BY SARA MEIER
Homecoming weekend at Robert Morris University was extra busy this year for students and alumni of the sport management program, which celebrated its 35th anniversary with a conference and banquet. The program, part of the School of Business, enrolls nearly 300 students, and the annual conference gives them a chance to network with sports executives at roundtable discussions and break-out sessions. Murray Cohn ‘88, vice president of team sales for the NBA, gave a motivational speech to students on how to network, gain internship experience in the industry, and eventually get a job. Then he invited his listeners to e-mail him their “elevator speech” — a one-minute self-promotion pitch, explaining why a sports organization should bring them on as an intern. Fifty-seven students took him up on the offer, and Cohn within weeks had secured internship interviews with professional teams for eight of them. “I appreciate what my professors did for me as a student, so it is an honor and a privilege to help future students achieve careers in the sports industry,” Cohn says.
“I'm impressed at the number of presenters and alumni who come out to support the students,” says Russ Yurk '94, who was at the conference for the first time. “These people understand the importance of networking and giving back to the students,” says Yurk, who works in event management for the Frozen Four NCAA hockey tournament, which RMU will host at the Consol Energy Center in 2013.
Dave Synowka Is Honored At The RMU Sport Management 30th Anniversary Conference.
“The sport management program is all about ‘paying it forward,’” says Angela Churchill ‘01. “You feel it as a student, and as an alum, you’re proud to be the one giving it back to the current students.”
The banquet honored David Synowka, Ph.D., who has been an integral part of both the sport management and athletics programs at RMU for more than 30 years. First hired as a trainer, as a professor Synowka has helped prepare hundreds of students for careers throughout the industry, and his former students work at all levels in sports: professional teams, league governing bodies, facility management, recreation programs, athletics departments in colleges and high schools, sales, marketing, and entrepreneurs. Several of them were on hand for a good-natured “roast” of Synowka, before he was added to the program's Hall of Fame. Synowka got another surprise that left him speechless: The university named the athletic training room after him.
Four others also were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year: Michael Doherty, former chair of the program’s advisory board, now with Sherpa Resources, where he manages the “Heinz Red Zone” promotion with the Pittsburgh Steelers; Harry Leckemby ‘87, director of sports and athletic sales at BookMyGroup; Steve Swetoha ‘86, president and chief revenue officer for the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock; and Albert “Skip” Applin, RMU's first department chair for sport management.
“The historical success of the program is due to the educational foundation in business; engaged learning with internships, projects, and volunteer opportunities to apply conceptual knowledge; a dedicated faculty with an emphasis on the student; and strong industry relationships with our advisory board and alumni network,” Synowka says.