Growing up, Joe Loomis loved basketball, but he never thought he would make it to the National Basketball Association (NBA). However, by developing his skills in finance and honing his sports industry knowledge with an M.S. in Sports Management from Columbia University, he landed at the major league sports organization and advanced within it. Two months ago, he transitioned to a new role as a financial executive at Madison Square Garden.
He had aspired to a career in finance, majoring in the subject as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and as a graduate student at Babson College. Once he finished his studies, he applied his knowledge of finance in the telecom industry at Lucent Technologies and, later, at Avaya, where he had various finance and accounting roles. However, due to his longstanding love of basketball, he says, “I wanted to take the skills that I had learned in finance and be able to apply those to the sports industry.”
“I discovered an opportunity to work in finance for the NBA, where I was able to use my finance background and other skills I developed to work in professional basketball,” he says. At the NBA, he started in the internal audit department and eventually transitioned to the team finance department. In his new role at the NBA, he says, “I worked as one of the key individuals who interacted with key finance personnel across all thirty teams.”
While he was working at the NBA, he felt that, in order to advance his career, he needed a deeper understanding of the sports industry. “I heard about the program at Columbia,” he says. “I was interested in it because I would be able to expand my knowledge and develop professionally.” He applied to the program and was accepted in 2008.
He pursued his M.S. in Sports Management part-time while working at the NBA full-time. Of this work/life balance challenge, he says, “Setting a schedule and being able to stick to that schedule was crucial.” On weeknights when he had class, he left work at 5:00 or 5:30. On school-free evenings, he sometimes worked late at the office to compensate. “If I had class on Monday and Wednesday, that meant I had to do homework on Tuesday or Thursday,” he says. Although time management was a struggle, he maintained his strict schedule through the duration of the program.
He says that, for him, the program’s value resides in the depth and breadth of the professors’ sports industry knowledge and the peers whom he met in his classes. “What I thought was probably most beneficial was that the professors were experienced sports industry leaders,” he says. “They brought that relevant, real-world experience to the classroom. They weren’t just teaching out of a textbook.” He credits the program’s guest speakers, also sports world veterans, for sharing stories about how they began and then grew their careers.
“Another element that was really valuable was the cohort,” he says. “Many of the students were already working in the sports industry, and we were able to meet each other, network, and talk shop because of the program.”
As a result of the Sports Management program, Loomis advanced within the NBA and transitioned from the internal audit department to the team finance department.
Now at Madison Square Garden in his new role as a finance executive with the Knicks, “I continue to work within the NBA family at one of the League’s marquee teams,” he says. Although he doesn’t have a career as a professional athlete, the Sports Management alum engages with the world of his favorite sport every day. Thanks to Columbia, this graduate has emerged as a star player off the court.