Farewell and Best Wishes to Program Coordinator Jennifer Bulcao

jbIt seems like just yesterday the class of 2015 was taking its first steps into room 206 where we would spend the next 18 months busily working and building the foreground to our careers within the sports industry. It would be this room where our journey to working in the sports world would unfold. For many of us, this would not be possible if it was not from the great recruitment by Program Coordinator Jennifer Bulcao (JB). Unfortunately, our cohort of 30 has to say goodbye to JB, who after her official final day today is moving to Washington D.C. SMBA ’15 would like to give our thanks and appreciation to JB and wish her luck in her new journey ahead as she returns to the East Coast. Last week the class celebrated JB’s tenure with the program and presented her with a framed handmade SDSU logo composed of coins and surrounded by the cohort’s signatures.

jb gift

What originally brought you to SDSU to become the SMBA Program Coordinator?

Before relocating to San Diego from Newport, Rhode Island, I served for five years as the Special Projects Manager in the Executive Office of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In this position I was on the operations team for a professional tennis event that took place on grass the week after Wimbledon. After playing tennis in college, as well as studying business, working at the Hall of Fame was the perfect fusion of all of my interests. It was here that I discovered my love of sports business, I was honored to transition to a position where I could foster other people’s love for sports business.

What have you enjoyed most about being the programs coordinator?

Working with Program Director Scott Minto has been a sincere pleasure. Since the beginning of my tenure, Scott has encouraged me to participate in a multitude of sporting events alongside the students.  I have run a sponsorship village for a professional women’s surfing event, I have been on the operations team for a freestyle motocross exhibition, and monitored a VIP hospitality suite at a NFL players association collegiate bowl. Also, I worked the greenroom with Modest Mouse during a Tony Hawk Foundation fundraiser. The pinnacle of my adventures with Sports MBA was definitely escorting the Class of 2014 to the Dominican Republic.  It was a fascinating experience to bring a diverse group of students to a developing nation to observe the MLB’s effects on Dominican youth and education. (Read more about this annual excursion to the DR here.


How did you keep up with coordinating the current cohorts’ events, speakers, and tours at the same time promoting students for the new cohort?

I have no idea. Thanks for implying that I successfully did so. I’d like to thank my iPhone for a huge piece of that success.

What has been the most challenging aspect of this position?

A crucial piece of this position is assisting the class with personal and professional development, which unfortunately includes providing constructive criticism. No one likes giving criticism, and certainly no one likes receiving it. Any feedback provided is done so with the student’s goals and sports career ambitions in mind. The most rewarding aspect of the position, though, is seeing students grow and expand their skillset in such a short period of time. Observing the first three months of the academic year is so beautiful as students come in an open book, quickly investigate their career options and begin to lay out a 10 year plan.  It was a pleasure being so heavily involved in the career development of almost 100 students since late 2012.

What will you miss most about SDSU and the program?

I’ll miss the recruiting aspect of the job, as I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to so many prospective students about their sports career goals and how the Sports MBA Program might be a good fit. Of course, prospective students turn into candidates, then into alumni and sports business all-stars themselves. I’ve expanded my sports business network so rapidly over the past few years, and will certainly be reaching out to my new contacts throughout the remainder of my career. *Sports MBA alumni, you have been fairly warned!*

What advice would you have for your future replacement?

I would advise my replacement to make time for mass email updates. It is easy to be constantly busy returning prospective student phone calls and answering application questions via email, all while planning events like orientation or graduation for the current cohort. Making time more regularly to the update the full prospective student database or reaching out to the alumni network will ensure that everyone is well-versed in the thrilling adventures of the newest class. They do so much in a single year – it never ceases to amaze me.

What advice do you have for current/future students in the program?

Keep up the hard work! I have said this a thousand times, but listen to me when I say: the program is going to fly by! Completing 42 credits in 12 months is a tough undertaking, but I know you can do it. Take one year’s break from your favorite TV shows, or making elaborate meals, and focus the free time you have after class on adding additional skills to your resume. Pick a few executives you admire, take a look at their LinkedIn profiles, and note which skills they have but you do not (yet). Make sure to expose yourself to as many new skills and pieces of software as you can while you have the resources of an AACSB accredited College of Business at your fingertips. Start by going to visit your professors during their office hours; they’ll be thrilled to see you, I promise.

What will you miss the most about San Diego (aside from SDSU)?

Only time will tell what I will miss the most, but the first thing that comes to mind is hiking in Mission Trails Regional Park. MTRP is a five minute drive from campus, or about 15 minutes inland from downtown. This 5,800 acre park has over 40 miles of gorgeous hiking/walking trails, offering breathtaking views of San Diego County. For anyone who hasn’t done it, I recommend taking a morning to hike South Fortuna with a few bottles of water and a granola bar in your pack. Don’t forget a camera, too!

JB, on behalf of SMBA ’15, we thank you for all your hard work, time and dedication you have put forth toward the program over the past few months in recruiting our class and giving us the chance to follow our dreams. We wish you the best of luck in your new journey ahead. Thank you for all you have done – you will be missed!

Student of the Week: Caroline Bartolome

caroline sow

Caroline Bartolome – a Cal State Fullerton alum – is one of the only students currently working full time while still actively taking part in the 10th cohort of SMBA. Tez was passed on in appreciation of Caroline’s efforts in creating a class gift for Jennifer Bulcao, as well as her consistent assistance to classmates when it comes to studying and test preparations.

How has your previous work/internship experience prepared you for this program?

I have a lot of experience in a lot of different fields. I hate to be cliché’, but my current job requires me to be a “jack of all trades” because I deal with everything from administrative tasks, operations and logistics to program implementation of youth programs specializing in outdoor recreation and sustainability.  My experience working as an athletic training intern during my undergrad and leading various outdoor excursions/events has given me a lot of experience performing and excelling in situations where I had to think quickly and adjust accordingly. These experiences have helped prepare me for this program because we have to be flexible and professional both inside and outside of the classroom.

Who is your favorite professor (Dr.)/lecturer/guest speaker?

We’ve had a lot of great speakers so far, but my favorite thus far has definitely been Steve Gera. Steve visited our class early on in the semester and I found his take on leadership as well as his performance model extremely interesting. It helped reassure me that I was meant to pursue the path I was on because things had changed so vastly and quickly during the time leading up to being admitted to the tenth cohort up until school started.

After the program, what area of sports would you like to be involved in?

I eventually want to run and own a high performance mixed martial arts gym, because participating in Jiu Jitsu has had a great impact on my life. But as the semester continues, I’ve been exposed to different avenues of sports business that I am interested in pursuing. Being able to sit down and talk to Michael Rolnick who visited SMBA ’15 to help us with our resumes helped tailor my focus on possibly pursuing sponsorships based upon my relevant work experience. Talking to Daniel Ehman from GMR Marketing also peaked my interest in potentially pursuing sponsorship/partnerships because of my familiarity with both the corporate and non-profit sides of businesses and partnerships.

What do you think about the trip to the Dominican Republic?

The DR trip was definitely one the things about SMBA that peaked my interest. I’ve worked with the at risk youth demographic here in San Diego for over eight years and I am passionate about providing quality programming and opportunities for them because I was once in their shoes. Without someone taking a chance on me and giving me an opportunity to excel in sports, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

SMBA Visits Chula Vista Olympic Training Center

trackWith the Sochi Winter Olympics in the books, all eyes are now pointed at the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. News reports surfaced this week that US Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps could return to the pool for the upcoming Olympic Games. In the spirit of the Olympic fever, the SDSU Sports MBA class took a tour of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

The opportunity gave SMBA ’15 a  chance to gain some insight as how the U.S.O.C. helps America’s heroes train for the games. The class also learned about the facility’s capacity, schedule, revenue model and value proposition. After Q&A with Center’s Associate DIrector, the class hit the pavement and saw some of the training grounds throughout the massive 155-acre campus.


Here are a few of the more notable facts about the U.S. Olympic Training Center that was highlighted during the visit:

The 133 on-campus beds are filled to 95 percent capacity year-round, but not always by American Olympians and Paralympians. Occasionally a competitor or an entire team from another country will travel to Chula Vista to train on the USA’s training grounds … for a fee.

For example, the class learned about a young West African athlete who wanted to learn to kayak. In Senegal, there’s no infrastructure at all to learn to kayak, so he was sent by his government to Chula Vista, where he learned to competitively kayak for nine months, and his government paid the US Olympic Training Center for their services.

Speaking of services, that’s the training center’s value proposition. They help Olympic athletes focus exclusively on training and handle all the ancillary arrangements. Travel, housing, food, errands and everything else are all handled by the Training Center’s staff in order to make sure that athletes can focus on competing.

The facility and its operations are funded entirely by the U.S. Olympic Committee, or U.S.O.C. The U.S.O.C. gets the vast majority of its funding from media rights agreements with NBC to the tune of roughly $700 million every four years. The United States is the only nation in the world in which a substantial percentage of the Olympic committee’s budget does not come from the government.

The money from NBC, however, isn’t 100 percent guaranteed. The U.S. Olympic Committee has certain conditions that it must fulfill. In order to receive its television money, NBC requires that the U.S.O.C. guarantee a marketable broadcast product by fielding and entering a team or athlete in the Olympics for every individual or team that qualifies for the Olympics. Or rather, if an athlete or team that has qualified for the Olympics decides suddenly to withdraw from the Olympic Games for whatever reason, the U.S.O.C. must find a replacement team to compete in his or its place, otherwise the media rights moneys are forfeit. The other requirement from NBC is that the U.S.O.C. sends its entire Olympic contingent out during the opening and closing ceremonies.

As for what the U.S.O.C. does with its revenues, we learned that it issues grants to the national sport federations for the various Olympic sports, such as U.S. Soccer or U.S. Cycling. If those federations choose to train at Chula Vista, they are provided with a playing surface, equipment, and most importantly, the aforementioned services at a steep discount.

The U.S.O.C. also distributes funds to its various training centers. Chula Vista gets $7 million annually, while the two other training centers – one in Colorado Springs and the other in Lake Placid – receive $8 million and $3 million, respectively.

What do they do with that $7 million? They build facilities for field hockey, archery and BMX bike racing.
bmx coursefield hockey

By no means is there something at the facility for everyone. Many athletes do not train at the center in Chula Vista to prepare for the Olympics, especially winter athletes. But the 95 percent occupancy rate is a testament to the effectiveness of the center’s methods and the determination of the center’s staff to provide a first-class facility for America’s heroes to prepare for the games.

Student of the Week: Cody Thomas

cody sow

Cody Thomas – a University of Georgia alum from Atlanta –  helped produce halftime shows of bowl games and worked as a pricing analyst at 3M prior to coming to the SMBA program. He was selected as “Student of the Week” for actively seeking out potential job opportunities for fellow classmates.

What does it take to be “Student of the Week”?

It takes going above and beyond just doing what is expected of you. Most of the time the person who has become “Student of the Week” has done something special to help out the other SMBA students.

What area of sports are you interested working in?

I am interested in many areas of sports. These interests keep growing as we continue to have great guest speakers come in to talk to us. Most of my focus however is in the outdoor and action sports market. I love the outdoors and my hobbies include mountain biking and surfing, so this industry is a perfect fit for me.

When searching for grad schools, what was something that stood out to you about SDSU’s SMBA?

The involvement that previous SMBA students continue to take in the program was a big draw for me. With so many successful people coming from this program I am happy they take such an interest in helping out the current SMBA students.

How have you adjusted since coming from (previous state, county, city)?

It has been really tough actually. Getting used to having perfect weather all the time has been terrible. No, my wife and I love it here in San Diego. We moved here from Salt Lake City, so when our friends and family tell us how cold it is there we can’t help but brag a little.

What are you hoping to gain from the program?

I am hoping to of course gain new skills and knowledge from the classes, but I look forward to the friendships that I’ll keep after the program is over. We have such a great group this year I look forward to seeing what everyone does in their future careers.

Ironman 70.3 California

ironman swim

When I mention to someone that I participate in triathlons, the first thing they usually ask me is, “You mean an Ironman?”  Like Kleenex, Jell-O and Coke, name brands that have become synonymous with an entire line of products, Ironman has come to represent triathlon.  Even if you don’t know a thing about triathlon, you know Ironman and its ubiquitous M-dot logo.  Ironman branded races have become well known through brilliant marketing and, more importantly, race organization unparalleled in the industry.  This past weekend, 10 SDSU Sports MBA students witnessed the power of the Ironman brand firsthand as we volunteered at the Ironman 70.3 California race in Oceanside.

The Ironman 70.3 California race is what’s known as a half-Ironman:  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run.  This race is one of the first of the season, and allows some of the top pros to come out and stretch their legs.  But it’s not just pros.  Over 3,000 “age-groupers” or – regular folks just like you and me – test their minds and bodies over the 70.3 mile course.  It’s a tough race no matter what, made even tougher by the fact that most of the athletes are still shaking off the rust of the off-season.

The race began in Oceanside harbor, where the athletes braved chilly morning temperatures for the swim.  It’s always amazing to watch the line of swimmers in their colored swim caps pull themselves through the water, especially the pros, some of whom finished the swim in just over 22 minutes.  Rekha Aramuthu assisted with timing the athletes by keeping track of their race numbers both at the swim and run start.

bike support

After the swim, it was on to the bike.  Most of the bike course winds its way through Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps Base situated on the coast between Oceanside and San Clemente.  Many of the young cadets volunteer for the race as well, giving the riders mostly empty roads.  However, it also means being far away from anyone who can help them in case there is a problem with their bike.  Luckily for them, Danelle Hauther, Zach Johnson, Claire Kooperman and I were out there as bike tech drivers.  With a bike tech in tow, we drove the course and stayed in constant communication with the race command center.  When a participant reported a bike problem, we drove to their spot, and our bike tech took care of the rest.  Flat tires, broken chains, rubbing brakes and broken deraileurs were just some of the issues that came up and were fixed by the amazing bike techs.  We even helped out some participants whose bike issues were too difficult to fix or who couldn’t continue by getting them rides back to the start.  The resilience of the athletes was amazing:  one gentleman had six flat tires, but was still able to finish the race.

ironman bike it

One thing both participants and spectators forget is how difficult it is to make sure everyone stays on the course and is safe.  That’s where crowd control comes in.  The bike comes to an end with a very sharp turn into transition (where the athletes leave their bike to start their run).  To make sure no one crashed while making that turn, Caroline Bartolome and Erica Luster warned athletes as they headed into the turn.  The athletes were incredibly grateful for this, consistently thanking Caroline and Erica for volunteering their time.  From where they were standing, they were also able to watch some of the run.  The run is always where you see something unusual, and this race was no different.  Erica mentioned that she saw a firefighter running in his full gear.

The bike in and run out at the transition area can be pretty crazy as well, so Sebastian Hafner, Jeff Shin and Alex West were stationed there.  Given the opportunity, bikers would just ride to their spots in transition, but you’d obviously see a lot of crashes if that happened.  Therefore, the athletes need to get off their bikes at the dismount line just outside of transition.  Sebastian and Alex were responsible for warning the athletes and making sure they dismounted in a safe manner.  Just outside of transition, it was Jeff’s responsibility to make sure that athletes heading out to the run didn’t cross in front of bikes.  With so many spectators, all three of the guys also had to make sure that the spectators stayed out of the way of the athletes.

Once the race was over, we had a chance to head down to the race expo and see some of the gear for sale.  Then it was back up to transition to help out with bike checkout.  After the race, the athletes are tired and ready to head home. But they want to head home with the bike they showed up with, some of which are very expensive.  To make sure an athlete left with their own bike, we checked the race number printed on their wristband to the race number on their bike.  The athletes were exhausted, but I can’t tell you how many times I got a smile and “thank you for volunteering.”  It was nice to know that they appreciated our time and effort.

Having never raced or worked on an Ironman branded event, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  Was it really that much different than other races?  The answer is yes.  World Triathlon Corporation, owners of the Ironman, puts on an incredibly well organized race, but it goes beyond that.  The event feels like a spectacle, and it’s easy to understand why triathletes all want to compete in one of the Ironman races, to have the announcer say as they cross the finish line, “You are an Ironman!”  The SMBA students who volunteered had a great time, and learned a great deal about pulling off an event of that size.  But what made the day worthwhile were the smiles and thanks from the athletes.  Knowing that we helped these athletes as they pushed their limits to succeed was the best part of a beautiful Saturday in Oceanside.

Backstage at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports

Zach Johnson, Matthew Sills and Erika Union had the opportunity to represent SMBA ‘15 as volunteers for the 13th IMG World Congress of Sports at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point, Calif. The three students worked for the Sports Business Journal staff along with other students from NYU, USC and Stanford. Monday and Tuesday were spent helping the SBJ staff prepare the venue for the two day event by putting together sponsor tables, guest packets and name tags, as well as organizing signage throughout the main ballroom.SMBA Students at World Congress

After all of the “heavy lifting” was done on the first two days, it was time for the event to start. Wednesday was an early and exciting morning as the volunteers helped with the last minute arrangements and eagerly awaited the arrival of the attendees. The SMBA representatives worked the registration table and assisted with hospitality and management  operations. With over 600 scheduled attendees, the volunteers had their hands full. The list of attendees was quite impressive and also boasted Program Director Scott Minto, Program Coordinator Jennifer Bulcao, as well as several friends of the SMBA program such as Chris Codington, of Sports Strategies. Attendees hailed from all over the world to convene at the Congress to network and discuss the most pressing issues in sports business.

World Congress Sports

During the event, volunteers got the opportunity to sit in on panels and had opportunities to network with the attendees and speakers. Panel topics included an examination of L.A. as the nation’s hottest sports market, the future for sports marketing, Brazil in the spotlight with the World Cup and Olympics on the horizon and insights from the new guard of sports ownership. At the conclusion of the panel events, attendees had the opportunity to get out in the sunshine on the botanical lawn at the St. Regis for a pro-clinic and pro-am competition hosted by the Asics World Series of Beach Volleyball. Three-time Olympic gold medalist for USA volleyball, Kerri Walsh Jennings, was out on the court as one of the pros coaching the Congress attendees. While some attendees came prepared with athletic clothes, several-including our SMBA volunteers-were out in the court bringing a new meaning to “work hard, play hard.”

World Congress Sports

After the panel events and volleyball clinic, the SMBA representatives had the unique opportunity of setting up and attending the Forty Under 40 awards banquet honoring the brightest young professionals in sports business. The entire week from the set-up of the panels to the takedown of the Forty under 40 was an impressive production and a wonderful insight into the world of sports business for our SMBA representatives.


Professor 1 on 1 Series: Dr. Jim Lackritz – Sports and Statistics

I have been privileged with the opportunity to interview our statistics professor, Dr. Jim Lackritz. As one of the founding fathers of San Diego State’s Sports MBA program, I looked forward to gaining his perspective as the program enters its 10th year. While we were asked to prepare the famous 31 unique facts and questions about Dr. Lackritz at the beginning of the year I was eager to learn more about his passions in sports and statistics.

During the interview, we discussed the role of statistics in his life, his career and in the sports industry. He concluded the interview with some words of advice for not only the current students, but also the incoming students and alumni. His fascination with sports statistics is contagious, and his enthusiasm and willingness to help his students has been part of this great experience we call ‘Sports MBA’.

What are your thoughts now that the program is now into its 10th year?

It’s been fun to watch it evolve. I’ve been a part of every single year from beginning to now, and have enjoyed it. It’s my favorite thing about my role at the university. The concern is always to make sure that year after year we can get classes in that are capable of doing the things that we want to do. But it’s been fun to be a part of the last 10 years, and I look forward the next 10 years.

What aspects of the program have you been most proud of?

Seeing students go out and make a difference in the sports industry world. That to me is what the program is all about. There’s two parts to that: One is seeing students who really go out and hit the ground running and make a difference in their firms, and are great spokespeople for the program. The second part of that is seeing the light bulb go on for students who struggled during the program, and all of a sudden, they just get it. Seeing these students having a successful entry into a great sports career is equally as fun. I expect the top students to do well, and I’m not surprised when they’re doing well, because they’re good. When the students who struggled end up doing well it validates everything that we did in staying with them and helping them when support was needed.

And lastly, the students and colleagues themselves. Working with the students has always been fun. And my colleagues: Joe [Joe Belch] and I have been together at this campus for more than 30 years. Bruce [Bruce Reinig] is one of my best friends. It’s been neat to see Scott [Scott Minto], who was from Sports MBA 1, become the director of this program.

How has statistics impacted the sports industry, even in the last few years?

It’s great to see statistics in sports. The word sports analytics has become a regular word in the sports community. Ten years ago, even with all the computers and modeling that we did, sports analytics was still an enigma, and it wasn’t accepted the same way. It’s been neat to see the progression of analytics in sports over the last few years: Bill James and Moneyball and even the MIT Sloan Conference, which has been at the forefront of sports analytics. The other side of it is I see people going overboard with it. It’s the hot buzz right now, and like everything else that’s the hot topic, there’s a tendency for people to jump on. The analytics can sometimes be a bit overboard versus something that can really be meaningful.

How much of the success of the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, or the Oakland Athletics, do you attribute to statistical analysis?

It’s hard to put a number on it, but I can guess on that. Where I see a difference that sports analytics can make is between being a good team and a great team; a marginal playoff team versus a solid playoff team. But all set aside, you need players and coaches before all statistics and analytics.

There’s two parts of the analytics side: The first part of it is the evaluation side, which is the Moneyball-concept. This part uses analytics for player development/evaluation, in hopes of putting together a better roster. The second part is the strategy side, which many people give to Daryl Morey. The Rockets have been shot-charting for years, but they’ve really taken it ten levels deeper over the past few years. The problem is that it’s really effective until it catches on and people find out that you’re doing it and then take the idea and use it for themselves. Just like Moneyball, you’re trying to use statistics and analytics to stay two or three steps ahead of the field.

If you had an hour with Bill James, what would you like to talk to him about?

First of all, I’d want to talk to him about what it took for the Good Ol’ Boys Network to accept him. One of the questions I’d like to ask him is simple vs. complex modeling. More than anything, I love to hear great people tell stories. We’re going to try to get Steve Fisher to come in to talk to you guys. When I sit down and listen to Steve Fisher talk, I feel like the kid in a candy store. I love to see greatness, and Bill James to me is greatness, in terms of the difference he has made. More than anything else, I would love to hear him tell stories about what it was like for him, with all these boxes of data, well before computers were big in his efforts in trying to break through the brick wall that has been established.

During your interview last year with Michael Schwartz, you mentioned your proudest athletic achievements. What has been your proudest moment or achievement as a statistician?

That one is a no-brainer. If you remember at the beginning of the program I showed you guys the article that I did on my early Moneyball. When that article came out, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the National Meetings of the American Statistical Association. I got to talk about my baseball evaluation model in front of my colleagues and the national press, which eventually got me a bunch of radio and video interviews. That has been my proudest moment without a doubt.

Why do you think these statistical models and analytic studies have taken so long to gain traction in the sports world?

After I did that keynote speech, I got all this publicity, and I sent letters to every single MLB team with a copy of my article, saying, “I would love to have an opportunity to just talk about player arbitrations, salaries, and all that”. There’s 30 teams in the MLB, but I only heard back from three. And the best one was from Jerry Reinsdorf from the White Sox; he wrote me nice, personal, hand-written note, saying “It’s a great idea, we’d love to do it, but it will never fly with our office.” He also mentioned that the Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it almost impossible from a straight salary perspective. I didn’t agree with it, but that’s okay. You had to be ready for it. Baseball was just not ready for it. There’s great ideas and there’s implementation. The world has to be ready for it. Even when it’s right, the timing may not be right. So no matter how good your idea is, if I couldn’t convince any of the 30 MLB owners, it wouldn’t fly. And this was the time when the Quality Movement was just beginning, where businesses were starting to bring statisticians in to help out in manufacturing, engineering, etc. It was a different time, and I remember being disappointed with it, because I love to be in academics, but I really love sports. Ultimately, timing is everything. It took 20 years longer than it should have, but now, we’ve hit this tidal wave. Stat geeks rule the internet, rule Twitter, and rule everything else that goes through it. On a daily basis, there are so many people out there that are trying to be the next Bill James.

How has statistics reinforced your passions for sports? How has your passions for sports reinforced your love for statistics?

From sports to statistics, it’s given me more opportunities to do what I love and to create outlets for my work. It’s made my work more interesting, and now 90% of my research that I’m doing is in sports modeling and sports statistics. On the other side, statistics has allowed me to check out some of my biased beliefs about what the sports world is all about. It’s allowed me to answer questions like, “Is this really the case?” Now, you have data available to you at the click of a computer.

I’m sitting there the other night watching the New Mexico game, and Kendall Williams, who is a 79% foul shooter, goes 1 for 6 at the line. And immediately on the next commercial I run to the back, bring up my binomial model, to see what the heck was going on. And so it’s kind of nice to do those kind of things, because I listen to all these announcers giving all this trivial dribble, most of which is not even statistically significant. If I think something is absolutely incredible, I can go back and validate it. Some things take longer to validate, but that’s why I love this relationship between sports and statistics.

As a former point guard, who did you model your game after?

I can give you a bunch of names from when I was growing up, who you would most likely know nothing about. I can also give you someone I really admire in what I call the current college-NBA cycle. I was quick and a good ball handler and a good passer. A lousy shooter, but a good free throw shooter. Not a great defensive player, but on paper I would look good, because I could get steals. And I was left-handed. The best left-handed guard from my time was Lenny Wilkens. My favorite guards from way back were Ernie Digregorio and Pete Maravich. Digregorio never “made it” in the NBA, as he was a slow-white guy, who couldn’t really play defense. But he could make things happen. Maravich, or “Pistol Pete”, was probably my favorite player to watch during that era. From today’s era, Steve Nash. In a second. I have always loved the game that Nash plays.

Who do you have going into the Final Four this year? (Question asked prior to start of the tournament)

I have two 1’s and two 4’s. Louisville and Michigan State. I think the West is wide open. Arizona isn’t nearly the same team the second half the season they were than in the first half. First half of the season, I thought they were the best team in the country. I’ve watched them play, and they can’t shoot and can’t shoot foul shots. They still play great defense, and they’re a better version of San Diego State. They’re bigger and just as athletic, and they’re very good defensively. I’ve seen them shoot 50% from the line, and they just can’t score, and they have eight McDonald’s All-Americans on that team! The interesting thing about the NCAA is you’re getting matchups where there’s no familiarity. Steve Fisher talks about the fact that when you go into your conference, you’ve played against the same teams year after year, and there’s so much film and so it’s easier to defend a team in your conference. During the tournament, if you make it past the first round, you’ve got two days to come up with a game plan against a team you really haven’t seen much. It becomes really interesting to see who gets the upper-hand in these things. I have San Diego State going to the Sweet Sixteen, but losing to Arizona, because though they’re similar teams, Arizona is just a little better. But I can give you like 25 reasons why each team can win, but also 25 reasons why they can lose, as well, and that’s why March Madness is fun.

As an influential member of the program and in the overall scope of the program, what are some of the key takeaway points that you hope your students walk away with?

Big picture – as much as I talk in my class about statistics – I want statistics to be a part of the big picture. At the end of the day, the takeaways to me are: bust your tail, be a good team-player, try to see the big picture and make a difference in whatever you’re going to do. And ultimately, network! Create your relationships: finding a job by yourself is so much harder than when you’re networking and you have connections. What we’ve preached to every Sports MBA is, when you’re out there and successful, bring it back to the program. Help the newest remember where you were, but don’t ever forget where you once were, too.

Second, don’t expect this dream job as your first job. You’re most likely not going to work as the director of ESPN or the GM of the Lakers straight out of the program. These jobs are great, but the competition is ridiculous. Be willing to shoot for the stars, but also be willing to take on something that will help you grow, learn, and create new opportunities for yourself. And be damn good about it, because you never know who you’re going to run into. Be mindful that there are both positive and negative networking opportunities.

The Power of Culture & Performance: A look inside Team EXOS & SKLZ


As SMBA 15’ prepares for Spring Break, the tenth cohort was treated to a specially arranged tour of the Team EXOS/SKLZ facility in Carlsbad, courtesy of Prof. Frank Ryan. For me, the visit combined my undergraduate studies as a kinesiology major and my current work in the Sports MBA program in the form of a building that’s home to a high-performance training center and an innovative sports equipment company.

To kick off the afternoon, we were led around the Team EXOS side of the facility, a high-tech training and wellness facility, by Performance Manager Victor Hall. From the open feel of the facility to the imagery on the walls, the EXOS mission of Mindset, Nutrition, Movement & Recovery, has a strong presence throughout the building – collectively creating an “athlete refuge”. From ping pong and video games to a juice bar offering individualized pre-and-post-workout shooters, EXOS houses not only a multidimensional training facility, but a place where individuals can be themselves outside of their training regimens.

As we toured the training room floor, Victor explained that the open design and overall feel of the training area relates directly to the core value of movement. Whereas traditional gyms focus on targeting muscle groups, EXOS focuses on functionality and dynamic movement as it relates to performance. With physical therapy staff on site, state of the art classrooms that open into the training room and access to sports massage tools such as foam rollers and massage sticks, the single floor layout of the training area also relates to the integration of EXOS’ values of mindset and recovery.

The back of the building housed a pair of hydrotherapy pools to aid in recovery and a variety of turf areas tailored towards sports specific training. Among the variable turf areas was a strip of an all-weather track alongside a strip of turf similar to what is used in the NFL training combine for the 40-yard dash.

From a business perspective, the cohesive attitude toward training has not only brought Team EXOS recognition by Forbes, CBS Sports, NFL.com and Sports Illustrated, but a unique collaboration with the other half of the building, SKLZ. Inspired by his children, SKLZ is headed by CEO and founder John Sarkisian, who received his MBA from SDSU.

While EXOS focuses on how best to use training tools to enhance performance, SKLZ is the hard goods provider of training and development tools. Their philosophy is that every elite athlete was at one point an aspiring young athlete, so why should development and performance enhancement be limited to those who are already at the elite level? Both companies aim to make athletes better, so the partnership between the two came naturally. With a shared vision of improving performance through skill development and education, SKLZ focuses on young athletes who can’t come to train at an EXOS facility.

We toured the warehouse where we witnessed operational efficiency in the form of a custom box machine, a room full of designers working on models of SKLZ’s next product and the Inventor Wall, homage to those who helped get SKLZ off the ground. Initially, 90% of SKLZ products came from inventors with marketable ideas, but simply ran out of resources. As the company continues to grow, 70% of product research and development is now done in house.

Directly across the Inventor Wall was yet another powerful installation of imagery portraying the SKLZ journey. Through a series of hanging panels, the story begins in 2002 with the Hit-A-Way Ball, the baseball trainer that started as a ball strapped to a surf leash. With Reggie Jackson as the brand ambassador for the trainer, SKLZ moved over 300,000 units in the first year. Fast forward to 2014 and SKLZ is currently in 26 countries and averages an inventory turnover three times a year.

After briefly touring the upstairs offices and observing the wall of five-year employee bobble heads, the class was treated to a presentation by Mark Verstegen, Founder and President of EXOS and CEO Dan Burns. Inspired by the values instilled in him as a child, Mark Verstegen is motivated by the desire to help others. As an entrepreneur, he has found a way to turn his passion into a model of systematic support and consistency that results in giving others the courage to push themselves to a high level of sustainable performance.

The duo that grew EXOS from a small business to the successful model it is today offered us the following advice: Know your values, have a game plan, and then place value on what you have to offer. The power of culture is eminent, especially in the tight-knit world of sports and with a shared vision of the future, partnerships will form organically.

I could go on and on transcribing the notes that I enthusiastically wrote in a flurry while they spoke, but it was this last note that I found extremely profound.

EXOS is in the business of proactive health and upgrading lives, and the only way to truly tap into an individual is to seek to understand. If you find the person that lies inside and listen to what their definition of success is only then can you actively interject to push them toward their goal. One’s mindset is always first.

And as we rack our brains day in and day out, we can’t lose sight of what’s really important. Our values are what drive us to action, our skill set helps us to develop a plan, but in the end it is our mentality that ultimately leads to a decision. As emerging professionals in a world that is naturally competitive we must maintain a sense of responsibility and take ownership for all that we do. Because only then can we give ourselves a chance to sustain whatever task is thrown at us, whether it’s in the form of a project or an exam, or even an internship.

As we prepare for the next round of midterms after spring break, it was extremely refreshing to step out of the classroom and observe professionals in their natural environment. SMBA 15’ is thankful to Professor Ryan for arranging the tour and to Victor, John, Mark and Dan for taking time out of their day to show us their impressive facilities and offer us invaluable advice for our professional and personal lives.

Student of the Week: Alex Dawson

Alex Dawson – an Emory University alum from Seattle – taught high school math in Atlanta through Teach For America before coming to the SDSU Sports MBA program. He was selected as “Student of the Week” for helping edit this blog.

dawson sow

What area of sports interests you most?

I am most interested in the business side of the sports media industry. I’ve always been passionate about sports media on various platforms. I edited the sports section of Emory’s campus newspaper and interned at ESPN Radio in Seattle. Recently I’ve become more interested in the business side of sports media, which has been growing at a rapid pace in recent years. The way leagues manage their media rights and distribution both in the United States and abroad will be crucial to their future success. I’m also interested in the decision making regarding programing and content on the increasing number of 24-hour sports networks.

What are you hoping to gain from the program?

I hope to gain all the fundamental understandings about  the business world that an MBA leads to. With the significant work we’ve already done in several core courses, I know the class is well on its way to accomplishing this. I also hope to develop strong, lasting relationships with classmates, professors and alums. We’ve had amazing alums and other speakers willing to take time to come the classroom and share their experiences, and I look forward to the opportunity to meet many more.

What has been your favorite class so far?

The week with Prof. Scott Rosner has been the highlight so far. His breadth and depth of knowledge about seemingly all the key aspects of the sports world was incredible. He was able to explain how the business of sports has evolved over time and what its challenges will be in the future in a thorough, engaging way. I’m eagerly looking forward to the second part of the course next month.

Who has been your favorite guest speaker?

My favorite speaker so far has been Jack Tipton (SMBA ’06), who discussed his career in sports sponsorship (currently at IMG sports marketing) and challenged the class to come up with a creative pitch on a potential sponsorship between a cutting edge company and a team or event. Each group then presented and got constructive feedback from Jack. It was an engaging, memorable learning experience.

How did you hear about the program?

I actually heard about the program a few years ago when listening to Slate Magazine’s sports podcast “Hang up and Listen.” I’ve been a big fan of the show’s thoughtful, smart and entertaining style for several years. Early on the SMBA program was a sponsor, and I heard about unique aspects of the program like the Dominican Republic trip and the connection with the Padres, along with a full MBA curriculum.

Strategizing with Chris Codington of Sports Strategies


chriscodThis week, SMBA ’15 had the pleasure to meet Chris Codington, founder and president of Sports Strategies headquartered in San Diego.  Chris is a San Diego State University graduate who got his first taste of life in the sports industry here on Montezuma Mesa, working in marketing and sponsorship at SDSU Athletics.  Since his time away from Aztec turf, Chris has gained over 25 years of experience in sports and event marketing and he comes back each year to share his inside knowledge with the Sports MBA cohorts.

Chris led SMBA ’15 through a sample of Sports Strategies Case Studies to show how the public’s passion for sports can be used to develop promotional programs for a variety of businesses.  You might ask, why would a California film studio be interested in promoting a film in conjunction with the MLB?  The answer is simple: a company like Sports Strategies can deliver blockbuster results by developing a creative promotion and activation program for the release of their new DVD.  When Dr. Pepper would like to reposition their brand in the Southern California market, how do they get started? Simple: they consult with Sports Strategies who designs a  partnership with the Holiday Bowl to no only grow the brand in the regional market but also support college football and local grocers.

The class was truly privileged to learn about Sports Strategies case studies and how they add value for their clients by integrating the world of sports with the world of business across communities nationwide.  Our group thanks Chris for spending an afternoon with SMBA to impart knowledge on the strategies behind successful sports business marketing.