Twenty years after Richard Lapchick founded UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management program at UCF, the program is one of the most highly regarded around the country and has impacted countless lives through its exceptional, rigorous curriculum and emphasis on social change.
SportBusiness International has named the DeVos program as one of the top 10 graduate level degree sport business programs in the world, and the program has been recognized as one of the top five in America by the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, ESPN The Magazine and Forbes Magazine.
Lapchick, an eminent scholar and endowed chair, stepped down last month from his role as director of the DeVos program, which is part of the College of Business. UCF will conduct a national search for a new chair, and Ron Piccolo, chair of the Department of Management and Galloway Professor of Management, will serve as interim chair.
Lapchick, who is teaching his final UCF class this fall, will continue for the next two years as director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), which is part of the DeVos program, and as president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice, which is a nonprofit organization affiliated with and hosted at UCF.
As part of his role at TIDES, Lapchick will continue to oversee the nationally recognized report cards that grade college and professional sports for how well they do with hiring women and people of color. The widely publicized report cards help to hold leagues accountable for their hiring diverse and inclusive staffs. TIDES also issues reports highlighting the academic performance of teams competing in the college football and basketball postseasons.
In a note to College of Business faculty and staff, Dean Paul Jarley said the search for a new DeVos program director will not “be a search to replace Rich.”
“In my many years in higher education, I have never met anyone like Rich. His many contacts in the sports industry, status as a social justice warrior, impact on the sports industry, and legacy in developing his students to be catalysts for social change through sports is unparalleled,” he wrote. “His speech about the power of the huddle lingers in the ears of all who hear it. Heck, the dude has gotten an invite to speak from the Pope. Along the way, he has also done much to put UCF and the DeVos program on the map. The next director of DeVos will be charged with shaping the educational experience for the next generation of sports business executives, ensuring that they have the skills, perspective and moral compass needed to navigate a quickly changing landscape both on and off the court, field or pitch.”
Jarley said he hopes the new director of the DeVos program will start in time for the Fall 2022 semester.
Lapchick’s Next Steps
Lapchick, a prominent human rights activist, pioneer for racial equality and internationally recognized expert on sports issues, was named the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year by the Muhammad Ali Center. He will be honored as part of a ceremony at the Ali Center in Louisville on Nov. 12. Lapchick and Ali were close friends for nearly four decades prior to Ali’s passing in 2016.
Sports leagues and teams and others have increasingly sought Lapchick’s expertise on racial and gender issues during the past year and a half. He also wants to share his social justice and anti-racist messages with new audiences, and he will do so through representation by the Harry Walker Speakers Agency, a firm that also represents former U.S. presidents and many star athletes and entertainers.
“This transition will mark both an ending and a new beginning where together we can continue to open horizons and make people understand that all of us — no matter what we look like, what we believe or where we come from — are cut from the same human cloth,” Lapchick wrote in a note to students and alumni in the DeVos program.
“It’s the students and the graduates I’m most proud of, and the values they’ve taken into the workplace,” he added.
He mentioned Brian Wright ’06MBA ’07MS, now the general manager of the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs, as well as several alumni who have advanced to run or start their own nonprofit organizations. The Pulse shooting in 2016 also demonstrated how DeVos graduates can use sport to help a community recover from tragedy.
One led the Tampa Bay Rays’ sold-out Pride Game dedication to Pulse a week after the shooting. DeVos graduates also led Pulse ceremonies for Orlando City Soccer and the Orlando Magic in the wake of the shooting. Another started a 4.9K Rainbow Run to raise money for the One Pulse Foundation and Zebra Coalition — the run attracted more than 3,000 runners and raised $350,000 this year.
Since 2006, DeVos students and faculty, through the Hope for Stanley Foundation, have spent 58 weeks in New Orleans rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“When people come into the classroom, it’s not a group of strangers introducing themselves. It’s people who have worked shoulder to shoulder, people seeing paint in my hair and mud on my wife’s face,” Lapchick said. “We come together as people who have experienced an enormous emotional event during that week, meeting people who have lost their homes and seeing them regain their homes.”
The DeVos group also has taken service trips to New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, Houston after Hurricane Harvey and Tuscaloosa after tornadoes. The past two years, because of COVID-19, they have remained in Orlando and worked with organizations supporting the homeless.
The trips to New Orleans were funded by Rich and Helen DeVos because Lapchick says “they believed in what we were doing so much.” He calls the DeVos family “phenomenal supporters” of the academic program that bears their name, noting that before his passing in 2018, Rich DeVos would have lunch with the students once a year and always enjoyed listening to them share what the program meant to them.
Lapchick was named an honorary citizen of New Orleans by the City Council in 2007. He has received 10 honorary degrees.