Colorado State University and the Colorado Rockies are teaming up to foster the next generation of sports management professionals.
On Tuesday, June 7, the organizations announced the launch of the new Colorado Rockies Sport Management Institute at Colorado State University, an expansion of the University’s sport management program, connecting one of the nation’s top research universities to an iconic sports franchise.
This new partnership will allow students to learn directly from industry professionals within the Rockies organization, as well as opportunities for real-world experience. All this in addition to classroom learning and access to real-world experience from other sports organizations that students in the expanding program have received.
The institute includes an innovative undergraduate sports administration minor and a master’s program built to equip students with knowledge, skills, and experiences to pursue a career in the sports industry. Established in 2014, CSU’s sport management interdisciplinary minor offers a multifaceted look at the industry. In 2020, the program added a graduate degree program.
“The Colorado Rockies have been all-in as we have constructed a partnership to truly prepare our students to succeed as they head into their careers,” said CSU President Joyce McConnell. “The result of that partnership is the Colorado Rockies Sport Management Institute, through which our students will learn directly from the Rockies and gain invaluable, paid field experience. We are grateful to the Rockies for their shared commitment to higher education in Colorado and to joining us to provide outstanding opportunities for our students.”
“We are honored to be a part of a program in which the Rockies organization can help facilitate the growth of up-and-coming young professionals in Colorado,” said Rockies Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Walker Monfort, a graduate of CSU. “These are the young professionals that will shape the future of the sports industry, and we are excited to be a part of their education.”
This collaboration brings a real sense of connection for CSU students, said Albert Bimper, director of the Institute.
“The students see an investment by this big, popular organization – the Colorado Rockies – in their learning and in their experience,” Bimper said. “They see that as an investment in the quality of the coursework and the content that they’re going to have in class.”
It also signals an opportunity for CSU students to connect with actual roles in the industry and the people taking on those roles today, he added.
“Now it’s not so theoretical,” Bimper said. “They’re not just learning what used to be done, they’re taking on what is happening right here and now. They’re asking critical questions around what to expect for the future of this industry.”
Taking students from the classroom to the (baseball) field
Opportunities with the new Colorado Rockies Sport Management Institute at Colorado State University include:
– Paid positions on the Colorado Rockies’ in-game entertainment and event operations crew for eight to 10 CSU students during the summer months of the baseball season. In addition to class credit, the positions will also offer students valuable experience in a professional sports organization and an opportunity to network across the Rockies’ various departments.
– The Rockies will travel to Fort Collins to hold an annual career fair for institute students. Department heads from various Rockies departments will share details on entry-level positions that the organization will be hiring for in the upcoming season.
– CSU will help host the Rockies annual Business in Baseball Day in which students interested in learning what it’s like to work in Major League Baseball can meet members of the Rockies front office and participate in an interactive Q&A with different department representatives. In addition to CSU co-hosting the event, CSU students will help with event setup and logistics.
– Four live speaker events throughout the year — two each semester — featuring Q&A sessions with Rockies’ senior leadership.
– CSU students will have the option to create a case study/capstone-style project based on issues related to the operation of a professional sports team and present it to Rockies employees.
A program coming full circle
“Being on the promotions crew with the Rockies, you meet every single person in the organization, which is really special and a lot of roles in other organizations aren’t like that,” said CSU alumna Katie George (B.S., ’20), who works as assistant of client services in the Rockies’ business development department. “Here, you’re able to have interactions with owner and CEO Dick Monfort all the way down to the ushers. Building all those relationships is something that’s really special, and the learning opportunity is huge.”
George should know, she got her start with the Rockies promotions crew while still a student and minoring in the sports management program. Now she connects businesses to sponsorship opportunities with the team, which includes everything from creating signage around the ballpark to coming up with new games to play with the audience between innings.
There are so many ways to get involved in the sports industry, and this program is a way to explore them, said George, who wanted to go into sports marketing until she won a ticket selling competition in one of her classes.
“That was the first time I ever thought that maybe sales was a path for me,” she said. “And that’s what’s amazing about the Institute, that you get to dabble with different avenues of the sports world and see what the best path for you is.”
A home run for CSU students
This isn’t the first time CSU’s sports management program has worked with a professional team – in 2015 the University partnered with the Denver Broncos.
“Major League Baseball really lines up well with our academic semesters, integrating with the way our students are already learning and allowing them to seamlessly tap into the experiences that the Rockies will be able to provide,” Bimper said.
All of this adds up to a fantastic opportunity for CSU students like Karsyn Lane. The junior is getting her minor in sports management in addition to majoring in journalism and media communications.
Last summer, Lane got a taste of working with the Rockies when she worked with the team at the Play Ball Park, one of the attractions held while the Rockies hosted the 2021 All-Star Game.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say I was starstruck,” she said. “It’s crazy to think that a team as big as the Rockies sees students just like me and wants to give them these opportunities.”
Upon graduation, Lane hopes to go into sports management – ideally in Colorado – making the new CSU/Rockies partnership even more exciting, she said, because both organizations are ushering in a clear path for students from graduation to “the real world.”
“That’s something that stuck with me the most,” she said. “All of these opportunities are coming to us as students first because they really do want to see us succeed.”
Welcome to the ‘Ramily’
While the official Rockies colors are purple, silver, black and white, there’s also a lot of green and gold in the organization, as well. More than a dozen Ram alums currently work for the Rockies, including Assistant Director of In-Game Entertainment & Event Operations Brady O’Neill, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Recruiting Dallas Davis, as well as Monfort.
“As a CSU graduate, I am excited about this partnership and the impact it will have on the students,” Monfort said. “The education I received at CSU was instrumental in my development as a professional, and I am looking forward to helping the next wave of Rams.”
For George, working with the Rockies reminds her a lot of her time at CSU.
“I think that it’s because it’s a family-owned business,” George said. “Everyone in the Monfort family is so awesome, and they treat every employee like they’re part of their family. And I think it’s that little bit of CSU that comes in.”