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“A Labor of Love for Us Every Week”

Seven years ago, Sports Management lecturers Tom Richardson and Joe Favorito launched The Columbia University Sports Management Show (aka The CUSP Show), the official podcast of the Sports Management program. Richardson teaches Digital Sports Media and Marketing, and Favorito’s course is Sports Business Communications and Public Relations. Their students are actively involved in production, and now at over 300 episodes, the podcast features sports industry leaders from SPS alumni to professional athletes and coaches. 

In a recent interview with SPS, Richardson and Favorito shared the inspiration behind the podcast, their most memorable episodes, and empowering students to help run the podcast. 


Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to the program.

Richardson: My professional career has been spent in and around the media business, much of it in or related to sports and digital technology. When the internet first emerged, I was the head of publishing at the National Football League. Following that, I was appointed as the head of digital at the National Hockey League and then the head of sports at AOL.

After my corporate career, I started a consulting business focused mainly on digital media in sports and entertainment, and I also got into teaching. I began teaching at Iona University [in New Rochelle, N.Y.] before working for New York University—and joined Columbia SPS in 2015.

Favorito: I have worked in the business of sports, media, and entertainment for over thirty-five years as an executive at organizations including the New York Knicks, the World Tennis Association, and the Philadelphia 76ers. I have been a consultant in brand strategy, communications, and media for over fourteen years now with clients ranging from Bloomberg and Nickelodeon to NFL Media and Major League Baseball, as well as a host of start-ups, films, and other fun projects. 

I was asked to start teaching in the program in year two by John Genzale and Lucas Rubin, who founded the program. I have been teaching in the Strategic Communication program for the past fourteen years, as well as running the program’s social and media outreach and hosting the podcast for the past six years with Tom.


What course do you teach at SPS?

Richardson: Digital Sports Media and Marketing. The course delves into the digital side of sports including the latest trends and best practices. It helps students become more knowledgeable about and fluent in one of the most exciting and appealing parts of the business.

Favorito: I teach Sports Business Communications and Public Relations, which is about every level of proactive storytelling. It's about helping people understand, embrace, and grow their ability to tell a story, be it at a brand, a team, a league, a not-for-profit, or, most importantly, [about] their own personal journey. 


How did you decide to do a podcast together? When did it start? 

Richardson: I became a fan of podcasts after Apple preinstalled the podcasting app in 2014. While teaching, I would often have industry guests visit my class, and I realized that it would be great if I could capture some of the intellectual property so other students and industry people could benefit from it.

Around that time, I also learned about an American nonprofit organization, StoryCorps, whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs, and I was inspired to make a sports business version of that project. So I teamed up with Joe, and we suggested the idea to the former academic director, got his support, and got it going. What makes the project even more special is that we can empower our students in the program to be involved as producers and editors of the podcast. 

Favorito: I was originally asked to do a podcast on sports business for USA Today, but I decided that there was no better place to do one than at Columbia. Tom and I have hosted it since its inception, and we have learned so much from both the experience itself and our guests.


Do you ever draw from certain class discussions or from hearing students' perspectives during your podcast conversations?

Richardson: All the time! We talk about topics and issues that are covered in our Sports Management program courses such as media, marketing, technology, communications, leadership, and entrepreneurship.  

Favorito: Our students are actively involved in the production, so their input is invaluable. We also use the podcast as a potential resource for all of the classes in our program, and we keep the topics pretty forward-thinking and diverse. We have had potential students, many of whom are from outside the U.S., say they learned of our program through listening to the podcast, so that too is very gratifying.


Can you tell us about your favorite episode with a program alum or faculty member?

Richardson: Among the most memorable ones are the two we did with alumna Neha Aggarwal, who was the first female Indian table tennis athlete to go to the Olympics and now works in the sports business there.

Favorito: There are many. We try to learn from everyone. I would say the times we have had program alum, podcaster, and producer Andrew Hawkins on, especially while he was playing for the Cleveland Browns, were very interesting. 

Another really fun one was with Fernando Perez, a Columbia alum who is now working with the San Francisco Giants. Fernando’s career journey as an author, poet, MLB player, and media member is one of the most unique ones anyone will find. The episodes with alumni like Marcellus Wiley and Esmeralda Negron, who runs a sports streaming service called ata Football, were also great fun. The story of our alumna Jillian Quinn and Jillian's twin, Quinn, who is playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and was captain of the Canadian Olympic Soccer team, is another great one. 

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Quinn became the first out, transgender, nonbinary athlete to compete at the Olympics.  They were also the first to medal and, furthermore, the first to earn a gold medal.


How do you think this podcast can have a positive impact on the sports management industry in general?

Richardson: We live in the information economy, so I think it’s important to learn from as many smart people as you can. I hope all these new stories and insights from all different kinds of people working in and around the sports business and world are hopefully stimulating and helpful. Most importantly, it’s a great opportunity for current students to learn more about different parts of the business as they think about their career options. 

Favorito: It’s all about the stories and the careers and life journeys. That’s what makes this so special for us. It’s a conversation, and, frankly, the best part is we didn't know where things would go at the beginning. It has been, and continues to be, a labor of love for us every week.


You can listen to The CUSP Show on Apple Podcast or Spotify.


About the Program

The Columbia University M.S. in Sports Management provides students with a comprehensive curriculum and access to sports industry practitioners and influencers. Students acquire skills in areas such as entrepreneurship and innovation, global sports management, facility and event management, and sports law and ethics.