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Bridging the worlds of sports and business

A recent story in The Wall Street Journal captured the seemingly endless power of sports entertainment, pointing to the fact that a record 111.3 million people tuned in to watch this year’s Super Bowl.

“It was the third time in as many years that the Super Bowl has reset the bar for the largest number of viewers for a single telecast in the U.S.,” according to the newspaper.

The Sports Business Institute (SBI) at the USC Marshall School of Business has been keenly aware of this trend, providing expertise in the diverse areas of the sports industry and training undergraduates and MBAs who want to be a part of the rapidly growing sports business sector.

Headed by professor David Carter, the SBI and the graduate student-run USC Marshall Sports Business Organization (MSBO), which Carter oversees as a faculty adviser, have developed a reputation for an ability to connect driven USC Marshall students with opportunities in the sports industry in Los Angeles and beyond.

Carter, a national authority on sports business and strategic marketing, leverages his industry connections to help students find a niche in a competitive business. The dedicated students, Carter said, “are getting it done.”

A recent example is Carrie Xu MBA ’11, a Shanghai native who was hired last fall by the Pac-12 to focus on overseas development, specifically in China.

Xu, who has a degree in economics from Fudan University, worked for Nike in China before coming to USC Marshall, where she specialized in marketing. As part of her coursework at USC, Xu took Carter’s sports business classes, became involved with the MSBO and focused her internships at sports-related companies like Nike, where she worked on its international marketing initiatives.

“I had many eye-opening experiences through the SBI and MSBO. I also worked as a student volunteer for the World Congress of Sports, which was hosted by SBI in 2010. That event inspired me and helped me think out what I wanted to do,” Xu said.

Xu will develop a global roadmap for the Pac-12, with an initial focus on China, where the athletics conference is seeing the most growth in its international student body and applicants.

“Carrie is one student, but her experience speaks to the global network of sports executives that we are building through coursework, events and thought leadership,” Carter said.

The SBI and the MSBO also are relying on alumni who are eager to give back, coming to campus for talks with students.

Vincent Ircandia MBA ’11, manager of business operations and analytics for the Los Angeles Kings at its El Segundo headquarters, spoke to students in Carter’s sports business class last year as part of a panel of alumni who work in sports.

Ircandia also has met students who are serious about pursuing careers in the business of sports.

“When I was at USC, I drew on every name I could who came through the school and went into sports. It’s important to me to reciprocate now that I’m on my own path,” he said.

Ircandia is an example of an MBA candidate who parlayed his experience in investment banking, MBA education and sports industry experience into his professional role with the Kings, where he is involved in pricing, inventory management, web analytics and forecasting. He joined the organization as an intern and began working on a part-time basis during his second year of graduate school, finally joining the team on a full-time basis after graduation.

A native of Calgary, Canada, Ircandia said his experiences with the SBI, service as president of the MSBO and Carter’s mentorship led to the development of relationships that allowed him to make a career change.

For Todd Jacobs MBA ’08, the SBI and MSBO ultimately drew the Pennsylvania native to USC Marshall and Los Angeles.

During his first semester in the graduate program, he became involved with the student-run club and worked to create a closer connection between the MSBO and the institute. He eventually served as first research assistant on Money Games: Profiting From the Convergence of Sports and Entertainment, laying the groundwork for Carter’s book and leading to a publishing deal with Stanford University Press.

Jacobs, who worked at the sports talent agency International Management Group after graduating from Bucknell University, knew he wanted to continue to pursue a career in sports. It was Carter who helped him focus.

“I tried to figure out, ‘What’s a good place for me to have a long career at a company that fits my passions and gives an overview of the industry?’ ”

Ultimately, that company was Nike, where he secured a summer internship with the help of the career placement office after reaching out to the company for a class-consulting project.

“Doing that helped me get plugged in and continue a conversation with Nike,” Jacobs said. He joined the company as a senior strategic-planning analyst of U.S. retail business at its Oregon headquarters and now is brand-marketing strategy and integration manager for Nike North America.

“Being a part of these organizations was a great way to differentiate myself and helped me get my resume noticed and get me interviews,” Jacobs said. “That set me apart.”

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Bridging the worlds of sports and business

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