If you visit Manhattanville College’s website for its master’s of science degree in sports business management, you might be surprised by what you see posted under the program’s description.
“This is not a program for ‘sports fans,’” the first line reads.
On the contrary, the master’s degree program at the private college in Purchase focuses on the business end of the sports industry, an estimated $600 billion global enterprise.
“It’s a business program first and foremost, because sports is business,” said David Torromeo, director of the program. “It’s not all fun and games, and that’s something (the students) have to learn,”
The program has proved popular for students who hope to find careers that allow them to work closely to the sport they love.
“Your passion might be the Mets,” he said. “You love The Mets, but you have to align that passion with your skillset.”
The graduate program, which will celebrate the graduation of its 10th group of students at an event later this month, aims to create the next wave of leaders in the sports industry. With internships, a carefully curated curriculum and a slew of in-the-know professors, the program tackles all of the pertinent areas of the business.
“This is the perfect location for this program,” Torromeo said. “Obviously in the city, you have all the teams, all the leagues, but you also have world-class, worldwide companies right in your backyard.”
Those close-to-campus organizations include the United States Tennis Association, headquartered on West Red Oak Lane in the town of Harrison; and sports and entertainment marketing heavyweight Octagon in Stamford, to
name a few.
And those are just the sports brands.
“MasterCard (headquartered in Purchase) has a huge sports marketing department,” Torromeo said, “and around the corner is Pepsi, and if you watch any football, there’s a pretty big organization too in terms of their sports marketing efforts.”
Torromeo has been with the program since its inception in July 2006. A former athlete himself, he held a variety of positions across the industry, from athletic director at Iona College to vice president of operations for the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame, prior to joining Manhattanville.
“I tell my students, ‘Sometimes you’re going to have a goal, and you’re not going to be able to achieve that goal, but you’re going to say, ‘Thank God,’”
For Torromeo, that goal was to become a big-shot public relations director by the age of 35. Though he never pictured himself working on a college campus — at least not prior to his late middle age, he joked — the opportunity the sports management program provided was too enticing to pass up. “It was a startup thing, building it from scratch, which really appealed to me.”
The master’s degree program began with just four classes and 35 students. Since that time, “It’s taken off,” Torromeo said, with students travelling across the globe to attend.
The program, which can take from 18 months to three years to complete depending on how aggressive students are with their scheduling, has seen more than
“People can go through at their own pace,” he said. “There aren’t thousands of people, but we don’t want thousands of people. This is nice, niche program.”
About 40 percent of the program’s students are recent college graduates who have quickly realized they need additional education in order to make their way
in the industry.
“If you want to work for any sports organization, A, it’s competitive, and B, you’re going to have to show that you’re adding to their bottom line or giving them a talent they need,” Torromeo said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, a master’s degree is what a bachelor’s degree was 25 years ago, so they (these students) realize they need to
get something else.”
Other students in the program, though, haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in decades.
“We’ve had guys who already work in the industry, and we’ve had a good number of career changers,” he said. “We actually had a guy who was successful in finance, made a lot of money, but he hated his job. And who wants to get up every day and go, ‘Good God almighty, I’m miserable’?”
Torromeo said about 40 to 45 percent of the program’s students are female. “There is an opportunity now,” he said of women in the industry. “It’s not the good old boy club anymore, which is good.”
As part of the program, students take classes covering all areas of the business, from marketing and management to the role of a sports agent.
“We have a lot of people interested in becoming agents, because they saw ‘Jerry Maguire,’” the 1996 movie starring Tom Cruise as a hard-driving sports agent Torromeo said.
The curriculum, which Torromeo said has changed drastically over the years, also includes baseball analytics, digital and social media and sports psychology electives. The school recently added a new degree option for prospective students:
“There are jobs that exist today that nobody had ever heard of 10 years ago,” said the program director. “The reason we have some of these classes is because we have the preeminent people who can teach them.”
Courses are taught by adjunct professors who are industry professionals in their own right. Those well-connected faculty have included writer and editor Art Berke, who spent more than two decades at “Sports Illustrated,” and Eugene Doris, a special advisor for athletics at Fairfield University and former athletics director at both Fairfield and Marist College in Poughkeepsie.
“To me, there’s no better way to learn,” said Torromeo, who still maintains his own sports consultancy firm. “And it’s current-day information.”
Still, Torromeo said a successful career is about more than what students learn in the classroom.
“It’s all about networking. Obviously, the degree is something that’s never going to hurt you to have, but you always have to be meeting and growing and connecting, especially in the sports industry.”
As part of the program, Torromeo and his staff help link students with internships in the fields of their choice.
“We’ll say, ‘What is it, at the end of the day when the smoke clears, that you want to be doing?’ And then we try to match them up with something in the area. It’s worked out more often than not that people have gotten not just the internship experience, but the job afterward, and that’s satisfying and gratifying in so many ways.”
Alumni have gone on to hold various positions at ESPN, Madison Square Garden, the New York Mets, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., the Brooklyn Nets and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Their respective fields of work “really run the gamut,” Torromeo said, from marketing and public relations to entrepreneurship and event planning.
“Even I am losing track of them now, because there are so many,” Torromeo, laughing, said of the program’s graduates. “I’ll look at my LinkedIn and think, ‘Wow, I wish these people would tell me how much success they’re having.’”