Sports Management

Running a sports team or athletic department is becoming ever more complex in an age of data-driven decision making and growing financial responsibilities. There is also a need for greater marketing due to fierce competition for people’s attention in a world offering many recreational options. With these trends taking hold in sports, there is an increasing need for high-quality leaders in the sports management field.

Jobs in sports management include being an athletic department director, sports agent, team general manager, sports facility manager, sports marketing/public relations director, sports business administration, and sports event coordinator. Among the most sought-after jobs are directing a high school or college athletic program, or a being a general manager for a professional sports team. Professionals that succeed in this field are highly organized and have good people skills. The main job responsibilities vary greatly depending on the sports management job.

For sports agents, the major job responsibilities include:

  • Scheduling promotional initiatives and performance engagements of clients
  • Representing clients in contract negotiations, and developing strategies to promote their clients’ careers
  • Managing the business and financial affairs of clients, and arranging business meetings for them

A college athletic director needs a Master’s in sports administration with coaching or management experience. Responsibilities for a college athletic director include:

  • Overseeing sports events, teams and the hiring of coaches and other athletic staff
  • Often handling financial budgets and media relations

According to, recently hired professional sport general managers are mostly from Ivy League universities. They are predominantly economics and business majors. This is a departure from the backgrounds of older general managers, who usually were retired athletes who moved up through the scouting ranks.

Today’s professional teams’ general managers put greater emphasis on data-driven decision making, given their business backgrounds.

According to Career Trend (, the major responsibilities of a general manager include:

  • Overseeing day-to-day operations of an organization
  • Boosting revenue by putting the best team possible on the field
  • Managing budgets
  • Drafting and trading players, and hiring the manager/coach

Sports facility managers are hired by municipal governments, private sports organizations, colleges, and public schools. Their responsibilities include:

  • Ensuring that proper security systems are in place, and organizing evacuation routes
  • Arranging for equipment repairs, and ordering new equipment when necessary
  • Preparing annual budgets for facility upkeep, and providing input on staff salaries
  • facility fees and membership costs for those who manage a health/fitness club

Facility managers often are required to have a First Aid and CPS certification to deal effectively with emergency situations. Managers who oversee major swimming pool facilities usually need a certificate for pool management. This position usually doesn’t require a Bachelor’s degree.

A Field of Growing Influence

Professional sports agents and general manager have been the most influential movers and shakers of the sports management field since it came to the fore in the 1930s. Highlights of sports management history include the following:

1933 – Charles C. Pyle negotiated $3000 per game for Chicago Bears football player Red Grange

1945 – Brooklyn Dodger General Manager Branch Rickey signs Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier, which happens in 1947 when Robinson becomes the National League’s Rookie of the Year. In addition, Rickey establishes the “farm system” for developing major league talent

1949-59 – Florida State University offers the first course in sports management

1957 – Frank Scott was baseball’s first agent, representing Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Willie Mays

1960 – Mark McCormack founded the International Management Group, which represented golfers Arnold Palmer (first client) and Jack Nicklaus, tennis great Pete Sampras, and Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees

1966 – Sports management offered at Ohio University

1985 – North American Society for Sports Management formed -

1996 – David Falk, an agent known as the most powerful man in the National Basketball Association, negotiates sports’ first $100 million contract for Alonzo Mourning. That same year, the movie Jerry McGuire was inspired by powerful agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents more than 100 NFL clients.

2000 – Scott Boras, often called the “most feared man in baseball” because of the large contracts he negotiated, was able to get Alex Rodriguez a 10-year, $252 million contract.

2006 – Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane’s data-driven strategies were featured in the bestselling book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Salaries and Job Prospects

According to PayScale (, the average salary for a director of sports operations, which requires a Bachelor’s of Science in sports management, is $59,140.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ( reports that job growth for agents and business managers of athletes will be slower than average - at a rate of 3% up until 2024. According to the BLS, these agents and business managers make an average annual wage of $86,560.

According to the Sports Management Degree Guide, starting salaries in the sports management field start between $35,000 to $42,000 a year. The Guide reports that the average salary in New York is $58,000, while its approximately $37,000 a year in Des Moines. People with Master’s degrees typically make $5,000 more than those with a BA degree, according to the Guide.

Sports Career Finder ( reviewed salaries of facility managers and director of operations of major league sports. They found the salaries to be as follows:

  • Major League Baseball - $64,000 to $120,000
  • National Football League - $68,000 to $125,000
  • National Basketball Association - $56,000 - $105,000
  • National Hockey League - $50,000 to $92,000 a year (includes conversion from Canadian to US dollars)

The Sport Management Degree Guide reported on the high-end salaries in this field. The Guide’s finding includes professional sports managers making a minimum of $200,000 a year, and top sports agents making millions of dollars a year depending on commission.


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