WESTCHESTER—A decade ago, despite economic turmoil impacting the country, Dave Torromeo saw an opportunity.

Working as an Assistant Athletic Director at Iona College, Torromeo caught wind that nearby Manhattanville College was starting a Sports Management graduate program.

“I threw my hat in, it was something I thought I might like to do in 20 years, but I wanted to see what happens,” Torromeo said. “It turns out they were interested and I was able to come in and build a program and continue doing consulting, which is important to me, and having been given a blank program I built a program from scratch, which included hiring all my professors.”

When it came time to make those selections, Torromeo opted to recruit industry professionals. In his opinion, lectures and purely informational lessons could be beneficial, but learning practical applications through those actively in the field was an unparalleled strategy.

“They all work in the professional sports industry,” Torromeo said. “It’s a practical program in that it’s not just theory. We started in 2006 with our first classes and we had 35 students and four classes, and that ballooned over the years to where we now have 300 graduates and I’m running eight classes this fall.”

On Wednesday, Sep. 27, Torromeo—a New Canaan resident for the last 27 years—and the Sports Management program will host a 10th anniversary party on-campus. The event will feature graduates, students and industry professionals celebrating the growth of the program.

Greenwich-based radio station WGCH will be live from the event, and Steiner Sports is providing items for auction.

“It’s going to be a celebration, a fundraiser for the program and raise awareness for the V foundation,” Torromeo said. “So, it’s going to be fun.”

In addition, the program hosts an annual career fair in the fall, with the goal of placing the students in internships or finding them jobs in the vast opportunities that lie in the area.

“We’re a stone’s throw from New York City with all the teams and leagues and then Fairfield county was the birthplace of sports marketing agencies and Westchester has the USTA, so we have a lot of connections,” Torromeo said. “But the main premise of our program is working and making connections, which happens in the classroom with the adjuncts and the guest speakers and at our career fairs and events.”

Sometimes, students can even find a diamond in the rough though the program.

“Years ago, we had a small company come and nobody had ever heard of them; it was called FanDuel,” Torromeo said. “They were like, ‘we’re starting a company and looking for some people,’ and I’m not saying they didn’t have issues, but looking back to say this is where they got their start is interesting.”

One of Torromeo’s many success stories is Shane Beardsley, the Senior Director of Events and Operations for Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

“We took a flyer on him, we told him come in and do a great job and he did,” Torromeo said. “He’s been with Webster Bank Arena and I think he’s going to work on another degree and he’s been adjuncting at Southern Connecticut. I’d like to get him teaching in my program and eventually I will, but he’s a good example of someone who’s moved up after coming in already having a role in the industry.”

While the program didn’t directly place him into his role, Beardsley was adamant that Manhattanville was instrumental in enabling him to succeed day after day.

“The program didn’t lead directly to the job, but my ability to do that job was directly positively influenced by the education I received through the program,” Beardsley said. “I’m basically responsible for all operations and all events at the 10,000 seat Webster Bank Arena. That’s your day-to-day operations, the systems the make the arena work, changeovers, custodial, hockey operations, basketball operations and concert operations; and then I also do a lot of the work with advancing shows, working with tour promoters and directors.”

Beardsley entered the program under the premise of one day becoming an adjunct professor. It’s a cycle of sorts; the program uses professionals to groom students for the industry, then those students become professionals and, in-turn, pay it forward as professors.

“As soon as I met Dave and as soon as I took one class I knew it was the right decision,” said Beardsley, who has taught at SCSU, the University of New Haven and Sacred Heart. “I’ve learned now as an adjunct that it’s a really tremendous combination of theoretical and practical applications. “You have theory teachers that are information driven and then combine that with folks like myself now that are in the industry, you’re talking very real-world where the professors in that program, more often than not, leave jobs working in sports and come teach you about it. It’s a very quick turnaround.”

And that’s the point of the program, it can be whatever an individual student wants it to be.

“I call the program an umbrella, some programs will hone in on certain areas,” Torromeo said. “…we have core classes like sports marketing, sports law, sports finance, to a bunch of different electives we put in as the industry changes. There’s a baseball course on analytics, we have courses in entrepreneurship and have had five or six students that take that class then start an actual business which is really cool, and then our alumni are moving up in the industry whether here, at Octagon or we have people with the Mets, Yankees, USTA, we have someone with the Padres, people in golf, a ton of people in college athletics. So, these courses are helping them, you can customize the program to your desires.”

And really, there are no signs of stopping.

The industry itself is a living, breathing, ever-changing organism. People want jobs in sports, and it’s a $600 billion market with plenty available.

Torromeo wants to help put people in those jobs, and that stars with staying ahead of the curve.

“That’s the fun part in my estimation,” Torromeo said of constantly adjusting his curriculum. “We actually put courses in; digital media marketing is a new course running this fall and social media for sports and entertainment. If you don’t keep up with the challenge and the technology and aren’t growing then at some point the world’s going to pass you by, so we embrace that.”

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP