Dr. Ted Abernethy Sports Administration Program Director
Bobcat Quick Hit:
Favorite Author: Grantland Rice
Favorite Movie: "Remember the Titans"
Favorite Quote: "Sports do not build character—they reveal it." – John Wooden
If you could have a dinner party with two people, living or dead, who would it be? And why? "Abraham Lincoln and Vince Lombardi [for] their ability to influence people."
Just like a proud coach of a championship team, Dr. Ted Abernethy can't help but beam about the sports administration department at St. Thomas University.
"I've been here for a long time," he said. "St. Thomas is my alma mater, so I have a loyalty to it. Since I have been in charge the last five years, I have grown the sports administration program. Our national reputation is high. The numbers we attract are strong. I have made strong connections with all of the local sports organizations, like the Heat and the Dolphins. Our name profile is strong in the sports world. We've expanded tremendously."
The Philadelphia native earned a BA in economics from the University of Pittsburgh in 1978. After working in the corporate world in sales and marketing for 12 years, Dr. Abernethy returned to higher education. He graduated from STU with an MS in sports administration in 1992. The timing couldn't have been much better.
"It had been many years since I had been in college," Dr. Abernethy said. "Being back in the master's program and being around the students and the school again—I enjoyed it. I got in conversations with my advisor [Andy Kreutzer], whose place I ultimately took."
Kreutzer recommended his alma mater, Ohio University, and its sports administration doctorate program to his advisee.
"He said, 'I can set you up there. If you want to consider doing something like this, you would need to get that degree. You could still go in any direction you want,'" Dr. Abernethy said. "I told my wife, 'Okay, what's another year or two? Then, I have options.' As luck would have it—maybe Andy even saw this coming—my advisor at Ohio retired. My advisor here took his place, so they put me in his place."
In addition to leading the sports administration department at STU, Dr. Abernethy teaches Sports Administration, Sports Law, Sports Marketing, Governance of Intercollegiate Athletics, and a graduate-level seminar.
"I do a lot of recruiting and advising, and I manage all of the students and the faculty," he said. "Teaching is still a big part of it."
In Dr. Abernethy's 23 years at STU, he has seen the need for a master's degree in sports administration increase exponentially. "The sports world has become so competitive today that an undergraduate degree alone might not be enough," he said. "Sports has become so popular that every job opening draws hundreds of resumes.
"What separates you from the pool is when maybe 30 or 40 percent of the applicants have master's degrees, then why are the people with bachelor's degrees even going to be considered? In general, a master's degree is becoming what a bachelor's degree used to be. That's become the quantitative reality."
Q: What will students learn in each course that you teach?
A: Intro is an overview of what makes up the sports industry and the various career opportunities in it for students to know if they want to get a job.
In Sports Law, students learn that there is a lot of legality in sports. Even if you are not a lawyer, if you are going to be a sports administrator, you have to be aware of certain labor laws, as well as laws related to hiring and firing people, and to sexual harassment. You have to be aware of negligence on your part, your coach's part or any other employee's part. And you have to be aware of your facilities. In sports, there's a lot of potential to be sued. You have to be aware of risk management. Then, there's also trademark and copyright law in sports with everybody's logos.
In Sports Law, broadcast is the main issue. When you see that disclaimer at the end of a broadcast: "This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited." That's it—that's copyright law. Everybody who broadcasts any game anywhere, it's the property of the National Football League. We touch on all of these things. If you're going to be an athletic director someday, you have got to be aware of the law.
In Sports Marketing, we talk about how the teams do business. They're in business like any other property. How do you position yourself in markets where there are a lot of teams? How do you price the sport? How do you promote it? How do you make it more accessible to the fans? Are you utilizing the latest technological opportunities to draw fans? We talk about all of that stuff in Marketing. It's a business to sell, or they're out. That's interesting for students.
The Governance of College Athletics is about the history of college athletics and how it evolved to where it is now, and a lot about the NCAA governance of it.
Q: What advice do you have for online learners?
A: They're going to have to set aside some time each week to participate in discussions because they are not in a classroom with me. The discussions are set up for all of the students to interact with each other, so you will get some stimulating conversations about each week's assignment. You'll get a lot of knowledge by actively participating and consuming and absorbing what others are saying. At the end of the week, we move on to the next chapter. If you don't keep up, it's not like you can do all of the assignments later. You couldn't.
Q: Do you think your online learners differ from your face-to-face learners? If so, how?
A: The online students have to be more diligent and interactive. They have to take on some of the learning responsibility themselves. On-campus students don't have to be engaged every single time, but an online learner has to be. … In some cases, they work harder.
Q: When the adult learner brings professional experience to the classroom, how do you think that impacts or changes your teaching?
A: Occasionally, I have a student who is an athletic director at some school. I respectfully direct some questions to them when the answer is geared to all of the students. I say, "Well, you've worked as an athletic director at a school now. What has been your experience there with this situation?" Instead of me just telling you everything I read in a book, I can tap someone here in class who works for a college athletic department.
Q: What did you focus on to get you where you are today?
A: My love of sports. I get paid to talk about it. Find something you like to do and somebody who will pay you to do it.