2015 Rankings: The Final Countdown

Ohio University made it a hat-trick of wins after its Master of Sports Administration programme was named the best postgraduate sports course in the world for 2015. Owen Evans looks at why a world outside the classroom has made it happen.

Sliding a buck in a bell boy’s pocket or leaving 15 per cent of the bill for the waiter is the American way of showing appreciation for good service. However, in the case of graduate students from Ohio University’s Master of Sports Administration programme, the tip comes in the form of tens of thousands of dollars in free tuition for the next generation as, hypothetically, any student successfully accepted onto the twoyear Masters programme is liable to pay nothing in tuition fees.

Originally established in 1966 as a Master of Sports Administration (MSA), Ohio’s course is one of the oldest of its type and has seen around 85 per cent of its alumni enter the sports industry. Frank Kolsteeg (pictured) graduated from Ohio’s MSA 20 years ago, and has since gone on to work for Dutch football team Ajax, broadcaster Fox Sports and sports entertainment giant AEG.

When you graduate you become part of the family, and Ohio takes care of its own

After picking up the Overall Winner and Graduates’ Choice awards in Switzerland last month on behalf of Ohio, he revealed the secret behind the university’s continued domination, having also been named best postgraduate sports course provider in 2012 and 2013.

“For that course, the alumni is the programme,” Kolsteeg told SportBusiness International. “Our former students are carrying it. The way they do it is by ensuring nobody has to pay tuition fees anymore. Nearly everything is on a scholarship. “What that means is if you are in the alumni network, you start paying back into the system, and you are kind of obliged to put back into the programme.

“Because Ohio has been there since 1966, the alumni has become so powerful that when you graduate you become part of the family, and the Ohio family is now able to take care of its own recruitment. “For me, as a European, I still find it hard to comprehend as I don’t feel I put much back in. However, I am now trying to introduce the Ohio system into Holland to get the most successful of the University of Amsterdam’s alumni back to build their own family.”

As well as taking the top gong and the Graduates’ Choice award, meanwhile, Ohio also came top of the table for alumni with the highest average salary three years after graduation ($118,000) in 2015.

Chair of Ohio’s Sport Administration programme Norm O’Reilly agrees that the power of the programme’s alumni network is the key factor behind the success of the course.

“It’s more like your traditional highend business school from north America where people feel a debt of gratitude to the programme and give back with their time, job opportunities or donations,” he says. “It’s not like it’s a case of ‘it’s free tuition, come on in’; some students may choose to pay a modest tuition fee and opt not to work while studying as they already have the personal experience or savings to do that.” Birthday Shenanigans A major part of Ohio’s success in bringing its past together with its future at its annual symposium, where alumni and the current crop of students network over a game of baseball.

Next year’s symposium marks 50 years since the course was launched off-the-back of former LA (Los Angeles) Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley’s vision for an academic programme that combined sport and business, and O’Reilly says Ohio will hold a special celebration.

“It’s a huge landmark for us, and we don’t think there is another sports management programme out there that can match our longevity,” he adds. “There are a lot of plans for new facilities which are well underway, as well as an alumni recognition awards ceremony to celebrate our large concentrations of alumni in different cities across the world.

“It is an absolute honour for us to be ranked the top overall programme for the third time in the past four years. The award is testament to the history of the programme and our recent strategic efforts to expand internationally and grow the profile of our faculty as thought-leaders. “The passion our alumni have for the programme, Ohio and our current students continues to defy my expectations and, in my humble opinion, is unrivalled in sports management and equal to that of some of the world’s leading business schools.”

2015 Top 25 courses

  1. Ohio University Masters in Sports Administration
  2. University of Central Florida DeVos Sport Business Management Programme
  3. Columbia University MSc Sports Management
  4. The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) The FIFA Master
  5. George Washington University MBA in Sport Management
  6. Florida Atlantic University MBA Sport Management
  7. AISTS Master of Advanced Studies in Sports Administration & Technology
  8. Coventry Business School MSc in Sport Management
  9. Deakin University MBA in Sport Management
  10. Real Madrid Graduate School MBA in Sport Management
  11. University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business James H Warsaw Sports Marketing Center
  12. University of Massachusetts Amherst, Mark H McCormack Department of Sport Management MBA in Sport Management
  13. University of South Carolina Masters in Sport and Entertainment Management
  14. Johan Cruyff Institute International Master in Sport Management
  15. UPF Barcelona School of Management Master in Sports Management
  16. University of Liverpool MBA Football Industries
  17. University of New Haven MSc Sport Administration
  18. The European Sponsorship Association (ESA) ESA Diploma
  19. Seattle University MSc in Sport Administration and Leadership
  20. University of Northumbria MSc in International Sports Marketing
  21. University of Windsor, Ontario MSc in Sport Management
  22. Ca' Foscari University of Venice MSc in Sport Business Strategy (SBS)
  23. University of Parma – University of Republic of San Marino International Master in Strategy and Planning Events and Sports Facilities
  24. University of Ulster MSc Sport Management
  25. University of Brussels Sport, Economy and Communication


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