Kevin McAllister sits in his office surrounded by pictures of former students, credentials to several Hoophall Classics and Springfield College memorabilia – taking in the joy that the school has given him.
Coming into his final year at Springfield College, the longtime Sport Management professor and department chair didn’t feel downhearted, but rather relished the fact that his career had been filled with success. The people he mentored, the programs he created, the evolution of the department of Sport Management – it all has brought him to this point.
McAllister arrived in Springfield during the 2003-2004 academic year – serving as a professor in Sport Management – a relatively new program at the time. McAllister prefaced his time on Alden Street by finishing up his doctoral degree at Boston University the year prior.
Being a professor at Springfield College is a job that not only requires teaching, inspiring and assisting in development of students, but also the mission of creating impact on others. McAllister is the embodiment of everything that the college stands for – and has been since the minute he stepped on campus. But as he entered year one as a professor, he didn’t want to focus on one thing.
“You know, I didn’t come in with any specific goal other than making the program better,” McAllister said. “I wanted to be a part of a [program] where students would say, ‘I want to come to Springfield College for Sport Management.’”
Over the first 11 years of his tenure, McAllister taught a variety of event planning and management classes – which fit right along with his previous experiences. He worked in event management with the Marriott Corporation before his time in Springfield.
In 2014, McAllister assumed the role as the chair of the Sport Management and Recreation program, also known as SMRT.
“When I transitioned into the chair it wasn’t just Sport Management, but now it’s Recreation Industries and Therapeutic Recreation,” McAllister said, referring to his increased workload. “So now you have to quickly adapt and figure out what’s going to allow [the students] to be most successful.”
McAllister also had to adjust to the ever-growing changes in the industry, especially with other colleges and universities always trying to evolve above the rest.
“It takes a lot of forward thinking, and a lot of being comfortable with being uncomfortable,” McAllister said. “I never wanted to be one to rest on my laurels because times change. Higher education is going through a huge shift and we never want to be [behind]. I don’t mind keeping a tradition of excellence, but with that, you have to constantly reinvest in your program and show that commitment to your students.”
But one thing stayed constant: the help of others.
“No leader, no manager does things on their own,” McAllister said. “ I always say, ‘Make sure you have great people around you,’ and I’d say we have some pretty great people around us.”
During his early years, McAllister helped organize the partnership between the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Birthplace of Basketball – Springfield College. The Hall, as it is commonly referred to, hosts an annual basketball tournament here on campus during the winter called the Hoophall Classic – which showcases the top high school talent from around the country.
McAllister was looking to find opportunities for students to gain experience in the field that translated to jobs – something many students lacked at the time.
And he found it right in his backyard with the Hoophall Classic.
McAllister, along with some of his constituents, decided to enter the partnership – something McAllister cherishes to this day.
“I always saw it as a great opportunity because our students need experiences, one of the fastest ways to get a job in sport,” McAllister said. “So I was advising the club, I was working with students, I was teaching the event management class and I was like, ‘We got to pull all this together.’”
But he knew it would come down to the students being invested. And it’s the early students who laid the foundation for what now has become a thrilling experience.
“A couple of students and I kind of slotted up a couple of ideas and then evolved them,” McAllister said. “And now it’s almost institutionalized in our department. You know you’re coming in as a first-year student and you’re going to be involved in a five-day basketball tournament that’s shown on ESPN.”
Over the course of six days, more than 80 students volunteer their time to run the Hoophall Classic. The planning process starts in September, as there is a head supervisor selected by McAllister and Heather Gilmour – who is taking over as department chair next year. Then, there are 14 supervisors who start planning out the event.
And don’t just take it from McAllister himself, his students can attest to the importance of working the event.
“I think it’s great because not a lot of schools get to work such a large event,” said junior Joe Manning, who worked as an advisor at the 2023 Hoophall Classic. “I think one of the main skills that you learn is being a professional – it’s one thing to say you are professional but actually learning that skill is huge because that’s what you’re gonna need in this industry.”
From the moment McAllister stepped on the campus of Springfield College, he has tried his best to make a lasting impact on students and make the sport management program a great experience. And now, as his final year winds down, he is content with the legacy he has left.
“I cannot thank the school enough for this opportunity,” McAllister said. “I love seeing where we are and can’t wait to see what more they do with the program. I have absolutely no regrets.”