Online Sport Management Master’s Degree
It's more than a passion, it's a career path. Earn your master's in sport management* from the University of Kansas, known for its athletic tradition. Become part of a network of Jayhawk alumni who work for organizations such as the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Nationals, Dallas Cowboys, the Big Ten Conference, Special Olympics, USA Diving and many more.
The vision behind KU Sport's pioneering online master's program
I'm Brian Gordon. I am an associate Professor in sport management. I'm also the program director for our online Master's program here at KU. I had a bit of a circular path to get to where I was at, so take you back to the late '90s, early 2000s. I was an undergraduate student at Eastern Illinois University. Sport Management really was not a thing. It existed, but I was not aware of it. I was always interested in sport business and law were the three things that I was really drawn to. So I was a History major and pre-law minor, in my undergraduate. And what I determined through the four years I was an undergraduate was that I thought I wanted to be a sports agent, specifically, the niche that I thought I was going to fill was a lot of college coaches at that time did not have agents, they had just local attorneys that worked on a lot of their contracts and their appearances and all of their marketing. So I thought I had a good niche to go that route, go to law school and become a sports agent. I learned a lot more about the agency field through some job shadowing and internship opportunities.
0:01:25.7 Brian Gordon:
And through that process, once I graduated from Eastern, I kind of realized that the family-life balance wasn't there, it was extremely competitive, and it didn't kind of match my values and where I kind of saw myself going. So I took a year off from school and worked at a Fortune 500 company near my hometown and in Champaign-Urbana. I really didn't enjoy that for the year that I did it, and it really motivated me to think about my future and to think about how I could get back in the realm of sport, doing something with sport.
0:02:02.4 Brian Gordon:
While I was down at Southern Illinois, I'd applied for law school there. I took a chance meeting with the director of the sport management program there. His name was Dr. Taeho Yoh. And we sat down and talked about my career ambitions, what I wanted to do. And that was my first introduction to the field of sport management. And I decided then that going to law school wasn't the best fit. I enrolled at Southern Illinois University as a master's student in sport management. The first year there, I worked a ton of campus and athletic events, volunteered in the athletic department, was trying to find my place there. And nothing really hit that first year from an interest standpoint. However, I got really close with my mentor, my advisor, which was Dr. Yoh. I saw what he did teaching classes, doing research, working with students.
0:03:00.8 Brian Gordon:
And I realized at that point, I'll never forget just being in his office one day and I finally said I want to do what you are doing. And my second year at SIU, I was able to get involved in research. I got a graduate assistantship and was teaching undergraduates in activities classes. And from there, I could kind of just tell, this is the path that I want to go down. This is what I want to do for a living, working with students, doing research, teaching sport management. And so because I was so inspired by my mentor, he went to Florida State University. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. So I was admitted to the PhD program at Florida State. I spent four years doing my Ph.D. there, teaching classes, doing research. And then I ran a very, very large fitness and sport program on campus that was also open to Tallahassee residents.
0:03:56.9 Brian Gordon:
So from a practical experience standpoint, I had 40 or 50 employees working as part of the university. And we had over 1000 people taking our various sport and fitness courses. And I managed that for about a year and a half while I was doing my PhD as well. It was great experience to see how kind of running an organization works. And then once I graduated from Florida State, my first faculty position was at the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse. I was there for five years. Loved it. I loved, it was an undergraduate program. I started a fully online sport administration program as well. It was one, at the time, it was one of four fully online graduate programs at the entire university. I was also the faculty athletic representative at UWL, and I worked and assisted with athletic fundraising while I was there as well.
0:04:53.5 Brian Gordon:
So I worked with athletics quite a bit while I was also a faculty member. And in 2015, I had the blessing of getting the job at the University of Kansas where I've been ever since. And yeah, that's a little bit about my background leading up to KU. The thing I think I enjoy the most is because we are fully online and we have that flexibility, it has opened up the market to a wide range of students who are in different places in life. You know, some come straight from undergrad and go right into their master's. Some are working out in the field and decide they want to go back and get more education and maybe move into a different position. And then you have some that are coming from a completely different field and trying to break into the sport industry.
0:05:44.2 Brian Gordon:
So I love the messiness of it, for the lack of a better word. Some have families sometimes they have full-time, a lot of them have full-time, students have full-time jobs. And so I guess, I don't know, I'm always being drawn to just kind of the messiness of it, of trying to work a full-time job while also pursuing an education. And I guess I just like playing that role and trying to help them achieve their educational goals and trying to meet them where they're at in their various life stages. So that's one thing. It's not something you get nearly as much when you run a face-to-face program. So that's one thing I enjoy. I would say the second thing that I really enjoy, it's just really getting to know the students throughout the course of their studies here, and specifically, when they reach the graduation stage.
0:06:35.6 Brian Gordon:
It's a really exciting weekend. And seeing kind of all of their hard work pay off with getting that degree and becoming a Jayhawk alum for the rest of their lives is really, really exciting. And then finally, we are a young program, but seeing our students graduate and move into different positions within the sport industry, I love keeping in contact with them. I love seeing when they get a promotion or move into a new role. And then a lot of times, you're seeing them give back to our program and stay connected. So that to me is just one of the favorite parts of my job, is keeping in touch and keeping track of the students that have graduated from our program. My first faculty position was at the University of Wisconsin Lacrosse. I was there for five years.
0:07:24.3 Brian Gordon:
I loved it. I loved the community, I loved the program. I was pretty embedded there, but I wanted to have the opportunity to work with graduate students and specifically with doctoral students. That's something that wouldn't have been possible at UWL. Also, I was kind of looking for more of a balance. I taught a lot of classes there. It was hard to conduct research and keep up with the service obligations. Plus with starting a fully online master's program there as well, it was quite a bit on my plate. So when the job at KU came open, I was fortunate enough that one of my very close friends already had a position here and in sport management. So I was familiar with the community, I was familiar with the campus, and I was familiar with the program. So when this job came open, I knew it was one that I wanted to pursue.
0:08:19.5 Brian Gordon:
And yeah, I was just very fortunate to be able to be hired at KU in this position. And now looking back after seven years, it's the best decision I made in my life for not only myself, but also for my family. There's a number of different avenues that I take to do this. I read the Sport Business Journal, which is a trade publication weekly. And a lot of that has to do with like marketing developments, sponsorship developments, things that are going on the field that way. I'm a marketing person, so that's my best resource for what is going on in the field that I read, and sometimes also use it in the classroom. I would say also while the experience has changed quite a bit, I do use Twitter quite a bit.
0:09:04.7 Brian Gordon:
Specifically, I have a number of different sport industry professionals that I follow, and a lot of people that I trust that give really important insights, whether it be college athletics or pro athletics. And I get a lot of my news from there. And then also, I read a lot of our research journals as well to keep abreast with what's going on in research specifically with sport marketing. And then finally, a lot of times it's teaching. I teach a sport marketing course right now, and a lot of times the students are sending me articles about what's going on and what they see, which is also pretty cool that we'll talk about it in class, and then students are interested enough that they're sending me different things they're seeing from a marketing perspective.
0:09:52.8 Brian Gordon:
So a number of different avenues. I guess another one would be talking with our alums in the field as well. I love when they come back to visit or I hop on a Zoom or a phone call and just talking about what's going on in their organization and some of the challenges that they're dealing with. So I have a number of different methods to keep current. And especially being in the area of sport marketing, it is forever changing and evolving very quickly. And I think with that area, you need to stay on top of what's going on in the field. We've learned a lot. I'll talk about three different kind of areas that we've done work in. We've done a lot of work looking at fan engagement. So how sport teams can engage their fan base from a marketing standpoint, both while they're at the event site through social media and through all of those different outlets where they have those consumer touch points.
0:10:43.6 Brian Gordon:
So we've done a lot of work about what is engagement? What are the different facets of it? How can organizations engage their fans? And then ultimately, it comes back to how does this engagement positively impact the organization from a marketing and revenue generation standpoint? So we've been doing work in that area for about eight years. Some of it involves work here in the United States, but I'm currently doing a fan engagement project that brings together researchers from Portugal, Germany, Japan, and the United States, and we're looking at this from a global perspective as well. So it's been really interesting to carry out that line of research. The second area of research that we've engaged a lot in is looking at this idea of fan identification. And basically, what I'm referring to there is, looking at how the team and being a fan of the team makes up a part of the individual's identity.
0:11:43.7 Brian Gordon:
So we've worked with a lot of really, really crazy and rabid fans where I think a large part of their identity is wrapped up in being a fan of their favorite team. So we've looked at that concept both from a positive standpoint, what does that do for an organization from a marketing standpoint? How can we capitalize on that affiliation, that avidity and that identity? And then kind of my hobby research topic is on fan violence. And in some cases, when the sport team makes up too much of your identity and the team doesn't do well, sometimes there can be some negative outcomes from being that attached to the team. So it's been interesting to look at that concept from both perspectives. And then most of the work that I've done over the last four or five years has been looking at how can we use a team's history in their marketing, a concept called retro marketing.
0:12:42.6 Brian Gordon:
So bringing the past and the team history into their current marketing strategy whether that be rebranding and bringing back an old logo and color scheme, whether that being looking at a Friday night game where you bring back a court that's got a very retro look and feel. It could be how they use the past and their advertisements. It could be different game day promotions where they do like '80s night, '90s night, Nickelodeon night, you name it, where they're trying to connect consumers with a different past or a different era and time, also obviously with their uniform and jersey usage as well. So it's been really interesting. It's a concept that really hasn't been studied in sport. We're kind of the first group to write a number of different papers and do some research in that area, but it's such a widespread strategy and tactic used in the sport industry.
0:13:38.7 Brian Gordon:
We were trying to figure out how and why that works and how to do it most effectively. There are a lot of great programs out there in sport management at the graduate level, both face-to-face and online. I would say what differentiates us from other programs, obviously part of it is being online, fully online, and that flexibility. That's going to resonate with people at a certain life stage where there is that flexibility and you can work a full-time job and also pursue your education. I think that's something that is attractive to our program. I'd say also we have amazing faculty. We have nationally and internationally acclaimed faculty that teach in our courses. Also, we have a number of practitioners, people who are working in the field currently who teach for us. Many of them are also Jayhawk alums.
0:14:35.9 Brian Gordon:
So that's also a great thing too, that we have people who have come through our program and are in very interesting and big positions in sport, and they also bring that expertise into the classroom as well. I would say the other thing that's really a differentiator for us is not only do we have a very, very wide-ranging alumni base, we have a very engaged alumni base as well. It's been a focus of ours ever since I came here where we've reached out. I just had no idea how many alums we had in amazing positions in sport, and we've really done a lot to engage and connect them back to our program. And they've been very, very giving of their time with our students and connecting with our students. And I think having access to those alums and that network of Jayhawks that you tap into is an absolutely massive differentiator for our program.
0:15:35.1 Brian Gordon:
Specifically, we have a mentorship program that every student that gets admitted into our program gets assigned an industry mentor which has been really, really helpful to connect Jayhawks with other JayHawks. And we kind of infuse that mentorship program into some of our different courses. So there's different touch points with your mentor that you would have as well. And then I would say we have a pretty well-rounded curriculum as well. When you look at the marketing and the finance, the law, the organizational behavior, sponsorship, fundraising, I think it's just a very well-rounded curriculum that would prepare students for a variety of different careers in sport. In regards to our current curriculum like I said, it's very well-rounded. It touches on all the major competencies that you need to have to work in the sport industry.
0:16:30.2 Brian Gordon:
So I think currently, we have a curriculum that suits the needs generally of people that wanna work in sport management. However, if I'm to look kind of forward into the future and where do I see this program going from a structure and curriculum standpoint, we've had a lot of discussions about trying to meet students where they're at and customizing their educational experience to meet where they want to go. So I think in the future, what you're gonna see is a change in our program to where we're gonna have other concentrations or tracks that really specialize in different areas of sport management. So just for an example, I could see us having a general administration track within the overall master's program. So if you wanna work in the front office of a team, if you want to be an athletic director, whether it be at the high school or collegiate level, you can then take our core courses, but then you can also specialize in administration and take that track specifically.
0:17:34.8 Brian Gordon:
Let's say that you wanna work in marketing. Marketing, we would have a track for that specifically as well, where you would take a number of courses that are specifically designed and updated to meet the needs of the 21st-century sport marketer. So I could see a track in marketing. Finally, we have a number of students that go into event management, facility management, and operations. So I could see there being our core curriculum, but then also a tracker concentration in event facility management and operations as well, where you're taking specialized courses that then kind of meet the needs of somebody that wants to specialize in event management. I think with all three of those different tracks, there could also be the potential to get some kind of a certificate certification, whether it be a certification in administration, a certification in marketing, a certification in event management.
0:18:29.2 Brian Gordon:
And so you're walking out of here not only with a master's degree, but also with a special certification in a particular sub-discipline within sport management. So I think when you kind of look at the marketplace and you look at what different programs are doing, I think a lot of them are like where we're at right now, where it's a well-rounded generalized curriculum, but where I see us going is trying to have this customized experience and trying to meet students where they're at with their professional goals. Yeah, so I think one of the real benefits of our program is the online asynchronous aspect of our program and that flexibility that's built in there. So we have a number of different students that are just coming from different life stages. Some have families, a lot of them have full-time jobs. Some of them are graduate assistants, some of, excuse me, some of them are transitioning from a fitness area or an area outside of sport and they're wanting to break into sport.
0:19:27.4 Brian Gordon:
So I think I've heard students talk a lot about the flexibility, how also our instructors I think are in tune to the fact that these are working professionals that are in our program. And we're always trying to meet the students where we're at. I was just on a phone call yesterday with a student who was trying to juggle his full-time job with my course currently. And I just love having those discussions about, well, just tell me what's going on in your work life and how can I make the course better to suit kind of where you're at or meet, can you meet me halfway? That type of conversation. So I think it is really, really appealing to working professionals that we have this online platform, that we have this flexibility, that it's asynchronous.
0:20:14.7 Brian Gordon:
And then I think our faculty, by and large, understand because a lot of our faculty are also working professionals with families work in the sport industry, and they just get it. And I think that's a huge, huge benefit of our program. I'm so, so proud of our graduates and some of the graduates and where they've gone on to since they've left our program. Just as an example, Johnny Chapel works with the Kansas City Chiefs. This was his first season working with the Chiefs and it turned out that he's now part of a Super Bowl champion-winning team in his first season working with the Chiefs. What I love about Johnny is he came from somewhat of a sport background, but was looking to kind of broaden his horizons and break into some other areas.
0:21:03.7 Brian Gordon:
And he worked at the University of Nebraska. He is now working with the Chiefs, and I think he really took full advantage of his time in our program to get experience, to get an education. And now, he is living his dream working with the Chiefs. I would say another example would be Maggie Bowen. Maggie Bowen is the director of operations at KU Volleyball. What I think that's interesting about her story, I think she kind of knew where she wanted to go, but she also knew that getting a master's and working in college athletics made a lot of sense. So she was able to continue her work with KU volleyball while getting her education as well. And as now ascended into that position with the volleyball team, which is great. David Hill was a PE teacher in Missouri. He went through our program and was kind of looking for a full-on career change.
0:21:55.8 Brian Gordon:
He's now presuming his EDD at the University of Missouri which I'm very proud of his progress and deciding that he wanted to go to that next level for education. Cassie Enriquez was one of our undergraduate students who also then transitioned into the master's program. She actually worked with the Chiefs during their last Super Bowl-winning season, so she had an amazing experience there. And now she's transitioned into a member services role at the Oklahoma City Thunder and is really thriving in that position. Chris Lofton is a sport information director at Highland College as well. He had an interesting background coming in and wanted to further his education and continue working in the realm that he worked in. Chris Watkins, here's an example of somebody who wanted to get into the coaching space and he's currently working at West Texas A and M with their football program, and he's really worked his way up through a number of different football programs and continues to be an ascending coach in college football.
0:23:00.9 Brian Gordon:
And then the last one I'll mention is Taylor Ashford. Taylor is just one of our just absolutely amazing students, just a rockstar. He worked in a variety of different roles while he was in his master's program. And then coming out, he's now working in the area of corporate social responsibility with the Atlanta Hawks. Also been one that's been just very unselfish with this time and is also willing to give back to our program and stay connected as well as they all are. But we're proud of all of them as they've entered into our program. And I picked all of them as examples for a reason, because some of them came in with already a sport background. Some of them were coming in without a sport background and were looking for a career change. Some went into coaching, some have decided to pursue an EDD and some have stayed in their current role, but just gained more education and broadened their horizons that way.
0:24:00.8 Brian Gordon:
So I think the point being you can come into this program in a lot of different life spaces and be successful. The KU Sport Management master's program combines experienced and acclaimed faculty with a well-rounded curriculum and access to a worldwide network of alums in sport to provide a first-class educational experience. I have actually had phone conversations in-person meetings, Zooms with a number of students that are interested. And I always tell them this, do your research, not just on our program, but any program that you're considering. I think it's really, really important to set up meetings with faculty members and to talk about the program, to get to know what the students' background is and then what their professional goals are. Research the curriculum, research the faculty, kind of see where they're at, where they're coming from. Does the program have a particular expertise or specialization that fits with what you are looking for?
0:25:04.9 Brian Gordon:
Does the area where the program exists offer opportunities as well if you're gonna decide to relocate to that area? And then I would say finally, and maybe most importantly is as much as you can research alums that have come out of that program, where are they going? Where are they working? What are they doing? And does some of what you're seeing with alums match up with what your professional goals are? So I tell students all the time, I just met with one last week that's actually a junior here at KU, and we sat down and just talked about her professional goals, where she sees herself. And we kind of went through that whole talk about research different programs, understand what you want to do, talk to faculty in those different programs, what are their curriculum? Find out as much as you can about their alums, what they're doing, even if you can, you can even talk to alums and see what their experience was in the program. I think that's all very, very important to do your due diligence when you're thinking about taking on the commitment of joining the graduate program.
Ready to learn about the inspiring minds that keep KU’s online sport masters program ahead of the curve?
Meet Dr. Brian Gordon, associate professor and program director of the University of Kansas' online master's in sport management program. With his expertise in sport marketing and fan behavior, Gordon is a true pioneer in the field.
Watch our exclusive video interview to hear more about Gordon's ambitious plans to elevate the online master's curriculum in KU Sport and how the program is both comprehensive and well-rounded, covering all the essential competencies needed for a successful career in the industry.
Download the program brochure
Turn your passion into a fulfilling career. Complete the form to get a program brochure for KU’s online Master’s in Sport Management program.
- Utilize the mentorship program, a curriculum feature that lets you partner with KU alumni to gain industry insight and network
- 100% online
- No GRE required
- Finish in as few as two years
- Obtain a broadly applicable degree with training in communication, management, fundraising, sport ethics, and more
*This program is a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) degree in health, sport management, and exercise science with an emphasis in sport management.
From Our Students:
"The tradition of excellence surrounding KU athletics combined with the flexibility of an interactive online learning environment make the perfect combination to continue an education in sport management."
– Chris L., Master's in Sport Management Candidate '20
The sport industry in North America is expected to reach $83.1 billion in 2023.1
In the U.S., the annual mean wage for an agent/business manager working in spectator sports was $110,850 in 2022.2