Class hits a home run with sports consulting
Data collected and analyzed by students in Illinois College’s business administration program aren’t the result of a textbook assignment available in a standard college classroom.
In the News: by Samantha McDaniel-Ogletree | Journal-Courier
Instead, students in professor John Drea ’80's classes are performing real evaluations of data they collect for professional sports teams, including the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Bears and Milwaukee Brewers.
“I enjoyed working with an actual person and knowing that what we were doing was going to be used to help other people,” said Drevonte Hill '20, who graduated from Illinois College this spring.
Hill spent his spring semester working with the Indiana Pacers.
In working with the NBA team, Hill and his group looked to identify the career path of the team’s president of ticket sales. The group looked at the resumes of the president for ticket sales for several organizations, how those people got their professional start, their education and the types of jobs they held before their current one.
“This was a real-world experience, something that I will take and use in the future,” Hill said.
Drea has been building relationships with sports organizations across the country that work with his students each semester on projects in marketing and business administration.
The students often collect and analyze data sets to help answer questions for an organization that the team then can use in its business plan.
“My students come in and I help shepherd them through the process of collecting and looking at the data and then we load up and take them there to do a presentation of their findings,” Drea said.
Sally Hixon '20, who also graduated from IC this spring, worked with the Milwaukee Brewers during the spring semester to look at the Major League Baseball team’s Friday night attendance, how promotions and wins impact attendance, and how the statistics compared to those of other teams in the area.
“I looked at it as a unique experience for an undergraduate student,” Hixon said. “I’m going to graduate school and I’ve been able to use it as a talking point. This is a team people know.”
Being able to do these types of projects gives the students real-world experience that can be applied to any job, not just sports management, Drea said, adding that it’s also a good experience to add to a resume.
“For every student, it’s an experience for their resume that becomes a talking point,” he said. “If you put on your resume that you spent a semester working for the Pacers, they’re going to want to know what you did.”
Graduate Alexa Walker '20 and her group worked with the Chicago Bears to see how the brand resonated with its fan base and how it compared to other teams.
For her, the project was an opportunity to enhance her communication skills and learn to adapt to new situations.
Because of the COVID-19 virus, Walker had to learn new technology skills to be able to develop the project with her group, she said.
“We learned about being adaptable, turning this unfortunate situation into a learning situation,” Walker said. “I didn’t have the strongest background in technology and had to adapt.”
One thing the students get that they don’t get with a normal project is honest feedback, Drea said.
“The type of feedback they get is different, these people aren’t paid to be nice,” he said. “It helps the students learn how to present things in the best way.”
Rob Brown '14, director of consumer sales for the Pacers, said he enjoyed working with the students.
“We have really enjoyed the work Illinois College students have done for us,” Brown said. “The solutions and ideas they have presented have been creative and the presentations have been very informative.”
The project reaffirmed for Hill that he would like to work in the sports field, he said.
“It allowed me to put all of my interest into the project,” he said. “It helped me develop my ability to be more detail-oriented, which is something I will take into any career.”
It also helped with students’ presentation skills, Hixon said.
At the end of the semester, each group presented the findings of their projects to the organizations with which they worked. Traditionally, groups travel to the organization’s home base and present their findings in person but, because of the pandemic, all meetings were held virtually.
“We were originally going to go to Milwaukee, but were able to do it over Zoom,” Hixon said. “We were all really nervous still, but I think it was a little less stressful, not to be standing directly in front of them.”