Startup group looks to go beyond the playing field

by Chris Eyer / Beacon Staff • April 28, 2011

Playing professional sports may be many athletes’ dream, but some Emerson athletes know they have to focus on other options. It’s hard enough for Division 2 stars to make a roster, let alone a player from a small D3 school like Emerson.

But just because Emerson athletes might not find themselves on an NBA court or MLS field doesn’t mean they can’t be involved in the business aspect of sports.

Nadav Swarttz, a sophomore volleyball player, said he wanted to prepare students for life in the behind-the-scenes aspects of professional sports.

The result is the Emerson College Sports Business Society,  a group Swarttz said will function to educate students on the different types of avenues one can take within the business sector of the industry.

It is the brainchild of Nadav Swarttz, a sophomore volleyball player at Emerson. The marketing communication major said he hopes it will provide an outlet for students interested in careers on the business side of the sports community.

Take alumnus Sam Presti, for example. He graduated from Emerson in 2000 and received a degree in communications, politics, and law. He played basketball for the Lions, making the Great Northeastern Athletic Conference all-tournament team twice. Now, at 33, Presti is the general manager of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder after learning the ropes as an assistant GM with the San Antonio Spurs.

“The goal of this organization is to show students all the different paths they can take, whether it be upper management of a sports team, marketing, or even opening a sports memorabilia store or theme bar,” Swarttz said.

The new organization already has an executive board. Swarttz serves as president, Jake Bennett as vice president, Sana Bakshi as treasurer, and Molly Wolfberg as head of marketing and the webmaster. Both Bakshi and Wolfberg are marketing majors. Bennet is a visual and media arts major.

Swarttz is a transfer from the University of Maryland where he said he was a member of a similar type of organization.

“There are a bunch of different organizations, from the fashion society to the theater clubs, but nothing for those who want to go into the sports business post-college,” said the sophomore. “They have the skills, but there’s nothing to open up the avenues to them.”

Bennett said one of the strategies of the organization will be to bring in guest speakers with business ties to the sports world, especially those who have graduated from Emerson.

Both Bennett and Swarttz said they believe Emerson students can bring valuable skills to sports organizations.

“They bring their knowledge of new media,” Swarttz said. “They’re very technologically advanced and they have a great handle on what’s going on out there in terms of social media.”

Swarttz said he met with director of athletics Kristin Parnell about the idea.

“I think it is a good idea, but it is still in the developmental phase,” said Parnell.

One of the challenges, Swarttz said, is getting funding. Right out of the gate, SBS will need to appeal for funding from the Student Government Association and also raise funds by itself.

Funding or not, the club has a chance to grow into a large organization, Bennett said, as he has received positive feedback from more than 100 students via email.

“There are a lot of kids here who are interested in sports, even if they don’t necessarily play one. I feel like we could find a lot of people really quickly,” Bennett said.

Sophomore William Leopold voiced his support for the organization.

“It would be beneficial to not only marketing majors, but also to other majors, [for example] journalism majors who want to become more involved with sports and want to have more hands-on experience,” said Leopold, who plays lacrosse and is a broadcast journalism major. “I think it will be helpful to have an in for that direction.”

The organization created a website along with Twitter and Facebook accounts and will be manning a table tomorrow on the first floor of Piano Row.

Tom Messinger, a senior marketing major, said that although he will not be able to participate in the organization next year, he supports the group.

“It sounds like a cool idea,” said Messinger, the captain of Emerson’s basketball team. “I think it’s great to see [the business] side of sports that’s often neglected in media coverage and in education.”

Evan Sporer, assistant sports editor of the Beacon and member of the Emerson volleyball team, did not edit this article.