Honoring James Riordan, former director of FAU’s MBA in Sport Management program

After joining FAU in 2000, Riordan spent the remainder of his life as a member of the Owl family as people will remember his impact in sport management.


Photo of James Riordan courtesy of Paul Owers from FAU”s College of Business.

Kevin Garcia, Staff Writer

James Riordan, the Director of the MBA Sport Management Program at FAU died earlier this March. Riordan established the program in 2000 during a time of skepticism surrounding the industry. 

“Jim was fantastic, he built the program from nothing, it was his vision that he built this program,” said Associate Dean of Graduate Programs Ken Johnson. “People did not think that this was a professional field maybe 20, 30 years ago, Jim saw things that were going to happen before others did.” 

Johnson said that without Riordan, the sport management program would not have lasted at FAU. To him, the impact Riordan had on the university will live on for generations to come. 

For those who worked with Riordan, they will remember him for his passion towards the industry. His work ethic was an inspiration to students and professors of the postgraduate program. 

“To build up that program and encourage students who were interested in managing in the sports industry was quite challenging, it came easy when he did it,” said Associate Professor of the Finance Department Sofia Johan. “There are not many people that can bridge that gap between running a program and community outreach. He was dedicated to getting his students out in the world.” 

In 2021, the program was ranked No. 19 on the world’s top postgraduate sport management degrees 1. The success of the program is attributed to a long list of alumni that have landed significant jobs within the industry. 

Several students influenced by Riordan are currently employed by sports organizations such as the Miami Heat, Florida Panthers, and Dallas Cowboys. While others have found success at sports media companies like NFL Network, CBS Sports, and ESPN. 

“The time at Florida Atlantic is what I think of as the foundation of my career,” said Derek Volner, Director of ESPN Communications and graduate of FAU’s Sport Management Program.

“The professors and speakers that we had at that time, hearing their expertise and the opportunities shaped the way you thought about your own career and path.” 

Riordan went the extra mile to make sure his students succeeded in the program. His students would leave his classrooms feeling like they learned real life skills necessary for navigating the business world. 

“Everybody that was in the program had the desire to succeed, he helped give people vision and opportunity,” said Volner. “Whether it was simple things like attendance or more advanced skills like projects, he knew what he needed to instill in us even if at the time we had no idea what he was doing.” 

Prior to working for FAU, Riordan put together an impressive resume, holding numerous positions within the sports business. He began his career in 1980 working for the West Side Tennis Club and National Tennis Center in New York. 

He served as Director of Security for the Philadelphia Flyers,  the youngest individual to hold such a position at age 21. Riordan also worked for Spectator Management Group in the early 1990s, as well as a brief stint with the New York Mets organization. 

Riordan was the director of the Masters of Science in Sport Administration program at Canisius College from 1995 to 1999. After joining FAU in 2000, Riordan spent the remainder of his life as a member of the Owl family and will forever be a member. 

Riordan was 61 at the time of his death. His legacy will live on by the many lives he touched under the Sport Management program. 

Kevin Garcia is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email him @[email protected], or tweet him @kevingar658.