At Rise Legal – Steve Dixon Law, we have some experience with the business of sports. Prior to opening Steve Dixon Law, Mr. Dixon spent time coaching college basketball and became familiar with the insides of what collegiate coaches have to deal with. This includes small to no budgets and trying to bring together a group of individuals (i.e. mainly teenagers) who will help you win games so you can keep your job. Technically, the title of this post should be “the 8 B’s of Sports Business.” I cannot take credit for the 8 B’s of Sports Business. This wisdom was passed onto me from my former coach, employer, and mainly friend ( let’s call him “Coach” for the remainder of this post). Although I believe he was taught the 8 B’s of Sports Business from another source, the importance of the information being shared takes precedence over who should actually get the credit for origination.
When I was employed by Coach as an assistant men’s basketball at a traditionally unsuccessful Division II school in Colorado, I assisted him in applying for a Division I head coaching position. As we went through the application process, including interviewing, preparing exhaustive materials, reviewing budgets, practicing interview questions, and responding to any and all questions that university placed before us while still trying to coach our current team, Coach still had to consider whether he actually wanted the job for which he was interviewing. Ultimately, Coach was offered the job but turned it down because in that particular instance the 8 B’s simply did not add up to enough reason to leave his current job at that time.
The 8 B’s of Sports Business should not be limited simply to sports jobs. It can be a resource for choosing employment in other areas. Perhaps it can also be a resource for choosing which college you want to attend, or even who you will marry (I’m kidding, sort of). If you are considering coaching at the collegiate ranks, or any type of business employment for that matter, I believe these suggestions will help. Feel free to insert “job” into any instance where I use the term University.
Budget: How much of a budget does the University give you to fulfill your obligations as a coach? You need money for officials, travel, meals, uniforms, recruiting, supplies, student housing, assistant coaches, etc. In Colorado, the University gave us $35,000 for a total budget and $17,000 of that money immediately went to the conference for officiating. That left $18,000 total in a budget to make it through an entire basketball season. Trust me, that amount barely got us through a quarter of the season, if that. As a result, we had to spend a lot of time fund raising, which ultimately took away from other basketball responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong. Coach did a heck of a job at overseeing everything, but it wasn’t easy and often times that business account ran pretty close to being in the red. The bigger the budget, the more you can focus on the guts of success, rather than having to run around scraping and begging for additional money.
Ballers: How close are you to talent that would realistically commit to your school? If you aren’t a top tier program, then it is harder to recruit nationally, or even outside of your own state. A smaller school in California will have a recruiting advantage over a smaller school in New Mexico. The amount of people in California will simply lead to more opportunities to recruit talent locally. A small school in New Mexico on the other hand is probably limited in how much real talent it can recruit. The closer you are to “ballers” or talent, the more opportunity you have to easily access that talent, keep your recruiting budget low, and keep a player who may be considering a larger more known school near home because of your proximity to his family. I know coaches who constantly compare the location of a school when they think about a future job. For example, Idaho State in Pocatello, Idaho and Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah play in the same conference. Every conversation I’ve ever had with college coaches and players suggest that the more desireable job and location is Cedar City, Utah. Both places are relatively small rural communities. However, Cedar City is closer to Southern California (and Las Vegas) where more talent could feasibly be coaxed to attending Southern Utah over Idaho State.
Backdrop: This B also includes the location of your school, but adds to it the extras of which league you play in, the notoriety of that league, the social aspect of your school (i.e. is it a boys only school, etc.), among other considerations. The league you play in is obviously important. Generally, players want to be recruited to a larger, better, more well known league. For example, would you rather play in the Mountain West Conference or the Big Sky? Traditionally, the Mountain West has been a much better league as far as producing more talented teams. Players and parents know this and it will definitely make a decision in which school to choose.
Banners: How much tradition does your school have as it pertains to your sport? Any tradition helps. Tradition can be pointed to as a foundation that doesn’t need to be rebuilt every time a new coach or player comes along. It serves as an immediate identity. Schools with a lot of winning tradition generally continue those traditions, even if they have a few losing seasons. The media will always bring up traditions and banners if they exist. The perfect example of this is UNLV and basketball. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s UNLV was known nationwide as a basketball powerhouse. Since that time it has been to one, yes only one in 2007, Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament. Still, every time UNLV shows some signs of life all fingers point back to its tradition from 30 years ago. If your school doesn’t have any banners or tradition, then you will always be building a new foundation and starting from scratch, rather than being able to use the community and its prior success as a resource for your imprint on the school.
Boosters: There are two types of boosters. Those who give, and those who cheer. There are two types of cheerers. Those who cheer positively and those who cheer negatively. As will be seen below, as a general rule, the more money a program has the more it wins. It really shouldn’t be that way, but the numbers don’t lie. If you take pretty much any school from a mid-major Division I program down and compare its budget with the other schools in its conference, those that have a higher budget tend to traditionally win more often. Money talks. Boosters who give money increase revenue all around. Boosters who cheer positively generally stem from a tradition of having banners. Boosters who cheer negatively either have to be convinced, or they won’t last long as boosters anyway, and you’ll end up just being the next in a long line of fired coaches. When we applied for the Division I job referenced above, I did some digging and found out the annual budgets of each of the teams in that conference. There really was no surprise when the teams with the highest budgets traditionally were at the top of the standings year in and year out when the season was over. Those with the smallest budgets pretty much always ended up at the bottom.
Buildings: In other words, facilities. Players love facilities. You would think that simply having a standard sized-basketball court and playing in order to get an education would be sufficient. In today’s world, however, it isn’t. Time and time again I’ve heard kids mention facilities when they are being recruited. The funny thing is, it’s sometimes simple things. “Coach, I want to play in an arena that has a scoreboard hanging from the ceiling over half court.” Players love facilities. This includes locker rooms, where they stay on campus, where they eat on campus, where they play for games, etc. Too many small schools underestimate buildings. If not underestimated, then the school is essentially admitting it doesn’t place a premium on sports. That might be ok for the overall university, but it that really where you want to coach or work? This might be a horrible comparison, but let’s look at the facilities for Oklahoma State’s basketball program, specifically its locker room: Oklahoma State Locker Room. Here’s a look at Nevada-Reno’s basketball locker room: UNR Locker Room. Now, if you are being recruited by Oklahoma State and Nevada-Reno, at first sight where are you going? Buildings are important. The kids compare the facilities when they visit campus. Don’t underestimate this important B!
Books: At a university education is important. If you are considering a coaching job, don’t discount the importance of education. Most parents, especially mothers, understand that their child probably won’t play professional sports. As a result, they want their son or daughter to get a good education. If you can show that your university has solid educational traditions this is a positive. Consider making contact with former players who are successful in business that can be a resource and reference for you if people ask about your educational system. Also, your university might offer educational assistance programs that will help other coaches and players around the country. This is good for business because people will reach out to you for help more than you think. The more contacts you have, the better connected you’ll be throughout your career. This element should not be discounted in any other business setting as well. Education is important. Whether it’s continuing education for your job, opportunities to continue your education while currently employed or other opportunities to increase your value as an employee are all positives.
Business: Let’s face it. Some people are good business people and some aren’t. When it comes down to it, any job, including coaching, is really just a business. If the budget you want doesn’t make sense to those who are your employers, you won’t get the job. Trust me. Although I was way more qualified than an individual who once got a coaching job over me, they still hired that guy because it fit in their budget and business plan. Winning DOES NOT solve everything. Having success in your job doesn’t solve everything either. Business decisions get made every day, and even high profile individuals and athletes get cut, fired, or let go sometimes for no good reason at all. As a result, make sure you understand the nature of the business. Also, make sure your business interests are in line with the job you have or want.
Hopefully this list will help someone in the future. I’ve learned about each of these elements over the past few years, sometimes the hard way. But if you can find a job, whether its in coaching or in some other career, that has a good mixture if not all of these items, then you should be setting yourself up for success. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Steve Dixon Law, (702) 329-4911, or firstname.lastname@example.org.