SBJ/July 15-21, 2013/Colleges

Learfield minority academy to launch next spring

Learfield Sports will begin offering a five-day academy to diversity candidates looking to get into the marketing side of college athletics.

The Learfield Sports Minority Academy will launch next spring, and Learfield will work with the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association to select candidates and create a curriculum.

Roger Gardner, Learfield’s executive vice president, and Sean Frazier, deputy athletic director at the University of Wisconsin, have worked together on the concept of a minority academy that would expose diversity candidates to the business of multimedia and marketing rights in college sports.

Frazier, a former football player at Alabama, is the immediate past president of MOAA, a membership group of college administrators within NACDA, the national association for ADs. He teamed with Gardner and MOAA Executive Director Stan Johnson on the academy idea.

“This is a way to provide access and opportunities to people of color in an area where they’re not very well represented,” Frazier said. “This certainly broadens the opportunity pool for those people in the
college space.”

The academy will offer 2 1/2 days in a classroom setting at Learfield headquarters in Dallas and 2 1/2 days in the field at a Learfield property. Learfield expects 10 to 12 candidates to go through the academy in its first year. The company says it will cover the program’s costs.

“Diversity is an important challenge that’s ever-present for us, and most companies,” Gardner said. “One thing we’ve learned through this process is that it’s not enough to say, ‘We’re for diversity.’ You’ve got to have a plan of attack in place if you really expect to effect change. It can’t be a passive thing.”

Learfield, which also sponsors the Directors’ Cup, a NACDA-run all-sports points race, owns the multimedia rights to close to 50 college properties, including Wisconsin. Through the academy, Learfield hopes to expose recent graduates and promising young professionals to the world of college sponsorship sales and marketing, a business Learfield’s been in for 40 years.

“There are other diversity programs out there, but we’ve found those to be more focused on administration,” Gardner said. “It’s helpful and there’s a huge need there, but we wanted to do something for those who want to play in our world.”

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