At a job fair last spring for students at the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, professor of practice Bill Sutton arranged for an NBA executive and representatives of 15 different organizations to interview students for jobs.
Creating that type of opportunity is just one example of the advantages that Sutton – with a half century of experience in the sports industry – brings to students at the University of South Carolina.
Sutton is a former NBA executive, the founder of a sports and strategic marketing consulting firm with high-profile clients, and a former professor at universities including Ohio State, the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida. When he retired as professor emeritus and director of the sport and entertainment graduate program at USF, he knew he wanted to continue working with college students.
It wasn’t the first time he considered coming to Columbia. Sutton was first offered the opportunity to teach at the University of South Carolina in 1990, but he decided at the time to take a job outside of academia. He says he always felt that if the right situation arose, he’d like to go back and close that loop.
That happened in 2023, when he joined the Department of Sport and Entertainment Management.
As a professor of practice at USC, he comes to campus about a week each month and shares his experience – and his vast network — with students and faculty. In March, he took a group of undergraduate students to England, Scotland and Ireland on a spring break trip designed to expose students to other countries’ sports models.
“Seeing the pure amateurism in Ireland was something that was tough for them to understand because they'd never seen anything like that before,” he says. “When you understand that the players, the coaches, the referees, the physicians, the trainers — no one gets paid, it's completely an amateur model. That was very enlightening for them to see.”
This fall, he will draw on his experience and connections to teach a course with master’s students as they prepare for careers in the industry.
“We're going to do monthly seminars on career development. I need to get them thinking early in the process about what they want to do, what their internships are going to be, and how their internships are going to contribute to their career path,” he says. “I want to get them focused on a career path early on.”
And next spring he will join with the department’s other professors of practice – Danny Morrison, the former president of the Carolina Panthers, and Susan O’Malley, former president of Washington Sports and Entertainment and the first female president of an NBA team — to teach a class that offers a real world look behind the scenes of the sports industry.
In the time he’s been in Columbia, he’s had a chance to see first-hand the opportunities available to sport and entertainment management students at USC.
“I didn't really have any grasp at all of the phenomenal opportunities provided to these students while they're in school. I mean, going to work at The Masters and doing all these other things,” he says. “That’s really part of what I call the untold story at USC.”
And he knows how important those kinds of experiences and internships are in a field like sport and entertainment management.
“It's an audition. It's letting someone see what you're capable of, and, at the same time, either affirming or questioning what you think you want to do. And it's better to do it as early as you can, so in case you're wrong you can readjust and do something else. Or it reaffirms and gives you the motivation to continue on and pursue that path.”