Breaking into the Sports Industry: From NMU to the NHL, NBA, MLB and Beyond.


I was uncertain of my major while attending Northern Michigan University. As a freshman I knew I was interested in sports and enrolled in the Entertainment & Sports Promotion program in the Communications Department. This opened my eyes to working sports games and learning skills that eventually lead me to work for organizations like the Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, New York Yankees, Big 10, & More.


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While attending NMU, I was creating my own videos filming snowboarding at Marquette Mountain. I also was a big NMU hockey fan and enjoyed playing any chance I could. I enrolled in the Entertainment & Sports Promotion program in the Communications Department, which really exposed me to working in the sports industry. We started producing NMU football & hockey games with a team of students, graduate assistants, & faculty. This was an invaluable experience as it led me to learn about the production side and all the elements of a sporting event that I did not know existed before. I continued working with the Sports Production BC 310 Sports and Special Events Programming group and helped our team win a Michigan Association Broadcasting Award.

Fast forward 10 years later and I continue to do what I love in the Sports Industry. I have been able to program events for crowds of more than 35,000 people. I have been a part of some unforgettable events and games that I will remember forever. Everything from emceeing the Big 10 Basketball tournament to helping program the Chicago Blackhawks banner raising ceremony in 2015, to directing the game presentation elements for the WNBA Finals and seeing them win it all. Cue the confetti.

As awesome as all these accomplishments sound, it has not been the most glamourous route or easiest industry to break into. Sports is one of the coolest industries to work in, but it will take some hard work and perseverance.

If you’re looking to break into the industry and work in sports, there are a few important factors to be aware. It is highly competitive. You may need to relocate. You need to work unpaid internships to gain experience. Schedules and hours can be long. It may take longer than expected.

These stipulations should be considered, however, do not let this stray you away from working in the best industry if you want to pursue doing something that you love. I have provided some words of advice to consider if you are interested in the sports industry. See below:


Be patient.

Everybody needs to start somewhere. Try to gain as much experience as possible in any role that you take on. Use these opportunities to learn your field and understand the commitment it takes to be successful in the sports industry.

Be flexible.

You never know when an opportunity will arise. Try to diversify your skill-set by being open to any and all roles. It is valuable to understand how other departments work. Being flexible and able to take on other responsibilities will broaden your horizon and give you more options within your career.


Networking is huge and can help you in more ways than you think. The sports industry is small and you never know where people will end up. Be sure to stay in touch with colleagues. The sports industry is highly competitive and a friendly referral or endorsement from a connection could be the deciding factor between you and another candidate.

Do what you love.

Make sure you enjoy what you do. People that do what they love, have a healthy obsession in their field. It makes coming into work easier and allows you to shine at what you are best at.


As I continue my career in sports, I can’t forget what helped get me to where I am today. All the education, experiences, and the people I met at NMU have played a large role in my life and professional career. Enjoy your time on campus. Learn as much as you can. You are capable of doing great things. Go Cats!

My advice to NMU students: Start now. NMU is the perfect place to start your career in the sports industry. There are tons of resources at your fingertips, faculty and staff to help you along the way, and experience to gain everywhere around you.


Alumni Author Information

Name: Ryan Curtin

Hometown: Chicago, IL.

Degree Received from NMU: Entertainment & Sports PR Major, Media & New Technology Minor

Former and Current Roles: 

FREELANCE – Chicago, IL - Consultant, Event Production/Marketing/Social Media Content (2020-Present)
• Chicago Sky – Game Presentation Manager
• 2021 WNBA FINALS – Game Presentation Manager
• Chicago Blackhawks – Event Production Coordinator
• Mount Carmel Athletics – Stadium Experience Producer
CHICAGO BULLS – Chicago, IL - Coordinator, Event Production (2018-2020)
Entertainment Associate (2016-2018)
NEW YORK YANKEES – Bronx, NY - Assistant, Scoreboard Entertainment & Productions (2018)
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS – Chicago, IL - Marketing & Game Presentation Intern (2015-2016)
EASTERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY – Charleston, IL - Graduate Assistant – Video Services (2014-2015)
INTERNATIONAL JUNIOR GOLF TOUR – Hilton Head, SC - Marketing and Communications Associate (2014)
BIG TEN BASKETBALL CONFERENCE – Chicago, IL - In-Arena Host/Emcee (2019)