Twenty-six graduate students signed up to take Mike Veeck's college course in hopes of making As. But what Veeck knows most about is Fs — Fun and Failure.

Wednesday night was an interesting foray into the world of academia for Veeck, the author of the best-selling book "Fun Is Good," and an owner of the RiverDogs, Charleston's minor league baseball team.

A born innovator, Veeck has made a career of doing the unexpected and outrageous, including "Vasectomy Night" on Father's Day and the ever-popular "Nobody Night" at Joe Riley Park that set an all-time attendance record for the fewest people at a game.

Remember, this guy's father, Bill Veeck, went down in baseball history for sending a midget to the plate in a major league baseball game.

But Mike Veeck also created "Disco Demolition Night" in 1979 for the Chicago White Sox, which turned into a full-scale riot that got him fired the first time.

Now he's bringing all that experience, good and bad, to the classroom as an adjunct professor at The Citadel where he's teaching a graduate level course called "The Art of Selling."

"The more you fail the more graceful you learn to be," Veeck said of his checkered career that includes a variety of marketing jobs in pro baseball. "That is a learned process that I learned first-hand."

Fun and funny

On the surface, this might seem like an odd fit.

Veeck is the consummate clown who earned his college degree at Loyola College in Maryland by the grace of God, he says.

But his success in the real world of sports marketing and management is the kind of experience students will never get from books.

"Mike had this inkling in the back of his mind that he would like to get involved with college students, so it seemed like a perfect fit," said Col. John Carter, head of The Citadel's Department of Health, Science and Sports Science. "Our concentration of sports management within the masters of business administration is a relatively new program, only a year-and-a-half old. These are the kinds of things we envisioned doing. So we figured we might as well start with a great personality."

Which Mike Veeck certainly is.

As he greeted his first class Wednesday night saying, "I want this to be excruciatingly interactive."

That's because Veeck, like most us, had some really interesting teachers in college and some extremely boring ones as well. His goal is not to be the latter.

"Some people confuse fun with funny," he said. "It's not just about telling a lot of jokes."

Modern-day niche

Sports marketing, of course, is this generation's answer to the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question.

It's become a popular major as business schools across the country rush to fill this modern-day niche. But to do it they need people with something to teach.

A lot of middle-aged people, of course, feel they have something to tell the youth of America about the real world. The tough part is being able to actually teach.

Teaching requires organization and actually having something to tell students that they can use to make a living. These students, mostly young professionals working on their MBA, paid $825 to take this course.

Veeck is used to giving corporate seminars on his favorite subject of fun, but it's a different animal teaching a three-hour class once a week for 13 weeks.

Very quickly he caught this group's attention by telling them that business, any business, is always better when you implement things like passion, fun, teamwork, loyalty, flexibility, manners, mentoring, empowerment, generosity and values. He even had them consider the lost arts of charity, creativity and customer service.

So between all the stories about his buddies Bill Murray and Jimmy Buffett and all the jobs he's had and lost, Mike Veeck is going to teach these 26 students a very valuable lesson that they might not learn in some other college class.

"You're going to spend 40 percent of your life working," Veeck said with a wicked smile. "You might as well have some fun doing it."

Reach Ken Burger at 937-5598