Sports Communication

The new world of sports

The best place to see the new world of communication may be the sports field. It encompasses some of the best in journalism, broadcasting, electronic communication, marketing, advertising, public relations, visual communication and new media.

Sports in America involve more than $200 billion in annual spending and touch every professional aspect of media. The leading sports in the U.S. are followed by 85 percent of the U.S. population, and the average individual follows five different leagues. Sports affect society in myriad ways, from tourism to retailing to equipment to medicine to media.

Sports also serve as a stage for society's most important social issues. Racial integration in the U.S. made major advances through the popularity of track star Jesse Owens, boxer Joe Louis and baseball player Jackie Robinson. Today the global celebrity of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods is a statement of progress and a testament to the power of sports to serve as a common ground for the most significant issues of our times. Similarly, the transformation of women's rights was led by tennis player Billie Jean King. At the time of King's famous match against Bobby Riggs in 1973, just one in 27 women (about 4 percent) participated in athletics. Today the number is approaching 40 percent, and women's events sell more Olympic tickets than those of men.

Sports communication in the school

The school has long realized the growing importance of sports communication. With that in mind, the school in 2002 launched a Sports Communication Program, headed by professor John Sweeney. Funded by a $1 million anonymous grant, the program provides courses about sports and the media, offers internships and scholarships for students, and brings visiting lecturers to the school.

There is no such sports communication program in the U.S., and UNC is the perfect site. Today, former Carolina athletes are on the courts of the National Basketball Association and the fields of the National Football League and Major League Baseball. Coaches and executives with Carolina connections are found in major professional sports leagues, as well as collegiate athletic departments and conference offices. And school graduates cover the careers of these sports professionals for newspapers, magazines, radio and television.

The Sports Communication Program brings the revolutionary commercial world of sports to students, while allowing them to confront the extraordinary changes occurring in sports. This knowledge will assist them in the pursuit of competitive jobs in the sports industry and give them a unique perspective on many of the fundamental dilemmas of our time.

The Sports Communication Program is designed to accommodate students in the reporting, electronic communication, advertising, public relations, editing and graphic design, multimedia and photojournalism specializations. It aims to lead the nation in educating young practitioners about important issues of sports in the United States and beyond.

Sports communication certificate

The school's certificate program in sports communication began in spring 2004. A certificate, a concentration of three or more courses in a related field of study, is noted on a student's transcript. A limited number of students will be admitted into the program and will be guaranteed a seat in each of the three required courses:

  • JOMC 377: "Sports Communication" (3 credit hours).
    An overview of the organizations involved in the sports communication field. Topics include the major television and radio networks, leading magazines and newspapers, and marketing and advertising firms. Subjects include publishing, journalism, team and league media relations, college sports information, TV and radio productions, and advertising.
  • JOMC 455: "Sports Writing" (3 credit hours).
    Researching and writing sports stories, including game coverage, magazine features, and opinion columns. Students complete reporting and writing exercises inside and outside of the classroom.
  • JOMC 476: "Ethical Issues and Sports Communication" (3 credit hours).
    Examines ethical dilemmas and decisions in the commercialization and coverage of modern sports. Topics include the influence of television, pressure to change sports traditions and standards for money, and negative influence on athletes from commercialization as well as a range of social controversies.
  • JOMC 376: "Sports Marketing and Advertising" (3 credit hours).
    Examines the range of promotional techniques being used in the modern sports industry. Topics include sponsorships, advertising, merchandizing and the effects of commercialization.

For more information about the certificate or the Sports Communication Program generally, e-mail  jsweeney@email.unc.edu or call 919.962.4074.