Skip to main content

The Business of Sports | A Conversation with Derrick Heggans

The roar of the crowd, the thrill of a homerun, the bright lights of the stage…these are just a few of the things we associate with sports and entertainment, but behind the curtain is a multi-billion-dollar global industry. Derrick Heggans, CEO of Global Sports and Entertainment Business Academies, is quite familiar with this industry. Prior to his role as CEO, Heggans handled Cadillac’s sports marketing at Octagon, worked as an attorney for the NFL, and was the General Manager of AOL’s Sports Channel. Heggans was also the Managing Director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at The Wharton School.

Center for Talent Development (CTD) at Northwestern University collaborated with Derrick to create the new CTD summer course, Sports Business & Entertainment Academy. The course breaks away from general STEM offerings, and puts a focus on business education through the lens of sports. We recently caught up with Derrick and asked if he would share some of his insight into the industry.

CTD: For our younger readers, do you have to play sports in order to have a successful career in sports business?

Derrick: The key to a successful career in the business of sports and entertainment is learning about different aspects of the business and working hard at your craft. I've worked with numerous people over the years who never played a single sport.   

CTD: What made you want to enter into this field? When did you know this was the career for you?

Derrick: I was heavily involved in sports growing up, being a multi-sport athlete in high school while also serving as a statistician/manager for the basketball team. I also played football at Duke University until an injury forced me to give up football my sophomore year. With my early "retirement", I was asked to work for the athletic department in a number of roles during the remainder of my time at Duke. At this same time, I began to pursue summer internships beginning the summer between my sophomore and junior year. I enjoyed business and I was familiar with the culture of the sports environment. It was at this time that I knew I would concentrate on pursuing a career in the industry. 

CTD: What is the most exciting thing about working in sports?

Derrick: I think what is exciting really depends upon the interests of the individual. I've had a number of friends who work as talent and they are excited by delivering news to sports fans, either from a studio or live from events. I have friends who are producers and directors and are excited to work as part of a team to produce shows, which millions watch and enjoy. I was a Sociology major at Duke (along with Political Science), so I'm very interested in the behavioral patterns of groups of people.  Helping to create and produce events, which touch the lives of tens of thousands of people in-person and tens of millions globally, is exciting to me. 

CTD: When looking at what makes up the field of sports management, we know that just like any business there is a focus on finance, advertising, media relations, law, and technology. What makes these disciplines unique within the sports environment? Have you discovered any personal qualities, common among those who flock to this profession?

Derrick: The opportunity to work in sports and entertainment is extremely competitive. For that reason, you will find the people working in this industry to often be at the top of their disciplines. People working in sports and entertainment are generally willing to work extremely hard and become excellent at their jobs, continuing to learn and grow in a competitive environment. 

CTD: Can you tell us about the upcoming course with CTD and how you worked collaboratively to develop this course?

Derrick: The course is designed to teach the principle of business to our students.  Whether a student ends up working in the field of sports and entertainment or not, we feel it is critical for them to understand the underpinning of basic aspects of business (advertising, marketing, finance, public relations, journalism, media, law, etc.).  That being said, we teach all of those things through the lens of the sports and entertainment business, providing information about some elements unique to the industry. Class will be extremely interactive with students participating daily in group assignments.  We will take a few field trips to local sports businesses. Local sports and entertainment businesses will not only play host for field trips, but representatives from a number of organizations will serve as guest lecturers and presenters. In the past, we've encouraged students to work on research projects tied to issues of particular interest to them, and/or develop business plans for a company to pursue specific opportunities the student(s) feel can improve the business and fill a market void. 


CTD looks forward to this new Summer 2017 partnership course, as well as all other new and exciting summer offerings! Read “Ross’s Blog” to learn about our new partnership course with (New Partner)

2021 © Northwestern University Center for Talent Development