SBJ/February 6-12, 2012/Colleges

Sutton to lead USF sports management program

The University of South Florida is creating a sports and entertainment management program backed by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Industry veteran Bill Sutton will head South Florida’s new program.
TIFFIN WARNOCK / STAFF
The MBA program will launch this fall and will be run by industry veteran Bill Sutton, who moves to the USF Tampa campus from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where he is a faculty member of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program.

The Lightning will be a sponsor of the new USF program and will contribute an undisclosed amount of financial support along with the creation of a residency agreement between the school and the team.

Sutton will begin at USF on May 1. He leaves the University of Central Florida sports management program after eight years.

He will continue to run his sports management consultant company Bill Sutton & Associates.

“It’s an opportunity to start a program on my own, and we plan to hire four faculty members over the next two years,” Sutton said. “We will start as an MBA program, but we will also look to add a master of science degree to the program.”

The USF system has 47,000 students, including about 9,000 graduate students, and the school expects to have a class of about 30 enrolled in the new program when it begins in the fall.

“A lot of public universities have been in the process of retrenchment, but we have been strategic in the fact that the Lightning have stepped forward to work with the university,” said Ralph Wilcox, USF provost and executive vice president. “There are a vast number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in sports management, and we have said from the outset that we want to differentiate ourselves and are exploring ways to do that. Bill’s appointment is an immediate factor, along with the opportunities to work directly with the Lightning.”

Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke would not disclose the team’s financial investment of its sponsorship of the new program. It also is expected that Lightning executives will participate as guest speakers in the program.

“We have a lot of interns who come through here every year, so we decided to join forces,” Leiweke said. “The idea is that our internships become residencies, where we give the students real-life experiences in the industry.”

The USF program will be run under the university’s business college.
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