Sports Management: What’s the Payoff?
The player wears the uniform, and each major league sport has its individuals who wear suits and ties. It is common knowledge that the players rake in the financial rewards of being part of a major league team; however, have you ever wondered about the men who sign their checks?
Enter the individual with a degree in sports management.
Coaches and sports agents often receive the most publicity. However, the field is populated with behind-the-scenes individuals who have studied sports management. These professionals have gone on to become sports managers, accountants, sports economists, and almost every career in between.
The pinnacle of a sports manager’s career is to assume the role of general major of a major league team.
Most major league sports teams, and some of those at the collegiate level, are quite guarded about the amount of money their front end, business executives are paid; however, estimations lead one to believe that most of them are doing fairly well.
In 2012, Turnkey Research conducted a survey regarding the compensation data and other related information from business executives directly involved in sports management. Responses to the survey arrived from more than 500 employees of over 100 teams, which ranged from team general managers to C-level execs.
Participation came from a variety of leagues, including the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and the MLS. 65% of the responses received came from general and business managers.
Here are a few highlights of what the survey found:
- Business managers received annual median compensation of $65,000.00, which included bonuses and commissions
- At the director level, the median compensation received rose to $105,000.00.
- Vice-presidents received an average annual compensation of $165,000.00.
- Median compensation for executive vice-presidents and senior vice-presidents ranged from $340,000.00 to over $400,000.00.
Based on responses from this survey, as well as other data, here is a look at an estimation of the compensation that sports management executives make:
General Manager – $1 Million to $6 Million Salary
The general manager of a professional sports team is generally the franchise’s highest-paid employee – aside from the coaches. GMs report directly to the owner, and they have direct involvement in football operations and personnel.
General managers also possess oversight of different departments, such as marketing, facilities, and business development.
There are a number of factors that can affect how much a GM makes, and salary ranges vary dramatically. For example, former general manager of the Chargers, A.J. Smith was believed to have earned an annual salary of $2.2 million from 2008-2013.
On the other hand, the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, Brian Sabean, recently signed a new contract with the team that will employ him through the end of the 2019 season. The contract is believed to be worth $5-6 million annually.
Vice President – $175,000.00 to $400,000.00 Salary
At this level of seniority within a sports team’s business structure, the responsibilities of a vice-president are very similar to those of VPs in other industries. Service line and division vice-presidents tend to be paid more than VPs who manage support services, like business development and marketing.
Vice-presidents involved in legal affairs are paid the most, followed by those in scouting. For example, in 2013, Donald Remy was serving as an executive vice-president for the NCAA with an annual salary of $775,000.00.
While the NCAA is not a professional league, it often serves as a stepping stone for collegiate players who turn pro. However, Remy’s story is the exception, not the rule.
According to the same Turnkey Research study, the average total annual compensation for vice-presidents in major league teams is as follows:
- National Football League VP – $230,000.00
- National Basketball League VP – $155,000.00
- Major League Baseball VP – $165,000.00
- National Hockey League VP – $160,000.00
Director of Scouting – $95,000.00 – $275,000.00
For professional league teams, there are generally two different scouting departments: pro scouting and college scouting. A pro scouting director scouts free agents, upcoming opponents, and pro players whose current contracts with their team are nearly up.
On the flip side of the coin, a director of collegiate scouting receives direct evaluations and reports from traveling scouts. Who travel to review college players’ performances.
In 2012, Damon Oppenheimer was serving as the Scouting Director for the New York Yankees. His total annual compensation was $230,000.00 for the year; however, this is on the high end of the spectrum.
On the lower end are the assistants to the scouting directors. According to Turnkey Research, they earn a median annual salary of $95,000.00 across all five leagues. On the whole, collegiate scouting directors tend to be paid more because of the importance placed on reeling in fresh, young talent.
Account Executive – $35,000.00 – $175,000.00
Account executives are generally in charge of managing ticket sales for a franchise. For example, NFL personal seat licenses can cost as much as $150,000.00. The commissions earned on these sales are significant. Those who are on the lower end of the pay grade tend to be individuals who are not adept at selling.
Wade Martin is a prime example of how successful an account executive can become. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and an MBA in 2007. His career with the NFL started when he accepted a corporate account executive position with the Cincinnati Bengals two years later.
Within four years of starting with the Bengals, he had been promoted to assistant director of corporate sales, broadcasting, and marketing. Within the Bengals’ franchise, it is the #2 slot for marketing and sales.
Road Scouts – $40,000.00 – $95,000.00
Road scouts are the gentlemen sitting in the crowd who will often be spotted with a pair of binoculars in one hand and a stopwatch in the other. These individuals are responsible for evaluating an athlete’s skills, fitness levels, and potential for playing professional sports.
An ability to travel is a must, and a scout must have a comprehensive knowledge of the concepts, procedures, and practices associated with a particular sport. The annual pay for a scouting position is primarily dependent upon seniority.