Winthrop President, Athletic Director Will Team Teach Course This Spring

Winthrop University President Dan Mahony and new Athletics Director Ken Halpin will team up to teach this spring “The History and Current Issues in College Athletics,”a sport management course open to both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as members of the community who would like to audit the course.

This is believed to be a first in the nation of a college president and athletic director teaching a class together. This is also the first time either has had the opportunity to teach a class at Winthrop.

Mahony, who has taught a similar course at other universities, asked Halpin if he was interested in the new venture. “I thought this would be natural for Ken, who has a Ph.D. and is more current on the inner workings of college athletics,” the president said.

Mahony will tackle topics such as the purpose of higher education and sport in America, the evolution of college sports in the country since the mid-1800s, and the role of women and race in sports. Halpin will talk about current issues, such as NCAA governance, budgets, student-athlete concerns, legislative connections and the impact of Title IX. “We’ll let the past feed discussions about the present and the future,” said Halpin, who joined Winthrop in July, 2016 and is one of the youngest athletic directors in the country and one of the few with a Ph.D.

Both Mahony and Halpin are committed to attending the class when they are on campus, even if they aren’t leading the discussion that day. They’ll also invite guest speakers who are prominent in college athletics and in the media for a few of the classes.

One of the observations they will make is that while college athletics has received a lot of attention for many years, it operates more in the spotlight today than it did even a few decades ago. This is due to more televised games, greater news coverage overall, and ongoing commentary on social media.

Conflicts among players, coaches, teams, officials and fans receive far more attention than even a decade ago, they said.

Twenty-eight Winthrop students have already signed up for the Tuesday and Thursday class, but there is still room for more and it is open to students in majors other than sport management. Mahony and Halpin are also encouraging people in the community who are interested to audit the class and have arranged for it to be taught in a large classroom to accommodate this group.

“We would love to have diversity in the class not only of race and gender but also age,” Mahony said. “We plan large and small group discussions, so having a good mix will offer a richer learning environment.”

The president said opening the class to the community is good exposure for the university and its programs.

Both Mahony and Halpin said teaching the class will keep them better connected with students. “There’s a different bond that develops when you are in the classroom with students on a regular basis and we are both looking forward to having that opportunity again,” Mahony said.

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