A Transformational Gift Turns the Sport & Entertainment Management Program into the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program
By Keith Morelli
TAMPA (September 26, 2017) -- After five years of giving graduate business students the tools they need to succeed in the world of sports and entertainment, the program that boasts a near 100 percent placement rate for its graduates now is named after the philanthropists who helped found it in 2012.
Tampa Bay Lightning owners Jeff and Penny Vinik are woven into the culture of the Tampa Bay area with their vision of re-inventing the downtown waterfront and their altruism and generosity throughout the region. And the family's legacy at the University of South Florida was cemented further Tuesday with the official naming of the course of study as the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program.
More than 250 people attended the ceremony in the Muma College of Business atrium, and often rose for standing ovations: once when the program's new logo was revealed, when Jeff Vinik was introduced, after he spoke and at the close of the 45-minute event.
"We are making history today," said Moez Limayem, dean of the Muma College of Business, which offers the sport and entertainment management program. "We are making history by honoring two of the best people in our community."
The Viniks helped launch the dual-degree graduate program, which combines the business fundamentals found in MBA courses in management, finance, marketing, information systems and accounting, with a focus on the sport and entertainment industry.
Limayem said the gift, which means the program will continue for generations, represents the Vinik family's emphasis on faculty development and business community engagement.
"The Vinik family's ongoing support of more than $5 million to this program will ensure that we will have the best sport and entertainment management program in the world," said Limayem, who started as dean the same year the program began. "We are very, very grateful; every one of our faculty, staff and all our students."
The program's main success is that nearly 100 percent of its graduates are placed in well-paying industry jobs within three months of graduation.
Students in the program wore dark green, long-sleeve T-shirts adorned with the new logo. Hundreds of shirts were on hand to give away to those who attended the event.
"This is a momentous day in the history of both the University of South Florida and our Muma College of Business," said USF System President Judy Genshaft. "Jeff and Penny are inspirational, charitable civic leaders who love Tampa Bay, USF and the family entertainment businesses that they lead. I can't think of two more deserving individuals to receive the honor of having this program named after them."
Jeff Vinik said when the program started five years ago, the vision was to recruit the brightest minds and educate them in the sports and entertainment business.
"What is truly unique about the USF program is that it places students through an intensive residency program with Tampa Bay-based sports teams, marketing agencies and entertainment companies, best preparing them to join the industry," he said. "I am pleased to say that USF and its leaders are exceeding expectations, building a growing pipeline of talent with masters' degrees that is helping the Lightning and dozens of other organizations – locally and nationally – fill open positions with very well-prepared young people."
He said 41 students have served residences with the Lightning since the program began and six have been hired for full-time jobs.
"They all have helped us to what we've become today," Vinik said.
Vinik joked about the firms he leads getting the best of the best before acknowledging that teams across the region also benefited from the talent coming out of the program.
His naming gift, he said, further bonds a growing partnership with USF.
"We have great aspirations," he said, "not only for this program, but for this university."
Bill Sutton, the only director the program has ever had, said his goal is to make the program the best on the planet.
Vinik's association will help bring national and global attention to USF, he said.
"It's a name people across the nation are drawn to," he said. "It will be great for recruiting, great for placement and great for the Lightning."
Luke Mohamed graduated from the program two years ago and immediately was hired as manager of corporate partnerships with D.C. United of Major League Soccer. Within two years, he was promoted to director.
"And just this past month," he said, "I began serving as an adjunct, teaching a sports MBA class at Georgetown University.
"The best part: My story isn't special for this program," he said. "It's the norm. In fact, the current students in the program will likely have better stories to tell in just a few short years."