University Communications |

Eller in Europe

More than 40 UA students, along with four instructors, are bound for Europe to learn first-hand about sports management at some of the world's most prominent athletic events.

Seems easy enough, right? Just open the gates and let the fans pour in. But sports management involves a broad range of responsibilities, including program development, ticketing, marketing and promotions, sales, facilities management, compliance and risk management, among a host of other things. "What you see on television is such a small piece of what happens," said Daniel Wickman of the UA's Eller College of Management. Dozens of UA students working toward the UA's sports management minor are traveling to Europe as part of a study abroad trip. There, the students will attend and learn about some of the world's most prominent athletic tournaments - such as Wimbledon - and meet and speak with some of the individuals who work sometimes for years to organize such events. Students in the UA's sports management program have a range of interests. Some want to work in college sports administration, others want to work in professional sports for major football, baseball and basketball teams. Others have taken an interest in events management, facilities management and sales, among other things.

Tour de France. Wimbledon. The British Open. The 2012 Summer Olympics.

That's part of the itinerary for a group of 42 University of Arizona Eller College of Management students and their four instructors who are bound for Europe this month. 

Established for students in the UA's sports management program, the nine-credit summer study abroad program will cover three required courses – business communication, sports tourism and events management – in about six weeks. 

"They are very familiar with sports in America. You see it on television and you go to events. But sports in Europe are very different; there is a cultural difference," said Daniel Wickman, internship coordinator and lecture for Eller's sports management program.

The trip includes visits to London for Wimbledon and the Summer Olympics, which London is hosting this year; Dublin for a Gaelic Football match; Liverpool for the British Open, the longest-running tournament for major professional golf; and Paris, where they will catch the end of Tour de France.

The group also will attend the Henley Royal Regatta rowing event, visit the British Grand Prix motorcycle race and watch a cricket match. 

All told, the group will take 25 different sporting excursions. They're even going to catch a darts competition.

"When you get right down to it, people are crazy about sports. It's our sort of distraction from the real world," said Wickman, one of the four instructors. For the UA students, the trip is "an extraordinary program." 

The group's host institution is Coventry University, which has a strong sports management program. The group will hold most class meetings there with others being held at athletic facilities.

Also, Seebohm and Wickman traveled to Europe in January to solidify contacts with more than 20 executives and business managers of a range of athletics organizations. Those individuals will meet with students during their class meetings.

Students also will have required readings and writing assignments, along with projects. Also, they will volunteer at certain sporting events for experiential credit.

Structured as such, the program is meant to expose students to a range of topics within sports management, both from a theoretical and practical standpoint and from both a U.S. and European perspective.

"The sports business industry is a nearly $500 billion industry," said Brent A. Seebohm, a UA Eller College lecturer who will be teaching students during the trip. 

"Because of the business aspects of sports and how much revenue and what strategies are at stake, it's more than just going to championships and winning," said Seebohm, also founder and chief executive officer of b:Alpha strategerY!

The two other instructors are Mary O'Mahoney, director of club sports for the UA's Student Recreation Center, and Jim McLean, an business communication lecturer for Eller.

Interest in the UA program, which was launched with private dollars, has "really exploded," said Seebohm, who helped launch Eller's sports management minor in 2010.

"I think this experience represents what we want out of our sports management program, which is to aspire to providing a competitive differential to our students, especially when they are looking for internships and jobs," said Seebohm, who also established the Seebohm Fund for Sports Management Educational Excellence, which supports the program.

Eller offers the sports management minor to non-business majors, including those in the interdisciplinary studies program. The sports management certificate is offered to UA business students.

But adding the study abroad program, which is intended to become an annual program, Seebohm and Wickman said they had more in mind. 

The trip is about more than just earning credits and the obvious perk of traveling across Europe during such a peak athletic season.

"We want to prepare our students for an interview to get a job," Wickman said. 

"If our students can sit across from a business management team with the Diamonbacks and talk about their experience in London during the Olympics, that will make them stand out," he said. "We also would like to think that our seniors might even be offered a job in England."

In advance of their study abroad trip, the students also will travel to Dallas, where they will attend the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics convention, which is being held June 22-28. The group then will leave for Europe on June 28.    

"I think it's going to be a trip of a lifetime. What an experience for them" O'Mahoney said. "It is such a great investment they are making in themselves." 

David Yaeli, a pre-business major beginning his junior year in the fall, is trying to figure out a way to turn his lifelong investment in sports into a career. 

Growing up, Yaeli played soccer, later taking up basketball in high school where he and his teammates made it to state semi-finals. 

"Sports have been pretty important to me. I've played sports my whole life," said Yaeli, also a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

"It's a good opportunity," said Yaeli who has once traveled to Europe but "never stayed for a month straight and got to know the environment; I never got settled in."

While he is interested the marketing and fundraising side of sports management, he's not yet decided on a career but believes the trip abroad will help him to decide. 

"I feel very blessed to be going on this trip," he added. "It's unbelievable to attend where we're going to have the primo location and taking nine units. It's pretty special."

Story Contacts:

Daniel Wickman

UA Eller College of Management 



Brent A. Seebohm

UA Eller College of Management