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Kurt Svoboda, University of Michigan: Working in Big Time College Athletics
2nd January 2019 • The Work in Sports Podcast - Insider Advice for Sports Careers • Brian Clapp - Work in Sports
00:00:00 00:42:29

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Learn more about the challenges and opportunities of working in big time college athletics from University of Michigan Associate Athletic Director Kurt Svoboda!Hi everybody I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast –Welcome to January 2019 everybody!This is a pretty crazy time of year in the sports world, everything but baseball is in full swing, and even baseball just wrapped up their winter meetings, teams are signing free agents, plans are being made for spring training and hiring is taking place to get ready for next season.Basically, our sports world is at full tilt – and nowhere is that more apparent than in college football.Bowl games seemingly every night, which I don’t know about you, makes me think of all the individual staffers hard at work, in college athletics. Everything from travel, to coaches to trainers, to athletic directors, to PR staff -- everyone is at their heightened best.Sometimes in sports we make things seem more complex than they really are. We look top down at the world of college athletics and see a huge business, big deals, sponsorships, suspensions, hires, injuries, marketing campaigns, fundraising… and it can all seem overwhelming.I sit back sometimes and see the expectations of major college athletic director and think – holy crap, who could possibly do all that? I don’t think I would sleep very well.But then, like with most careers, when you boil it down to the essentials and you observe the best in action – you see things that make the picture clearer.Take Boston College Athletic Director Martin Jarmond.BC earns the right to play in the First Responders Bowl against Boise State in Dallas. They go through weeks of planning, parents, students and fans book flights, hotels, tickets and rental cars to travel down to Dallas for the game.And then, truly the unthinkable happens. The game is cancelled due to weather with 5:08 remaining in the 1st quarter.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall ever seeing a bowl game cancelled.Now, take a moment and think of yourself at a Walmart and then person in front of you is trying to return the sled they purchased because… well, it hasn’t snowed. They are belligerent, rude, obnoxious and full of blame… as if it is the stores fault it didn’t snow. I want my money back!If I was Martin Jarmond, this would be the visual I’d be having as the weather turned bad…thinking to myself, uh oh this is going to get ugly. People are going to be upset, anger will follow.Jarmond has three options as I see it.1: Just start handling the incoming onslaught and trying to make people happy through apologizing.2: Wait and see what Boise State does and follow suit.3: Take action. Immediately.Jarmond opened door #3 – he took action.Announcing that fans who purchased tickets through the school to the First Responder Bowl will receive a full refund by Jan. 2. AND fans will receive free tickets for the number of bowl tickets they purchased to any BC athletic event through December 2019.Quick decisive simple action. No committee meetings, no revenue impact spreadsheets, no hand wringing or clutching pearls.Instinct. Do what is right by the people. Get ahead of this. Work positively.The reaction was immediate – Twitter lit up with thousands of comments akin to “classy move by Boston College” and what could have been a communication nightmare, turned into a case study for how massive athletic programs should still operate with a soul.Our guest this week knows this better than anyone, Kurt Svoboda is the Associate Athletic Director for External Communication at the University of Michigan, the voice of the athletic department and a true pro in the industry. Prior to UM he worked in similar roles at Stanford and Harvard, managing the flow of communication within the athletic department, and boy does he have some stories to share.In case you have forgotten… that whole “Call Me Maybe” phenomenon from a few years back started with a vi...