(Posted February 25, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- It's rare that a college professor bases part of his class structure on an ESPN sports talk show, but Juniata College business professor Randy Rosenberger has found that the rapid-fire repartee that is an ESPN hallmark lends itself to a liberal arts approach to sports management.

Rosenberger, associate professor of management, has just debuted the college's new sports management course, which continues all semester through May. Rosenberger teaches several management courses at the college and has designed the sports course to reflect Juniata's liberal arts approach to education. The liberal arts model of education prizes discussion and analysis as a learning tool and Rosenberger has given that classic model a decidedly modern twist.

"There's been an explosion in interest in sports management and that's because the industry keeps growing."

Randy Rosenberger, associate professor of management

He has built a large part of his classroom discussion time around a model based on "Around the Horn," an ESPN talk show hosted by Tony Reali. The show follows a format where a host asks four sportswriters their opinions on a sports topic of the day. The host can award extra points or give them extra time (there are many more permutations on the ESPN show, but Juniata is not using those).

Instead of asking, say, why did the Phoenix Suns trade for Shaquille O'Neal, Rosenberger poses questions every Friday to four students that are more in line with sports business concepts. The students are expected to set strong opinions, defend their answers and in turn accept analysis from the other students -- classic Socratic methods, except these students wear sweatpants instead of togas. Unlike ESPN, host Rosenberger gives the students the questions two days in advance.

"There has been a lot of interest among our students in sports management, particularly in areas that spread beyond professional sports like collegiate sports, health clubs and other leisure activities," Rosenberger says. "There's been an explosion in interest in sports management and that's because the industry keeps growing."

Rosenberger also uses student discussion panels to debate topics related to sports and sports management. There are eight larger discussion panels scheduled throughout the semester, using topics chosen by the class. The topics will include: "Should Universities and Colleges Have Athletics at All?" "Should There be Age Limits in Choosing to Become a Professional Athlete?" and "How Significant are Gender Differences in Sports?"

Rosenberger, whose interest in sports stretches back to his time as a Division III baseball player at Dickinson College, says Juniata will not offer an a formal degree program in sports management. He has, however, directed students through student-created programs in sports management, which have been supported by significant sports internship experiences.

"If you take a course like this along with a management or business curriculum and find a very good internship relating to sports, I think that sets up a student well for a career start in sports management." he says.

The course also has brought in six to seven guest speakers, including Justin Samra, a Juniata graduate and corporate partnerships manager for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Jim Brazill, director of external marketing at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pa. and a former executive with the Johnstown Chiefs

Rosenberger hopes that Juniata's unique take on teaching sports management requires the students taking it to stretch beyond a cursory interest in sports to think about the issues and problems faced by sports executives. "The discussion and analysis is a little different than many liberal arts courses, but the spirit of inquiry is the same," Rosenberger says.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.