Opportunities within the University of Wisconsin-Madison athletic department, and student organizations such as Sconnie Sports Talk, The Badger Herald, The Daily Cardinal, and the Sports Business Club provide networking and resume-building experiences for students.
But, without a sports management, sports journalism, sports business, or other sports-related undergraduate major at UW-Madison, students interested in the sports industry are often left to figure out their paths through other majors. Journalism and marketing are easy transitions into the industry, but they do not focus solely on sports.
Luckily, outstanding opportunities in the classroom may hopefully change that.
In the College of Letters & Science, Professor Samuel Gale currently teaches History 249: Sport, Recreation, and Society in the United States. The course is typically taught in the spring semester, and starts with early sports in 1600 Britain and in Colonial America. Professor Sean Dinces usually teaches the History 249 course, but is overseas in Israel right now.
“The class is about how sports reflects the socio-cultural and political viewpoints of different eras,” senior undergraduate student Griffin Russo said. “In a sense, sports are a mirror for the era.”
UW-Madison alumnus and ESPN reporter Andy Katz and long-time Washington Post sports editor and NFL beat writer Len Shapiro will teach Sports Journalism (J475) this summer, with the course meeting in person for two weeks as well as an online portion. Katz told SST that his role in the course is still being determined, but we will have details from him once it is all figured out.
Then, there is UW-Madison alumnus and MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig’s “History of Baseball and American Society since World War II” class. The History 600 course is co-taught by Professor David McDonald, the associate chair of the History Department.
“The course is obviously a chance for the students to see a very important historical figure in a very important area of American popular culture,” Professor McDonald said. “It’s very seldom in a history class that you get to interact with a primary source. Especially such a primary source that possesses such memory and is so willing to explain his thought processes and his emotional state at the time of certain moments in time. He also appreciates there’s more than one side to an issue.”
Selig taught the course in the fall and has continued this spring, and seats just filled up for next fall. Students get to look back on Jackie Robinson, Selig’s fight to bring the Brewers to Milwaukee, the steroid era, the digital age, and more. At the end of the class, he takes students to Miller Park to see the Selig Experience and get one helluva VIP tour.
Finally, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, there is a sports law course taught by Professor Brad Snyder. The course dives deep into baseball cases such as the Curt Flood case, the NCAA’s legal battle with amateurism, and more. With guest speakers such as the aforementioned Andy Katz, Snyder loves teaching the class.
“We have a complete course with baseball, the NCAA, and all of the issues going on in sports,” Professor Snyder said. “I would love for you or any law student to take [the course].”
Speaking of which, the first baseball law textbook was published this year. Never before had a textbook been written about the anti-trust exemption, the reserve clause, the steroid hearings, and all of the other famous law cases in baseball history.
“Baseball and the Law: Cases and Materials” was written by Judge Louis H. Schiff and Professor Robert M. Jarvis, who are both law professors. Schiff is an adjunct at the Mitchell | Hamline School of Law in St. Paul and Jarvis a full-time law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale.
“Baseball is a means of teaching law,” Schiff said. “How umpires and judges play similar roles. Dramatic social issues of our country have been resolved through baseball.”
Any course could be developed just using the text’s rich information. Despite the traction sports courses are making on campus, it may be a while before the textbook can be put to full use.
“I’d love to do a baseball only class,” Professor Snyder said. “But my sports law class is very full of baseball since its rich with cases. I wish I could do a short course on it, but they’re hard to come by.”
Still, with more sports courses and resources out there, and increasing interest in the sports industry among students, more classes will emerge sooner or later.
In time, students will be majoring in sports specifically, and it starts by providing more and more opportunities in the classroom.
Selig photo courtesy of Jeff Miller/UW-Madison.