SBD/February 17, 2012/People and Pop Culture

Names In The News

The Lightning Foundation and Univ. of South Florida's College of Business are collaborating to launch a new graduate program that will offer an MBA in Sports & Entertainment Management. The Lightning Foundation will provide USF with a grant to assist with program costs, including faculty salaries and student fellowships. Univ. of Central Florida professor and DeVos Sport Business Management Program Associate Dir BILL SUTTON will lead the program (THE DAILY). The program will "start with up to 20 students." USF officials "calculate the value of the Lightning's contribution at more than" $2.5M over two years (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/17).

HONORING THE GREATEST: A Saturday gala will celebrate boxing icon MUHAMMAD ALI's 70th birthday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Dozens of celebrities from the "sports, film and TV realms" will fete Ali in an effort to "raise money for brain research." The tribute will "be aired later on ABC." The gala is "expected to include performances and tributes from STEVIE WONDER, DAVID BECKHAM, LARRY KING, QUINCY JONES and others" (AP, 2/16).

CAUGHT SCALPING: St. John's Univ. announced that Senior Associate AD/External Affairs BRIAN COLLEARY "was fired" Wednesday for "scalping tickets to the school's basketball games." In N.Y., Lenn Robbins cited a source as saying that the university had "no plans to press charges against Colleary because the amount of money involved in the scalping was not significant." Another source "disputed that claim, saying the amount could have been in the neighborhood of $80,000 but the university wanted the matter dealt with in-house and quickly." That source added that Colleary "scalped tickets to last year's home game against Duke and the Big East Conference Tournament" (NYPOST.com, 2/16).

PENSION PLAN: In Memphis, Kyle Veazey notes "thanks to donations made in recent years by some" Univ. of Memphis donors, outgoing AD R.C. JOHNSON will "continue to benefit financially well after his 16-year tenure at the school ends this year." Documents revealed that a "deferred compensation plan was set up to Johnson's benefit in late 2004." The "first of 10 payments is due 30 days after the expiration of his contract" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 2/17).

NAMES: Wrestler/actor DWAYNE "THE ROCK" JOHNSON is an Exec Producer for the film "RACING DREAMS," and the "award winning documentary makes its national broadcast premiere on PBS' POV series" at 9:00pm ET on Feb. 23. The documentary "chronicles a year in the life of three tweens who dream of becoming NASCAR drivers" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/17)....The D'Backs Foundation announced yesterday that singer NATALIE COLE will headline the sixth annual Evening on the Diamond on March 30 at Chase Field. The Foundation's "marquee event raised more than" $1.25M last season (MLB.com, 2/16)....NASCAR driver DENNY HAMLIN will caddy for golfer BUBBA WATSON on April 4th during The Masters par-3 tournament (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/16)….Spurs G TONY PARKER is launching nightclub Nueve in San Antonio. The club is currently under construction and set to open March 9 (MYSANANTONIO.com, 2/17)….Tennis player MARIA SHARAPOVA is in N.Y. for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, where she was seen “front and center” at the VERA WANG show, sitting next to Vogue editor ANNA WINTOUR (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/16)....JR Motorsports co-Owner KELLEY EARNHARDT MILLER had a baby boy Thursday afternoon (SCENEDAILY.com, 2/16).
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