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Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program Ranked No. 3 in the World: SportBusiness Postgraduate Course Rankings

By Keith Morelli

SportsBusiness PGR

TAMPA (September 7, 2021) -- The USF Muma College of Business’s Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program again is listed among the elite on the planet. Rankings released by SportBusiness today show the postgraduate program edged closer to the top, ranking No. 3 in the world, No. 3 in the United States and No. 1 in Florida.

“If the top two courses are familiar faces, the third-placed course in 2021 demonstrates the ever-diversifying nature of these rankings,” said SportBusiness in a statement issued Tuesday with the publishing of the top post-grad programs list. “The University of South Florida’s Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program has posted impressive scores before, finishing fourth in 2018 and 2019, but in going one higher this year, it becomes the first course founded since the first edition of this list was published to make the podium.

“Its rise has been impressive, from making its debut on the rankings in 2017 to rounding out an all-American top three just five years later,” the statement said. And “… as the Vinik program continues to establish itself, [it] could climb even higher.”

Michelle Harrolle, marketing professor and director of the program, said the recognition as being among the best in the world is humbling.

“Our innovation, industry relationships and dedication to providing opportunities for our students to grow personally and professionally has been crucial to our success,” she said. “Even during the past pandemic year, we were able to partner with sport and entertainment organizations, such as Vinik Sports Group, San Francisco 49ers, United Soccer League, just to name a few, to create opportunities for our students. We had 100 percent fellowship placement for our students in 2021 and we are at 98 percent job placement three months after graduation.”

USF’s program improved over last year when it was ranked No. 6 in the world and No. 5 in the United States.

“Our amazing students, alumni, faculty, staff and especially our partners are so deserving of this honor,” Harrolle said. “And, while I obviously am a bit biased, I believe we are the best sport business program in the world.”

Ohio University and the University of Massachusetts edged USF this year for the top two spots. Ohio University was the first school in the world to launch a master’s degree program in sports management in 1966 and the University of Massachusetts’s program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

The SportBusiness rankings are based on a formula that assigns values to employability, research, assistance in finding jobs in the industry, quality of extra-curricular support, opportunities to connect with alumni and the ability to network with industry executives.

The 10-year-old, dual-degree Vinik program 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 became 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.

Program alumna Philicia Douglas, now serving as sales director for the Birmingham Squadron, a G-League affiliate for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, said she would not be where she is without the program.

“The networking opportunities it gave me are crazy,” she said in an interview published in SportBusiness. “[Former program director] Bill Sutton and Dr. Harrolle placed me with the Miami Dolphins for an internship, but not only that, I had so many other networking opportunities with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and I still talk to the people from the Lightning and Bucs to this day.

“I think one of the issues in our industry is knowledge,” Douglas said. “A lot of people just don’t know what they don’t know, and I didn’t know about any of the ways you could be involved in sports. I thought the only way to be in sports was either to play it professionally or to be a journalist. I had no idea about all the other avenues of sports, I didn’t even know about ticket sales at all. I didn’t know about partnerships. I didn’t know about marketing.”

The program, she said, opened her eyes to all those opportunities.

Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem, whose arrival at the college came about at the same time the sport and entertainment management program was created, said the success of the program is shared among faculty, staff, students and outside partners who play a big part in offering internships and other work experiences that make graduates so marketable in the industry.

“We – from our incredible faculty to our determined students to our  patrons, people like Jeff and Penny Vinik, to the entire Lightning organization led by CEO Steve Griggs – have made a concerted effort to make this program a success.

“With their support, our students are able to land scholarships, travel abroad and participate in internships within the industry,” he said. “The Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program is indeed world class.”