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Sport industry educators on achieving dreams post-graduation



Ben Buchanan and Bobby Dhaliwal are involved in while pursuing his degree in sports management at Ohio State. Credit: Courtesy of Bobby Dhaliwal and Ben Buchanan

The most popular major among the 62 scholar-athletes on the 2023 football team might not be a surprise.

Seventeen players — including Heisman finalist Marvin Harrison Jr. — don’t just experience the sport industry firsthand — they study it, too.

The major, through the College of Education and Human Ecology, is home to both scholar-athletes and students ready to take their love of sports to the next level — perhaps as general managers and athletic directors. Ben Buchanan, a lecturer in the department since 2019, said that despite the multitude of career paths available for graduates, there are three takeaways he hopes students carry with them.

“For me, it comes down to, are you a critical thinker? Are you a leader? Do you work well on the team?” Buchanan said. “Sport is almost the ultimate meritocracy, right? You get as your work’s deserved, but it’s the one thing in life where if you put in hard work, a lot of times good things come out of it.”

Buchanan was a football student-athlete from 2008-12 and majored in strategic communication. A few years later, Buchanan graduated with a master’s in sport management before making another return to education and earning his Ph.D in sport management in 2018. 

Bobby Dhaliwal, a graduate teaching associate at Ohio State currently pursuing a Ph.D. in sport management, similarly said students should take the intrinsic motivation and experiential learning they learn in the curriculum into professional work.

“I’ve found that students, just over this past year, who have been able to make the connection between concepts learned in courses are able to apply them a lot better and be much more effective professionals when given an opportunity to perform a specific role beyond the classroom,” Dhaliwal said.

As graduation looms and students seek jobs, Buchanan said it is best to start in a smaller role, such as ticket sales, and work their way up the ladder. 

“If they want to choose the athletic director route, obviously, you’re not coming out right away,” Buchanan said. “You might work in [an] event facility, you might be in a lot of different areas to start, and then work your way up. See a lot of different areas in the department to achieve that – that dream job.”

Big dreams often mean a great deal of work and likely some rejection. For graduates, Dhaliwal said his greatest advice is to not be discouraged in the process of finding a job, as “not trying is failing.” Developing a large network of sport industry professionals is key as well.

“You really have to keep at it when it comes to applying for [sport] industry positions,” Dhaliwal said. “There’s a lot of individuals who may feel they’re a little bit more qualified, but there’s others who just may have a larger network. So being able to find that middle ground as a student, and being proactive earlier on will definitely work in your favor.”

In Dhaliwal’s experience, he said many of his students pursue marketing roles right out of college in ticket sales or event management, which involves the planning, set up and tear down. 

“A lot of those individuals don’t get as much recognition, but definitely a very key role to the industry,” Dhaliwal said.

Buchanan also has many students go the marketing route but has recently seen an increase in students hoping to break into the world of social media in relation to sports, as well as name, image and likeness brand partnerships. 

As for choosing the sport industry path, Dhaliwal said he took an interest thanks to his high school basketball background and fandom. He said for those with a passion for sports unsure of what career they want, the sport industry curriculum helps students be of as much value to sports organizations in the future as possible.

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