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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 6, 2017 3 years ago

A bolt of funds

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Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management program lives at USF.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has put his stamp on yet another piece of Tampa — The University of South Florida's Muma College of Business.

Vinik and his wife, Penny, recently donated $5 million to the college, which in turn has renamed its dual-degree, sports-focused graduate program the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management program. Bill Sutton, who worked with Vinik and the Lightning to found the program about five years ago and serves as its director, says the Viniks' gift makes the program financially viable and “gives us a name that people across the country are going to be attracted to. It's going to be great for recruiting, and great for the Lightning.”

Between 2014 and 2016, USF sport and entertainment management program graduates enjoyed 100% job placement after graduation. Those weren't just run-of-the-mill, minor-league jobs, either: graduates are landing choice roles with top-tier sports organizations such as the NFL's Miami Dolphins, Major League Soccer's DC United, the Women's Tennis Association and, of course, the Lightning.

“This program is creating a pipeline of in-demand talent,” says USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem.

The program is able to produce that talent, officials say, because of its innovative approach to on-the-job training. It requires students to complete both an on-site internship and “residency,” meaning graduates matriculate with two full years' worth of work experience, essentially.

Vinik says the Lightning have been a frequent beneficiary of the program: 41 students have worked for the hockey team in an internship and/or residency capacity, with six going on to become full-time employees.

“It's no surprise that the students come out of this program with good-paying jobs,” he said at a Sept. 26 ceremony announcing the renaming of the program. “There's no limit to where this university can go. It's an honor and privilege to be associated with it.”

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