An Awesome Force

Besides all this, the economic impact on the state of Michigan in general, and the Greater Lansing area in particular, is huge. According to a recent report by Anderson Economic Group, economic activity in the state related to MSU’s activities was more than $3 billion in 2005. The study found that the state’s residents are more than $2 billion richer annually as a result of the operating expenses of MSU, with additional earnings as a result of increased human capital and graduate medical education payments to hospitals through its medical schools. (More information is available at:

What the university as a whole contributes is reflected in the value of MSU athletics. Not only is Sparty an awesome force in college athletics, the big green guy is just as forceful at positively affecting  the bottom line of the regional economy. According to MSU athletic director Mark Hollis, “The athletic department has a yearly budget of about $65 million and that money has a direct impact on the local economy.

“The money allocated to our department goes to three main areas. First, we use about $12 million annually for scholarships. These scholarships come back to the university in tuition payments and other expenses; for the city of Lansing and its surrounding communities, these scholarships which allow our students to attend the university result in money spent locally.

“The second category of expenditures is salaries. The athletic department employs 240 full-time employees, most of whom live and spend in the area. Besides our regular employees, we depend on the local workforce for help with events—concessions, parking, ticket-takers and ushers. Again, most of the money we pay in salaries stays right here in the community.

“Lastly, our operations budget which pays for travel expenses benefits the local airport, bus companies and others. Of course, when we build something new, like the soccer field recently completed, local construction companies reap the benefits. And athletic events which draw attendees from all over the country bring well over a million dollars a year to area restaurants and hotels.”   

More intangible but just as significant are the many community outreach projects sponsored, facilitated and staffed by MSU’s athletic department. Hollis says, “MSU is one of the top ten universities in the country in terms of the number of kids we connect with through this department. Besides the sports camps we run on campus, we are out in the community on a regular basis participating in and sponsoring local events. Outreach efforts benefit not only the community but also our scholar athletes, who learn the value of service—we are fostering skills we consider important for our students to learn.”

Although football and basketball remain the top draws in bringing in the big crowds, there are many other sports (men’s and women’s), including golf, soccer and tennis, to name a few. According to Hollis, “We are third in the Big Ten in the number of sports we offer our athletes and fans.”

Hollis was named athletic director in 2008, following a stint as MSU’s senior associate athletic director. Hollis is a Lexington, Mich. native and an MSU graduate who served as Jud Heathcote’s basketball team manager as a student. Hollis has over 20 years’ experience in athletics administration.

After graduating from MSU, he worked for the Western Athletic Conference in administration and at the University of Pittsburgh as assistant and associate athletic director. He returned to MSU as an employee in 1995. In addition to his degree earned from Michigan State, Hollis obtained his MBA in business administration at the University of Colorado. His expertise in the areas of marketing, finance, personnel and strategic planning was cited when he was officially named to succeed Ron Mason as athletic director.

Hollis’ longtime ambition has been to be just where he is today. He says, “It was always my dream to be an athletic director, but those jobs are few and far between. It’s a matter of working hard and being in the right place at the right time. The opportunity to come back to my alma mater as athletic director—well, let’s just say I don’t think there’s a better place on Earth than right here at MSU.

“There is a value to athletics beyond the appreciation of a game well-played, we are a window to the university. I remember, as a young man, following Magic Johnson’s career at MSU. I’m sure that played a role in my choice of where I wanted to go to college. Through athletics, we can not only have an impact on the lives and careers of our scholar athletes, but also benefit the Lansing area and the entire state.”

The Spartan Spirit is embodied in the university—in the classroom, in the research laboratories, on the basketball court and the football field, through its outreach efforts here at home and around the world—and the Greater Lansing area can count itself lucky to be at the center of such endeavors.

Author: Jane Whittington
Photography: Terri Shaver

Michigan State University Athletics Department

Mark Hollis, Athletics Director

248 Jenison Field House

East Lansing

(517) 355-9710


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