The Center for Sports Communication at Marist College offers innovative programs to communication students, preparing undergraduates for the growing and ever-changing field that sports have to offer. Now, a Marist adjunct offers a class with a modernized take on the fusion between sports and social media.
This spring semester, the Center has welcomed adjunct professor Bailey Carlin to teach Sports in Social Media to communication students. Carlin has an impressive resume in the field of sports that students in the sports communication field would strive to obtain. From working as a freelance writer to having a key role in the second coming of the experimental XFL, to even founding his own company, Carlin’s experience in the modern sports field is as fresh as it gets.
Carlin, 26, always knew he wanted to be involved in sports at the heart of his career. Growing up in the Poughkeepsie area, Carlin was always immersed in watching the Knicks, playing high school sports, and gathering interest in the sports media field. “I pretty much liked every sport and always thought I wanted to be a sports broadcaster,” said Carlin. “But this was also pre-social media.”
After switching majors from broadcast journalism to magazine and newspaper journalism, Carlin graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh. He was heavily involved in his school’s newspaper, becoming the sports and managing editor at the college. While climbing the ranks of his school paper, Carlin became heavily interested in the emergence of social media, especially as a sports fan.
“I was on social media as myself pretty early, and especially on Twitter,” said Carlin. “I loved finding a community of Knicks fans and other sports fans who are outside of your personal community, and the ability to engage with the entire world.”
Thus, Carlin began to build up his resume by taking many opportunities after graduating. He began to freelance for The Press Republican, a regional newspaper in Plattsburg and neighboring counties. Carlin also attended graduate school temporarily to pursue his interest in teaching and was also writing for the sports blog The Knicks Wall, a blog that recent Marist graduates and Center Field writers Sam DiGiovanni and Will Bjarnar are now part of.
In the midst of working for The Knicks Wall among his other endeavors, Carlin interviewed with the national sports publication Sports Illustrated. Carlin described the interview as seeming like “a big jump” from his other work in the field at first, but that big jump didn’t come unprecedented. “I was working,” said Carlin. “I was designing T-shirts and selling them on social media, and I was working for this Knicks blog. Without realizing, I was developing the skill set that I would need to be a social media editor. [This was] kind of intentionally by design, but mostly by accident, just because I was doing what I enjoyed.”
It was then that Carlin emerged as a young and social media-savvy figure in the industry. After 18 months working social media for Sports Illustrated making connections with fellow employees in the company, Carlin wanted to take a different direction long-term. “I was ready for the next stage of my career,” said Carlin. “I checked out LinkedIn and there was actually a message waiting for me from the XFL, which was an interesting opportunity.”
Carlin took the opportunity with the XFL, which was brand new in terms of its media emergence to the world. This meant that Carlin could use new forms of media strategies and emerging media to promote the product of a new football league. The XFL arrived on the main stage around the same time that TikTok became the main source of media for teenagers and younger adults. Carlin worked through much trial and error to create an image for the XFL appealing on the app.
The XFL also experimented with changing its rules to market itself as more appealing and relaxed than the NFL, and Carlin got a front-row seat in experiencing what goes into a new sports league. “It was cool to kind of build up the confidence to oversee more followers to be more personally responsible for the product that I was putting out, which I didn’t necessarily feel before.”
Like many companies, COVID-19 did not fare well with the XFL. However, Carlin’s impact on the XFL had left an impression on his social media skills and professional reputation. When Carlin and over 1,000 employees from the XFL were laid off because of COVID-19, his tweet in response changed the next step of his career. “I actually made a meme about getting fired and it was a meme with The Office,” said Carlin. “It blew up and I want to say it got close to 500,000 impressions, which is crazy.”
Those 500,000 impressions led to even more notability for Carlin, as he got interviews for jobs in just the right time after the XFL shutdown. One of those interviews was a social media position at Barstool Sports, a social media giant in sports. Carlin commented that CEO Erika Nardini is someone he looked up to in the vast industry. Carlin worked for Barstool while social media was at a peak of usage because of COVID-19, then left to pursue other interests. “[It was a] place where I knew I would get the level of freedom with that size of an audience that I had access to,” said Carlin. “That was a really exciting opportunity and I got to do a ton when I was there from blogging, to tweeting to, you know, producing podcasts and just all over the place.”
Barstool Sports gave Carlin the opportunity to expand his knowledge of social media with the benefit of a national-scale audience, but he decided to leave Barstool to expand upon his own individual desires, like starting his own company. What started the fuel for his company was various companies reaching out to Carlin due to his experience with up-to-date media skills during his time at Barstool and the XFL. While he couldn’t commit to other companies due to his prior jobs, Carlin took a risk leaving Barstool to start his independently-ran media company Bad Brain Digital Consulting, helping brands get a following or start-up on social media. “I’ve been very lucky to have the clients I’ve gotten so far. But I guess next is to try to expand because right now I’m close to my capacity,” said Carlin. “I’d love to [expand] hopefully within the next year, expand in terms of hiring one or two people maybe on a part-time basis. I want to be able to offer more to my clients to create more opportunities.”
In addition to his company, Carlin now fulfills one of his previous interests: to take the experience he has gained from time in this field and to teach to students with interests similar to his own. Current sports journalism professor Leander Scharlaekens reached out to Carlin with the consulting opportunity to co-create a Communication elective combining sports and social media, Carlin’s area of expertise. After hours of virtual meetings with the professor, they were able to create a syllabus for the class to engage students with the possibilities within the sports media field and create projects to develop social media skills, with many in-class examples coming from Carlin’s own work.
“Fast forward about a year, Leander and I were just chatting casually and I think he made a joke about if you ever wanted to teach the class on campus I’m sure we’d have you,” said Carlin. “I thought [to myself] there’s no reason I couldn’t do that. I make my own schedule, to some extent more of an extent than I ever have before. So he put me in touch with the head of department, Joanna, and we had one of those conversations and now here I am.”
Thus, Carlin’s teaching interest became a reality. On Tuesday nights, Carlin now teaches the class he helped create in the Lowell Thomas School of Communication. At the forefront of his teaching, Carlin believes that social media will have a hand at every media company that wants to stay competitive and attract an audience in order to succeed in the current sports media industry.
“I’m trying to build the class that I wish I had been able to take in college,” said Carlin. “I think we’re able to do that here. Regardless of where you lay across the sports professional spectrum, social media is going to come up and it’s going to be important. So if I can give people a little bit of skills that will help them at the next level, whether landing a job or doing better at the job they get, I think it’s a job well done.”
Professor Carlin has come a long way in a short time entering the sports industry after graduating from college. After taking large responsibilities at 3 large media companies in the golden age of social media, it’s hard to find a fit as ideal as Carlin to teach college students how to become successful in the sports media industry from the start, just as he achieved.
Carlin hopes he can provide an advantage for Marist students when they enter the field, learning skills he wishes he could’ve learned earlier. “I hope [my students] have that moment in their future job where someone asks them to do something and they say ‘I can do that,’ or they can raise their hand and volunteer,” said Carlin. “Further down the line, I see teaching being a part of my future. Whether it’s full-time or part-time as an adjunct or going back to school, it’s definitely something I hope to continue here on some level.”
Edited by Andrew Hard and Bridget Reilly
Photo from Bailey’s Twitter Account