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Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program Ranked No. 4 in the World for Second Consecutive Year

By Keith Morelli

Bill Sutton

TAMPA (May 30, 2019) -- For the second consecutive year, the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program has been ranked fourth best in the world by SportBusiness International and No. 3 in North America. The rankings were made available this week by the online publication for sports and entertainment industry leaders.

The post graduate course rankings list also placed the program tops in Florida.

“To be ranked this high is a tribute to the faculty, the college, our university, Jeff Vinik and the Lightning organization as well as our other program partners,” said Bill Sutton, founding director of the program who is retiring at the end of the year. “The result is we are able to attract great students and prepare them for success while they are here in the Vinik program.”

The dual-degree graduate program, which boasts a near 100 percent job placement rate for its graduates, got the news earlier this month, but could not reveal the results until this week.

Recognition and a trophy will be presented to program directors at the 2019 North American Society of Sport Management Conference in New Orleans later this month.

Last year, the program jumped 15 spots from No. 19 to No. 4 in the world. This year, the program moved up in the North American rankings, finishing third, behind the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Ohio University. The rankings are based on surveys completed by alumni who completed the courses in 2016, to allow enough time for them to have fully entered the workforce and reflect on the effects of their degrees, according to SportBusiness International.

“Course leaders from across the world also complete a separate survey,” the publication said, “giving an insight into how courses are viewed by experts in the sector.”

Upon Sutton’s retirement, Michelle Harrolle will assume the directorship of the USF program.

"Dr. Sutton has built a legacy,” Harrolle said. “Our ranking as third in the USA and fourth in the world demonstrates our commitment to our students achieving their dreams in the sport and entertainment industry."

The 8-year-old program in the Muma College of Business issues graduates a master's degree in sport and entertainment management and an MBA. Nearly every single graduate since the program began has landed a job in the field within three months of graduation.

The program was named the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program in 2017 after Jeff and Penny Vinik, owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning, donated more than $6 million to its cause.

The rankings assess programs based on the overall quality of the student education, taking into account course content, standard of teaching, number and standing of guest speakers, provision and quality of work placements and internships as well as alumni support.

Congratulatory notes flowed in when the announcement was made:

“Congratulations to you and your team, Bill,” wrote USF Provost Ralph Wilcox. “Proud to bring the Vinik program to No. 3 in the U.S., with room to move up both at home and abroad.”

“Outstanding, Bill,” wrote Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem. “Congratulations to the most amazing team.”

“Congrats to the entire team,” wrote Steve Griggs, CEO of Tampa Bay Sports & Entertainment, the management arm of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Amalie Arena and other properties.

“That’s incredible news Bill, and a very impressive accomplishment,” wrote USF President Judy Genshaft. “Congratulations to you, and to the entire Vinik sport and entertainment business team for their passion and dedication.”