Students Flock to New Economics of Sports Course

Dec. 9, 1996

WACO, Texas - Baseball - America's pasttime. Imagine learning about baseball in a college class and not the standard physical education class but a business class. How about discovering the ins and outs of professional football, basketball, hockey and amateur sports? During the spring semester, Baylor University students can do just that. The Department of Economics is offering a new, innovative class titled "The Economics of Sports in America," and student response has been overwhelming.

"It is great to have a class that the kids are so excited about," said class lecturer Heather Newsome. "The class filled in two days, and I have a long reserve list."

Newsome said some students who have enrolled would not normally take an upper level economic class as an elective, opting instead for management or marketing classes. She attributes the enthusiasm in the course to the fact that sport economics issues, such as the baseball strike, have been on the forefront of the news and sports fans are passionate about their interest in all avenues of the games. The economics class will add a dimension to what these individuals know about sports.

"The class will focus on the specific labor and sports economic issues facing fans, owners and players," said Newsome. "This will show students that there is a tangible side to economics."

One group of students that will benefit from the class will be the 10 to 15 Baylor baseball players who have signed up for the course. "Some of these athletes may go pro and they want to make informed choices about their careers," said Newsome.

Newsome plans to discuss various issues facing professional sports teams. The class will study baseball as the foundation of professional sports because it was the first pro sport to set guidelines. Course topics during the semester will include contract negotiations, issues behind the decision to relocate teams to different cities, and free agency and its impact on salaries - Newsome's particular field of expertise. Her thesis dealt with whether of not baseball free agents are paid relative to the revenue they generate for the team.

Vanderbilt University and Clemson University both offer courses in sports economics, and Newsome has studied these universities' curricula. She said she receives articles everyday from professors and students who have spotted information about the topic on the internet or in newspapers.

"Parents are even sending me articles because their kids are so excited about this class," she said, laughing. She has met with most of the students who are enrolled in the course and has emphasized that the class will not be an easy one. This information has not fazed the students.

Newsome will require students to write term papers, and she hopes she will receive 30 really good ones. "The students will take the role of a consultant. They will select an issue facing a particular team, research that issue and make recommendations. They will gain a wide variety of knowledge, but I want them to be very knowledgeable about one thing," she said.

The class won't be all writing and lectures. Newsome plans for the class to go to various professional sports games. During these field trips, students will meet with representatives from the teams who will discuss economic issues. Newsome said that she has a contact with every Texas team except the Cowboys, and she is working on that possbility. She said Baylor alumni have been particularly helpful providing names of contacts.

The sports economics course will be offered again during the second summer school session and twice during the fall semester. Other classes will be added dependent on demand.

The course is classified as an upper level economics elective.

For more information, contact Newsome at (817) 755-6466.

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