MBS Students Make Waves at the CSRI Case Competition

This March, three outstanding undergraduate students from the Maine Business School participated in the prestigious College Sport Research Institute (CSRI) Case Competition at the University of South Carolina. Grace Harmatys, Lucas Ronco, and Cooper Williams, representing UMaine’s Sport Management major, showcased their academic prowess and practical skills in addressing pertinent issues within collegiate athletics.

Dr. Nick Swim, Assistant Professor of Sport Management and faculty advisor to the students, emphasized the invaluable learning opportunity provided by academic conferences. “Attending an academic conference allows students to extend their classroom experience,” he says. “This opportunity pushed students to challenge themselves to think critically while allowing for some great presentation experience in front of a panel of judges. More importantly, having students attend conferences can allow them to get outside their comfort zone.”

The 2024 case study topic focused on the changing structure of the NCAA governance model with the goal of creating better competitive balance throughout the different divisions and schools. Not a small task for groups of students! At the end of the two-week case analysis, the students had to create a quality presentation, putting their PowerPoint and public speaking skills to the test.

Selected for their academic excellence and active involvement, Grace, a senior, and Lucas and Cooper, juniors, seized the chance to delve into the complexities of the NCAA governance model. Despite the daunting task, they tackled it head-on, utilizing their research acumen and teamwork to develop innovative solutions to foster competitive balance across divisions and schools.

“Having participated in several research-focused corporate classrooms within the business school thus far, I thought that this case study would be a great way to continue doing research within a different industry,” Lucas says. Cooper, a UMaine men’s swim team member, was delighted to be invited. “Being able to complete background research on a sports case was highly attractive to me and I was excited to be a part of it,” he says.

The preparation leading up to the competition was intensive, with Dr. Swim’s office transformed into a dynamic brainstorming hub. “This case study definitely did not have an easy problem to try and solve, but it was a challenge my group and I were ready to tackle,” Lucas says.

During the three-day event, the trio presented their proposal, advocating for enhanced student-athlete representation and a tiered system for certain sports to level the playing field. “We proposed councils that would have equal student-athlete representation and recommended that certain sports split into a tiered system to give smaller schools more of a chance to win a national title,” Grace says.

The competition provided not only a platform for academic exchange but also invaluable networking opportunities. Beyond the academic arena, the students had the chance to explore USC’s top-tier facilities, including the USC Academic Center and Swim and Dive facility.

Dr. Swim lauded the students’ resilience and professionalism throughout the process. “There were a few stressful moments over the three-week process, but they really took it all in stride and delivered a presentation all MBS would be proud of,” he says. “We provide a quality sport management education at UMaine. Our students competed with small and big schools at this national competition and demonstrated they belonged.”