Sport Management Department earns national COSMA accreditation

With the competition of its accreditation and self-study process, Elon University is one of 35 accredited programs in the U.S. recognized by the Commission of Sport Management Accreditation.

Associate Professor Young Do Kim (far right), an active researcher on topics relating to sport fan behavior and sustainability in sport, is a full-time faculty member in the recently accredited Sport Management Department.

Elon University’s Sport Management Department was recently granted accreditation by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA), a national accrediting body that promotes and recognizes excellent sport management higher education. It is the only organization offering discipline-specific accreditation in sport management.

With its accreditation, Elon becomes one of 35 accredited programs in the United States, and only the second institution to earn the status in North Carolina (Winston-Salem State University). Fellow COSMA-accredited institutions include Ohio University, Louisiana State University, Northeastern University, Troy University and the University of Louisville.

“To receive this accreditation is affirmation of what we have known for some time – our sport management program and its curriculum, initiatives, faculty and students are among the best in the nation,” said Kenn Gaither, interim dean of the School of Communications. “We have long been fortunate to have faculty committed to producing students who are outstanding in their chosen field. We are delighted to receive this stamp of approval, and we will remain committed to producing industry-ready graduates.”

According to Associate Dean Tony Weaver, who chaired the Sport Management Department from December 2015 to May 2020, the SPT faculty initially began conversations about accreditation in 2010, shortly after the department moved into the School of Communications. With support from former Deans Paul Parsons and Rochelle Ford, department faculty members became active COSMA members and eventually conversations turned to serious consideration, followed by preparation to apply.

“This process gave us a chance to reexamine our department as a whole and, more specifically, the curriculum, how we are infusing the university’s priorities – like ELRs and high-impact practices – and how we think about our own strategic plan as a department,” said Weaver, who led the application process. “Accreditation gives you the chance to really examine and measure if you are doing what you think you should to be doing. It some ways, it is an internal measure of quality, and to others it is an external evaluation of excellence.

Department Chair Cara Lucia (far right) presents Cedar Zobel-Williams ’24 (center) with an endowed scholarship during the Sport Management Department’s 2022 end-of-year banquet.

“For us, it was really about the internal reflection of what we teach, how we teach it and who teaches it,” he added.

As part of the process, the department redesigned its student learning outcomes, reviewed its curriculum, rubrics, measurements, resources and faculty, and submitted a comprehensive self-study document. Elon also hosted a site team visit last fall as a final evaluation by the COSMA Board of Commissioners. The board ultimately approved and finalized Elon’s accreditation status during an early February meeting.

Following the board’s announcement, Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book commended the department’s faculty for their efforts to reflect on the program’s offerings and objectives, while looking for ways to enrich the academic experience on campus.

​“​Building and maintaining transformational academic programs is a strength of our faculty and staff,” Book said. “I want to congratulate our sport management program for reaching this important milestone and for its continued pursuit of excellence in engaged and experiential learning. We are thrilled to receive this gold standard for our program that ensures Elon graduates will continue to meet the needs of the sport industry.”

According to Weaver, the department’s self-study was deliberate in connecting with the eight principles highlighted in the COSMA accreditation process. This task also gave faculty a chance to align the department’s strategic plan with the school’s strategic plan and the university’s priorities outlined in the Elon Commitment and Boldly Elon plans.

“The self-study process provided clarity on what the accreditation body felt was important – and they are the same things we feel are important,” said Weaver, referencing a commitment to teaching, engaged learning, high-impact practices, high-quality scholarship and service. “Earning accreditation is external acknowledgement that we achieve those objectives – and we do them well.”

Associate Professor David Bockino and 14 Elon students visited ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut, campus in January 2020 as part of the Through the Lens of ESPN course. Bockino has led the course four times, most recently taking 19 students to Argentina and Uruguay during Winter Term.

While the self-study process was a significant undertaking in terms of time and resources, Cara Lucia, associate professor and chair in the Sport Management Department, explained that the department gained tangible benefits – ones that will positively impact faculty, staff and students.

“The process gave us an opportunity to see the holistic picture of what we do as a department and helped identify areas of strength and identify opportunities for growth,” she said. “We also got to see the positive results from the department’s student learning outcomes and department goals. We found our graduates are proficient in their communication skills, possess the ability to think critically, and apply course knowledge to practical experiences to make informed decisions. We also identified areas needing attention. This process provided a means for SPT faculty to examine ways to improve student learning and reach our department goals.”

For Weaver, the accreditation process is confirmation that the department is on par with the best sport management programs in the nation. This is largely thanks to university and school support, access to resources to pursue educational priorities, and its own comprehensive strategic plan.

But ultimately, he explained, the strength of the Sport Management Department is its people.

“We hire really good faculty and staff, and we recruit students who believe in the things that we believe in terms of experiential education, engagement and participation,” Weaver said. “We can’t do this without committed faculty and staff, and without the students who want to be taught and pushed to succeed.”

COSMA awarded Elon’s program the maximum seven-year accreditation through February 2030.

The School of Communications earned full accreditation from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2006 and has completed two successful reaccreditation processes during the 2011-12 and 2017-18 academic years.


The Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA), located in Fort Collins, Colorado, is a specialized accrediting body whose purpose is to promote and recognize excellence in sport management education worldwide in colleges and universities at the baccalaureate and master’s levels through specialized accreditation.