“Show Me the Money”

TSIC: UTSB’s annual conference on sports business

By Vikram Nijhawan, Contributor

Alec McGregor and Puneet Parhar, the co-presidents of the University of Toronto Sports and Business Association (UTSB), share remarkably similar backgrounds. They were both competitive athletes in high school who suffered early setbacks, forcing them to shift their future plans. 

Parhar played soccer all throughout high school. But competing on U of T’s girls soccer team after suffering from multiple concussions was a far more difficult goal. Joining UTSB as an undergraduate and eventually coming to lead the organization offered a different path for her and McGregor to pursue their life-long passions.

“I had an identity crisis after I stopped playing basketball,” said McGregor, a former Varsity Blues athlete who stopped playing on the team after his first year due to COVID, injuries, and other setbacks. “UTSB was a great way to continue my love of sports and to learn how I can combine that with my future career.”

The current co-presidents have picked up where their organization’s founders left off more than ten years ago. Avish Sood and Natan Levin, two Rotman Commerce students, founded UTSB in 2011. They were inspired by other student-centric sports conferences hosted at Concordia and MIT and envisioned a similar event in Toronto that struck a balance between the former’s party-like atmosphere and the latter’s professionalism. 

Now more than a decade later, the annual Toronto Sports Industry Conference (TSIC) has brought leading figures in the field to Canada’s cultural centre to inform students about promising career opportunities. 

“When I was in my first year, the conference was fully online,” said Parhar. “I didn’t realize how much impact TSIC had on the student body and how many students were interested in entering the sports business. It was inspiring to see how much they value TSIC.”

Now, it’s her turn to give back to the student community. 

The 12th annual conference this weekend will mark the group’s first fully in-person event since 2020, when the pandemic forced campus activities online. 

“You can’t replicate face-to-face interactions and talking to someone in person,” said McGregor. “Hosting online may make it easier to connect with people, but you really don’t get that same connection. I think that way, we’ve been able to provide a lot of value for attendees.”

The lineup for this weekend includes panels on the importance of discussing DEI and mental health in sports, the rise of data analytics, and the future of the WNBA in Canada. This year’s program has been tailored to address timely topics in the professional sports landscape.

“Even for someone who’s into computer science, there are a lot of opportunities for sports careers using data analytics, whether for player performance or ticket sales,” said McGregor.

Parhar also mentioned the use of video-assisted refereeing (VAR) in recent World Cup competitions as one example of how innovative technology will continue to shape professional sports and open up new job opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds and skill-sets.

Through this conference, the two co-presidents aim to provide a chance for ambitious students to learn about career prospects, and perhaps just as importantly, a chance to discover – or rediscover – what inspires them about sports.

The 2023 TSIC Conference will take place at the Sheraton Hotel on the weekend of Mar. 25-26. Interested participants can purchase tickets on UTSB’s website.

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