The multi-billion dollar sports industry draws millions of spectators to its events each year. Forbes magazine estimates the North American sports market to exceed $73 billion by 2019. These fans flock to stadiums, arenas, and courts to see their favorite sports teams and athletes duke it out. However, behind all the glamour is a team of working professionals doing everything from marketing the event to assisting athletes while they play.
Usually, these professionals have a background in sports management. A bachelor’s degree in sports management prepares graduates to work with athletes and manage facilities using kinesiology, biology, and accounting principles. With this knowledge, sports professionals go on to help teams brand themselves, build their rosters, and nurture their athletes. The following schools boast outstanding sports management programs that instill much-needed tools and techniques into its students. Additionally, many of these schools run successful athletic programs and encourage their students to intern in their athletic departments.
What are the Best Bachelor’s Degrees in Sports Management?
Whether you envision yourself on a sprawling campus with elite research facilities and thousands of new faces each day, or in a small classroom with a professor who knows your name and career goals, getting a degree in sports management can happen in many academic spaces. So, while some of the degrees on our list come from large research universities and others from small liberal arts schools, they all share one thing in common: they’re the best at providing a phenomenal education in sports management.
To bring together such an exhaustive and definitive list, we first researched the academic reputation of each sports management program in the nation. And from there we examined student retention (a reflection of student satisfaction), the early salaries of graduates, and the affordability of each program. What we got at the end was a list of those programs that are the absolute best in the nation at providing a foundational education in sports management. Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, and nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
University of North Carolina
College Choice Score: 100
Credit Hour Cost: $296
Our list gets off to quite a strong start with the University of North Carolina, and more specifically, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the main campus of the 16-school system. There are so many elements that UNC has going for it: affordability ($296 per credit hour), a huge payout when you’re ready to graduate (early grads earn on average $102,000 a year to start off!), and the assurance of a reputable school (UNC has an impressive 97 percent retention rate).
All of those features alone are reason enough to attend UNC, but the undergraduate program in Sport Administration is also one of the best in the country. For one, it already has a built-in graduate program in case students want to pursue further schooling in the field. The bachelor’s program incorporates a blend of exercise science courses with business and marketing courses to give you premiere access to a high-level sport management position. Some of these classes include:
- Finance and Economics of Sport
- Legal Aspects of Sport
- Fitness Management
- Sports Business Venture
UNC Chapel Hill excels at connecting their sport management students to crucial networks of athletes and professionals in the field. The Carolina Sport Business Club is a completely student-run organization that helps undergraduates find internships and other resources in the sport industry. Even more, the North Carolina Tar Heels NCAA I sport teams have collectively won 40 NCAA team championships. You’ll be dealing with the greatest!
University of Florida
College Choice Score: 98.5
Credit Hour Cost: $212
One of the top-ten largest universities in the nation, the University of Florida (UF) is a public research institution that is based in Gainesville, Florida. It consistently shows its strength in research and innovation, earning it a top-15 spot in US News & World Report for overall best public university in the United States. UF is home to over 54,000 students, as well as over 150 unique research institutions and centers.
At the University of Florida, the academic focus is problem solving and critical thinking, two concepts that students will encounter in the 120-credit-hour Bachelor of Science in Sport Management degree. The program blocks off the entire 8th semester to complete the Internship in Sport Management requirement, in which students get the chance to work in the industry for 13 weeks. However, in previous semesters, you’ll be taking classes like:
- Sport and Business Finance
- Administration of Sport and Physical Activity
- Sport Facility Design and Management
- Ethical Issues in Sport
The University of Florida has always been known for its research, but students who are enrolled in the BS in Sport Management will get unique access to the Laboratory for Athlete and Athletics Development and Research, which places sports in the lens of research to improve innovation in the field (some current projects are in Youth Sports Program and Physical Literacy Research). Even more, UF has a strong showing in sports with the Florida Gators, who compete at the NCAA Division I level.
University of Michigan
College Choice Score: 96.75
Credit Hour Cost: $494
One of the more prestigious schools on our list (in both reputation and research), the University of Michigan (UM) is a public university in Ann Arbor, Michigan that holds the honor of being one of the state’s oldest educational institution. Alongside their academic excellence, UM’s football program is one of the best in the country, ranking number 1 in NCAA history for total wins.
The Bachelor of Arts in Sport Management program at the University of Michigan is refined, well-connected, and competitive. Early on in the degree, students choose between two tracks: Sport Marketing and Management or Sport Policy and Analytics. Later, you’ll complete an internship experience in one of those areas, too. On top of all that, UM boasts a 98 percent job placement rate for their 2015 graduates of the program immediately out of school. Graduates have gone on to work for the NFL, ESPN, Under Armour, and more. Some of the classes that will get you there include:
- Sport Marketing Analytics
- Sport Tourism
- Historical and Sociological Issues in Sport and Fitness
- Sport Real Estate
You really can’t go wrong in choosing UM for your Sport Management degree. Despite it’s somewhat spendier price tag for tuition, it has the highest return on investment of any on this list (early grads earn around $110,000 right out of school). Even more, you’re set up for success by the student-run organizations in the major like Michigan Women Empowerment in Sport and Entertainment, Michigan Sports Analytics Society, and more.
College Choice Score: 95.5
Credit Hour Cost: $287
Considered one of the nation’s “Public Ivy” schools, Indiana University Bloomington is one of the beacons of public education in the United States. The flagship university of the larger Indiana University System, IU Bloomington has long been recognized for its academics; in fact, US News & World Report ranked 40 of its programs in the top 25 in the nation. A member of the Big Ten Conference, Indiana University’s athletic program is one of the strongest in the country, especially in men’s basketball.
Students at IU Bloomington will take a different approach to sport management through the university’s Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a major in Sport Marketing and Management. This gives you the best of both worlds: a deep understanding of the body and movement as well as the tools to run a business. The 120-credit-hour program splits its coursework between the School of Public Health and the renowned Kelley School of Business with classes like:
- Sport in America: Historical Perspective
- Financial Principles of Sport
- Strategic Management in the Sport Industry
- Legal Issues in Sport Settings
Unique to the program at IU Bloomington, you’ll have the chance to collaborate with other students studying sport management through the Sport Marketing Alliance, which was created to develop connections between students and professionals in the sport industry. You’ll be exposed to dynamic speakers, internship opportunities, resume-building workshops, and more.
University of Texas
College Choice Score: 94.75
Credit Hour Cost: $462
Located in its state capitol, the University of Texas at Austin is one of the biggest universities (by enrollment) in the nation, with close to 51,000 students each year. As a hub for research in the area, UT Austin is one of the leading institutions in computer science and engineering studies. Undergraduate students choose from over 100 degree programs, as well as a number of honors programs.
Nestled under the Kinesiology & Health Education department, the bachelor’s program in Sport Management at the University of Texas Austin enables students to apply their learnings in a variety of settings, not just in the sports arena. In addition to the 120 required credit hours, students will take either take a semester-long internship or complete fieldwork, whether that’s in sports business, entertainment sports, administrative work, or agenting. Beyond that, students will take some of the following courses:
- Sport Industry in America
- Sport Law
- Media & Public Relations in Sport
- Sociological Aspects of Sport & Physical Activity
The winners of four NCAA Division I championships for football, UT Austin is ranked 9th in the country among other Division I schools. The Longhorns excel particularly in college football, basketball, and baseball. UT Austin also is considered one of the nation’s best public university; US News & World Report listed it at number 18 in the country this year.
University of Connecticut
College Choice Score: 94.75
Credit Hour Cost: $400
Founded in 1881 as a land-grant college, the University of Connecticut (or UConn) is now a large, flagship research university that stands on par with some of the other Ivy Leagues on the East coast. Ranked the number 1 public university in New England, UConn was also one of the top ten producers of Fulbright Scholars this year, proving its status among other research communities.
Offered through the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, the BS in Sport Management program has been assembled to deliver a range of tools for students in the field—from youth sports to sport law and ethics. Similar to other programs on this list, UConn students are required to fulfill a summer-long internship. Even more, students in this program stay connected through the UConn Sport Business Association, a great built-in network of students, faculty, and alumni in the sport industry. Some of the classes in the program include:
- Financial Management in the Sport Industry
- Sport Based Youth Development
- Sport in Society
- Sport Facility and Event Management
Particularly known for their men’s and women’s basketball teams, the Huskies at the University of Connecticut have a fantastic record. The women’s team has clinched a record-winning 11 NCAA Division I championships. Even more, UConn athletes are respected as well-rounded students, too; statistically, the student-athletes at the university graduate at a higher percentage than the rest of the student body.
Florida State University
College Choice Score: 94.25
Credit Hour Cost: $215
Not to be confused with the University of Florida (which is located in Gainesville), Florida State University (FSU) is a somewhat smaller public research institution that is located just west of UF on the panhandle of Florida. It makes a big splash, though; US News & World Report ranked it as the 38th best public university in the country this year. The 41,800 students at Florida State have access to numerous scholarships, honors programs, Rhodes scholarships, and more.
The undergraduate program for sport management at Florida State University is fully set up for students to continue onto their master’s and/or doctoral degrees. While the Bachelor of Science in Sport Management degree lays the foundational knowledge, students are encouraged to specialize through the master’s program. Florida State University also freely shares a thorough directory of Sport Management alumni, which encourages students to make lasting, beneficial connections in their field. Some of the unique classes that FSU offers include:
- Cross-Cultural Sport
- Sport and Literature
- Human Resource Management in Sport
- International Sport Venues
Members of NCAA’s Division I and the Atlantic Coast Conference, FSU’s Seminoles sports teams are a competitive force. The football team has three national championships under its belt, and always enjoys a good rivalry game with the University of Florida Gators. Florida State has had a number of graduates go on to the NFL, MLB, and other top positions in athletic franchises.
University of Minnesota at Twin Cities
College Choice Score: 93.5
Credit Hour Cost: $474
Known as the oldest and biggest school in the state, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (located in Minneapolis and Saint Paul) also holds the prestigious distinction of being a “Public Ivy” university. Its student body of over 48,000 chooses majors from its 19 different schools and colleges (among them, the College of Education and Human Development, which houses the Sport Management Bachelor of Science).
The Sport Management program at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities is unique in its graduation requirements; students only need to complete 8 credits of the core courses (like Business of Sport, Sport Marketing, and Event Management), and then are left to fill in an additional 20 credits of focused electives. In their last semester, students will also complete a practicum called “The Sport Experience.” Some of the other popular electives include:
- Law of Contracts and Agency
- Sport Sales and Fundraising
- History and Philosophy of Sport
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is not only highly ranked nationally, but also globally! It nabbed 33rd in the world by Academic Ranking of World Universities, and US News & World Report listed it as 38th in the world. The Minnesota Golden Gophers are NCAA Division I competitors and have won numerous national championships in both football and basketball.
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
College Choice Score: 93.25
Credit Hour Cost: $313
The largest public university in New England, with over 30,000 students, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) found its early beginnings in 1863 as an agricultural school. These days, the university is pulling in top rankings, like its 27th spot among other public universities in the country (according to US News & World Report).
Offered through the Isenberg School of Management, undergraduate students in the McCormack Sport Management program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst get to experience the best of the best: experiential learning through organizing an annual SoccerFest, an upper-level internship, and a career fair that puts you face-to-face with ESPN and professional sports teams. Some of the classes that you’ll take along the way include:
- Sociology of Sport
- Sport Promotion & Sales
- Sport Economics
- Sport Labor Relations
The McCormack Sport Management degree has an amazing track record of landing their graduates in top-level positions post graduation. For example, students have gone on to work for Nike, the New York Mets, CBS Sports, Duke University Athletics, and more. Some of the student organizations to get you there are the UMass Sports Analytics Club, the Women in Sport Management Club, and more.
University of Illinois
College Choice Score: 91.75
Credit Hour Cost: $501
Although the University of Illinois is most well-known for its engineering program (it is ranked among the 5 in the world!), this public research university also excels in numerous other areas, and is deservedly considered a “Public Ivy” school. Located in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, the school delivers over 150 degree programs to its 44,000 students each year and remains a research hub in the Midwest.
The University of Illinois approaches the field of Sport Management from a broad scope, understanding that people love sports for so many different reasons: watching, playing, organizing, and more. For that reason, the 128-credit-hour program begins with foundational courses on sport as a “leisure pursuit,” while later getting into upper-level focus classes. A selection of some of the classes you’ll take are:
- Leisure and Consumer Culture
- Leisure Services Marketing
- Legal Aspects of Sport
- Foundations of Sport Management
You can’t go wrong with a school like the University of Illinois. If you’re from the Midwest, you can be rest assured that it’s one of the top schools not only in the region, but in the nation—US News & World Report ranked its undergraduate program as the 41st best national university in the United States.
University of Arkansas
College Choice Score: 91.25
Credit Hour Cost: $316
Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas as a six-campus public educational system, the University of Arkansas was founded in 1871 and has built up its reputation to earning the highest research activity classification by the Carnegie Foundation. Across its ten different schools and colleges, the university sustains an impressive student-to-teacher ratio of 19:1, even with a student body of over 27,000.
The University of Arkansas sets up their students to succeed by not only offering a solid Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation and Sport Management, but also including nine different concentration areas for students to further specialize in: public recreation, fitness club management, commercial recreation, sport management, and more. The 120-credit-hour degree includes an internship and 54 credit hours in the major core. Some of those classes include:
- Recreation and Sport Facilities
- Program Planning in Recreation and Sport
- Marketing & Promotion in Sport Management
- Leisure and Society
Just last year, a faculty member at the University of Arkansas founded the Sport Consumer Research Lab, which uses the research and data that students use in the classroom to provide tangible consulting decisions to sports organizations about their customers. This kind of tangible, hands-on field experience is the kind of educational result that you can expect to find at the University of Arkansas.
University of South Carolina
College Choice Score: 91
Credit Hour Cost: $406
The University of South Carolina (USC) is a landmark for higher education in the south. An educational system with seven satellite schools throughout the state, USC enrolls nearly 50,000 students in total, with by far its biggest enrollment in the flagship Columbia campus. The school delivers over 350 unique degrees of study, but is most well-known for its undergraduate international business program, which has consistently earned a number 1 spot in the country by US News & World Report.
Designed as a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Entertainment Management degree, students at the University of South Carolina are given a first-hand look at what it takes to jump into the sport and entertainment industries. With two internships and a heavy courseload of business, economic, and finance electives, students will be pushed for peak results. This degree program just takes it as a given that their students will launch careers with professional sports teams and world-renowned athletes. Some of the unique classes at USC prove it:
- The Business of NASCAR
- NCAA Compliance
- Contracts and Negotiations
- College Sports
The Sport and Entertainment Management degree at the University of South Carolina is one of a kind in a number of regards. It’s a one-stop-shop for everything you need in the sports industry—ultimately, sports are entertainment, so this program treats it at such. It’s no surprise that it gets good results. Shanghai Rankings named it the number 3 program of its kind in the world!
College Choice Score: 90.5
Credit Hour Cost: $323
Located just north of Baltimore, Maryland, Towson University is a public university that began in 1866 as the state’s first school for teachers and educators. Now one of the biggest public universities in the state, Towson still holds on to its original purpose as a strong university for educating teachers, but has since expanded to offering over 100 different degree programs to its 22,000+ students.
The Bachelor of Science in Sport Management degree at Towson aims to help students adapt and monopolize on the ever-changing field of sports. One of the unique requirements for students at Towson is to complete a minor in business administration. The degree culminates in the internship experience, which places students in job locations throughout the numerous sports industries in Baltimore, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. Some of the highlight courses in this program include:
- Sport Culture and Counterculture
- American Women in Sport
- Sport and Globalization
- Cultural Economy of Sport
Towson University enjoys a strong academic reputation that reflects its 150-year commitment to the field of education. It was ranked 8th among regional and public universities by US News & World Report. Even more, Forbes and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine include Towson among the top 100 schools for “Best Value” in the United States.
College at Brockport—SUNY
College Choice Score: 90.25
Credit Hour Cost: $222
A tight-knit, academically competitive college located near Rochester, New York, The College at Brockport is a four-year liberal arts school that is part of the larger State University of New York (SUNY) system. Brockport is known as one of the more selective colleges in the SUNY system, and it was recently named in the top 100 “Best Value” public colleges by Kiplinger’s with a tuition of just $222 per credit hour.
Choice and flexibility are key in SUNY Brockport’s Bachelor of Science in Sport Management degree. Unique to the Brockport experience, students end up completing three mini-internships as well as a semester-long internship in order to fully expose you to career options in the working world. You also get the option of either adding a minor to your degree (in business, marketing, kinesiology, coaching, or others) or taking a semester to study abroad. Here’s a peek at a few classes you’ll end up taking:
- Problems in Sport Management
- Administration of Intramurals
- Ethics in Sports Contests
- Social Psychology of Sport
One of the most unique elements of The College at Brockport is its study abroad program, which is recognized as one of the most developed programs in the country. It features trips (both semester-long programs and short-term studies) in a number of different countries, including Australia, Chile, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Spain, Vietnam, and many more. These study abroad programs give you valuable cross-cultural experience and the chance for adventure!
University of Nebraska at Kearney
College Choice Score: 90
Credit Hour Cost: $192
The most affordable school on our list, with a tuition of just $192 per credit hour, the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) stands out for offering a quality education without breaking the bank. Part of the larger, five-campus University of Nebraska system, the campus at Kearney is home to around 7,000 students. US News & World Report recently ranked University of Nebraska Kearney as the 9th best public regional university in the Midwest.
If you choose to find a home at UNK, the Department of Kinesiology and Sport Sciences will be a great landing point to start your career. The program at UNK offers a number of options: a BS in Sports Management, a minor in Sports Management, or a Sports Management Comprehensive degree (also a BS). Weaving together all the essentials of the field, you’ll get to dip your toes into everything from business law to public relations to physical education. Some of the highlight classes featured in the Sport Management Comprehensive degree include:
- Programming in Sport, Recreation, and Events
- Marketing in Sport, Recreation, and Events
- Psychology of Sport
- Sports Economics
Some on-campus highlights that you can anticipate at the University of Nebraska Kearney are the Greek life and the sports facilities. If you’re looking for a group of like-minded friends, you can check out UNK’s seven sorority chapters and seven fraternity chapters. Additionally, the Wellness Center, built recently in 2014, is a learning space where you’ll be conducting research, climbing the rock wall, or just working out.
Texas A&M University
College Choice Score: 89.5
Credit Hour Cost: $433
One of the largest universities on our list, with a whopping 60,400 students in total, Texas A&M University is a public research institution that is qualified as a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant university—all designations that reflect its commitment to cutting-edge research. Its main campus, in College Station, Texas, sprawls across 21 square kilometers, making it one of the biggest in the United States. Everything’s big in Texas!
Students enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Sport Management at Texas A&M have the option of pursuing two different tracks: the internship track or the non-internship track. The former (internship) is for students who want to work on the business side of sport management, and the latter (non-internship) is for students who want to work in administrative or managerial roles in the field. Both follow a 120-credit-hour format and require some of the following classes:
- Marketing Aspects of Sport
- Sport Psychology, Management, and Practice
- Sociology of Sport
- Legal Aspects of Sport
For students who choose the internship track at Texas A&M, you’ll be introduced to a wide variety of opportunities through the College of Education and Human Development’s Sport Management Internship Program. In the past, students have enjoyed internships in college sports, health & fitness centers, youth sports, minor league sports, and more.
University of Kansas
College Choice Score: 89.5
Credit Hour Cost: $330
Located in Lawrence, Kansas, a thriving city with a college-town feel, the University of Kansas is a public research institution that is well-known for its medical studies. Founded in 1865, the university has since grown to host two branch campuses as well as numerous other research centers and institutes.
Housed in the School of Education (which was recently listed as the 8th best program in the country), KU’s Sport Management degree offers expertise, flexibility, and variety. The degree program gives students the choice to use their summer breaks to take online courses in order to graduate earlier. However, for all students, the final class is a semester-long internship in sport management at a nearby organization. Some of the classes involved in this program include:
- Applied Sport and Performance Psychology
- Sport Marketing
- Personnel Management in Sport
- Sport Finance and Economics
The Amateur Sport Research Center at the University of Kansas is a fantastic hands-on location for students to conduct fieldwork in their particular studies. Another bonus to attending this program is the chance to network with other professionals in the industry. The program hosts events to talk with people from Sporting Kansas City, the Kansas City Royals, the Kansas City Chiefs and more.
College Choice Score: 89.25
Credit Hour Cost: $673
An urban, public university smack dab in the middle of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Temple University is a large, multi-campus institution that enrolls close to 40,000 each year. Beyond its Philadelphia campus, Temple maintains seven other statewide campuses, as well as international locations in London, Tokyo, Rome, and Singapore. This year, US News & World Report ranked it 56th in the country among other public universities.
The Bachelor of Science program at Temple University delivers a degree in Sport and Recreation Management, with the choice of three concentrations: Governance and Policy, Sport and Recreation Promotion, and Event Leadership. Students in this degree also get to collaborate with the Fox School of Business and Management to brush up their marketing and economics skills. With a total credit hour requirement of 124 units (including a 12-hour internship), students jump into core classes such as:
- Athletics Administration
- Advanced Marketing for Sport and Recreation
- Sustainable Event Management
- Sport and Society
When it comes to athletics, men’s basketball at Temple University is a team to beat. The NCAA Division I team is actually ranked 6th in the nation for overall wins. The international study abroad program at Temple is also a strong point for the school. In fact, students enrolled in the School of Sport, Tourism, and Hospitality Management have the chance to travel to Singapore to study for a semester.
Louisiana State University
College Choice Score: 89.25
Credit Hour Cost: $268
A public university based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University (LSU) was established in 1853 initially as a military academy. However, it has since grown into a thriving, interdisciplinary research center that has launched important studies in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and more. It was recently ranked 16th for “most popular university” in the country.
The Bachelor of Science in Sport Administration program at LSU divides students into two concentrations: Sport Commerce and Sport Leadership. Both tracks have the ultimate goal of navigating the world of sports with an eye toward business and management, however Sport Commerce focuses on marketing and Sport Leadership focuses on communications. Ultimately, students receive a well-rounded education that will support them in their professional careers. Some of the joined classes include:
- Sport Strategies and Planning
- Facilities Management
- The Olympic Games: Ancient and Modern
- Financial Issues in Sport
Sport Management students at Louisiana State University (in both tracks) have the unique opportunity to interact with the athletic department and their fellow student athletes. It helps too that they’re dealing with one of the best teams in the country; LSU has won almost 50 national championships. Because of this, students often have top-notch opportunities for internships in the area.
Michigan Technological University
College Choice Score: 88.25
Credit Hour Cost: $492
The final school on our list is Michigan Technological University, a public research institution in rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Initially founded in the late-1800s for engineers, Michigan Tech has maintained its science focus, but broadened its scope to include five unique colleges and schools, among them: science, forestry, technology, engineering, and business.
With the Bachelor of Science in Sports and Fitness Management at Michigan Tech, students will find the perfect marriage of science and business. This degree prepares students to work at every level of the field—for example, either working one-on-one with professional athletes, or overseeing large-scale sports facilities. Upon graduation, all of the students in this program are qualified to take national certification exams to become either a Personal Trainer or a Strength & Conditioning Specialist. Along the way, they’ll be taking classes such as these:
- Exercise Pharmacology
- Sports Nutrition Seminar
- Legal Issues in Sports and Fitness Management
- Sports Administration
Although Michigan Technological University is most renowned for its engineering program, it also stands up to its regional peers in overall academic performance. For example, The Princeton Review recently included Michigan Tech in its list of the “Best in the Midwest.” In terms of sports, the Michigan Tech Huskies are best known for their NCAA Division II hockey team.