SPAD Alumni Spotlight: Josh Weirich

Sport Administration Alumni Discusses Success With UC Faculty 

University of Cincinnati’s own Dr. David Kelley sat down recently with Josh Weirich, a SPAD alum about his experience in (and outside) of our Master’s in Sport Administration program.

David: What were you like in High School and what sports did you participate in?

Josh: “I grew up in a small-town in northeast Ohio. I played football and baseball growing up. My hometown was one of those towns where almost every boy played football. So that was definitely the big sport. In fact, at the local hospital there, when you’re born, you get a little orange and black football in the crib and so I think that probably tells you everything you need to know.”

David: Within this realm of intercollegiate athletics, who have been your role models?

Josh: “I had this conversation with someone the other day! In fact, dating all the way back to 2005 when I started out, my career was at a boutique marketing firm that I worked for at the time, they had the rights to head Coach Jim Tressel’s website. At the time, my boss and my mentor, who is still one of my mentors to this day was a gentleman by the name of Ryan Miller. Ryan was a former Ohio State University football player. He went into media for a while where he did TV and radio, and then went back to Ohio State, got his MBA degree and started his own marketing firm. This was at a time when football coach Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech was the only coach to have his own personal website.

So, we all jumped in the car, drove to Blacksburg Virginia, met with coach Beamer and his people and kind of found out how they did his website there and took a bunch of notes. We came back to Columbus and went to work and launched the Coach Tressel website. I did everything from producing content to interviewing, to photography, to creating a sales inventory and then we started to gravitate towards creating some experiential events based off if you were a member of the website. We got to take folks to full practice. So overall, Ryan Miller, 100% is still somebody that’s been really important to me.”

David: Here at University of Cincinnati while you were in graduate school, you multitasked as both the senior business development manager with Bearcat sports properties, and as a master’s student. So, what was that like, in terms of having to balance the demands of being both a master’s level student and your full-time job? What were some things you learned about yourself in that process?

Josh: “Great question! There was so much going on at the time that I didn’t even have a chance to take a step back and realize how much I was actually doing from a professional standpoint. As it relates to my work as a student, once I got comfortable with the class work again and realized what kind of time commitment that I was going to need in order to give and what I was going to have to set aside, I really just banged it out every day. I was like, all right, this is what I have to get done this week and that included a lot of Sundays. From a grad student standpoint, doing work especially during the different seasons, being at UC and working very heavily during every home basketball game and every home football game, but from a business development standpoint, at the peak of my student career, I had the best year I’ve had in 7 years at UC. So, I think it just made me sharper and made me more focused on the professional side because I knew I was going to have to focus more. The asynchronous online classes for me, for not only the time, but for the way I learn was a game changer, and I couldn’t imagine doing it another way. Maybe I wouldn’t have done it if I had to show up somewhere 3 nights a week.

Honestly, from an online standpoint, I know that if I can do that while working full time, I think that that almost anybody could do it. For example, my schedule changes from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour, I get pulled into meetings from game operations to marketing, and all sorts of different things, so like to be able to commit to something, especially during the week, for multiple hours at a time outside of my job would have been really probably not feasible.  But then the asynchronous style and just being able to absorb the information in the way that I felt the most comfortable, spending as much time as I needed reading, sometimes rereading things to understand them a second time. And then, utilizing some group work and leaning on some other people and being able to enlist some trust in other people to do work that your names going be attached to, that’s hard for some people.

I think initially, I wanted to do every group project myself, and then I just realized that that wasn’t going to be feasible; you need to let a little bit go. These people are doing the same thing that you are and they’re getting something out of it as well. So, you need to trust those around you from a group standpoint. But I definitely learn better, on my own, at my own pace, but having the benefit of being able to reach out to any of the professors is great as well, because we did Zoom Meetings. We did group texts.  You could hop on the phone. So, if you were stuck on something or just needed some clarification, that feedback was pretty instant and ultimately was awesome.”
Graduation Day

Dr. David Kelley, Josh Weirich, and other University of Cincinnati alumni on graduation day. 

David: In 2017 you were hired with Bearcat Sports Properties. What were your immediate short- term goals that you set and what were some longer-term goals that you have as you lead the program’s partnerships and activation management strategies?

Josh: “2017 was a pretty transitional year for UC Athletics and for someone like myself, you know, moving 3 to 4 hours down the road that didn’t have a lot of experience in the city, didn’t really know the fan base. It was important for me to kind of learn as much as I could, and I found out immediately that when I got here that it was a very passionate fanbase. People from Cincinnati love their sports, love their Bearcats, and we’re very easy to connect with, so from my standpoint, I was excited for the opportunity to be at UC when I was, and looking back now, look at what this university and what this athletic department has done since 2017. They got to a College Football Playoff game which nobody thought a Group of 5 team could do, and they did that. They’re now in the Big 12 and so the athletic accolades from student athletes that have come and gone, and from different programs themselves has just been incredible and I just look back and I’m grateful for having been a part of it.  I saw the arena get a $90 million-dollar renovation and reopen. I’ll look back on these significant things for years to come, and just say, like, wow, I was there when that happened.”

David: What are some initiatives that you have for Bearcat Sports Properties in terms of helping corporate partners meet their objectives relative to brand association in addition to this really hot topic of NIL?

Josh: “Yeah, that’s definitely a big one. So, when that switch got flipped on July of 2021, you know, we’re a little over 2 years of active NIL albeit the first probably 12 months we were still trying to figure out exactly what that was going to be here at UC. Ultimately, I think a lot of folks were doing that across different campuses, but I’ve had the luxury of working with some really great partners that saw value in our student athletes off the field and wanted to engage them.  I’ve had personally several corporate partners that we’ve been able to engage in different NIL activities. Some of them are from a digital/social standpoint which a lot of the NIL activities are posting and putting different brands, highlighting different brands that they’re loyal to, but I’ve also seen it go a step further than that from a from a recruiting standpoint to where it’s internships and Co-Ops have come out from it. And as a result, I have potentially a student-athlete that’s going to graduate and go to work full time for a company that they had a NIL deal with, which is something that I always wanted to see come out of it, and I didn’t think it would happen potentially as early as it did.

But if you think about NIL, it’s really an opportunity for those corporate partners to have a very specific demographic: you know exactly who you’re targeting, based on who the student athlete is and the age group that you’re going to get. Also, you’re going to get a very diverse group of folks by engaging with our student athletes. We have international student athletes in many of our sports, so it’s really an opportunity for local partners, regional partners and even national partners to engage and be very specific about who they’re marketing their products to.”

David: What advice would you offer either undergraduate or even graduate students as they matriculate through the sport administration program?

Josh: “I’ve learned a couple of different things doing it the way that I did it. Overall, I would tell the undergrad specifically, to just have as many conversations with people in the business that they can reach out to somebody on LinkedIn and introduce yourself. It’s a very small industry at the end of the day, there’s so many folks that I think come out of college or in college, and they’re like, I want to work in sports, and they don’t even know what that means. The thing is you can have an interest in finance, sales, marketing; everything that any major company does, athletics does.  So, if you just want to have a focus and a general topic or subject, you can relate that back to sports in so many different ways.

If you’re not going the coaching route, I would just say to have those conversations, to reach out to anybody. Learn as much as you can, and take advantage of any internships that you can. That experience is what is probably going get you into your next position. It’s such a small industry, and if you’re a younger student, we tell our student athletes that right now to trying to get them engaged on LinkedIn. Overall, you’ll find that the longer in your career you go the more time you spend on LinkedIn, and the less time you spend on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.  You can learn a lot from LinkedIn, too. You’ll never stop learning. There’re so many great things in social media right now. But there’s a lot of horrible things, too. But, being able to reach out and have that network of folks that you can lean on is really what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

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