By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WILDER - The fledgling sports business degree program at Northern Kentucky University drew some prominent Tristate sports figures to a Tuesday panel discussion to debate issues like Title IX and graduation rates for athletes.
David West, the standout Xavier University basketball player, rubbed elbows with Terry Hoeppner, head football coach at Miami University, and Laurie Pirtle, women's basketball coach at University of Cincinnati.
Others in the panel, held at the Town & Country Sports Complex in Wilder, included Mike Bobinski, director of athletics at Xavier; Jane Meier, director of athletics at NKU; and Mike DeCourcy, a senior writer for The Sporting News and a former reporter for the Enquirer.
One of the most spirited discussions centered on whether college athletes should be paid.
NKU DEGREE PROGRAM
Northern Kentucky University's sports business degree program was launched in August 2002. It's a convergence of three educational disciplines: sports, business and education.
Degree given: Bachelor's in business
Students in the program: 42 students have declared sports business as their major, and at least 150 have taken classes.
History: Sports business classes have been taught as electives at NKU for more than five years.
Program head: Matthew D. Shank, at NKU for 12 years and chairman of the department of management and marketing. Shank has written a book that is used in college classrooms, Sports Marketing: A Strategic Perspective. He also is on a weekly radio show on WLW 700, which airs on Sundays, called The Business of Baseball.
Other Tristate schools with sports business studies: Miami University offers a sports organization degree, and Xavier University offers a degree through the health and physical education sports studies department.
West, who is graduating this spring and is one of the top players headed to the NBA draft, said he believes theoretically that college players should get financial compensation. But he can't envision a system that would allow payments, but still be fair and well-monitored by the NCAA.
"You don't have the finances of your mom and dad anymore," West said of college players. Still, "It's a situation you just can't monitor. You want to say yes, but it just can't be monitored."
NKU President James Votruba was among the college administrators and coaches at the panel who said they didn't think that college players should get compensation.
Something needs to be changed at the Division I level, perhaps in the way of small stipends or grants for student-athletes, Votruba said, but the education and support the players receive really is their main compensation.
The panel discussion is among the first high-profile events hosted by NKU's sports business degree program, which has been in operation just one full semester.
While there are about 200 sports-related degree programs in the United States, only about 10 percent are undergraduate programs in colleges of business like NKU's, said Matthew D. Shank, chairman of the department of management and marketing.
Votruba said the sports industry has become more sophisticated, and there is a need for all people working in the industry to understand finances and issues like the ones discussed Tuesday.
Bobinski, XU's athletic director, also made the analogy between sports and business. "Sports gets a lot of attention, but what goes on in the world of sports is not a whole lot different than what goes on in the world at large like corporate scandals like Enron."
NKU senior Nicole Scott attended Tuesday's discussion to get some perspective on the job field. The Newport woman said she has always had an interest in working in the sports industry, perhaps in event management or at a sports recreation facility.
"Working in sports offers a way to always stay with what you love," said Andy Goetz, an NKU junior from Union.
Bobinski agreed. "There's an emotional attachment for most people for sports. That's what makes it a unique business and that's what makes it enjoyable for me."
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