A Unicorn in the Sports Entertainment Industry

By Matilda Tavares, Office of Development Communications Posted Thu, 09/14/2017 - 10:00

Tara August MA ‘04, a graduate of USF’s Sport Management program at the Orange County branch campus, is the current VP of Turner Sports Talent Relations and Special Projects. In a male-dominated field, she has risen through the ranks to managing some of the biggest names in sports, including Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Pedro Martinez. Tara facilitates on-air production, sales, marketing and promotional activities, with an emphasis on serving as the primary liaison to all sport teams, leagues, agents, and celebrities to facilitate contract negotiations and special guest bookings.

August, an inspiration to women entering and navigating a sports career, shared her story on being a “unicorn in the industry.”

As a young girl, August watched and cheered as her brother played Little League baseball games year-round. Growing up, she found sports to be a constant theme in her daily life from running track in high school to tuning into all the Oakland A’s games on TV. “When Turner Sports hired retired A’s pitcher, Dennis Eckersley for our Major League Baseball (MLB) on TBS telecasts, I told him I felt like we were old friends, since he was in my home every night as a kid.” Although she does not consider herself to be an athlete, her passion for sports motivated her to pursue her current career path.

“You are looked at differently. You are tried differently,” says August. Many women working in male-dominated fields acknowledge various challenges and expectations may be different than those of their male counterparts. In August’s perspective, this is not a negative. “Anyone who tells you that being a woman can’t be as much of a benefit as it can be a detriment is not telling the truth,” she states. While being a woman is at times challenging, she claims that there are times when it worked in her favor. For her, “different” meant finding how to make being female work for —and not against — her.

“Diversity is not just black or white, male or female, it’s also about the diversity of thought,” she shares, adding “the way that I manage our talent is different from what my male counterparts may be doing. That’s just because I have a different perspective.” August believes that women are great at managing details and multitasking. “Women,” she advocates, “can look at the industry big picture while still minding the particulars of the day-to-day operation, which I think makes for well-informed and well-rounded leaders."

“Be well-prepared, ask great questions, stand up and stand out,” advises August.  Early in her career August compared herself to the former baseball player, Rollie Fingers, whom she describes as being a great pitcher and Hall of Famer and stood out for the quirkiness of his handlebar mustache. August shares that, “Even before I became an executive, when I walked into a meeting, I was Rollie Fingers. I was the black woman in the room, and you noticed me, whether you thought I was going to do a good job or not — so I thought, ‘Hell, if they’re gonna pay attention, I’m gonna give them a show!’”

Putting on a show, according to August, requires out working your expectations and being beyond prepared. While she admits to not knowing who won the Stanley Cup in 1984, she knew what was going on in the industry and what she could contribute to her company. “You have to own it and turn it to your advantage. How do I make it work now that they’re paying attention?” she says.

Around the same time Turner Sports signed Eckersley, August had the opportunity to meet both Oprah and Michael Jordan. Upon calling her mother to tell her the exciting news, the response she was given was an ecstatic: “Your job is finally worth it!” Looking back, August shares that she is proud to have traversed her way through an industry that isn’t a common path for women and for having a reputation of being both fair and firm. “Shaquille O’Neal has lovingly, I think, named me ‘She-del Castro,' ” admits August, “because there are moments when I have to be the boss and moments when I’m in on the joke.”

August is currently a Southeast Trustee for the Boys & Girls Club of America, as well as the vice-president of public relations on the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists.  She previously served as the co-chair of the Entertainment & Sports Section of the Public Relations Society of America and was the co-founder/co-president of the San Diego Network of African-American Professionals.

Learn more about USF's Sport Management Program