Sports Marketing Might Be Field of Dreams

By Brian O'Neill | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Sports Marketing Might Be Field of Dreams


Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Sean Gibson, great-grandson of Josh Gibson, the greatest Negro League player of them all, was in Las Vegas a few winters back with Babe Ruth's great-grandson.

They came to the baseball winter meetings pitching an education program to minor league ballclubs. That went pretty well, and when it was over, Mr. Gibson wandered into a ballroom filled with young people applying for jobs in the sport's front offices.

Among those hundreds of job seekers, Mr. Gibson could count the number of black faces he saw on one hand. A resulting conversation there with a Duquesne University sports marketing professor ultimately lasted years, and this fall it will result in a new program in Pittsburgh high schools.

The Business of Sports Academy, housed at Westinghouse and Carrick high schools, will be open to incoming sophomores and juniors at any city school. Students in the three-year, six-segment curriculum also will earn college credits through Duquesne.

"Usually, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," said Mr. Gibson, director of the Josh Gibson Foundation, "but not this time."

Let's face it. Most high school athletes, even the best of them, aren't going to make it to the big time. Only the tiniest fraction of kids with dreams of playing in pulsating arenas or stadiums ever get into those venues without a ticket. This academy may direct them toward careers in sports off the field of play.

Steve Greenberg, who now has a very long academic title at Duquesne University, knows better than most how naive Pittsburgh kids can be about those opportunities. A basketball and baseball player at Peabody High in the late '60s, Mr. Greenberg also played baseball at the University of Pittsburgh. But a career in a sports front office didn't occur to him until he was a Pitt senior and heard about a graduate program in sports administration at Western Illinois.

Mr. Greenberg enrolled and found himself energized by peers sharing the same goals. He wound up working for three years in minor league baseball, in Charleston, S.C., and Dubuque, Iowa, and then landed a job in the Pirates ticket office in 1976. …

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