Making sports a career

Ferris transfer running back Juwan Lewis works the Red Out basketball game earlier this year as part of the sports communication program.
Ferris transfer running back Juwan Lewis works the Red Out basketball game earlier this year as part of the sports communication program. Submitted Photo

Every time you watch a sport, there are multiple people working behind the scenes, behind the camera, marketing the event and working with the fans.

The sports industry has evolved and plays a major role in the national and world economy.

A major in sports communication wasn’t available for students at Ferris until these last few years. This major now gives students the opportunity to work towards developing and acquiring the skills necessary to succeed at any level in the sports industry.

This development wouldn’t have been possible without Sandy Alspach, a communication professor at Ferris. Alspach felt the need to add to the communication program at Ferris because she felt like it was missing something.

“I went to a National Communication Association (NCA) conference in Chicago and I was searching for something new and exciting in the communication field that we could bring back to Ferris because our communication program was pretty generic; it needed something shiny to attract people to it,” Alspach said. “So I started going to sessions about different topics that I didn’t know anything about. I sat in a session that was sports communication.”

Alspach talked about the idea with the only other communication professor from Ferris at the conference, Cami Sanderson, to discuss how they could turn this idea into a reality. Alspach explained what the sports communication would entail.

“I listened to people giving speeches where they analyzed what players were doing, social media, how team interactions worked, what fandom was and I went ‘Wow that’s really cool.’ I [thought] we could sell that at Ferris and I knew that it would be very consistent with our career-focused university mission,” said Alspach.

After coming back to Ferris, Alspach started talking to other programs about the possibilities of working together and having students in the other majors consider a concentration in sports communication.

Her hard work finally paid off as sports communication became an actual major in the fall of 2014. Although the numbers are slowly growing, the idea of having a background in sports is appealing more to students in other programs.

Ferris senior public relations Jordan House, wanted to have that background in sports and decided to take the COMM 389 class that is offered as an elective and gives students the sports communication basics.

“I wanted to look into the sports area of public relations, and I know that working in a sports career with PR would be a great experience. I saw that this course was offered and thought it would be a good elective to take to help me gain a better grasp of sports communication,” House said.

The COMM 389 class and the seniors in the program taking COMM 489 (senior seminar) are working with Ferris Athletics to host events for some of the spring sports that are either getting ready for the fall or already in season. The four sports that the COMM 389 and COMM 489 classes are working with are basketball, football, softball and tennis.

House is working with the softball team and discussed her opinion on the idea for hosting these events.

“This idea is a great concept and gives good experience with the details that go along with event planning and coordinating with different aspects of a sports game. This would give students a good way to determine if they are in the right area of their profession by seeing the things that go into putting an event like this on,” House said.

Events like this wouldn’t be as successful without the help of those in the sports communication program that also happen to be working already in the athletic department.

Nick Owens, Ferris sports communication senior and assistant to Jon Coles, helps with all the game day operations. Owens is the link between athletics and the program that helps make sure everything’s running smoothly.

Owens talked about the COMM 489 class and how this program is helping students prepare for real world experiences.

“Continuing to drive the fact that experience is important will help the program. Working in the field is one of the best ways to learn both about what is expected on the job and what facet of sports you like best” Owens said. “Getting students involved is not the easiest thing to do, but the more students are involved, and involved in a positive, effective manner, the better the program will look.”

Their first event is the spring football game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Top Taggart Field.