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Tampa Bay Lightning, University of South Florida partner to prepare students for careers in sport and entertainment management

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning
Students who aspire to careers in senior level positions within sport and entertainment businesses soon will be able to work with and learn from the nation’s top faculty and sports industry leaders, thanks to a new graduate program launching in August at the University of South Florida. Made possible by a partnership with the Tampa Bay Lightning and The Lightning Foundation, USF’s College of Business will offer an MBA in Sport and Entertainment Management, a two-year degree program emphasizing the business fundamentals of the sports and entertainment industry and providing graduate students with paid internships to help them experience how those lessons play out in the industry.

The Lightning Foundation will provide USF with a grant to assist with program costs, including faculty salaries and student fellowships, the latter a requirement for all second year participants.

USF President Judy Genshaft said USF is uniquely positioned to help prepare the next generation of sports and entertainment industry professionals. “USF brings the brightest minds of our business school, our reputation as a top-tier global research university, and our unwavering commitment to student success to this partnership,” she said. “Our metropolitan location is rich with sports and family entertainment businesses and our region has been the host to the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, the World Series, and NCAA Tournaments, including this year’s “Frozen Four” NCAA men’s hockey championships to be held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in April. Our partnerships will help prepare students for careers in sports and entertainment management all over the world.”

William A. Sutton, formerly of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida, will direct the MBA in Sport and Entertainment Management at USF. A respected academic, Sutton is the principal and founder of Bill Sutton & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in strategic marketing and revenue enhancement. Previous clients include the NBA, WNBA, NHL, and MSG Sports.

Degree seekers will complete foundational MBA courses in management, finance, marketing, information systems, and accounting as well as elective courses that focus on the sport and entertainment industry, including Negotiating Agreement and Resolving Conflict, Economics of Sport, Sports Communication, and Marketing Strategy. Students also complete two internships as a part of the program, working in key business functions with the Tampa Bay Lightning, partner firms, or other sports and entertainment businesses.

“This highly selective program will blend a world-class education with real world experiences,” said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox. “Students will be well prepared for jobs in professional sports franchises, college sport programs, international competitions, and in world-class family entertainment organizations.” Ideal degree candidates will have a passion for the business and industry, rather than simply be great fans of sports, he added.

“A business is only as good as the company it keeps, and the organizations we choose to partner with make a bold statement about our business values” said Chairman and Governor of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jeff Vinik. Acknowledging that the NHL franchise will benefit from the partnership by integrating top interns into the company’s business operations, Vinik said the program is a win for all parties involved. “We’re excited for this new opportunity to partner with USF and offer students internships and practical experience in sports and entertainment management in the ‘living laboratory’ of Tampa Bay,” he said. “Students will benefit from exceptional learning opportunities, and, ultimately, the whole community will benefit from two well-respected organizations partnering to do something extraordinary.”

For more information, visit or call 813-974-1766.

The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $394.1 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2009/2010. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.

USF’s College of Business and School of Accountancy are dually accredited by AACSB International. In addition to providing one of the nation’s top accounting programs, the College of Business offers six master’s degree programs, including a part-time and weekend Executive MBA program.

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