When Jamie Grant looked around the room, she couldn't believe it. "I was shocked when I saw how many women are in the program," said Grant, a student in the new Sport and Entertainment Management MBA program at USF.
In fact, one-third of the 21-member class is female.
"I think it's just a sign of the times. Women are going to succeed in this industry," continued Grant.
THE LIGHTNING CONNECTION
The new sports MBA program is getting a big boost from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sports MBA students will get a paid "residency" with the team, working at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to learn the business from the inside.
One of the executives they'll be working with is Lynn Wittenburg, the Lightning's vice president of brand marketing. She says women have more opportunities than ever before.
"Once you get in, if you have a good reputation, and you're able to come in and work hard, I think that's the key to success," said Wittenburg.
THE INSIDE CONNECTION
Dr. Bill Sutton heads the new sports MBA program at USF. Most recently, he headed a similar program at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
"My goal is to get every student a job," said Sutton, who has also worked for several professional teams and for the commissioner of the NBA.
Sutton believes 40 to 50 percent of next year's students may be female. He says applications are coming in from all over the country.
Sutton believes many factors have led to the increased interest in sports management among women, including the historic Title IX legislation in 1988.
"Besides letting women participate in college athletics, Title IX was a big step in telling women 'you can do anything you want to,'" offered Sutton.
GALS IN THE BOARD ROOM
At least two of the female students in the new USF program worked for professional teams, but resigned to pursue the MBA at USF. Grant worked for the Atlanta Hawks, and MBA candidate Katie Hatch worked for the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays.
"I think the MBA will help set me apart," said Grant, who worked in community outreach for the Hawks.
The inaugural class at USF may include some future team presidents who happen to be female.
Hatch says it's time for more women to move up.
"Actually, this program has me thinking more and more about why not be in charge? Why not go for it? Why not be president of the team?"
For more information, visit www.usf.edu/sportmba