Students looking to break into the sports business had the opportunity to speak to leaders of the industry at the inaugural Wharton Sports Business Summit held on Nov. 3. The star-studded lineup of panelists included owner of basketball team Philadelphia 76ers and 1986 Wharton graduate Josh Harris.
The student-run event, which was co-hosted by the Wharton Undergraduate Sports Business Club and the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, brought in more than 200 students from all over the country and dozens of representatives from the sports industry. The summit included two keynote discussions, various panels, workshops, student presentations, and a career fair with representatives from 15 companies.
USBC members and College seniors Jared Faust and Noah Klayman are co-chairs of the Wharton Sports Business Summit. They said they were inspired to run the program because of their passion for sports, and because they felt the need to have one big event to consolidate many of USBC’s activities and showcase the variety of opportunities in the sports industry.
The first keynote event in the morning was a conversation with Philadelphia Eagles President Don Smolenski and Senior Vice President and General Counsel Aileen Dagrosa, which was moderated by Joe Favorito, an expert in marketing, business development, and public relations in sports. During the conversation, Smolenski and Dagrosa discussed what they have learned from their experiences in the sports world and where they think the industry is headed.
Smolenski said that as president of the Eagles, his goals for the future are broad, citing the team’s growing environmentalism as an example.
“When we moved into the new stadium, the movie '[An] Inconvenient Truth' had just come out, and it led to a cultural shift in the organization,” he said. “We asked our vendors to source napkins from recycled paper, and compostable containers and silverware, even if it cost[s] a little more.”
In the second keynote event, 76ers owner Josh Harris talked about his experience managing two different sports teams — the 76ers in the NBA and soccer team Crystal Palace of the English Premier League. He pointed out that the stakes are often higher for the Crystal Palace than they are for the 76ers because the soccer team could face relegation to a lower league if it experiences a bad season.
“Here, if you lose, they boo you,” he said. “There, if you lose, they kill you.”
Apart from the two keynote events, participants also got the opportunity to attend a range of panels on sports analytics, sports negotiations, and sports investment.
College freshman and Daily Pennsylvanian Sports Contributing Reporter Zack Rovner said he liked the NFL panel because he learned about the different kinds of jobs available in the league. He also said the analytics panel gave him a new perspective on how data is used in the sports industry.
“A lot of people don’t use analytics, so it goes to waste,” he said, adding that there is variation in how much each team values its analytics department.
Temple University graduate student Marinath Jeevanantham said networking was one of the main reasons he came to the summit. “I talked to Brian from Sportradar at the sports analytics panel, and I’ve given my resume to the NBA, Turnkey, and Dick’s [Sporting Goods],” he said.
Wharton MBA student Louis Gilbert said he was looking “tentatively” at career opportunities in sports management, and especially at jobs working for sports leagues. He enjoyed being able to meet potential employers. “There are a couple people here who I’ve had phone conversations with, but I got to meet them in person here,” he said.
Throughout the summit, speakers stressed the importance of following one’s passion.
“It’s not a job, it’s an extension of who you are,” Smolenski said. “The people I work with are my family.”
This article previously stated that Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow was present at the summit, but he was not. The Daily Pennsylvanian regrets the error.
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