Buckeyes, Inc.: MBA Meets NCAA

Hi, everyone! My name is Catherine Banton and I am a second year, full-time MBA candidate here at Fisher working as one of our admission ambassadors in our Graduate Programs Office for the academic year. I’m originally from a small suburb of Seattle, WA and moved to Ohio after living and working in Los Angeles, CA for seven years.

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This is me with my pal Brutus when I visited Columbus for the first time in May 2015!

When I meet new first year MBA students in the full-time program, or when I’m introducing myself to our campus visitors, I often get the question, “If you lived in Southern California, how (and why) are you living in Ohio? Don’t you miss it?!” My answer is simple: the people in Ohio make this a great place to live and work, and the opportunities here are endless. I’ve had experiences here at Fisher and in Columbus that I wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else, and I am excited to share one of those with you in this blog post!

I’m convinced that no other MBA program offers a course like the one I am taking this semester: The Business of College Sports. This class is one of the elective options in my Leadership and Organizational Behavior major. It’s taught by none other than The Ohio State University’s own Athletic Direction Gene Smith (more about him here) and his amazing wife Sheila, who runs a successful fundraising and development consulting firm here in Columbus (and is a former star athlete and coach herself). Gene Smith is arguably one of the most well-known and respected athletic directors in the nation, and has been at the helm of tOSU’s athletics for more than 10 years as programs like men’s football have made historic championship runs (Go, Bucks!). The course’s student make-up in and of itself is unique: a mix of full-time and part-time MBAs along with MAcc, SMF, MHRM, and Master of Sports Management students make the discussions and dialogue in class engaging and enlightening, and we get to work on projects in teams that mix programs to further learn from each other.

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Our fearless classroom leaders, Sheila and Gene Smith

While you might initially think, “What could college sports and business possibly have to do with one another?” this course turns that misconception on its head – and quickly. Gene and Sheila bring in high-ranking members of the athletic department to speak candidly with us about everything from trademark licensing and partnership negotiations, to coaches’ contracts and revenue drivers for the university’s athletic events. While each guest speaker comes into class with PowerPoint decks and a planned presentation, they are all very open to student questions and truly give us special insight into how the athletic department functions and what goes into keeping a multi-million dollar organization within the university functioning smoothly and successfully.

The in-class experience is fascinating, but the out-of-class activities are what make our Buckeye fans’ hearts stop and keep our camera phone snapping. Throughout the semester, our class has the privilege of visiting Ohio State’s most prized and beloved athletic facilities, including Ohio Stadium, the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and the Jerome Schottenstein Center.

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We were surrounded by Heisman and National Championship trophies in the entry way of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center!

Long-time staff members of the athletic department take us on guided, personal tours of each venue, explaining to us the history, significance and use of each room, hallway and collection. The best part is, we also meet special, unexpected guests during our visits! We had our first tour this week – of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center – and to our shock and delight, head football coach Urban Meyer appeared on the practice turf while we were taking pictures to share with us some thoughts from last weekend’s exhilarating game against Oklahoma (remember that wrap-around catch by Noah Brown?!) and the importance of the facility in player recruiting, team wellness, and program fundraising.

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This picture was taken moments before Ohio State football head coach Urban Meyer surprised us with an appearance on the practice turf!
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Our tour guide Mark took great care of us as we walked through the facility!

Since starting this course, I’m much more aware of the use of the Ohio State brand all around me, and I find myself thinking about different things when I watch my beloved Bucks compete for their next win. How much revenue was generated from food and beverage sales at the game today? What would-be sponsors may have used the OSU or Buckeye logos incorrectly in their game day flyers or signs? How will our championship run this year affect top and bottom line growth for the athletic department’s finances? As much as I enjoy cheering on our teams from the stands or in front of my TV as a fan, my perspective is now broader and deeper when it comes to understanding Ohio State’s sports teams and the administration behind them – all because of my time spent in the Fisher MBA program and the opportunity to take such a unique class with unheard-of access to one of the most important athletic directors in the nation today.

My advice to potential applicants to Fisher is: don’t forget to consider seemingly “less important” (but equally formative and fulfilling) things like elective courses and special life experiences when looking at an MBA program. Some schools offer incredible opportunities to take part in courses or events that just can’t be replicated on another campus – like this Business of College Sports class – and if you don’t take the time to look into these things, you might regret it later on in the process!

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The coach, the man, the legend: Woody Hayes.
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THE National Champions of the past, present and future!