Inc. is one of my two favorite magazines. (The other is Mental Floss.) In the April 2008 issue on pages 30 & 31 there is a great picture and insets. It's a section called "Behind the Scenes: Companies at the Heart of Everyday Life." On it, it shows a photo from pre-game of a Pistons-Trail Blazers game. It highlights companies responsible for some of the things in the photo - the court, the courtside seats, the mascot uniform, the pre-game pyro.
These are great examples of parts of the sports industry that students don't often know or hear about. They're also great areas to look at to break into the sports industry, not to mention the fact that there are some really interesting things out there besides the obvious areas of pro sports teams, college sports teams, and marketing companies. Just looking at this picture I start to think about other areas that students could pursue that they may not know about because they're not so obvious.
I have a friend from grad school who works for Aacer selling basketball floors. I know another person who was a rep for Spalding basketballs. A guy I worked with at Disney's Animal Kingdom has a company that creates card stunts for stadiums. The company that managed the concessions and catering for the Indy car race at Disney also managed concessions for the Kentucky Derby and a bunch of other major sports events. A vendor/friend from New York Road Runners who is responsible for their major event signage also handles pieces of signage for the Super Bowl. John Anthony's travel company (Anthony Travel) has grown immensely in the last 10 years and now handles major accounts such as Disney Sports, the Iron Man Triathlon, the ING New York City Marathon, and countless universities and other groups.
There are all sorts of auxiliary areas out there to consider. There may even be an area that will pique your entrepreneurial interest enough to motivate you to create your own company. The opportunities in sports are out there. It may just take a little more thought or resourcefulness to find out what they are.