Alumni Mike Fetcho (rear row left) and Tom McMillan (rear row right), founders and co-directors of the Pittsburgh Center for Sports Media and Marketing, with members of the Center's student advisory board at a campus event in October 2012.
You never know who you are going to meet at Point Park. When Tom McMillan and Mike Fetchko sat side by side in their communication classes in the mid 1970s, little did they know that the friendship they developed in the rooms of Academic Hall would someday lead to a partnership that benefits their beloved Point Park University.
Together McMillan and Fetchko initiated the new Pittsburgh Center for Sports Media and Marketing at Point Park. The Center brings leading sports executives to campus to provide insights to students on regional, national and international topics and trends in the sports industry.
For Fetchko, who is managing director and owner of ISM-USA, an integrated marketing agency specializing in sports and entertainment, the idea of the Center percolated for several years before he decided to look (just a few blocks away at the Consol Energy Center) to his friend, fellow alumnus and sports executive who shared his passion for Point Park. McMillan, vice president of communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins, embraced the idea of providing a unique opportunity for students who want to learn more about the world of sports and marketing.
“With more than 30 years of experience each, we knew we could mine our contacts and bring professionals to campus to interact with the students and provide great advice and inspiration,” notes Fetchko.
University Trustee Timothy McGuire, Ph.D. shared their vision and the idea took hold. The administration supported the concept and the new Center was born, with the goal of impacting the lives of students now and in the future.
Network of Opportunities
Fast-forward 18 months. The Center has already brought in a number of sports industry professionals to campus, and plans are underway to expand the program. In the first year, students heard from CEOs at the Pirates and Penguins, executives from ESPN and TBS, and sports reporters from local and national media. For example, last October more than 100 students attended “Voices of Pittsburgh Sports,” which featured play-by-play announcers for the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates.
“The ESPN event was my favorite,” says Matt Desmond, a Point Park senior who plans a career in sports broadcasting. “They showed a lot of different roles in the communications field –not just on-camera but roles behind the scenes that you don’t always see.”
It’s this exposure to industry leaders that is at the heart of the Center’s mission to expand the focus from the classroom to networking and experience for future careers. “In addition to academic experience, the Center provides real-world experience,” says McMillan. “It’s where real meets world.”
This includes networking and consulting opportunities that prepare students for work in the business of sports. For instance, students have completed work for the Pittsburgh Power, the NBC Sports Network, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Root Sports.
“Students from throughout the University benefit from these great opportunities to get an inside look at an entire industry, in this case the industry of sports,” says Micky Haney, a graduate assistant for the Center who is enrolled in Point Park’s joint M.A. in journalism/mass communication and M.B.A. degree program.
The Center’s student advisory board brings together students from various majors who plan and market the programs, meet the speakers, and provide advice on programming. “I jumped at the chance to participate in the advisory board,” says Evan Schall, a junior in the Sport, Arts and Entertainment Management program in the School of Business. “Tom and Mike are great contacts to have and they have actively encouraged our input on programs that would be valuable to us. It’s been very beneficial to me and to fellow students.”
Point Park alumni, such as Pirates announcer Greg Brown, have also responded positively and offered support and expertise. The next step is to form an alumni advisory group that can provide additional guidance, according to Fetchko. “We have dialogue taking place with alumni to expand the program – with the goal of one day being a national Center. It’s like a fraternity of alumni who want to give back to the students.
“That’s why we wanted to start the Center at Point Park, because we wanted to give back. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
To learn more about the Center for Sports Media and Marketing, visit www.pointpark.edu/Academics/Schools/SchoolofCommunication/CenterforSportsMediaMarketingText by Camille Downing
Photo by Chris Rolinson
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University