Rice Sport Management Offers First Ever Sports Journalism Class

Rice Sport Management Offers First Ever Sports Journalism Class

The Rice University Department of Sport Management is always seeking new ways to broaden its curriculum to account for the dynamic job-market in sports. Dr. Clark Haptonstall, the Department Chair, noticed a particular influx in students who were interested in the media aspect of sports. For the first time in his 12-year tenure at Rice, Haptonstall is offering to teach Sports Journalism alongside his normal Public Relations, Sport Marketing, and Sport Ethics classes.

The Sports Journalism class incorporates the real life experiences that Haptonstall faced as the Sports Information Director at Marshall University and that he currently faces as the CEO of The Haptonstall Group, the sports marketing and public relations firm he created six years ago.

Sport Management student Breion Allen on NBC sports news

“A fair number of the students had talked about going into media,” Haptonstall said. “We don’t have a communications, broadcasting, or journalism department at Rice University, so I thought I’d try and put together a class that would jump start their career.”

After getting the class approved for the spring 2015 semester, Professor Haptonstall sought the help of two distinguished veterans in the sports journalism field, Steve Bunin and Jorge Vargas.

Bunin is currently the co-host of a midday talk show on GOW Media’s 97.5 FM with his former ESPN colleague Sean Salisbury. Bunin spent nine years working for ESPN, where he provided in-depth coverage over a multitude of sports as a lead anchor on SportsCenter, College Football Live, and Baseball Tonight. Though he is most notable for his interviews with some of the biggest names in sports on Outside The Lines.

“My expectations of the students are very realistic. The students have a huge challenge to overcome not having any other classes similar to this one,” Bunin said. “Since Rice students haven’t taken a Sports Journalism class, I want to give them the basics to see if it’s their appetite, and if so, I want to tell some of my stories and the hardships that I’ve gone through to prepare them for how hard a career in this industry can be.”

Vargas agreed to co-teach alongside Bunin and offers the students the unique prospective of someone who has been involved in numerous aspects of the media. Vargas, a long-time Houston native, has worked as an anchor, radio host, and sound engineer for a multitude of stations throughout Houston (KHOU, KIAH, News92FM), in addition to sideline reporting at Rice football games for the past decade.

Professor Haptonstall has taken his background in public relations and combined it with the collective experiences of Bunin and Vargas to create a curriculum that offers every student insight on the knowledge and skills required to conduct on-camera interviews, write game stories and press releases, create sports content, etc.

“What I think is brilliant about Dr. Haptonstall’s approach, is he’s been able to bend the class to where he fills the unique needs of the students,” Vargas said. “It’s incredibly hard to try and make sure everyone gets something out of it.”

Students taking the class are accustomed to the hands-on classwork that is consistently used throughout the classes taught in the sport management major. However, many did not expect to actually shoot a game recap while standing on the visiting team’s dugout following a Rice baseball game. That’s just one example of the unique assignments that all three professors strategically designed to pull the students in each group (TV, writing, PR) out of their comfort zone to gain perspective on just how versatile sports journalists are required to be in today’s sports market.

“This class has been amazing at really teaching me about the industry,” sophomore Jeremy Reiskind said. “I have learned so much and it is great having Steve and Jorge help teach the class.”

By the second class, every student in the class had gained an idea of what it feels like to be in front of the camera with a 15 second script memorized and how to present it in a professional manner. The pressure of being on camera and on a time crunch is purposefully created by the three professors to offer the students an idea of what it feels like to be on the 9 o’clock news recapping the sports stories of the day; a pressure that cannot be simulated in any other class at Rice University.

Trevor Caswell, a senior from Round Rock, Texas, is double-majoring in Sport Management and History.