UM Executive MBA Program prepares athletes, artists for post-career endeavors

The University of Miami Executive MBA Program for Artists and Athletes concluded its March session on Friday. Current and former NFL players, along with sports and entertainment executives, study at the School of Business Administration in six residency modules over an 18-month period. The modules are in February, March and June in addition to online classes between the modules and in the fall, while current NFL athletes are in season.

“These are very intense residencies,” Vice Dean Anuj Mehrotra said. “Typically in a residency of two weeks, they will be taking five to six credits of workload.”

Though the program includes rigorous, eight-hour days for each two-week module, Mehrotra explained that the program structure engages students throughout. “All our MBA programs have different types of pedagogy. Some of it is lectures, some of it is group discussions, some of it is case studies,” Mehrotra said.

Moreover, the graduate students in the program are determined to grow their brands and become more well-rounded. Athletes, like former Florida State and current Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, are looking to further invest in themselves in order to prepare for life after football.

“When I go and speak to these CEOs of these big companies, these businessmen, I can speak and have a conversation but also have the knowledge to have behind what I was talking about,” Manuel said. “The fact that I’m taking accounting classes and marketing classes, I feel that my perspective would be more advantageous than it would the next athlete or the next guy who didn’t take those classes.”

Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas agreed.

“I chose [the program] to gain basic knowledge and basic skills of being a more efficient manager of my own business,” Thomas said. “That’s being able to talk to my financial advisor and understanding more in-depth of what’s going on. That’s being able to look at balance sheets and spreadsheets and income statements and being able to know what’s going on.”

The program encourages teamwork common on the football field. Thomas especially likes that the classes promote sharing ideas.

“You get to hear what some people are already working on and getting to do and that’s cool,” he said. “Also, you get to create new ideas for guys to see this is how they think, and this is how I think, and you can piggyback off each other and grow.”

The balance of focus on football and professional life outside of the game itself is especially beneficial for athletes, like dual-sport Hurricane legend Santana Moss.

“You’ll find out that there are a lot of bright football players. That’s one of the things I learned sitting in class with a lot of these guys,” Moss said. “People don’t give us the credit that we’re due when it comes to how far our minds can expand when it comes to the knowledge that we take in. I sit in class and I’m wowed because some of these guys are really just bright.”

For Moss, the program reminds him of the intersessions he took during his time at UM. Though he did not enjoy going to class as an undergrad, he missed college. The former New York Jets and Washington Redskins player was hungry for a challenge and decided to come back to the university to earn an MBA to use for his real-estate venture.

“I’ve learned more to apply myself now than I did when I was younger. This time around, school isn’t bad when you know what you’re doing,” Moss said. “When you get a chance to study, when you get a chance to get that reading in, when you are able to come to class and not have to worry about being called on … You’re ready for everything.”

Not every graduate student in the program has NFL ties. Horace Madison has decades of experience as a financial planner and business manager, representing a host of artists including Stevie J, Mase, Kelly Price, DMX, Eve and Lil Wayne. Madison decided to join the UM Executive MBA Program to gain entrepreneurial skills.

“The way the music industry has changed so much the past five to six years, there is a much different lay of the land,” Madison said. “Managers, business managers and production companies have to be way more entrepreneurial, so a tremendous amount of what I’ve been learning in this Executive MBA class will be applicable here.”

Madison also noted the desire of his professional-athlete classmates to expand beyond their athletic personal brands. “There’s a much greater awareness, desire and, I believe, need for financial understanding and entrepreneurship.”

The program, which started in February 2015, will have its first graduating class this summer.

Feature photo courtesy Pixabay user AlexanderStein.