Stepping up their game

Stepping up their game

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UI recreation and sport business students gain real world experience with the San Diego Padres
Students presenting to the San Diego Padres organization
A team of students from the University of Iowa, Ohio University, and DePaul University presents to Jarrod Dillon and Harrison Boyd, San Diego Padres Marketing and Ticketing executives, during the summer Sport Business Practicum course. Photo courtesy of Dan Matheson.

A unique course at the University of Iowa is giving students interested in recreation and sport business an opportunity to gain significant hands-on experience over the summer.

For two weeks in June, Dan Matheson, a lecturer in the Department of Health and Human Physiology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will take a group of UI students enrolled in Sport Business Practicum to San Diego, Calif., to work with the San Diego Padres and the University of San Diego (USD) Athletics Department.

Last summer was the first year Matheson took students to San Diego. The course was developed by Ohio University’s sports administration program in 2011. In 2012, Ohio University invited the UI and DePaul University to participate as well.

Students who are interested in applying for the 2013 San Diego course have until Friday, Feb. 8 to submit a letter of interest. To do so, or for more information, contact Matheson at

While in San Diego last summer, the 12 UI students, along with 10 Ohio students and five DePaul students, stayed on the USD campus. The first week was spent doing background work to be prepared for and familiar with the Padres and USD Athletics Department and the organizations' markets.

After the week of orientation, the students were presented with their first challenge—in two days, and with a budget of $2,500, teams had to come up with proposals to increase student attendance at one USD men’s basketball home game in early February.

The remainder of the course was focused on a challenge by the Padres. Vice President of Ticket Services Jared Dillon presented students with the challenge to increase single game ticket sales, including ways to encourage fans to make single game ticket purchases further in advance to increase the certainty of revenue. The students also met with a larger group of Padres executives, including the vice president for business administration, director of brand management, and director of market research.

The overall winning team was selected as well as two individual proposals from all of the teams. Those three teams had to combine those ideas into one cohesive proposal presentation that was then delivered the next morning to a larger group of Padres executives.

“It was an incredible challenge,” Matheson says. “It forced the students to really step up their game and bring their best effort and they really did an outstanding job. This type of course really is a win-win; it offers the students some real world experience and offers the entity student ideas and potential future employees.”

Dillon says the students produced findings and strategies that the Padres are now working to implement.

“The students approached the Padres project with hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. As the head of a sports sales and service organization, I can tell you first hand these students learned invaluable skills on this project, and take away real life experience that will give them an advantage when interviewing for future positions,” Dillon says.

In 2013, the San Diego trip will also contain a local component. The students will work on a project with the Cedar Rapids Kernels before departing for San Diego. The project will require students to develop marketing and promotion recommendations for the Kernels and present their recommendations to the Kernels staff.

Matheson says that projects like these are especially important for students determined to break into the sports industry after graduation.

“The sports industry is so difficult to get into and the success that students will find breaking into the industry and then being successful once in they are in the profession depends a lot on the experiences they gain before that first job. To be able to create a class that is a very hands-on learning experience is invaluable to these students.”

Students who are interested in applying for the 2013 San Diego course have until Friday, Feb. 8 to submit a letter of interest. To do so, or for more information, contact Matheson at


Dan Matheson, Health and Human Physiology, 319-335-9485
Kelli Andresen, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0070


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