By: Adam White, @FOSAdam
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Dr. Andy Gillentine, Associate Dean of Academic Programs for the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM) at the University of South Carolina. A graduate of Oklahoma State University where he received his Bachelor’s degree in History and of the University of Southern Miss where he received his Ph.D. in Sports Administration, he has over 30 years of professional as well as teaching experience in the sports field. In May of 2012, Dr. Gillentine was named Distinguished Sport Management Educator by the North American Society of Sport Management, becoming only the fifth person ever to receive this honor. He was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight into why “This might be the most exciting time to be in sports in the history of the industry”, how you must make a name for yourself, and why reading is so important to success in the sports industry.
How did your previous positions help you get to where you are today?
Looking fondly upon where he has come from, Dr. Gillentine, reminisced about his coaching days saying, “Coming from the era that I did, to break into the world of sports, you entered that arena by the way of athletics. I started out as a football coach, moved to a position as an Assistant AD and then all the way up to an Athletic Director.” He credits impeccable timing with his move into teaching after being in the professional world saying, “Luckily after 15 years of being an AD I was able to get my Ph.D. right as the field of Sports Management was taking off.”
What’s the highlight of your career to this point?
In a very surprising answer, given what he has seen and done, Dr. Gillentine stated some of his best days were still ahead of him by saying, “I haven’t had it yet. I have had so many great things happen to me over the years, that I have a true belief that those things are going to continue to happen.” It is truly amazing that a man with over 30 years of professional experience hasn’t had a true highlight of his career yet. Let this be an example to those who are still looking for theirs, as it might just be around the corner.
What do you like best about working and teaching in sports?
Dr. Gillentine credited his love for working in sports to his strong motivation saying, “I have always been intrinsically motivated by achievement and when you work in sports, you can see the outcome of your work on a regular basis.” He also spoke about how the industry is always giving you “constant feedback, which makes it so exciting.” He believes that the reason sports are so exciting to be apart of is because “you are dealing with people from an emotional standpoint, a personal standpoint, and a historical standpoint, all with a core product itself that is inconsistent. I always find the adjustments you have to make invigorating and exciting.”
How important is networking in your eyes?
With sports being a multi-billion dollar industry, Dr. Gillentine says gone are the days when “people are hired based on whom they know.” He believes that because of the money and skill required, not only do “You have to know people, you have to know what you’re doing to give yourself a shot to succeed.”
He also made it clear to us that if you don’t put yourself out there, it will be hard to succeed saying, “You have to make a name for yourself. If you aren’t going out of your way to meet people and enter into a meaningful conversation or discussion with somebody, you’re holding yourself back. You have to do your homework and be prepared. If there is an opportunity to talk to someone, you have to take it.”
He would sum it all up by offering a unique idea on networking saying, “You have to identify the horses; you have to know who is carrying the loads during the race. You have to identify those people, and take steps to contact them. It will take effort, but you have to show perseverance.”
What is one thing a student should do to set him or herself apart from all the graduating Sport Admin/Management/Business students today?
Dr. Gillentine was adamant in his response to this question by urging new professionals to read saying, “The one thing I always ask everyone to do if they want to be different is to be well-read. READ A LOT! You have to consume a lot of information. You have to be able to talk about the people you are going to meet, and what the current trends are in the industry.” “Not only does being well-read keep you in tune with everything that is going on, it also gives you talking points when forming relationships and networking.
If you were to hire someone today, what traits would the ideal candidate need to succeed in today’s sports industry?
Agreeing with the industry leaders, Dr. Gillentine stated that “Critical thinking and problem solving are the two biggest things. I want creative thinkers.” He would go on to say that “If I ever asked you how to raise revenues and you told me that I should raise ticket prices, I’m going to fire you on the spot.” Sports requires a level of critical and creative thinking that most industries don’t because of the nature of the product. When working in the industry you have to understand how to come up with creative ideas to even the toughest solutions.
He also stressed how important it is to show initiative saying, “I want people who want to get stuff done.” The sports industry is not one for the faint of heart and if you are not in it to make a positive contribution, you may want to think twice about wanting to work in sports.
“Don’t ever let the customer see you sweat. If the crowd had a great time and it’s a safe and perfect environment, they don’t need to know about the duct tape that is holding all the behind the scenes stuff together.”
“You must be a great verbal and written communicator. We don’t hire people to sit in a cubicle and not communicate with others.”