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Planting the Education Seed

Dr. James Mason, is credited as the “founding father” in the field of sports administration, as he developed the first such program at Ohio University. However, the idea for a curriculum in sports administration started years earlier.
In a 1965 letter received by Dr. Mason, an important sports executive wrote, “Where would one go to find a person who, by virtue of education, has been trained to administer a stadium...or a person to fill an executive position at a team or league level? A course that would enable a graduate to read architectural and engineering plans; or having to do with specifications and contract letting, the functions of a purchasing agent in plant operations. There would be the problems of ticket selling and accounting, concessions, sale of advertising in programs, and publications, outdoor and indoor displays, and related items.”
Previously, discussions had taken place in 1957 with the idea of preparing students for positions on the executive and administrative side of professional sports.
Although Dr. Mason initially attempted to take the initial suggestions from 1957 and develop a curriculum to train administrators at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, his plans did not materialize until he left and moved to Ohio University as the Chairman of the Graduate Program in Physical Education. In 1966, while at Ohio University, he “developed the first degree-granting program in sports administration.”
Dr. Mason’s program initially offered a program designed to incorporate curricula in business, communications and physical education. Advanced courses were offered in speech, management, personnel management, journalism, radio-TV, business law, labor relations, psychology and sociology, plus the mandatory courses “Problems of Competitive Athletics and Research in Competitive Athletics.”
The sports executive who first discussed this issue in 1957 and later sent the letter to Dr. Mason was none other than Walter O’Malley, President of the Dodgers.
In the dedication to his book, “Modern Sports Administration,” Dr. Mason wrote, “This book is dedicated to Walter O’Malley, deceased former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers Professional Baseball Team, whose creativity, vision, and foresight advanced the idea that sports administrators need academic preparation.”

Sources: Ohio University Sports Administration; Sports Business Journal, December 2001;

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