This week we go to Texas and talk to Michael Lysko about the Sports management program at Southern Methodist University. Mike joined the SMU faculty in 2009 as Director and Professor of Practice of the newly-formed Sport Management program. He serves as Advisory Board Chair and Director for the undergraduate and graduate program, providing leadership and oversight of four full-time and 12 part-time adjunct professors.
In conjunction with the SMU Cox School of Business, he developed the proposal and curriculum for the Masters of Science in Sport Management graduate program, which was launched August 2013. He served as a member on 2012 President’s Task Force on SMU Mustangs Athletics Program Marketing & Branding Campaign, and was awarded the SMU Mustangs LEC Faculty Excellence Award in 2014. He serves as lead industry relations liaison, creating experiential learning opportunities with professional league and teams, governing bodies, collegiate conferences, corporate sponsors, facilities, sports broadcasting companies, sports marketing agencies and events such as the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, Super Bowl XLV, and the 2014 Men’s NCAA Final Four, all held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Michael brings more than 25 years of industry experience as former Commissioner of the Canadian Football League, as Athletic Director at a top academic institution, and in senior roles with several sports marketing agencies in the United States and Canada. Most recently, he served as Vice President of Marketing Partnerships at Intersport in Chicago, where he developed original content for digital and broadcast platforms for Fortune 500 clients for collegiate and high school sports properties such as the ESPN College Football All-Star Challenge, the State Farm College Slam Dunk and 3-Point Shooting Challenge, and the Under Armour High School All-American Game, televised on ESPN.
We caught up with Michael to get his take on the industry and what’s going on with The Mustangs…
SMU’s program continues to evolve, how has it differentiated itself from the pack?
One of the main advantages of our program is our location, which provides students with access to networking opportunities, class projects, internships and jobs in professional sports, sports marketing agencies, facility and event management, new media and broadcasting, collegiate sports and client-side consulting.
Our practioner faculty model provides students with access to professors and professionals who are industry practitioners with an intrinsic understanding of the business and a vast network of connections gained through decades of experience. As a true hybrid model, we combine our sport management curriculum with the financial, management, negotiation and analytics courses students need to succeed in a very competitive industry.
Finally, we benefit tremendously from the excellent academic reputation of SMU, which rose to its highest ranking among the nation’s universities in the 2017 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges. Among 310 institutions classified as national universities, SMU ranks 56, up from 61 a year ago, which places SMU in the first tier of institutions in the guide’s “best national universities” category. Bloomberg magazine ranks the Cox School of Business’ professional programs in the top three in the nation, providing SMU’s three-year-old sport management graduate program with a unique advantage over many traditional programs.
How have you been able to use the location of being in such a vibrant sports hub to your advantage?
Our location provides us with some tremendous advantages. Dallas-Fort Worth is the hub of major professional sports franchises such as the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, FC Dallas, Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars. The DFW Metroplex boasts multiple Division I colleges, minor league franchises and world-class facilities such as the American Airlines Center, AT&T Stadium and Texas Motor Speedway. DFW plays host to conference headquarters for the Big 12, Conference USA and the Southland Conference, and is headquarters for the National Football Foundation and the College Football Playoff.
We have partnered with the Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars, Texas Rangers, FC Dallas & Fox Sports Southwest on sales and marketing projects, and with Learfield Sports, Red Bull, and the Dallas Cowboys on research initiatives. Our students have gained valuable experience at events surrounding Super Bowl XLV, the 2014 NCAA Men’s Final Four, 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend, and the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship.
What were some of the good business lessons learned during that career stop?
My role as commissioner of the CFL provided me with an opportunity to leverage my background in marketing and sponsorship to strengthen the financial position of the league. I learned the importance of assembling a strong senior management team at the league office and capitalized on their collective expertise to address several governance issues with the board including salary cap compliance, broadcast blackout policies, and franchise capitalization and stability. We realized the importance of a cooperative relationship between the league office and the clubs. We learned of the importance of establishing trust with our player representatives during the collective bargaining process. And we learned how to listen and respond to the needs of our broadcast and sponsorship partners to enable them to benefit from an involvement with our league.
The CFL underwent a renaissance in terms of its image, with the positive momentum resulting in additional franchises and increased franchise value, increased viewership in key demographics which helped drive broadcast rights fees and advertiser revenue, and increased sponsorship and partner activation initiatives though the integration of broadcast, on-site and digital platforms.
What trends are you following in the industry today?
I am intrigued the growth of the collegiate sports business and the evolution and of the third-party rights holder space – in particular, the aggressive acquisitions by Learfield under the Providence Equity ownership. With the recent sale of Learfield to Atairos Group for $1.3N, it will be interesting to find out how Comcast and Learfield will work together.
I am excited about the potential of virtual reality, and will be interested to see how professional leagues and teams can use VR as a way increase on-site engagement and attendance.
I think it is interesting to see how excited VCs, broadcasters, people within traditional professional and corporate partners appear to be about the emergence of eSports and drone racing. They recognize the potential of these properties lies in their appeal to an elusive youth demographic, whose decreasing lack of interest in traditional ball and stick sports is an ever growing concern.
With all the changes in media and sport in the last few years, which surprised you the most?
I am interested in how professional sports leagues will balance the traditional broadcast outlets and newer outlets such as streaming video, social media, etc. Twitter’s NFL deal with the NFL is relatively modest, but is an interesting test in terms of how it could affect broadcast rights negotiations in the future.
Where do you get your news; who do you follow and why?
Twitter is becoming my main source for breaking news.
I read the Sports Business Daily and the Sports Business Journal religiously and I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. I try to keep up with Bloomberg and Forbes as well.
As it relates to sports careers advice and content for our students, there are a lot of great resources out there, but I think that Brian Clapp at WorkInSports.com does a tremendous job in terms of creating valuable content in this area.
When it comes to deep insight in sports sponsorship, the IEG Sponsorship Report remains the gold standard.
I always enjoy reading the articles contained in your sports marketing and pr pros newsletter on Sundays.
PCG and Sports Desk Media have recently launched the Fan Engagement Project newsletter, which is a valuable resource for those involved in the sports business.
When looking for teachers for the program, what qualities do you see as invaluable?
We look for professors with a minimum of 15 years of sports industry experience, and they must have a graduate degree. We also prefer that they have some teaching experience at the collegiate level. It is important that they have an ability to connect with the students, to challenge them intellectually, and to be able to integrate their real world experience in their curriculum.
In Mike Stone, we’re fortunate to have a former president of the Texas Rangers as full-time faculty member. Industry veterans serving as adjuncts include Ryan Luckey, associate vice president of corporate sponsorships at AT&T; sports lawyer Christian Dennie, named as a 2013 Rising Star by Texas Monthly; Peter Carton, former director, international division at Major League Baseball; Bill Glenn, former senior vice president at The Marketing Arm and current CMO of Predictive Analytics & Fitness; Paul Monroe, vice president of marketing and communications for Texas Motor Speedway; Tom Buning, senior associate athletics director for the SMU Mustangs; Gashaw Abeza, a recognized expert in the use of social media in professional sports; and Paul Schoonover, who has been selected by his peers for the last decade as one of the nation’s best lawyers by the publishers of THE BEST LAWYERS IN AMERICA.
Where do you see the biggest employment opportunities coming for those entering the field?
There appears to be a growing need for people who have the ability to generate digital and video content. Good writing and communication skills are important for anyone looking to break into the industry. A number of our students have landed social media positions with leagues, agencies and teams.
We’re seeing an increased demand for students with analytics and research, and we’ve revised our curriculum in response.
The ability to generate revenue has always been recognized as the best way to make your mark on the sports industry.
SMU’s Sport Management program has successfully placed graduates with professional sports teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Stars, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Rangers, FC Dallas, Frisco Rough Riders, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns and Washington Nationals, as well as a number of college athletics departments. Recent SMU graduates have landed full-time positions with sports marketing agencies such as Lagardere Sports & Entertainment, The Marketing Arm, GMR Marketing, Octagon, Wasserman, CAA Sports, Learfield, Legends Global Sales, The Ballengee Group, Publicis Hawkeye, as well as ESPN, the National Football League, Topgolf and Under Armour.