10 Best Ph.D.s in Sports Management in 2021

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Updated June 28, 2021

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Sports lovers can examine athletics from an academic perspective with an advanced degree in the field. Grad School Hub has ranked the 10 Best Ph.D.s' in Sports Management.

Passionate sports fans often remember obscure facts, figures, and data from past games. Some may even spend time analyzing patterns in trends relating to their favorite team or sport. With one of Grad School Hub's 10 Best Ph.D.s' in Sports Management, individuals can take their athletic analysis to an advanced level.

Sports Management programs often fall under the umbrella of kinesiology, though their scope expands far beyond the study of body movement. The following programs explore areas of the sports world including history, law, ethics, finance, and marketing.

Doctoral degree programs are typically research-intensive, so candidates can expect to spend a considerable amount of time examining an issue or specific area of the field. Curricula are generally made up of research-intensive courses and seminars, electives in areas of individual interest, and an in-depth doctoral dissertation or research project. Some programs also offer practical experiences such as teaching assistantships.

PhDs in the field prepare students for careers in academic and research-based roles relating to Sports Management. For example, individuals who hold PhDs in Sports Management may go on to work in Sports Statistician positions. Academic sports statisticians analyze sporting data and look for trends in order to predict changes and solve problems. They also often work as university professors and researchers. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, full-time statisticians earn a median annual salary of $84,760. The statistician field is growing at a rate of 33 percent, which is much faster than average. In the Information Age, the amount of data is increasing, and statisticians are needed to manage that data in the sports realm.

10 Best PhDs in Sports Management in 2021

  • Florida State University

    Tallahassee, FL

    Florida State University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Sport Management. The Ph.D. program prepares individuals for opportunities in areas such as business, event management, marketing, and research in the sports realm. The curriculum is developed in four principal areas: Legal Policy Issues in Sport, Management in Sport, Sport Marketing, and Sport Media Culture Studies. The doctoral core is comprised of seminars in Advanced Law and Sport; Globalization, Development, and Sport; Political Economy of Play; and Sport Marketing. The program also integrates instructional experience, giving students opportunities to shadow faculty members in preparation for teaching undergraduate lecture courses. The degree plan includes a qualifying exam, preliminary exam, and dissertation defense.

    Founded in 1851, the FSU campus sits on the oldest continuous higher education site in Florida. Located in Tallahassee, the public university is a senior member of the State University System of Florida. It is a space- and sea-grant university classified by the Carnegie Foundation as having very high research activity. In addition, FSU is home to the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and is the birthplace of the anti-cancer drug Taxol. U.S. News World Report ranks FSU at No. 70 for the nation, No. 37 for innovation, and No. 26 among public schools.

  • Indiana University Bloomington

    Bloomington, IN

    Indiana University Bloomington offers an emphasis in Sport Management within its Doctor of Philosophy in Human Performance. The program is ideal for individuals hoping to work in the academic field of sports management. Students can choose electives and seminars in a range of interest areas within the field, such as business, communication, and history. Prerequisites include Epidemiology; Introduction to Statistics in Public Health; Principles and Foundations of Public Health; and Introduction to Research in Health, Kinesiology, and Recreation. The 90-credit curriculum includes 20 to 30 credits of doctoral dissertation work.

    IU was founded in 1820 as the State Seminary and is now the flagship establishment of the Indiana University system. The university is additionally the largest state institutional member by enrollment. IU is considered a "Public Ivy" university, with an educational quality that compares to the Ivy League. It is a research university and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. Located in Bloomington, IN, the IU campus sits on a bed of Indiana Limestone and features historical limestone buildings and green space. U.S. News World Report ranks the University at No. 89 in the nation and No. 38 among public schools.

  • Louisiana State University

    Baton Rouge, LA

    Louisiana State University offers a specialization in Sport Management within its Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology. The program is built on sport management courses, independent studies, and mentorship. Through elective coursework, students can expect to explore interests such as finance, social issues, law, and organizational behavior in relation to sports management. Core courses include Administrative Problems in Kinesiology, Social Issues in Sport, and Organizational Behavior and Development in Sport. The curriculum culminates in nine credit hours of dissertation research. The program is accredited by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation.

    LSU was founded in 1853 as the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning Military Academy. Today, the university's official name is Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College. The public research university is the flagship campus of Louisiana State University and the flagship institution of the state of Louisiana. It is also a designated land-, sea-, and space-grant university with a number of research facilities and sponsored research project. Its main campus in Baton Rouge, LA, sits on the banks of the Mississippi River. U.S. News World Report ranks LSU at No. 140 in the nation and No. 70 among public schools.

  • Northcentral University

    San Diego, CA

    Northcentral University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Education in Sport and Athletic Management. The program encompasses the financial, legal, marketing, and political aspects of collegiate athletics. Its 60-credit curriculum combines science, research, and experiential learning. The course sequence includes Advising the Student-Athlete, Legal Aspects of Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics, and Sport Compliance. It culminates in the completion of a doctoral research dissertation and oral presentation. Graduates do not earn any particular education licensure or certification. The degree can be completed in an estimated 45 months or about four years.

    Northcentral is a fully online Doctoral Research University headquartered in San Diego, CA. The university uses a "One-to-One Learning Model," which pairs each student with a faculty member for personal attention and feedback. The learning model makes use of interactive technologies such as video conferencing. All faculty members have doctoral degrees themselves. The university aims for high flexibility, with 24-hour access and the weekly course starts. It is a regionally accredited institution.

  • Ohio State University

    Columbus, OH

    Ohio State University provides a Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology in Sport Management. The program offers one-on-one faculty support from within the program, as well as guidance from the wider Ohio State community. The program coursework covers sports marketing, understanding sports consumers, sports organization theory, sport and society, the business of college sports, and research methods. Elective offerings include Women in Sport History, Sport and Sexuality, and American Sports History. Students must achieve a minimum of six credits of Sport Management dissertation analysis.

    OSU was founded in 1870 as a land-grant university under the Morrill Act. Today, it is a public flagship land-, sea-, and space-grant university. Located in Columbus, OH, it has the third-largest university campus in the United States. The university also operates campuses in the Ohio towns of Lima, Mansfield, Marion, Newark, and Wooster. U.S. News World Report ranks OSU at No. 56 in the nation, No. 18 for innovation, and No. 17 among public schools.

  • Texas A&M University

    College Station, TX

    Texas M University offers Grad School Hub's best Sports Management Ph.D. program: its Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology. The program offers a specialization in Sport Management, which emphasizes areas including diversity, organizational strategy, and sports marketing. The curriculum includes doctoral seminars in Sport Management, Sport Marketing, and Social Issues in Sport. Students must also complete a teaching internship and directed research. Students who hold master's degrees must complete a minimum of 64 credit hours toward the degree, while those who do not must complete 96 hours. Each student must pass preliminary and final exams, as well as completing a research proposal and project. The program culminates in an original doctoral dissertation.

    Established in 1871, Texas M was the first public higher education institution in Texas. It was founded as a land-grant institution under the Morrill Act as the Agricultural Mechanical College of Texas. Today, it is a public land-, sea-, and space-grant university with the second largest student body in the United States. It is a state flagship university and the founding member of the Texas M University System. U.S. News World Report ranks the University at No. 66 in the nation, No. 44 for best value, No. 37 in innovation, and No. 24 among public schools.

  • University of Arkansas

    Fayetteville, AR

    The University of Arkansas offers a 96-credit Doctor of Philosophy in Health, Sport and Exercise Science. The Concentration in Recreation and Sport Management prepares individuals for sport management roles in university settings. Students can alternatively choose a concentration in Exercise Science, Kinesiology-Pedagogy, or Health Behavior Health Promotion. The university's Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation requires core coursework in Research in HHPR, Statistics in Education and Health Professions, and 18 credits of Doctoral Dissertation work. The Recreation and Sport Management Concentration are comprised of three courses: Directed Reading in Recreation and Sport, Issues in RESM, and Management in RESM. Capstone experiences include internships, seminar presentations, journal publications, and dissertation research.

    U of A was established in 1871 as Arkansas Industrial University. It is the flagship location of the University of Arkansas System, and the largest university in the state. The public land-grant research university has a hilltop campus in Fayetteville, AR. In 1925, architects made a plan to destroy all existing buildings and reconstruct the campus in the Collegiate Gothic style. While the plan was never completed, several buildings were constructed in the style near the center of campus. Most of these structures are part of the University of Arkansas Campus Historic District. Notably, Hillary and Bill Clinton both taught at the university's law school prior to their days in the White House. U.S. News World Report ranks U of A at No. 78 among public schools.

  • University of Connecticut

    Storrs, CT

    The University of Connecticut offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Management. The program examines social justice and organizational change in sports management through research and theory. Core courses include Educational Policy and Politics, Influences on Adult Learning, and Organizational Learning. Sport Management courses include Current Research in Sports Management, Organizational Behavior in Sport, and Organizational Theory in Sport. Students can also expect to complete a series of research courses and conduct doctoral dissertation research.

    Founded in 1881, UConn is a public flagship university land-, sea-, and space-grant university. UConn categorized as a research institution with the highest level of research activity and more selective admissions by the Carnegie Foundation. The university has also been identified as a Public Ivy school, which means that its a public institution with educational features analogous to that of the Ivy League. It is one of the founding institutions of New England's Knowledge Corridor, an economic and cultural alliance in the Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA region. UConn is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. U.S. News World Report ranks UC at No. 63 in the nation, No. 89 for best value, and No. 22 among public schools.

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst

    Amherst, MA

    The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Management. The full-time, residential program studies the intersection of sport and business. Students can expect small class sizes and teaching opportunities. Individuals can personalize their plan of study by choosing electives in areas of interest such as Sport Law, Sport Sociology, and Sport Consumer Behavior. The program has a sharp focus on research and has explored subjects such as gender and race dynamics in sport, ticket price strategy, and the impact of social media on companies and athletes. The program takes four to five full-time years to complete. The first year is spent on core courses and a qualifying exam, and the second is spent on minor field courses and a comprehensive exam. The third, fourth, and fifth years are spent on teaching and the dissertation proposal and research.

    UMass Amherst is a public land-grant university and the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system. The university is categorized in the top tier of research universities by the Carnegie Foundation. Located in Amherst, MA, the university's campus is home to the largest library system of any public institution in the northeast. With its own Combined Heat and Power plant, the campus has also been named one of the most sustainable campuses in the nation. U.S. News World Report ranks UMass at No. 70 in the nation and No. 26 among public schools.

  • University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor, MI

    The University of Michigan offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Sport Management through its School of Kinesiology. Students can earn funding toward the degree through teaching and research assistantships and fellowships. Course offerings include Gender and Sport; Sport and the Consumer; Psychological Aspects of Sport and Exercise; and Race Relations, Cultural Images, and Sport. Students have the opportunity to complete field experiences, teaching experiences, independent studies, and internships relating to sports management. All students must pass a qualifying exam and complete a doctoral dissertation.

    Founded in 1817, U of M is the oldest university in Michigan. It was founded in Detroit 20 years before the Michigan territory became a state, and has since moved to Ann Arbor. The public research university also operates campuses in Flint and Dearborn, MI. Additionally, U of M is an establishing subsidiary of the Association of American Universities and a Carnegie-classified research academy with very high research activity. U.S. News World Report ranks U of M at No. 27 for the nation, No. 12 in innovation, and No. 4 among public schools nationally.

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Metric Data Used Percentage
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Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 10%
Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 30%
Program Offerings Number of program options 20%
Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 10%
A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible on our Ranking Methodology page.

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