve the major professional sports franchises and related network of sports organizations and businesses. And with Chicago’s championship teams, global sports organizations and world-class media just out DePaul’s front door, a sports communication degree is a good fit for the industry, the market and our students,” said Salma Ghanem, dean of DePaul’s College of Communication.

“This degree will be grounded in relevant communication and business theory-driven skills that will prepare our students for job opportunities in journalism, sales and marketing, public relations, advertising, community relations, media relations, media production and social media,” Ghanem noted.

Believed to be the only undergraduate sports communication program in one of the nation’s top three media markets and only the second one at a university in Illinois, the degree will be offered by the College of Communication with core classes also from DePaul’s Driehaus College of Business.

“This program will help students understand sports as a business and how companies and sports organizations communicate and manage relationships with their fans, sponsors and the media,” said Andy Clark, a visiting assistant professor and director of DePaul’s sports management program at the College of Business.

“Sports is a very outward facing business. The reason it's so popular is people read about it, talk about it and watch it. It's continuing to grow as a business, and communication is a growing enterprise,” Clark added.

Communication and business in the sports industry is becoming so intertwined that it makes sense to combine the areas into one academic field, said Greg Miller, a 1988 DePaul graduate and vice president of content and innovation for the Chicago Bears.

“The current business model for teams and leagues requires them to produce their own content on the same level as media companies, while keeping that content on brand and using that content to achieve marketing and communication goals,” said Miller. “This is one of the reasons why a degree of this kind will be so important to students looking to enter the sports field.”

Students will take 16 credit hours of business courses, 20 credit hours of communication core classes and 32 hours of sports communication classes. Concentrations within the major will include sports journalism, sports promotion and publicity, and sports and society.

“Professional opportunities in sports are greater than ever,” said Carolyn Bronstein, a professor of media studies and an associate dean in DePaul’s College of Communication. “When students think of sports careers, they may be thinking of the most visible careers, such as a professional athlete or sports broadcaster for ESPN. However, there are multitudes of sports-related jobs that offer tremendous hiring potential, such as working in public relations for a sports team as a media relations professional, website manager or social media expert.

“Our students will take classes in journalism, public relations and advertising, critical media studies and organizational communication, among other subfields, and will be prepared to assume management positions in professional, university and amateur sports, public relations, advertising and journalism-related positions in traditional and emerging sports media, and careers in the growing sports data and analytics fields,” Bronstein added.

While there has been a tightening of job opportunities along traditional journalism paths in sports, there is growth in journalism-like communication careers for professionals to work with teams, organizations and leagues, noted Jason Martin, an associate professor and chair of the journalism program at DePaul.

“The appeal of a sports communication undergraduate degree is that it combines business and strategic communication skills and courses with the journalism skills — writing, reporting, fact checking, digital media, audiovisual editing, etc. — to prepare students for new and developing career opportunities in the sports industry,” said Martin.

Another field that should be more accessible to sports communication graduates is sports public relations, said Jim Motzer, a professional lecturer in the college’s PR program who has decades of experience in brand marketing, issues management and corporate social responsibility.

“To land a sports PR job post-graduation, relationships are even more important than in traditional PR. This degree will introduce students to a vast array of sports communication pros, many of whom are DePaul alums, and help them gain valuable internship experience while in school. That will set students in our new program apart from others in the hyper-competitive field of sports communication,” said Motzer.

The idea behind this type of degree is to provide students with a wide understanding of communication as a discipline, in addition to the business classes, according to Michaela Winchatz, an associate professor and an associate dean in DePaul’s College of Communication.

“We hear from employers all the time that communication skills are at the top of their wish list when looking to hire. We believe that this degree will position our students for fantastic opportunities,” Winchatz said.

For additional information on the sports communication degree, email communication@depaul.edu.

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Sources:
Salma Ghanem
sghanem@depaul.edu
312-362-7389

Michaela Winchatz
mwinchat@depaul.edu
312-362-7927

Carolyn Bronstein
cbronste@depaul.edu
312-362-7975

Jason Martin
jmart181@depaul.edu
312-362-7396

Andy Clark
aclark32@depaul.edu
312-362-8113

Jim Motzer
jmotzer@depaul.edu
312-362-7607

Media Contact:
Russell Dorn
rdorn@depaul.edu
312-362-7128