CSL Daily

February 25, 2015

Who is Listening? #everybody

by Brendan Dwyer, Ph.D.  dwyer

I love movies. Scratch that, I love films (fancier term). Therefore, it is no surprise that I keep an eye on the Oscars each year. It adds competition, one of my favorite aspects of sports, to the film industry. The competition this year, however, took a back seat to progressivism.

Two days after the show and people aren’t talking about the usual Oscar aftermath such as the Vanity Fair party or Julianne Moore’s dress. People are talking about… Equal pay for women! Call your parents! Stay weird, stay different! The statements made by a few award winners are carrying more weight than the winners themselves this year, and I love it.

I know what some of you are saying. Who am I to talk about popular culture? I get that. I am certainly not an expert. But, just because we are people of sport doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention to other influential aspects of our society including politics, culture, and reality television. I was inspired.

We had a similar conversation about this in our Sociology class on Monday. Athletes have a platform. Some use it to advance social or political agendas and others do not. Just as this is a divisive conversation in society, it was divisive in class. A microcosm, if you will. Some strongly felt that more athletes, especially professionals, should use their platform to address social issues. Others felt strongly they should not. lebron

I honestly understand and respect both arguments. On one hand, despite Charles Barley’s opinion about athletes as role models, professional athletes are looked up to. They have a voice, and the opportunity to be heard. Thus, not using it could be considered by some as a waste. On the other hand, people watch sports to be entertained. It is a diversion, an escape. When you add controversial social and political views, it can make sports fans uneasy. They didn’t turn the channel to CNN for political commentary. They tuned in to watch their favorite team win.

Still, the debate is worthy, especially when you see the impact of Sunday night. An award show where the awards played second fiddle. To me, it stirred the echoes. I first thought of Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King. What if they didn’t use their platform? I thought of the “Fab Five.” How different would the sport world be without outspoken athletes?

I then sat back and watched the reactions. Patricia Arquette got crushed by a number of people, mainly other women, for making the comment about “equal pay” while wearing a dress worth more than most women make in a year. Graham Moore, in probably the most important speech of the night about almost taking his own life, was called soft and a drama queen on Twitter. ali

I then wondered would Ali and King have survived the current age? From twitter trolls to the paparazzi, the risk of aligning with a social movement may far outweigh the reward. With the amount of money and endorsements at stake for the contemporary sport star, why would an athlete take the risk?

I then turned to research, and I was shocked at the number studies that have been done on social movements and “cultural elites.” Why would an athlete take the risk? Simply, it is effective. Social movements with celebrity backing get support. We listen to celebrities, especially athletes. We are drawn to their strength both consciously and subconsciously, and we associate this strength with the issue. And regardless of the issue, the strength of the athlete always wins.

There is a downside. While using celebrity to advance a social cause can be overwhelmingly successful, it can backfire if the athlete is doing it for attention and is not educated on the issue.

So what does this all mean? Surprisingly, despite the enormous risk, I think we are going to see more athletes as social and political advocates. I think it is getting to a point where athletes and celebrities, in general, take arrows from fanatics either way. They get trolled, booed, and curse at regardless, so they might as well use their voice while they have the platform.

In addition, I think sport fans want more from their idols. I think they are starting to realize that it isn’t the billionaire owner that pays professional athletes millions, they are. Their loyal ticket purchases and viewership is the true driver of the sport industry and they want more for their money. They want athletes to be held to a higher standard the average person.

Ultimately, it’s up to each athlete to decide whether it’s important to them to leverage their celebrity for a greater good, a worthy cause. And if you use it, don’t abuse it.

February 24, 2015

Hat Tip Tuesday


hat tip

On Tuesdays, we offer a “tip of the hat” to current students and alumni who have been hired, promoted, recognized for outstanding achievement or embarked on new opportunities. 

brandon hodgins

Brandon Hodgins (’14) was accepted the position of assistant director of development at Western Carolina University.  Most recently, Brandon was working on a yearlong internship with the Wolfpack Club at NC State.

February 24, 2015

Alumni Profile-Michael Fisher

by Gene Daniels, CSL graduate student

Mike Fisher’s story is one of patience and persistence. Currently the Assistant Director of mike fisherthe Tulane Athletic Fund, Fisher epitomized the common struggle many graduate students face: landing that first job.

A 2012 graduate of the Center for Sport Leadership, Fisher was thrilled to be accepted into the program, knowing it provided the hands-on, real world experience that would prepare him for a career in sport.

“The CSL was a great opportunity to try many things and figure out what I wanted to do and what I didn’t.” Fisher found his niche and decided he wanted to work in development.

The weeks before and after graduation saw most of Fisher’s classmates land jobs and yearlong internships. No offers came his way. To fight the frustration, Fisher found ways to stay involved. He stayed at VCU, volunteering with the Ram Athletic Fund and ticket office. Fisher also used this time for self-reflection, reaffirming his passion for what he wanted to do in sports.

Fisher’s determination inspired CSL staff and alumni to “work the network” to find him an opportunity. Word came of an opportunity at Tulane. Finally, ten months after his graduation, Fisher’s patience and perseverance was rewarded when he was offered and accepted the job.

Fisher is a frontline fundraiser for annual giving to Green Wave Athletics. He is encouraged to maintain a portfolio of 150-200 donors but he noted that in actuality his portfolio consists of approximately 300 donors. He has a focus on the cultivation of new and prospective donors while also providing attention and stewardship to the “under-engaged”. Fisher says he has learned one of the keys to successful development: “Treat everyone the same, regardless of their capacity. Treat everyone like they have major gift potential.”

Fisher admits he thought it would be smooth sailing once he landed the job. Filled with enthusiasm, Fisher was anxious to make an impact in his new job. He quickly learned he needed to adapt to Tulane’s development philosophy. He learned the best way to make an immediate impact and positive impression was to handle the tasks assigned to him.

Fisher’s has practical advice for current and future CSL students: “While in the CSL, you shouldn’t have any downtime. Take advantage of any and all opportunities and always be doing something. Volunteer, get involved, or gain experience any way you can. You should always be working to open doors because you never know when those doors will lead you to a great job.”

Having a little patience and persistence doesn’t hurt either.

February 23, 2015

Field Trip to Duke & UNC

On February 19, Center for Sport Leadership students headed south for the annual field trip to Duke University and University of North Carolina. The day includes tours of athletics facilities and meetings with senior athletic department personnel who share their experiences and advice with our students.


Justin Jannuzzi talks to CSL students on Coach K Court at Cameron Indoor Stadium

By Tyler Graham and Jenna Taylor, CSL Students 

Our first stop was Duke. CSL Alum Justin Jannuzzi, Associate Director of Iron Dukes Major Gifts and Zach White, Assistant Director, greeted our group. Our hosts escorted us on a tour of Cameron Indoor Stadium including its famous court, press conference room, athletic offices, and the Duke Hall of Fame and Basketball Museum. It was clearly evident the legacy that Coach K has been able to build and how much pride the community has in their sports teams, especially basketball.


CSL students tour Duke’s athletic facilities

Following the tour of Cameron Indoor, the students were given a brief tour of the academic center where they met with members of the Duke Athletic Department. Joe Manhertz is the Assistant Director of Athletics and the Head of the Iron Dukes. Along with Jannuzzi and White, Manhertz explained the field of development and major gifts for universities. Manhertz says the key is building relationships and the key to building relationship is listening. He recalled a quote from a former employer who said, “Never miss an opportunity to shut up.” He also encouraged prospective employees to constructively challenge their bosses when they need to “eat a snickers” and that by doing this you can be a better teammate who helps the organization to grow.

Gerald Harrison, Senior Associate Athletic Director of Internal Affairs, instantly captured the group’s attention with his humor and charisma. As the leader for athletic personnel at Duke, Harrison stressed the importance of thoroughly researching prospective employees to find the right people. He also stressed repeatedly that everyone in your organization is a public figure and you hire the right person for each position who will best represent the university.


Justin Jannuzzi with CSL students Tatiana Hitchcock and Liz French

Finally, Art Chase, Assistant Athletic Director in charge of External Affairs spoke about the process of controlling Duke’s brand and image. Chase’s mantra with branding is: “Perception is reality.” He believes what the media and public believe will become reality for your organization. He emphasized that the job of the External Affairs office is to control what messages flow in and out of your organization while maintaining positive relationships for future interactions.


The Carolina Way.

This was a phrase we encountered visually and vocally time and time again during our tour of the University of North Carolina’ s athletic facilities. It leapt out at us from the hallways, the locker room, and the weight room used by the Carolina basketball team. We heard it from our tour guide, CSL alum Eric Hoots, the Director of Player Relations and Video Coordinator. We felt it when we walked out onto the basketball floor of the Dean Smith Center.


Eric Hoots and CSL student Marielle Rando

It was a humbling experience to walk out onto the court, the same court so many great players have performed, just days after passing of legendary UNC coach Dean Smith.

As the University prepared for Sunday’s public memorial for Coach Smith, we appreciated members of the athletic department taking the time to speak with us, including Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and Tim Smith, the Director of Capital Campaigns.

Mr. Cunningham said, “What we do reflects the overall integrity of the institution.” After reflecting on our Carolina experience, it shouldn’t come as surprise that our hosts were so welcoming and giving of their time. After all, that’s just The Carolina Way.


February 20, 2015

“Can you force someone to be committed?”

billy d

Florida basketball coach posed the question during a post game interview Wednesday night following the Gators’ win over Vanderbilt.  Donovan was referencing the suspension of player Dorian Finney-Smith. Here is the entire quote (courtesy of

“I’ve always loved the game and been committed to the game. It’s been easy,” Donovan said. “One of the questions that has gone through my mind this year is, ‘Can you force someone to be committed?’ Think about that. Commitment is one of the most difficult things in life; to commit your heart, soul, mind, body, everything into something, that is a really, really difficult thing to do. I believe that’s the only way you can be successful. Dorian’s decision represents a lack of commitment.”


There isn’t a coach at any level in any sport who hasn’t asked himself or herself that shaka
same question.  VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart worked for Billy Donovan, and considers the Florida coach a mentor and friend.  Listen to Coach Smart’s animated interpretation of  Donovan’s comments (courtesy of ESPN 950 in Richmond)


My two biggest takeaways:

1) Getting unconditional commitment from players is the most challenging aspect of a coach’s job

2) The decisions you make reflect your level of commitment

We would love to hear what you think. Email your comments to




February 18, 2015

CSL Collaborates on STEM event

This article was originally published on on Feb 17, 2015

The following is a guest post by Dr. Tim Lampe, Senior Associate Athletic Director and Adjunct Professor at Center for Sport Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Richmond, VA – Months of hard work culminated on Friday, February 13th, when middle and high school students from the Richmond Public Schools (RPS) experienced a special STEM in Sport Education Day event at the Richmond Coliseum. Through the collaboration of the RPS, the MathScience Innovation Center (MSiC), Arena Racing-USA, and the Center for Sport Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), 200 students attended the STEM hands-on learning event that focused on translating classroom content into real-world application as it specifically related to STEM and the sport of Arena Racing.

During the two and a half hour event, groups of 15 students and their teachers participated in different hands-on learning activity stations that included STEM concepts, such as speed, aerodynamics, banking, tires/temperature, weight, timing, as well as general STEM discussions with drivers and their cars.

Young female driver making a connection with female students

The MSiC was the key partner for the education component of this event.

Dr. Hollee Freeman, MSiC Executive Director, indicated that “the project began several years ago with impetus from Venture Richmond and Arena Racing to bring the math and science of motor sports into the hands of students and teachers and to bring awareness to the sport of Arena Racing.”

As a result of this project, the MSiC created curriculum designed specifically to help Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers teach students math and science concepts. The curriculum was highlighted in the workstations that were seen at the event.

Students listen to their teacher as he describes STEM aspects of a NASCAR engine

“Having a STEM Program created for these students, and the MSiC creating curriculum, will enable school teachers to connect to kids in the classroom by using Arena Racing as the hook,” stated Ricky Dennis, Owner and President of Arena Racing USA.

He went to say that, “it has brought on a tremendous purpose and appreciation. Seeing 200+ kids attend our event and participate in Q&A sessions with the Drivers and Educators at the “learning stations” adds an extremely rewarding feeling and a desire to do more to be able to connect to these kids in a positive way.”

Arena Racing is the perfect vehicle to connect young students to STEM content being taught in the classroom. The cars are especially attractive to a younger audience, because they are half-scale stock cars racing at speeds of 50 MPH and completing laps in as little as eight seconds.

Ricky Dennis says that, “it really is a tremendous feeling to know that Arena Racing can create such a positive impact on these students and their futures.”

Students get to see and learn about a NASCAR tire profile

The collaborative partnership for this event, however, is not a new one.

For the past two years, this same group has teamed up with Richmond International Raceway (RIR) for the RIR STEM Education Day event. 600 CTE middle school students from Henrico County Public Schools attended the event at the track on Thursday of race week for the past two years, with the third annual event being planned for Thursday, April 23rd of this year.

Having the event at the race complex during race week enables students to see NASCAR race cars up close and to experience the unique racing atmosphere that can only be experienced at the track. 20 hands-on activities are provided, in part, by the MSiC and Arena Racing, as well as by race-related vendors, who provide activities such as racing simulators, fuel, oil and air-filter demonstrations, and a cut-away car, so that students can see all of the STEM-related aspects of a NASCAR.

Providing students with hands-on activities enhances their understanding of the many STEM components that are learned in the classroom, especially as teachers attend each station with their students to explain and strengthen this connection. Having the attention of the students and potentially creating an “ah-ha moment” when they make the connection is very powerful.

Strong community partnerships like the one that made the RPS STEM and RIR STEM events possible is what will ultimately make STEM education projects like these successful. Partnerships like this one will keep these moving forward and sustainable.

Technical, Engineering, Trade, and Industrial Instructional Specialist at RPS, Jorge Valenzuela, said it best when he stated, “At Richmond Public Schools we embrace ideas that put children first, and we partner with entities outside of schools to build a better district!”