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Syracuse University establishes David B. Falk Center for Sport Management; will better prepare graduates to enter sports industry and student-athletes to manage realities of professional sports through life-skills training
Syracuse University establishes David B. Falk Center for Sport Management; will better prepare graduates to enter sports industry and student-athletes to manage realities of professional sports through life-skills trainingApril 23, 2008Jaime Winne Alvarezjlwinne@syr.edu
Syracuse University today announced it has received a $5 million gift from renowned sports agent David B. Falk ’72 (pictured) and his wife, Rhonda S. Falk ’74, establishing the David B. Falk Center for Sport Management, an interdisciplinary research center that will be the focal point of the Department of Sport Management in SU’s College of Human Ecology. The announcement was made this afternoon at the Falk Center’s inaugural event — a panel discussion on hot-button issues in contemporary sports featuring industry experts, held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Falk Center will prepare the next generation of sport management leaders with an academically rigorous curriculum. Due to the highly competitive nature of the sports industry, and a dwindling job market, the center will integrate numerous real-world, experiential learning opportunities and faculty-student research projects into its broad-based teaching curriculum to enhance undergraduates’ experience and employment opportunities. Most notably, it will stand apart in its deep focus on innovative life-skills training to help student-athletes better manage the realities of professional sports, a core value held by the Falks that reflects their lifelong commitment to excellence and integrity in the sports industry.
“I have devoted my entire life’s work to managing and mentoring professional athletes. The opportunity to create a center at Syracuse University dedicated to furthering the education of future leaders in the sports industry is very special for Rhonda and me, who first met at Syracuse,” says Falk, chair of SU’s Sport Management Advisory Board. “It is also a tribute to my mother, Pearl Falk, who was a wonderful teacher and avid sports fan. Although Rhonda and I are making this gift to establish the Falk Center, it truly is a gift to us for the intangible rewards it will provide us that money simply can’t buy.”
“David taught me so much about being a professional athlete and the whole business that surrounds it. He put me into a lot of situations that aided my personality, aided my position, in terms of where I saw myself within the business of basketball, and he cultivated it, he helped it grow,” says NBA legend Michael Jordan. “I think giving back is important to David and Rhonda because they care about the University. He loves Syracuse. Every time we talk, we talk about Syracuse and North Carolina. I think they’re very caring people and what they’re trying to do is set a good foundation and a basis for other people to follow.”
By establishing a collaborative network of faculty, researchers and industry practitioners, the Falk Center will ensure that sport management students enter their chosen profession with a solid understanding of the sports industry — business, communications, law, marketing, social responsibility and technology. In addition, the center will offer core educational components and life-skills training for student-athletes. Some examples of life-skills training include self marketing; hiring legal representation and an agent; money management; eligibility, rules and regulations of entering a professional sports draft; disability insurance and recovering from injuries; financial management; anger management and controlling aggressive and abusive behavior; gambling prevention; conducting interviews and dealing with the media; and crisis management.
“David is the best in his knowledge of the sports business. He’s a remarkable individual and a good friend. He has given me a lot of great advice,” says former New York Knicks and Georgetown University star Patrick Ewing, current assistant coach for the Orlando Magic and a Class of 2008 electee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “In this business, it’s important to know what it’s going to be like when you get out there. There are a lot of pitfalls, obstacles and road blocks that I think a program like this can help young people recognize.”
“I think the single greatest lesson I’ve learned from David is communication. I think the ability to just be able to communicate, business-wise, has helped me grow,” says Elton Brand, current forward for the Los Angeles Clippers and former Duke University All-American. “As a former student-athlete, I can see why it’s important for the Falk Center to include curriculum to prepare students for the real world. That’s what David preaches. Once you hit the real world, there are a lot of forces pulling at you, a lot of mistakes you can make, so to have that preparation in college is important.”
The Falk Center will combine the expertise and leadership of faculty members from SU’s College of Human Ecology, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Martin J. Whitman School of Management and School of Information Studies who will collaborate to create and establish unique interdisciplinary courses, projects and research.
“The Falks and I share the same vision — to create the pre-eminent undergraduate sport management program in the country,” says Michael Veley, director and chair of SU’s Department of Sport Management. “The Falk Center will combine the academic strengths of various disciplines that are so pervasive within the sports industry with the resources of SU Athletics. As the center further develops, we envision using the Carrier Dome as a learning laboratory for our majors and will integrate current and future experiential learning opportunities so that our students have unmatched experiences both inside and outside of the classroom.”
“Syracuse University’s sport management department strives to ensure that students with a passion for sport also gain a broad knowledge of the business,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “Thanks to David and Rhonda’s generosity, the new Falk Center will enrich this department with its interdisciplinary approach and strong connections with sports industry professionals. It truly is an example of Scholarship in Action — one that is sure to shape the direction of the industry for years to come.”
The Falk Center will also further develop the sport management department’s emphasis on experiential learning outside of the classroom. These experiences will include new opportunities and previously established relationships, including:
- the Sport Management Club’s annual Charity Sports Auction and Jreck Subs Distinguished Lecture;
- 44 Rewards, a three-year partnership with KeyBank to measure the effectiveness of advertising and marketing messages on various types of college sports fans;
- Syner-Cuse, a partnership with SU’s Department of Athletics to enhance marketing of SU’s Olympic sport teams that allows students to become general and assistant managers of teams;
- Syracuse Steiner Collectibles, a partnership with sports memorabilia and marketing company Steiner Sports Marketing and SU Athletics, in which students concentrate on obtaining, marketing and selling one-of-a-kind SU athletics artifacts and collectibles;
- collaborative research with the National Baseball Hall of Fame aimed at attracting new members, identifying and developing niche marketing to various ethnic groups, and enhancing financial support for the museum;
- consumer behavior research with snack food company Dale & Thomas, evaluating the effectiveness of marketing and branding non-sports products with professional sport franchises and stadium venues; and
- conceptualizing, writing and designing sport media guides for all Syracuse City School District athletic programs.
“David and Rhonda Falk have been visionary and strategic in their gift to Syracuse University and the College of Human Ecology,” says College of Human Ecology Dean Diane Lyden Murphy. “Because of his extraordinary and long success in the field of sport management, David has crafted a unique understanding of what can be the best exemplar for educating students in the professional sports industry. This gift allows us to engage a unique partnership with other leading colleges at SU in an interdisciplinary collaboration around the subject of sport. Together we will continue to build a curriculum that will be the first of its kind and model for the next generation of global sports education.”
The Falk Center’s inaugural event, held today at Madison Square Garden, featured panelists and sports industry experts Falk, founder and CEO of Falk Associates Management Enterprises (FAME); George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN Inc. and ABC Sports and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks; SU alumnus Rick Burton ’79 G’80, chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee; Kay Koplovitz, chairman and CEO of Koplovitz & Co. and founder of USA Networks and Madison Square Garden Sports; and moderator and SU alumnus Mike Tirico ’88, ESPN sportscaster and host of ABC Golf.
David and Rhonda FalkDavid B. Falk ’72 has long been recognized as the sports industry’s leading innovator. He has represented more NBA first-round draft selections, lottery picks, Rookies-of-the-Year and All-Stars than anyone else in the athlete management business.
After earning an economics degree at SU and a law degree at The George Washington University, Falk began his career representing professional athletes with ProServ, where he rose to vice chairman. In 1992, he left ProServ, forming Falk Associates Management Enterprises (FAME) to provide specialized and personal representation service to an elite clientele of NBA superstars.
Falk negotiated the then-highest contracts in NBA history for Patrick Ewing and Danny Ferry. He also negotiated professional sports’ first $100 million contract for Alonzo Mourning as part of an unprecedented free agency period, during which FAME changed the entire salary structure of the NBA, negotiating more than $400 million in contracts for its free-agent clients in a six-day period.
In 1985, he negotiated Michael Jordan’s ground-breaking deal with Nike — the most successful endorsement relationship in history — coining the nickname “Air Jordan” in the process. He also negotiated notable shoe endorsements for James Worthy, Boomer Esiason (the first NFL player to endorse the Reebok Pump) and Allen Iverson.
Falk crossed over into entertainment in 1996, serving as executive producer of the film “Space Jam,” which teamed Jordan with Looney Tunes characters in an intergalactic basketball showdown. He went on to executive produce a number of other sports-related films, including “Michael Jordan to the Max,” the critically acclaimed large-format feature, and the Emmy Award-winning “On Hallowed Ground,” a documentary on the history of the Rucker Park Basketball League.
During the 1990s, Falk ranked second behind NBA Commissioner David Stern in a Basketball Digest survey of the most influential people in basketball, and he has been a perennial selection to the “100 Most Powerful People in Sports” by The Sporting News. In 1999, Advertising Age named Falk to their “Marketing 100” list of the country’s top marketers. USA Today selected him as an “Ad/Marketing Powerbroker of 1996.”
In 1998, Falk sold FAME to SFX Entertainment, where he served on SFX’s board of directors and in the Office of the Chairman. As chairman of SFX Sports Group, he oversaw the acquisition of a dozen sports agencies that enabled SFX to represent about 20 percent of MLB and NBA players. Falk stepped down as chairman in 2001 to pursue other interests.
In January 2007, Falk re-launched FAME and today serves as its founder and CEO. He is also on the board of directors of Sapphire Brands; a founding investor in private aviation company Marquis Jet and Golf GCX Partners; and a founder and principal in Relevad Media Group, a digital alternative advertising company.
After attending SU, Rhonda S. Falk ’74 began her career in Washington, D.C., as an undergraduate admissions counselor for The George Washington University. She spent five years there recruiting students from the New England area as well as from the Caribbean.
Falk then joined STSC, a software company in Rockville, Md., as a production manager. She moved into the software publishing division and managed the distribution and sales of software through international resellers around the world.
After 10 years with STSC, Falk retired to spend time raising daughters Daina and Jocelyn. She also serves on the board of directors of Woodmont Country Club.
The Campaign for Syracuse UniversityIn creating the interdisciplinary Falk Center, the Falks’ gift supports cross-connections, one of the five major priorities of The Campaign for Syracuse University. Cross-connections are initiatives that span the borders between disciplines, between academia and the marketplace, and between college and community, providing students with unique and valuable life lessons. With a goal of $1 billion, The Campaign for Syracuse University is the most ambitious fundraising effort in SU’s history. More information about the campaign is available online at http://campaign.syr.edu.