Ever since I’ve known CJ Manning he has always been a determined individual. Now as the Director for Special Projects for the Athletic Department, I asked him how he managed to blend his two passions: Basketball and Business, and what keeps him motivated.
CJ, what got you interested in the business side of sports?
What got me interested in the business side of sports is that for me I’ve always had a passion for sports, specifically the game of basketball, and I’ve always had a passion for business. In business all that we do, touch, see, in the world in some way or form revolves around business. When you combine the two, you do find out that there are careers that exist within the business of sport and opportunity for people. I wanted to step beyond being a fan, and I wanted to go into what’s it’s like to be a part of the organization that allows the team to happen. If you think about basketball, there are a lot of operations behind the scenes that go into a basketball game. There are agreements to play certain teams at certain times, where the team will stay, where they will eat, and how to manage players by making sure they have everything they need to be prepared for the game.
What is your position right now within the sports business organization here at CU?
I’ve transitioned away from being a basketball manager to working with the Athletic director, in that role doing a lot of focusing on special projects. I get to see a lot of different things that are unrelated to a specific sport, but more so just looking at things from a big picture organizational standpoint.
What motivates you to succeed, because I know a lot of people have dreams of working in sports?
Getting into sports is really competitive, both as a player and as someone entering the business side-whether that be operations, personnel, or marketing. There a ton of different positions but it’s all competitive. So when someone thinks about all the competition that may exist, they may begin to feel discouraged, because it takes a lot to be able to get in. At the same time what discourages a lot of people is what motivates me. I think it’s a challenge, and I’m the type of person who likes to take on unique challenges, and prove that I can solve them. Sports is unique because it brings people from so many different backgrounds together, people who have a variety of ethnic, career, race backgrounds – it brings all these different people together and I like that, because there is a lot of diversity that exists within sports on both the playing and business sides. That’s the type of environment that I like to put myself in.
We understand the struggles that players go through, as they’re players, but also as they transition out of their careers. I want to be someone who is there to support them in the during those transitions and ease that transition of people coming into sports, while they’re playing, and while they’re moving out of sports. It’s a great opportunity to be around. I think those transitions are a big problem that exists, and have existed for a while now. There are few people who are focusing on that but there’s a lot of people who tend to overlook that. It gives me a selling point to get myself into the business and more importantly stick around.
Where do you see yourself going after getting a degree from CU?
There are a lot of opportunities just as a business person in the private sector of business, but then you have to think about what may exist within sports. For me it could be either one of those things. I want to move into that personnel side of sports business, or a unique position where I get to work with players, maybe sports management within the organizational side; working with players, specifically in a role that works with that transition into their careers. Long term, I think I would be a great general manager, I have the ability to evaluate talent, and thing about a sports organizational culture and I think I have a great idea of what works and doesn’t work.