Interview with Dr. Brody Ruihley
John Cody of SportsDegreesOnline.org Interviewed Dr. Ruihley who discussed his trajectory which led him to become an expert in fantasy sports. the landscape of the job market post-covid, and some inspiring advice for those who are looking to persue a career in sports management.
About Dr. Brody Ruihley
Dr. Brody Ruihley studied Communications at the University of Kentucky before earning his Masters in Sport Administration at the University of Louisville and his Ph.D. in Sport Management at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Ruihley is an Associate Professor and Assistant Department Chair of the Sport Leadership & Management at Miami University in Oxford, OH. He has been active and continues to work on advancing knowledge in the areas of fantasy sport, public relations in sport, college athletics, and marketing.
John: Dr. Ruihley- Can you tell us a bit about your trajectory in your career that has led you to this point? Did you always know that you wanted to go the academic route, or did you consider other paths in the world of sports?
Dr. Ruihley: During my undergraduate education, I had several work experiences that influenced my decision to work in sports and ultimately teaching sport leadership and management. First, during the academic years of my undergraduate and master’s education, I worked for a bowling center in Lexington, Kentucky. This was a family-owned operation with two 40-lane houses. I started working the counter (spraying shoes, assigning lanes, and getting people situated in their bowling). Each time I returned from summer break, I gained more and more responsibility and eventually worked my way up to a part-time manager. After completing my Master’s, I was hired on full-time and was the primary manager of one of the centers. Another sporting employment experience I had was working two summers for the Ft. Wayne Tincaps (then the Ft. Wayne Wizards). I served as an intern for this minor league affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The experiences, learning, and enjoyment I had at both of these sport organizations gave me a great appreciation for the industry and the work behind the scenes. Knowing what was required of these positions (either working at the lanes from 5pm-2am or long hours at the ballpark most of the summer) and weighing this against some of my life goals of marriage, children, raising a family, coaching my future kids’ sport teams, and having flexibility, I decided to pursue the academic angle. That is when I pursued and earned my doctorate.
John: I see that you have done quite a bit of research related to fantasy sports. What have been some of the highlights of your career in research?
Dr. Ruihley: Almost every year since 2011, I have been invited to present at the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association Winter Conference (formerly known as the Fantasy Sports Trade Association). Presenting my research for people working in the field, learning from them, and having a mutual/beneficial relationship with many in the industry is a major highlight in my research career. Knowing that my research may have an impact on individual businesses or on the industry as a whole is very special to me. Through these relationships, I have also been selected to serve as a judge for many industry awards and writing accomplishments.
Knowing that my research may have an impact on individual businesses or on the industry as a whole is very special to me.
John: What trends do you see currently in fantasy sports? How has the way people engage with sports changed over the course of your career?
Dr. Ruihley: Current trends in fantasy sport revolve around the daily fantasy sport space and sport gambling restrictions being lifted in many states. The daily fantasy sport environment has been on a fast forward pace since the onslaught of advertising caught the eye of legislators in 2015. Since then, the industry has been working very hard to fight 50 battles in 50 states in an attempt to allow daily fantasy sport play. With recent restrictions being lifted on sport gambling, essentially allowing individual states to decide how to handle the activity, a lot of emphasis has been placed on what fantasy sport is, how daily fantasy sport fits into the fantasy/gambling space, and how fantasy sport organizations and businesses adjust to a change in the external environment.
John: What is your opinion on the regulation of fantasy sports and gambling? Does navigating the legal issues relating to gambling create a barrier to entry for startups and organizations looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of fantasy sports?
Dr. Ruihley: While the deep legal issues surrounding the activities are not my specialty, there are definite barriers into operating a business in the daily space if many states still don’t allow the activity or if states require application or registration fees that severely hinder performance of a startup. Just listen to any daily fantasy sport commercial and you’ll hear the few states where the advertised activity is allowed. Hearing that makes you realize how far some fantasy and gambling activities have to go.
John: Needless to say, COVID-19 has changed so many aspects of our economy, but we are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Within sports management, are there any important changes that graduates should be aware of as we ride out the next few years? How is the job market generally for sports management graduates at the moment?
Dr. Ruihley: Moving on from the major impact of Covid-19 will take time. Many organizations have gone a full year or more without solid revenue streams from in-person events and the spectators that accompany those events. Resources will be limited for a period of time as sport organizations shake off the hit that Covid-19 delivered. For current students and graduates, it is important to still try and gain experience virtually or in-person (where available). Many internships have gone to a virtual environment and while we are all growing weary of sitting in front of our computers, it is important to take advantage of those opportunities. In a similar vein, attend virtual conferences, meet and greets, job fairs, or other professional development opportunities. The market will differ from state-to-state as restrictions begin to ease and vaccines are disseminated. Another piece of advice would be to keep an eye out. Once in-person spectator sport comes back, it will come back with a force. Be on the lookout for volunteer opportunities, quick-fill internships or part-time jobs, or even jobs that aren’t listed national platforms like this one. Some organizations might need help and in a hurry. Lastly, make personal contact with employers. You never know when that zoom call, phone call, or socially-distant coffee might lead to more conversation and an opportunity.
John: Why do you feel that sport management as a degree and profession is a wise choice for young people out there who were athletes themselves or who are passionate about sports?
Dr. Ruihley: I would and have advised many students to find a major and career field that they will enjoy, have passion for, and could see working in for their career. If that is in music, pursue music. If that is in numbers and financial activities, pursue finance or accounting. If that is in sport and athletics, pursue sport management. It is my belief that when you are in classes that grab your attention, hold your interest, and immediately resonate with your thoughts, you will do better, engage, and perform highly. For many, sport is such a part of their lives, they want to continue that into their college academics and potential career.
John: What does Miami University offer that sets it apart from other sports management programs?
Dr. Ruihley: Miami University offers our students a great experience when considering sport leadership and management. The campus and town of Oxford are incredible places to spend four or five years of your life. Oxford is the quintessential college town and has everything students need to thrive in their education and is centrally located around major sporting cities like Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis, Lexington, and Louisville. The Sport Leadership and Management program is unique in that we hold onto the leadership part of our name. This comes in the form of a wholistic experience where not just management issues are presented. Students will be immersed with social, psychological, ethical, communicative, analytical, and leadership issues throughout their time at Miami University. Our program also has a great working relationship with our recreation center, ice arena, and college athletics program. Miami Athletics has been a great partner with our program and we have incredible access to a Division I NCAA Athletic program. Many of our students will find employment, assistantships, or internships within these organizations on campus.
John: Is there anything else you would like to share with young people who are considering a career in sport management?
Dr. Ruihley: The things you always hear about low pay and long hours when starting off are true. If you enjoy your job and you like the people you are surrounded by, this won’t be a problem. I remember working, sometimes, 15-hour days for a minor league baseball team. I was alway smiling when I left the stadium after working the game. It was fun. It was enjoyable. And I liked the people I was with. Another piece of advice would be to consider jobs that aren’t as flashy or popular as others. There are so many great jobs out there but they may not be the athletic director or general manager position you were hoping for right out of college. Expand your horizons, learn at every stage, and enjoy the present.