A scholarly pursuit of sports

Portland State’s School of Business Administration is offering a new course this summer that will focus on the particular aspects of working in the professional athletics market.

Portland State’s School of Business Administration is offering a new course this summer that will focus on the particular aspects of working in the professional athletics market.

Portland Trail Blazers’ Senior Vice President of Business Affairs J.E. Isaac will teach the course, called Issues and Opportunities in Sports and Entertainment (MGMT 410). He holds a doctorate in law from Florida State and earned his undergraduate degree in business from the University of Kentucky.

Isaac said the course came about following discussions with SBA Dean Scott Dawson, with whom Isaac has attended various functions at PSU. He said the eight-week course is designed for students to learn from his 30 years of experience with sports and entertainment management.

“Students will see firsthand what live events look like and all the work and various divisions of labor that go into putting on a major event,” Isaac said.

“We are incredibly lucky to have him teaching this course,” Dawson said via e-mail.

Alan Cabelly, SBA area director and professor of human resources management, was involved with the course’s formation and he anticipates that the course will fill up quickly. As of press time, 11 of the 30 p

“I’m absolutely excited to have him teach this course and provide students with another view of management,” Cabelly said. “It’s a course with high visibility to students, and they’ll love it.” 

Curtis Dicken, a senior in the SBA, said the course sounds exciting and that he hopes it continues to be offered in future terms.

“Isaac’s experience means this is a class that’s not just focused on textbook jargon,” Dicken said. “It’s a class that opens up jobs, an incredible opportunity to be taught by a man with such a vast knowledge and experience working for an NBA team. I would be extremely interested in taking this class.”

Isaac said the course will likely remain a summer option for now but that he would like to continue teaching it. He said a specific degree isn’t required to work in the sports industry, and that students who wish to work with a professional athletic organization should seek out any experience they can garner.

“That’s what this class is for, to give students a sense of the opportunities that exist and how to put themselves in the path of opportunity,” Isaac said. “If the only opportunity is sweeping the floor [at an arena], then sweep the floor.”

The course begins Monday, June 21, and will be taught Monday evenings through August 9.

Previous PSU sports courses

The English department previously offered a sports writing course during summer term, though its instructor Matthew Kauffman Smith said that when he left PSU, so did the course. To his knowledge, no other faculty has offered to restart the course.

Kauffman Smith said the course represented a diversity in the English curriculum, and that it was a unique course for PSU—he estimates that it was one of about a dozen sports writing courses offered nationwide when he began teaching it.

“Sports writing wasn’t being offered specifically, so that was really unique to PSU,” Kauffman Smith said. “I’m not saying it was a surefire enrollment blockbuster, but we usually had between six and 16 students in the course, which is really good for summer.”

Kauffman Smith said diversity in curriculum is important, and that sports writing helped attract students from various disciplines to the English department. He said one student, Brian T. Smith, saw a poster for the course in a hallway and needed the credits and decided to register. Smith then wrote for the Vanguard and is currently the Blazers beat writer for the Vancouver Columbian, which Kauffman Smith said is a “huge success story for that class.”

“We had someone who took it because they like sports and wanted to be a sports writer,” Kauffman Smith said. “It’s the only journalism class he took and now he’s a Blazers beat writer, which is pretty remarkable. That’s not tooting my own horn so much as praising PSU, because he’s now writing in the field and he wouldn’t be without that diversity of curriculum.”

The economics department also previously offered an economics of sports course, though Randall Bluffstone, department chair, said it hasn’t been offered in a few years. He said he’d like to offer the course again, but that the department doesn’t currently have the faculty expertise to teach it. 

Unlike the sports management and writing courses, Bluffstone said the course is taught outside of summer, although he doubts it will be offered in the coming academic year. When asked about the potential for attracting non-economics majors, he said the course likely would.

“It wouldn’t surprise me,” Bluffstone said. “Economics of sports is an eye-catching topic…certainly something we’d like to offer again.”