Double Team

Burke, Cosier introduce class on the business of intercollegiate athletics

Morgan Burke knows that sports are big business at Purdue. As director of intercollegiate athletics for more than two decades, and now vice president, he has overseen the expansion of sports programs for the University.

Rick Cosier and Morgan Burke

Former Krannert dean Rick Cosier (left) and Morgan Burke, Purdue's vice president of intercollegiate athletics. (Photo by Mark Simons)

Now, he’s taking that knowledge and experience into the classroom. In fall 2013, Burke, along with Richard Cosier, Dean Emeritus of Krannert, and Tony Benton, a Lafayette attorney, taught a graduate-level Krannert course that focused on the business side of intercollegiate athletics.

Burke, who worked in private business before coming to Purdue, says he first considered the idea of teaching a course after hearing a number of students express their desires to be athletic directors.

“We have nothing at Purdue specifically focused on this area for students to take in order to get a better understanding of this area and to be successful in it,” Burke says. “We thought it might be interesting for the three of us to join together to teach this course, given Rick’s background in human resources, my practical experience and Tony’s understanding of the regulatory environment in which we live.”

“Intercollegiate athletics is a multibillion-dollar business,” Cosier says. “We have a lot of Krannert and Purdue students who are interested in athletics administration, so basically we want to provide them with a way to apply business knowledge to intercollegiate athletics.“

A typical day in the course includes the three instructors sitting on stools in the front of the classroom discussing major issues related to the business of intercollegiate athletics, such as human resources management, revenue generation, market research and legal issues.

“Each of us is pretty focused and geared toward preparation when it comes to our particular areas, so the interaction between us is easy to initiate and sustain,” says Benton, who has worked with Purdue on legal matters for the past 30 years.

Cosier says, “With intercollegiate athletics, there are great applications for leadership, strategic planning and marketing. That’s what graduate-level courses like this are supposed to do, build on foundational courses. All core business courses have some relevance here.”

Burke says one of the challenges in developing the course was to create the learning materials, since there was no textbook designed for this type of course. Along with creating those materials, Burke, Cosier and Benton decided to incorporate a handful of guest speakers into the course.

“The first half of the course is more lecture-based, while the second half involves many more outside speakers,” Cosier says. “We bring in the outside experts to talk about specific topics, current issues and provide valuable insights that the three of us may not have considered.”

Cosier and Burke say students scored the course highly in their evaluations, but some noted that they would prefer less lecture and more discussion during the earlier class sessions. Burke says that is something they are going to work on changing for the upcoming fall session of the course.

“The problem is that it is difficult with a course like this because the students do not necessarily have a good foundation in the basics of intercollegiate athletics business,” Burke says. “We don’t want to lose them with a lot of lectures, but we also don’t want everyone just throwing out perceptions because they saw a tweet or an article on ESPN. We need to edge away from that direction.”