Business draws athletes

Lora Pabst

Student-athletes must hear the sound of Jerry Maguire yelling “Show me the money” as they choose their majors.

Business and health-related majors rank high on the list of top majors for undergraduate student-athletes, according to a report by the University’s Office of Institutional Research and Reporting.

The top major for student-athletes is business and marketing education, a major in the College of Education and Human Development. Finance and accounting majors in the Carlson School of Management are also high on the list.

Brooke Sawyer, an academic counselor in Academic Counseling and Student Services for Intercollegiate Athletics, related these major choices to an interest in future athletics industry careers.

“Student-athletes tend to be drawn toward a business world,” she said. “They think about careers they could do with athletics in the long run.”

Sawyer said student-athletes who want to stay in the athletics industry without playing professional sports, find potential careers in the business of sports. They are surrounded by coaches, managers, sales representatives for sports equipment companies and marketing professionals, which gives them career ideas.

“In many ways, sports are a business,” Sawyer said.

Mark Nelson, director for Academic Counseling and Student Services for Intercollegiate Athletics, said the Carlson School of Management is “a big recruiting tool” for students interested in business-related majors.

Nelson said the high number of student-athletes enrolled in Carlson School or other business majors says a lot about the students.

“It correlates more with the fact that we have pretty bright student-athletes,” he said. “They are looking for the best education.”

Drew Knoechel, an entrepreneurial studies and general management junior on the swimming and diving team, said he always expressed an interest in business.

“Business, especially in this city, is so lucrative,” he said.

Cindy Pavlowski, a senior academic counselor in Academic Counseling and Student Services for Intercollegiate Athletics, said the business and marketing education major is a more general option for students interested in business.

“A lot of students have been interested in it,” Pavlowski said. “Especially since Carlson is difficult to get into.”

Pavlowski said student-athletes have different professional and networking opportunities than non-athlete students.

“If you’re a Gopher hockey player, many people in the community and future employers are going to know who you are,” she said.

Another trend for student-athletes that is less prominent in nonathlete student undergraduates is an emphasis on health and fitness-related majors.

Kinesiology, the study of the biological, behavioral and social basis of human physical activity, is the number two major for student-athletes. Also in the top 10 are sports studies, nutrition and recreation, and park and leisure studies.

Nelson said these choices make sense for student-athletes.

“It makes sense, a lot want to go into coaching careers,” he said.

Sawyer said kinesiology majors could work toward careers in strength training, sports psychology and sociology and coaching, among other options.

Because nutrition is an important part of athletic performance, student-athletes would naturally be interested in this major, Sawyer said.

“Nutrition is a behavior they’ve adopted through their training,” she said. “They are interested in their own nutrition so they can perform well.”

Many student-athletes share similar interests and patterns with the rest of the student population. In both groups, many students remain undeclared or undecided.

NCAA rules require student-athletes to declare their major prior to their third year. The College of Liberal Arts requires students to declare a major after completing 60 credits.

Pavlowski said once athletes declare a major, to maintain athletic eligibility, all classes they take have to be for their major.

If student-athletes have not chosen a major, they can take any classes they choose.

“It keeps options open if they’re undecided,” she said.

Both Pavlowski and Sawyer said it is hard to generalize what student-athletes are interested in.

“A lot do things that don’t have anything to do with sports,” Sawyer said.

Allison Joelson is an elementary education junior on the track and cross country teams. She, like many other students, said she wanted to come to a big school because she is from a small town.

“I wanted to come here because I wanted to run,” she said. “And I knew it had a good teaching program.”

Pavlowski has worked with both student-athletes and non-athlete students in her advising career.

“(Student-athletes) pick their major how any other student on this campus picks their major,” she said. “The sports-related focus is because they’re exposed to that.”

Mary Moga, an academic adviser for CLA Honors, often works with students who are undecided. She advises her students similarly to Pavlowski and Sawyer in that they all focus on the students’ initial interests.

Moga likes to work with first-year students who are undecided because they get to explore.

She said students who have been involved in activities their whole life, such as dance, often follow their interest to a major.

Exposure early on, she said, could turn an interest into a major.