With Sports Management, Jackson Chow Thinks Globally

Jackson Chow has wanted to work in the sports sector ever since he first saw the movie Jerry Maguire. But it wasn’t the spectacle of the games that held his attention. He says in the following interview, “Like any business, it's about the finance behind it.” For him, the industry itself was the thrill.

Originally from Canada, he had majored in history as an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia, a far cry from the sports industry. However, since he was 15 years old, he has held internships at places including AEG, one of the top sports presenters in the world. He wanted to hone his business skills in the U.S., the global center of the sports industry.

Thanks to the new full-time option in the M.S. in Sports Management program, Chow and other international students are able to enroll and complete their degrees in 12 months. Chow, who is part of the first cohort of full-time students, says that he is currently on track to graduate at the end of the summer semester. Upon graduation, he intends to head to China and work in their sports sector, whose astronomic growth Chow has been chronicling in his blog China Sports Connection.

We spoke with Chow in the lobby of Butler Library, where his passion for the program and the sports business echoed throughout the halls.

What brought you to the program?

I don't have a sports background, so I felt like I needed some formal education in the business. I wanted to really broaden myself and to know how the sports system works in the United States; that's the center of the industry. China's sports industry, it's only just beginning. So I thought, maybe if I can take away what I've learned here, I can really help impact the sector as a whole in China.

What were you doing previously in the sports industry?

Well, I’m only 24 years old, but I've been interning ever since I was 15 – mostly in China. Every summer, I would go back and work for different companies. I worked for AEG China. They [have an ownership stake in] the Los Angeles Lakers, they own the LA Galaxy, they own the STAPLES Center.

What about the program has been most valuable to you so far?

Definitely the networking opportunities that you get from the professors that you meet. The instructors are all industry professionals; the students are industry professionals. We're able to bring different things to the table and to further each others’ careers.

Some professors also bring in guest speakers. They're all top executives at different sports organizations throughout the country. We're in New York City, so the professors encourage us to attend different sports events and conferences in Manhattan so that we can always stay up-to-date with what's going on in the industry.

My professor Joe Favorito has helped me tremendously. I started my own blog under his guidance. He was very supportive and introduced a lot of people to me. I'm thankful.

In my blog, I'm trying to focus on helping people here in the U.S. understand what's going on in the sports industry in China. There are ridiculous deals coming out of China almost every week in the sports world. You see [China’s online marketplace] Alibaba trying to get into sports. People don't really know about it in the U.S.

I wonder whether there are any classes in particular that have been really valuable to you.

Yeah, we have two new courses, one in digital sports media and marketing with Tom Richardson. We talk about Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, how they're shaping the sports industry. It's something that I don't think every school has.

Also, because [program director Vince Gennaro’s] own background is with SABR (the Society for American Baseball Research), we're going to have courses in sports analytics. That's something that the sports industry is really going towards. It's something that's just started in the U.S. but it hasn't been adopted by the other countries yet. Hopefully, I can bring that over as well.

I'm curious what got you interested in the sports industry in the first place.

I've always been a big sports fan, and I followed sports. But as I grew older, I realized that sports is not about the scores, it's not about going to the games. Like any business, it's about the finance behind it, the business plans. That's what interests me. For me, it's not just a passion anymore. It's a career.