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USF professor to work with Rays in new faculty externship

Mike Mondello

A USF Muma College of Business professor will take his research out of the classroom and into the ballpark this August as he heads to work for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sport & Entertainment Management Professor Mike Mondello will use analytics to work with Rays senior management on long-term issues critical to the success of the organization. Mondello will be the first faculty extern for the college, where faculty take time away from teaching and research to help businesses find creative solutions to the issues they face. The externship also gives faculty members a chance to connect with the business community.

"There were two things that were driving it for me," Mondello said of the externship. "I wanted to do something for an organization that would be helpful for our students, and I wanted to do something that ties into what I've been studying and talking about for 15 years."

When the Muma College of Business received its naming gift in 2014, faculty externships were one of the priorities for the $25 million naming gift from philanthropists Pam and Les Muma. The externship program was created with part of that gift, providing faculty the ability to work in business and industry for six months at a time, giving them business knowledge and skills to take back to the classroom. Similar to internships, where interns work at a company for a short period, Mondello will work at the Rays for the fall semester. Whereas internships need businesses' time and resources to help students grow, faculty externships will do the reverse - taking the knowledge and skills of faculty members to create business growth.

"We are thrilled to kick off our faculty externship program with a strong community partner like the Tampa Bay Rays and a world-class faculty member such as Mike Mondello," said Moez Limayem, dean of the Muma College of Business. "This is a win, win, win opportunity - the externship is a win for our faculty, a win for local businesses, and a win for our students when their professor returns to the classroom. I am sure that Professor Mondello's research and expertise will be a huge asset to the Rays for the time he is with the organization and into the future."

While Mondello is eager to contribute to the Rays, he said he anticipates the externship will be a learning experience for him as well. When he returns in the spring, Mondello said his experience with the Rays will provide fodder for classroom material and discussions in his sport analytics and sport finance classes. He hopes the experience will help students directly as well by expanding his ties in the sport and entertainment community, enabling him to better help students find their own residencies and jobs.

"I'm going to do a lot more listening than I am talking," he said.

Melanie Lenz, the team's senior vice president for strategy and development, said the Rays look forward to having Mondello bring new insights to the team's business operations.

"We value Dr. Mondello's extensive academic research related to the business of sports," Lenz said. "Our organization looks forward to having him be a part of our team this fall."