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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Alumnus combines excitement of sports and versatility of marketing in career

Sports are big business.

John Cordova is the second speaker of the Garrey E. and Katherine T. Carruthers Speaker Series in Economic Development. Cordova, a 1981 and 1983 NMSU alumnus, is the director of sports transaction management for Coca-Cola. (Courtesy Photo)

cket sales to licensed products, from sports collectibles to video games, from sporting goods, sports-related advertising, endorsement income, stadium naming fees and running shoes to facilities income, the sports business is a truly global industry.

John Cordova, a 1981 and 1983 New Mexico State University alumnus, knows the industry well.

Cordova is the second speaker in the Garrey E. and Katherine T. Carruthers Speaker Series in Economic Development. A Colorado native, Cordova will speak from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, in the Corbett Center Auditorium.

For the past 12 years, the former Aggie football player (1976-79) has been part of Coca-Cola's domestic pro sports marketing efforts. He has served in different capacities from being the director of sports marketing to his current role as director of sports transaction management.

The road to success was not easy, especially during a time when the sports business industry was just beginning to take flight.

While working on his MBA at NMSU, Cordova was an assistant offensive line/strength coach during the 1980 and 1981 seasons. Once he finished his degree, he decided to pursue a career that would allow him to combine his experience in sports and his newly acquired degree.

"I ended up writing letters to every baseball, basketball, football and hockey team, any sport you can think of," Cordova said. "I sent out hundreds of letters and received a couple of hundred rejections."

Cordova might have been down, but he was certainly not out.

He found a job at Texas Instruments and thought that he could pursue the sports industry on the side. He worked at Texas Instruments for about eight months before he was contacted by the Major League Baseball Commissioners Office in New York. There he was given the opportunity to experience the many facets of the industry, from public relations, player records, minor league operations, licensing and sponsorship to television production.

Today, Cordova said, there are many more avenues for future professionals.

"The opportunities are easier to come by ... you just have to go out and find one, and be persistent," he said. "Go through professional teams, advertising agencies and sponsors. I think the untapped opportunities are on the collegiate side of the business. They are progressively being run as stand-alone businesses."

Students at NMSU can prepare for a career in sports marketing through classes in the College of Business. Business majors can specialize in sports marketing and non-business majors can pursue a minor. Classes include business law, sports law, sports marketing and sports management.

"Sports business is really growing because sports, in general, are one of the fastest growing avenues for entertainment," said Gerald Hampton, department head of marketing.

The seminar series is being hosted by the Garrey E. and Katherine T. Carruthers Chair in Economic Development. The chair was created by a $500,000 gift from College of Business Dean Garrey E. Carruthers and his wife, Katherine. The chair received a $1 million match from the state.

During the fall and spring semesters, several speakers will address issues related to "The Changing Face of Economic Development." The next presenter, Emma Jean Cervantes, owner of JF Apodaca Farmers, Cervantes Agribusiness and Enterprises Inc., is scheduled to speak Oct. 12.