*Story by Randy Sarvis
One of Wilmington College's most popular academic programs received a national endorsement for its quality from the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA).
COSMA awarded WC's sport management program the maximum seven-year accreditation through February 2027. The entity is a specialized accrediting body whose designated purpose is to promote and recognize excellence in sport management education worldwide at colleges and universities.
Wilmington College's program is now one of only four in Ohio to have earned such certification of approval and is among only 54 COSMA-accredited programs in the United States — that's only about 10 percent of all institutions that offer sport management in the country.
Dr. Alan Ledford, WC's program director, said the endorsement offers yet another reason why students should feel confident that studying sport management at Wilmington College can lay the foundation for a successful career in the field.
"National accreditation is a point of pride for the school," he said. "I want Wilmington College to be recognized as the best small college, sport management program in the United States."
Indeed, Best Small Colleges rated the sport management program as tops in the nation for institutions with fewer than 3,000 students in its 2015 Sport Management Degree Guide and, in 2018, the website, <Schools.com>, ranked WC ninth in the country for Best Colleges for Sports Management Degree Programs.
Ledford said COSMA based its decision for full accreditation on WC satisfying the criteria of outcome assessment, strategic planning, curriculum, faculty, scholarly/professional activities, resources, internal/external relationships and educational innovation.
He said COSMA evaluators were especially impressed with the program's focus upon hands-on learning. Indeed, the sport management program is known for offering students such high-profile experiential learning opportunities as working at the Super Bowl, NCAA D-I National Football Championship and, new this year, the NCAA D-I March Madness Final Four in Atlanta.
"They especially liked that we do so much outside the classroom," Ledford added.
Dr. Erika Goodwin, interim vice president for academic affairs, praised Ledford for his leadership in the process that required an exhaustive self-study report and addressing follow-up questions, along with a comprehensive site visit by the COSMA evaluation team.
"Alan put in a tremendous amount of time and effort that resulted in this prestigious accreditation," she said. "He has continued to raise the standards for the program with even richer and more rigorous educational and hands-on experiences."
Dr. Terry Rupert, vice president for athletics administration, established the program in 1998 and has enjoyed seeing it grow to become the fifth most popular major — and now nationally accredited. He has instructed classes annually since the program's inception and this semester assumed a full-time teaching load as he transitions into, ultimately, retiring from his role as vice president and athletic director.
"I've been teaching in the sport management program for more than 20 years — it's been very gratifying to see it grow and mature as it has," he said.
Rupert also has enjoyed seeing Ledford — one of his first sport management students — literally come full circle by returning to his alma mater to teach, earn his doctorate and lead the sport management area.
"The program's evolution with Alan as an original student to this milestone of accreditation under his leadership is especially gratifying for me," Rupert said. "Accreditation is a great win for our current sport management majors (102 as of fall 2019) and future students who will be enrolling at the College."
Rupert also pointed out the COSMA accreditation increases the value of the degrees earned by the 389 graduates in sport management over the years.
"Sport constitutes a huge and vital industry in the United States with numerous opportunities for exciting careers in sport management," he added. "We've had alumni associated with numerous high-profile professional teams, sports facility management, major halls of fame and a myriad of other positions in the field."
Wilmington College alumni are working with the Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters, Columbus Crew, Ohio State University and the Kentucky Speedway, to name a few.