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Inside the Classroom with...
Published August 23, 2010
John McDonough was flattered when Northwestern University invited him to lecture and serve on the faculty advisory board in the sports administration master’s program it was launching in its school of continuing education six years ago.
“I thought maybe they had the wrong guy,” said McDonough, now president of the Chicago Blackhawks. He was running marketing for the Chicago Cubs when Northwestern invited him. “I was a bad student in high school and a bad student in college, so to be lecturing and teaching at Northwestern, I feel a great sense of pride. It’s rewarding beyond description.”
McDonough’s most recent teaching stint came last spring, when he shared a leadership class with Northwestern Athletic Director Jim Phillips. He also typically speaks at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management a few times a year.
Not surprisingly, McDonough’s connections have led to a gold-star list of guest speakers, including Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts and Bears President Ted Phillips.
“I tell students you cannot replace passion and energy in this business,” McDonough said, using the contrast between his academic shortcomings and his career success as an example. “You always have to be on. That’s so important, and these students need to hear it. I’m fortunate to be where I am in this business, and I have an obligation to pass on what I’ve learned.”
— Bill King
When Jimmy Lynn began spending Monday nights teaching sports marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business five years ago, he was running the sports division at America Online.
He enjoyed teaching, but he rarely felt like he could devote enough time to it. Since departing AOL to start his own consultancy last year, he has been able to give in to the pull of campus he first felt in those early days.
“I took one sick day in 14 years,” Lynn said. “I was the corporate guy, so when I taught before, interaction with students was limited. Now, I schedule coffees, lunches, dinners and take groups of students to games. I’m on campus two afternoons a week and I meet with students all the time. I love teaching and I love helping talented people get where they want to go.”
Lynn still teaches a class in the B-school, but his deeper role is in Georgetown’s master’s program in sports management. Lynn has worked closely with the program’s architect, Matt Winkler, for years on other projects. As he has found time, he has broadened his participation in the program.
He co-teaches a leadership class and participates in the capstone projects that students work on in their final semester. He also recruits other instructors and pitches in as an overall adviser, providing needed help in a program of 75 students.
“I probably meet close to 50 percent of the students, mostly offering career advice,” Lynn said. “They need help learning how to break into the business. They need advice on how to handle things they encounter doing internships or pursuing jobs. I enjoy providing what I can.”
Lynn is a big fan of Georgetown’s co-teaching model, which has helped him bring in adjuncts who otherwise would have been scared off by the time commitment.
“They’re attracted to the opportunity to have that Georgetown brand on their résumé, but they worry about whether they can make the time to do it well,” Lynn said. “If you’re working full time and traveling, it helps to know you have someone who can cover for you. Everyone in this business is going to have conflicts. You cover for each other.”
— Bill King
When Sandy Alderson signed on as Major League Baseball’s emissary to the
Alderson was living in San Diego, where he had been CEO of the Padres, but flying to San Francisco once a week to teach a sports class in the MBA program at the University of California, Berkeley. Adding the Dominican assignment meant adding a leg, and a very long one, to his commute. He did that each week for 2 1/2 months — and then committed to do it again in the fall.
Alderson’s connection to Berkeley traces back to his time as general manager and then president of the Oakland A’s. The business school there is named after Walter Haas, whose family owned the A’s. Before Alderson taught at the B-school, he sat on its advisory board.
“[The commute] was grueling,” said Alderson, who taught an undergraduate class last fall before the grad school class in the spring. “But I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to keep it going. It can be challenging preparing for classes, but it’s kind of a renewal in a way.”
To lessen the load, Alderson will share classes this year with CAA golf agent Mike Rielly who, like Alderson, wants to teach but has been stressed by frequent travel. Rielly, a driving force in Cal’s addition of sports to the curriculum, provided the syllabus for Alderson last year when he agreed to teach. A Harvard-trained lawyer, Alderson was more comfortable using a case-based model, so he used the topics on Rielly’s syllabus and set off to find cases.
He taught one on the development of Fox Sports, both the national network and the regional sports networks. His class studied cases on Alex Rodriguez’s contract with the Texas Rangers, the philosophy of A’s general manager Billy Beane and the complicated structure of Olympic sports.
“One of the things that’s rewarding, which you don’t expect when you go into it, is the contact with students outside the classroom,” he said. “I’d have large lunches with students where we’d bring guests in. Talking to students one on one, helping students get internships — as someone who is not part of the wider faculty, a lot of those are rewarding experiences that you normally wouldn’t have.”
— Bill King