Michael Schwartz: SMBA ’14 Student of the Week

Editor’s Note: Each week we publish an interview with the SMBA ’14 Student of the Week. The winner of the Student of the Week (awarded by the previous winner) sits in the front row of class and proudly displays a flag of his or her choice on the famous Tez statue. Blog editor Michael Schwartz was this week’s honoree.

Michael-SchwartzSteve Fuller: Michael, you ran a very successful Phoenix Suns blog for a number of years and are one of the only students in our cohort to come from a paid job working in sports. What value did you see in San Diego State’s sports MBA program when you could have continued on the path you were on?

Michael Schwartz: Well, “paid” is a fairly liberal definition of what I did before SMBA, but I did run ValleyoftheSuns.com, the ESPN TrueHoop Suns blog, the past four and a half years after founding it before the 2008-09 season. I made a little money, but it was something I did to complement my day job working for an Internet marketing company in Phoenix (which made it feel like I had two full-time jobs sometimes). The value I saw in the SDSU sports MBA program was the ability to add more tools to my theoretical toolbox. I’ve always described ValleyoftheSuns as my own personal grad school because I had so much latitude to experiment and learn with WordPress, video, advanced stats and so much more, but with formal business school I could learn all the financial and sports business components to complete that toolbox. On top of that, the program provides so many opportunities to network and make connections that could lead to the job in sports I’ve been looking for.

SF: You’ve been a major contributor to our class’s SMBA blog. Can you talk about how you got so involved in that and what your vision is for the SMBA blog over the next few months?

MS: When program director Scott Minto sent me my acceptance letter, he wrote that I was the leader in the clubhouse to take over the reins of the blog. I immediately began brainstorming ideas and had something of a plan in place to bring us over to the WordPress platform once I arrived on campus with the help of technical editor Brian Heying (SMBA ’14). It really was a natural fit. I’ve been immersed in journalism for the past decade, including four years at the Arizona Daily Wildcat where I covered men’s basketball as well as two internships with MLB.com covering the D-backs and Dodgers before founding ValleyoftheSuns. I love this stuff. My vision for the blog is for it to be a place for students in the cohort to take chances and write about what they are passionate about, the kind of fun projects they might be doing on the side anyways. On top of the program-related material like the Student of the Week interviews and professor profiles, I’d like to see us really analyze sports business issues in-depth and take the lessons we learn in the classroom and apply them to the sporting world.

SF: What other graduate programs did you look into and why did you end up choosing San Diego State?

MS: This was the only graduate program I seriously considered. I perused the web sites of programs like Oregon and UMass, but ultimately it was an easy decision. I’ve been looking at this program on and off since I graduated from the University of Arizona in 2008 and just felt now was the right time having spent a few years in the working world. I attended an information session two and a half years ago and really have always been hooked. I just love that it is an accredited MBA focusing on the sports industry as well as the fact we are out of the workforce for just one year on top of the tight-knit cohort experience. It’s definitely been challenging, but I know I made the right decision.

SF: Are you continuing to run ValleyoftheSuns full-time while you attend school? If so, how do you make time for both?

MS: Well, Steve, you have a wife and a kid and I have no idea where you find the hours for family time and grad school because I know there’s no way I could make time for grad school and a measly basketball blog (I kid, but I do admire your time management skills). I’m still the owner of the site and work on different general site issues with my successor like changing our comments system and integrating our author bios with Google Plus. But I pretty much tried to emulate the life of a beat writer minus the travel these past four and a half years and being in a different city in a program that consumes so many of my hours, it was time to take a step back. I’ve actually written just two articles, one the night I arrived in San Diego when Alvin Gentry was fired and another at the trade deadline when the Suns acquired Marcus Morris. I’m sure I will pen a few more when free agency heats up in July, especially with my newfound knowledge of finance, as that’s the stuff I really enjoy writing about most. Hopefully, by the end of the program I will be able to run the blog better from a business perspective as well as in covering the business side of the team.

SF: Ideally, where would you like to see yourself, career-wise, five years from now and how is SDSU’s sports MBA preparing you for that goal?

MS: I know my parents are reading this question with bated breath because they have been asking me this same question for at least the past five years. Mike Kitts (SMBA ’07) spoke with our class on Thursday and mentioned that we would be wise to choose a lane and stick with it. That was a bit scary to hear because I have yet to choose my lane. He also used the specific example of “team analytics guy” as a job that’s an incredible long shot, which brought a nervous smile to my face because that position would certainly be on my short list of dream jobs. So the short answer is, ‘I don’t know.’ I still love journalism and could see myself staying in that field, potentially as a business writer or even in some kind of entrepreneurial journalism position like what I did running ValleyoftheSuns (only this time drawing a full-time salary). I also really love the Moneyball concept of trying to find a better way to do things with information, so even if it’s not a team analytics position I could see something like ticketing analytics being the kind of job that gets my juices flowing. Above all else, I want to be a part of something that makes me excited to head to work every day, because when that’s the case — cliché as it is — I truly believe it’s not work at all. This program is preparing me for that future by teaching me the quantitative skills I lacked as a journalism major who last took a math class in 2004 while also providing ample networking contacts. It’s also hopefully a big “growing up” kind of year for me where I go from a kid having a blast running a basketball blog covering the team I rooted for as a child to a “grown up” with a more permanent position in the sports industry.

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