Steve and Leslie Ives establish
OU Sports Management Fellowships

Winter 2019

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Leslie and Steve Ives sign the agreement establishing fellowships for OU students in sports management at the Price College of Business.

Leslie and Steve Ives sign the agreement establishing fellowships for OU students in sports management at the Price College of Business.

From earliest childhood, Steve Ives was fascinated by sports.

“I played sports, I watched sports, I was a sports fanatic,” the president of Oklahoma City-based Cheyenne Petroleum Co. remembers fondly. “I would read all the statistics in the newspaper and study and analyze them. But when I was trying to determine what my career would be as an OU freshman, I realized that there was no career in sports for me at that time because I was not going to be a professional athlete.”

Now, Ives and his wife and fellow sports fan, Leslie, are helping to forge a path for others like them through a $100,000 gift to the University of Oklahoma Foundation. The Steve and Leslie Ives Fellowship Endowed Fund will provide internship stipends for students in sports management at OU’s Price College of Business.

Sports management is in its sixth year of operation at OU and offers both an undergraduate major and minor for students learning the business side of athletics. Among Big 12 schools, OU is one of only three universities featuring sports management in its business college. Instruction is largely provided by people who work in the sports industry.

Sports management students have had access to internship opportunities since the program’s inception; however, completing an internship will be required for graduation beginning this year, said Mark Sharfman, director of the Division of Management and International Business and OU’s Puterbaugh Chair in American Enterprise.

“There’s an adage in the sports management world that says, ‘You don’t get a job in sports without having had a job in sports.’ ” he said. “OU’s program is different from our peers because of our partners. We exist in no small measure because of help that OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione has given us. Staff members from the athletics department teach for us, and we place an enormous amount of our students in athletics internships.

“The other key partner, of course, is the Oklahoma City Thunder. We’re very fortunate that three Thunder executives teach sports management,” Sharfman said, adding that several OU sports management graduates have gone on to work for the Thunder organization. “Because we have the backing of these two incredible organizations, OU sprinted to the front of the pack in sports management instruction.”

However, he said, many sports internships are unpaid. “If students have to make the decision between getting an unpaid internship that will help them in their career or working so they can eat and pay rent, it’s a pretty obvious choice. The Ives family’s incredibly generous gift allows us to provide stipends to students who take approved, unpaid internships.”

“Leslie and I were both working students, so we understand the challenge that an unpaid internship could present,” said Steve Ives, who holds two OU accounting degrees and served as an adjunct instructor in Price College’s entrepreneurship program.

“Being able to help students who show initiative and want to participate in sports management is just one more way we can impact OU. And because the fund is endowed, we know that it will be there as sports management continues to grow and prosper for many years.”