“Mark McCormack was once hailed by Sports Illustrated as the most powerful man in sport,” said Kirstin Kay, the sport innovation archivist for the UMass Amherst Libraries, at a talk delivered as part of the McCormack Department’s 50th anniversary celebration weekend of June 10. “He directly engineered the growth of money and media in modern professional sport.”
During her lecture, Kay highlighted the extraordinary collection of documents, photos, and memorabilia donated by the family of the founder of the legendary agency IMG in 2010, which at the time had been preparing students for careers in the field of sport for almost three decades. The gift of the McCormack collection prompted the department to change its name to the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management, and the continued recognition it has gained since that time would have made the original mover and shaker in the industry proud.
More than a hundred people attended various 50th Anniversary Celebration events, which on top of the McCormack Collection presentation included a golf outing, lectures from McCormack faculty describing their industry-changing academic research, a panel discussion on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, and a celebratory banquet dinner. Alumni and industry luminaries attending included Bernie Mullin, who spearheaded the program’s evolution from “sport studies” to a sport business curriculum; Glenn Wong, long-time department chair; Bill Hubbard, chairman of Tokio-Marine HCC, the world’s largest insurer of major sporting events; Jeff Price, chief commercial officer for the PGA; Burke Magnus, president of ESPN; Nancy Gonsalves, associate director of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee; Adina Erwin, executive vice president of BSE Global; and Jeffrey Pollack, most recently president and CEO of XFL.
“Having all these senior-level executives on campus provided a great opportunity for them to renew acquaintances with each other, but also an opportunity to meet and network with younger alums who are our up-and-comers,” said Steve McKelvey, chair of the McCormack Department of Sport Management. “They’re heavy hitters in the areas of events, team management, facilities, and leagues, and they know that the research we’re doing here will affect their industries directly. They also know that the students we’re training will be the professionals they need to hire for their businesses, so they are very invested in our success as a program.”
Pamela Levine, who played tennis for UMass Amherst as an undergraduate and returned to complete a master’s degree in sport management in 2000, moderated the panel on Title IX, recalling how the tennis team was cut during her tenure. She worked with then-McCormack department chair Glenn Wong to fight the decision, and credited him with helping get the team reinstated.
“Title IX changed my team’s life and it also changed my life,” she said. Levine is currently CEO of apparel and gear company Manduka.
Panelists included Danielle Henderson, head coach of the women’s softball team (and a 1999 alum of UMass Amherst); Kirsten Britton, deputy athletic director for administration; and Lisa Masteralexis, senior associate dean for Isenberg and previously McCormack’s longest-serving chair.
“When Glenn Wong hired me, I was the only woman in sport management,” Masteralexis said. She went on to describe the work the department has done to focus on putting together diverse pools of applicants for open positions and more carefully evaluating candidates, rather than hiring strictly through networks of friends and colleagues. “You’ve seen what’s happened—at least on the faculty ranks,” she said. “In sport management, we have a 50-50 balance of men and women.”
Three faculty members also gave lectures explaining their academic research for the attendees. Ted Fay, co-director of the department’s Laboratory for Inclusion & Diversity in Sport (and a 1999 PhD graduate of the McCormack Department), described the groundbreaking work the lab is engaged in, with the goal of making what he called “serious, intentional change in the industry.”
“Do you want to change the world?” he was asked by an audience member.
His response: “Absolutely.”
The lab provides students with a platform to learn about diversity using focus groups, interviews, content analysis, surveys, climate assessments, and more to gather information. The research is aimed at providing decision-makers with data and evidence-based solutions to help make the sport industry more diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
This research fits in with the work of the other faculty presenters—Associate Professor Matt Katz explained how he studies fan-to-fan relationships and marketing to networked groups, and Associate Professor David Tyler showed results of his research on team rivalries, including hostile relationships between fans of opposing teams.
“I think the alumni and industry leaders who attended our 50th Anniversary weekend celebration were really pleased to have a chance to see up close how vibrant and engaged McCormack is,” McKelvey said. “They count on us to keep delivering cutting-edge research, and they’re proud to be affiliated with a department that is making change in the industry and in the world. Our whole community wants to see us leading for another five decades.”
Click here for more photos from the McCormack 50th Anniversary reunion weekend.