The job placement map proudly displayed on the UCF DeVos Sport Business Management website reads like a who’s who in the industry — ESPN, the NBA, NFL, Chicago Cubs, Denver Broncos, New York Yankees, San Antonio Spurs and Tampa Bay Lightning, just to name a few.
For over two decades, UCF’s program has been a reliable provider of diverse talent to the sports business industry, thanks in large part to the mission that its benefactors and former program director Richard Lapchick carved out all those years ago.
UCF’s degree has been recognized as a top sports business program in America by Forbes, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It was ranked eighth in the world by SportBusiness in its 2022 Postgraduate Rankings.
So when Lapchick announced he was stepping away from his leadership position in 2021, Adrien Bouchet was eager to toss his name in the ring for “one of the top jobs in our field” with hopes of sustaining and improving upon the strong foundation already in place.
“If you’re a finance professor, you want to work at Columbia or NYU because you’re near Wall Street. Well, if you’re a sports business faculty member, what better place to do it than Orlando?” says Bouchet, who was named program director in August 2022. “The Central Florida region is our classroom. That’s what got me excited.”
In a 55-mile radius from campus, you can find the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort, LPGA, NASCAR, Orlando City Soccer, Orlando Magic, Orlando Pride and the U.S. Tennis Association — not to mention youth sports, MLB spring training and, of course, a Power Five institution in UCF.
It’s no surprise then that in March, Orlando was ranked by Sports Business Journal among the nation’s top 25 best cities in which to conduct sports business.
Bouchet would know. One of his strengths comes from his varied experience in both the industry and academia.
Before deciding at age 35 to go back to school for his doctorate, he had built a career as a high-level manager for organizations
including the Miami Dolphins, Miami Marlins, SFX Entertainment/Clear Channel Communications (now LiveNation) and ISP Sports/ Learfield Sports. He also spent 12 years as the Warren Clinic Endowed Professor of Sport Business at the University of Tulsa.
“My experience means a lot to students when I’m teaching, and that doesn’t necessarily translate to the faculty,” Bouchet says. “But the one thing that resonates with them is I can do the academic research. I know how to get things done within our building and the campus, and I think that’s helped serve me well.”
Bouchet says what helps separate UCF’s program from others has been its commitment from day one to build an inclusive classroom — one that represents the melting pot that is the United States.
“I use it as a recruiting tool. I tell students, ‘You’re going to learn from your cohort as much as you’re going to learn from the faculty,’ ” he says. “The last two cohorts, we’ve had students from Canada, Croatia, England, two from Brazil, one from Spain and one from Venezuela.”
Annually, the program admits 20 students who learn from exceptional faculty including Professor C. Keith Harrison (who served as a Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at Harvard University in 2020), Senior Instructor Scott Bukstein (who served as a consultant and researcher for the NFL and NBA) and Director of External Affairs Ashley Turner ’12 ’15MBA (a program graduate with previous professional ties to the Orlando Magic and Madison Square Garden).
While working toward two graduate degrees (MBA and Master of Sport Business Management), students are required to volunteer and complete either an internship or full-time position in their final semester of the program.
As the industry has evolved and adapted, the program has emphasized staying a step ahead.
More than 20 years ago when the program started, sports weren’t necessarily global like they are now. The NBA, NFL, MLB and MLS all played portions of their schedules overseas in recent years. Conversely, this past summer, nine of England’s 20 Premier League teams played in the United States.
And the emphasis on analytics — think 2011 Academy Award for Best Picture nominee Moneyball — has become paramount.
“We are constantly asking alumni, ‘What are the changes in sports and how can we stay ahead of the curve?’ ” Bouchet says. “We want to be the future of the industry. We want to be the talent provider for sports organizations for the future.”
A Team Effort
The late Richard and Helen DeVos — former owners of the Orlando Magic — established UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management program to equip graduates with the skills necessary to succeed in this competitive field. The program is funded through a $9 million endowment. Such gifts are investments that keep giving, with a portion spent toward donors’ wishes each year while the remaining dollars are reinvested to gradually grow the fund over time.
Here are a few program graduates who, thanks in part to the DeVos family’s generosity, are now leading successful careers.
Chris McFarlane ’05MBA ’05MS
UCF deputy athletics director, external relations and business development
“Many of the decisions I make today, and the way I try to lead and influence others, are rooted in the values and skills I developed as a member of the program.”
Cori (Pinkett) Bolts ’11MBA ’12MS
Baylor University senior associate athletics director, student-athlete success, and senior woman administrator
“When I think back to what drew me to the DeVos program, it can be attributed to one thing: a program rooted in utilizing sport as a vehicle for social change.”
Shelly Wilkes ’02 ’04MBA ’04MS
Orlando Magic executive vice president, marketing and social responsibility
“The DeVos program has multiple sport business partnerships that allow students to participate in real-world projects and gain invaluable experience and relationships.”