University of Maine season opener against Delaware at Alfond Stadium. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The University of Maine’s business school has added a sports management major this semester, the first new major for the business school since 1965.

The major will prepare students for careers in sports organizations handling the business side of sports. It is a collaboration between UMaine’s business school; the University of Southern Maine, which has a sports management program of its own; and UMaine’s athletic program. The business school hopes the collaboration with sports figures at the school will help leverage the university’s status as the only NCAA Division I school in the state.

The major has been in the making since 2019 amid high demand from students, said Jason Harkins, an associate dean at the Maine Business School. Assistant Professor of Management ​​Muralee Das and Associate Professor of Marketing Susan Myrden led the way on the project.

Along with courses on sports management and sports marketing, majors working toward the degree will take a variety of business courses, including in finance, account management, marketing and information systems, and will earn a bachelor of science in business administration when they graduate.

Nine students had enrolled in the program as of a week ago, with other students showing interest, Harkins said.

Faculty expect enrollment in the program to grow over time, Harkins said, with especially strong interest from student-athletes. It is projected to reach 160 students by the 2025 academic year, according to University of Maine System documents.

An increasing number of colleges have added sports management programs in recent years, a spike that Harkins attributes to a combination of students being passionate about sports and economic opportunities in the multibillion-dollar sports industry. Maine colleges gave out 44 sports management degrees in 2019, according to University of Maine System documents

“There’s an enormous demand for business knowledge in those organizations,” Harkins said.

Two new courses will come out of the new major, both beginning in the spring: sports marketing and a special project course that will allow students to pursue projects connected to their areas of focus. A sports management course had previously been offered at the university.

After an end to a 56-year long drought for new majors in the business school, Harkins said the acceptance of the sports management program had encouraged faculty to examine other potential new business majors. He said those proposals were in various stages of development.

The world of sports has grown far beyond the primary sports — like baseball, football and basketball — that have dominated in past years, Harkins said. He noted that spikeball, extreme sports and esports have gained popularity.

“It’s really gratifying to see new opportunities opening up for students in a very specific domain that’s growing quickly,” Harkins said.