Annenberg to offer new minor in sports media studies

A new Annenberg minor, to begin in fall 2010, will give students a chance to explore the relationship between sports and culture in a city that boasts one of the fastest growing sports hubs.

Sidelines · A reporter for College Hoops interviews USC basketball player Nikola Vucevic after a game. The new sports media studies minor will teach students the theories behind sports media. - Avi Kushlan | Daily Trojan

Annenberg’s School for Communication & Journalism has approved a new sports media studies minor to give students hoping to enter the sports media profession a chance to learn necessary skills.

The idea for the minor was born from Professor Daniel Durbin’s 383 Sports, Communication and Culture course (COMM 383). Durbin always asks his students what additional programs they would like to see at Annenberg and overwhelmingly students asked for more sports-focused classes.

“Two-thirds of the students in the class always voted for more sports courses,” said Phillip Schaben, a senior majoring in communication who took Durbin’s class in the fall. “We would watch people on SportsCenter, Universal Sports, ESPN, and wonder, ‘Where are these people getting their training from?’”

Durbin began formulating the idea for the sports media studies minor over the summer and started formally pursuing the idea this fall.

Schaben and classmate Kenneth Badea, a junior majoring in communication, heard of Durbin’s proposal while they were taking his class and offered to help get the program off the ground by spreading awareness. The two created a Facebook group to demonstrate to Annenberg that there was widespread interest in a sports-centric degree program.

Badea said he thinks it is important for Annenberg to integrate sports classes into its curriculum.

“Like any university, we tend to focus on traditional media,” Badea said. “People are apprehensive about sports journalism — thinking it’s just a filler — when it’s really something we need to focus on. Channels like ESPN have 24 hours just about sports, just like some channels do for news. USC being where it is, with this incredible proximity to all this sports media, is in a prime position to become a leading university in sports journalism.”

Durbin said the Annenberg Dean’s Office is interested in a more complete study of sports communication, and the minor is one way of helping students keep up with the expanding sports media world.

“Sports media is only growing at this point,” Durbin said. “This minor is a reaction to an increase in its impact on culture and vice versa. Outside of politics and war, sports is the largest industry in the world.”

The sports media culture has grown particularly rapidly in Los Angeles in recent years, as sports networks, including ESPN, have brought more corporate offices to Southern California.

The debut of the Los Angeles production center as the headquarters for ESPN’s 1 a.m. EST SportsCenter in 2009 also contributed to the recognition of Los Angeles as one of the largest sports media metropolises in the nation.

Currently, the only requirement for the minor is Durbin’s COMM 383 class. Beyond that, students can choose from several electives that span various schools, including Annenberg, the Marshall School of Business and the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

“USC prides itself on having a very rich selection of minors. In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on interdisciplinary minors … The idea here is to encourage degrees that allow students to be exposed to faculty in different areas,” said Abigail Kaun, associate dean of academic programs and student affairs for Annenberg.

One of those elective classes is a new Annenberg class, Sports and Social Change, which will be offered in the spring 2011 semester. The course, taught by Durbin, will examine how athletes become agents of social change through the media.

Besides that course, the program will draw largely on classes that already exist.

The sports media studies minor is officially being integrated into the fall 2010 curriculum, having received approval.

Any new class or degree must withstand scrutiny from every department involved once it is conceived.

After the structural proposal is developed, it must be approved by the faculty and school dean.  From there, the program is given to the university curriculum committee to be reviewed by faculty from other schools and departments, and finally to the university faculty as a whole.

To survive, a new degree must be able to prove that it is a relevant and important field of study, that the field is unique and distinct and that it fits into the curriculum goals of the school.