Moody College to open center bringing sports, media together

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The Moody College of Communication will establish the Center for Sports Communication and Media in the fall to catapult the University to the forefront of sports media research and studies.

The Texas Program in Sports and Media, undergraduate certificate in sports media and several other programs will be brought together under the umbrella of the Center. Recently, the University selected Michael Butterworth to serve as the founding director of the Center.

Nicolas Hundley, Moody College director of communications, said in an email that the Center is the brainchild of Moody College Dean Jay Bernhardt. Moody’s goal is to increase collaboration across the various sports programs both within Moody and across the University, Hundley said.

“The new center will bring (Moody’s sports media programs) together and foster enhanced collaboration with the goal of expanding and strengthening future work on communication and sports,” Hundley said.

Bernhardt was unavailable for comment.

Currently the director of communications studies at Ohio University, Butterworth researches politics and society through the perspective of sports culture. Butterworth said he hopes to bring this insight to Moody to foster conversations about how and why the sports industry influences society.

“(Sports) influence our culture in ways both good and bad,” Butterworth said. “To be able to bring all of (the sports media studies) together and talk critically about our society centered around sports is just an absolutely lights out opportunity.”

New majors, minors and certificate programs in sports media are just a few of Butterworth’s potential long-term goals for the Center. First, however, he said he wants to work on collaborating with local sports organizations, University athletics and connecting students to more professional opportunities and internships.

Butterworth said focusing Moody’s strengths is an important part of raising the college’s credibility and visibility as a leading institution for sports media.

“We have a tendency in academics to be siloed, and the effect of that is — while there are important things to do to preserve our own disciplinary standards — we sometimes forget to talk to each other,” Butterworth said. “Being able to make sure that you can channel those resources to a shared mission is really important.”

Journalism lecturer Kevin Robbins said the Center “exists in the abstract,” currently. With no clear-cut goals, he said there’s a wide range of paths for Butterworth to take the Center. Robbins also said the University is in the perfect position to start this collaboration because of its top-tier athletics programs and proximity to professional sports teams.

“UT Austin is a University built for this,” Robbins said. “It will be all up to the new director’s vision, and I put a lot of faith in that.”

Journalism junior Luke Hendry said the Center will serve Moody well because of the integral position sports hold in society.

“Sports intersect politics, sports intersect entertainment (and) sports intersect life,” Hendry said. “The more that the University of Texas does regarding sports media, the better it is for future generations to come because sports will always be around.”