New NASCAR Course Elevates Profile of Virginia State University's Sport Management Program

VAHPERD Journal, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

New NASCAR Course Elevates Profile of Virginia State University's Sport Management Program


At the beginning of the spring 2007 semester at Virginia State University (VSU), instructor Keith Green, Director of Public Relations at Richmond International Raceway (RIR), and course facilitator, Dr. Leon Wright Bey, who is a Professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (HPERD Department) at VSU, introduced a unique, three-credit course entitled, "The Business and Marketing ofNASCAR" The idea for the course is credited to Dr. Michael W Jackson, Professor and Director of Graduate Programs in Sport and Recreation Administration at Temple University (TU), who suggested that his former graduate students (co-authors of this article, Green and Bey) collaborate on this project.

The class relied on the industry knowledge of Mr. Green, who has 14 years of sports marketing experience, including nearly 9 years of helping to promote NASCAR races. Bey, who has taught for 31 years, assisted him by handling many of the administrative aspects of the class.

The course included three site visits to Richmond International Raceway (RIR) during NASCAR testing and race weekend, making it more than likely the first time a course of this nature and scope was taught anywhere in the country and most certainly, making it unique to "Historically Black Colleges and Universities." Hosting a course ofthis nature on the VSU campus definitely elevated the profile of its sports management program.

It provided students with a board overview of the NASCAR industry through a combination of in-class lectures by the instructor, guest speakers who are industry experts and site visits to the track. Students learned ow fundamental business practices including, but not limited to, marketing, public relations, advertising, sales and technology relate to America's number two sport, NASCAR

Students also learned about the history of the sport and what NASCAR is doing to reach out and involve more minorities in the sport. Given the relevant demographics of the class, exposure to NASCAR's diversity initiatives (e.g., internship opportunities) was a particularly significant aspect of the course.

During the first class, only about a half a dozen students acknowledged ever having attended or watched a NASCAR race or of having known much about the sport. To introduce most of the students to the sport and help immediately grab their attention, a video narrated by rapper Funkmaster Flex was shown to the students. The introductory piece gave a board overview of NASCAR and how the sanctioning body is going to great lengths to involve more minorities in the sport. This was a terrific tonesetter for the class.

A brief overview of NASCAR was also given and this in turn also helped to set the tone for the class. Students were encouraged to think of the class as an open forum and to ask questions about anything related to the sport at any time. This led to some fantastic questions throughout the duration of the semester.

In-class guest speakers included members of the marketing and sales team at Richmond International Raceway; Nate Ryan, Motorsports journalist for USA Today; Ben Hamlin, the sports director for NBC 12 in Richmond and Todd Ervin, the Director of

Multi-Cultural Marketing for International Speedway Corporation, parent company of Richmond International Raceway and 12 other tracks.

Specifically, the students learned how NASCAR is big business and how the teams, drivers, tracks, sanctioning body (NASCAR), TV networks and sponsors all work together to make NASCAR a $3 billion-plus industry each year. …

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