The Business of Sports at Fuqua

May 30, 2023
Duke University's Blue Devil mascot crowd surfing in Cameron Indoor Stadium

“Team” may be the word heard most often in the halls of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

“We are really thoughtful about the emphasis we put on the concept of teams,” said Associate Dean Steve Misuraca. “Fuqua is a leadership lab.”

Misuraca says the central concept of that lab is “Team Fuqua”—a way of working that draws out the strengths in others.

Misuraca says the curriculum and structure across Fuqua’s degree programs are intentionally designed to support a style of leadership that understands how to get the most out of teams, by maximizing the knowledge found in different skillsets and life experiences, and using those differences to find the best solutions in working toward a common goal.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that some of Fuqua’s professors are the people who have led some of the most successful sports teams or programs in college history.

Learning From Legends

Fuqua faculty include Mike Krzyzewski known as Coach K, the all-time winningest coach in Division I men’s college basketball during his 42-year career at Duke, current Duke Athletic Director Nina King, and Kevin White, Duke’s former athletic director.

“Learning from these legendary sports leaders is transformational for our students,” Misuraca said. “There are so many lessons about great teamwork that come from the sports world that translate directly into business. Coach K, Nina King, and Kevin White are hugely transparent with our students about the learnings that shaped them.”

The Fuqua/Coach K Center of Leadership and Ethics (COLE) not only offers programming for students—but also connects leaders in industry with opportunities to learn from Coach K and others. Daytime MBA students have the opportunity to be selected as COLE Fellows, a role in which they formally mentor other students.

“Fuqua students are typically naturally generous with their time and talents,” Misuraca said. “They want to pay it forward.”

King and White teach a popular sports business class together. Alumni who have taken the class describe the impact many years later. Kevin Kumlien, MBA ’18, says the class helped him understand “there is immense power in having a diverse team that trusts one another and recognizes that all members play an important role in success.”

Kumlien also recalls getting to know White on a personal level, at a dinner hosted at the White’s home.

“Both Dr. White and Fuqua share a common set of values and a common ability to make you feel like a member of their family,” Kumlien said.

Learning the Business of Sports

Through experiential learning opportunities, some Fuqua students are immersed in the business of Duke Athletics.  

“Duke’s culture around Coach K, basketball, and then obviously being in a Power 5 conference kind of sets it apart,” said Taylor Mattingly, MBA ’20, who works in sports consulting at Deloitte with clients like the NFL, NBA, WNBA, and the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games.

Mattingly played a significant role in launching the Duke Athletics Fellowship. The opportunity allows students interested in the sports business to get hands-on experience in the field during the academic year through Mentored Study.

 “If we think about a student who wants to pursue a Mentored Study, we need to find the right partners,” said Professor Stephanie Knight with the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP). “Fuqua and Duke are providing that opportunity to students.”

In addition to Mentored Study through the Duke Athletics Fellowship, students can partner with Duke Athletics on consulting projects through FCCP. Fuqua’s partnership with Duke allows students to experience the Blue Devils through a business lens.

“Duke Athletics values the business insights that our students can generate over a short period of time,” Knight said. “Meanwhile, our students highly value the learnings they get from being inside a big sports brand like Duke.”

A Team for Life

Students benefit from career resources in finding the right match after business school, including a team of alumni eager to connect them with opportunities matching their strengths.  

“An associate dean went through his connections to show me the people in sports business he could personally connect me with,” said Niyanth Anand, now the director of analytics for Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils. “That was a foundational step for me, and I took that and ran.”

Mattingly had a similar experience. “There is a pretty strong network within sports business, both on the college side and the professional side,” he said.

“It’s hard to get people to believe in the same thing,” Misuraca said. “Everyone here is a Blue Devil, and because of that connection, we help each other. Team Fuqua is for life.”