SBJ/December 20 - 26, 1999/No Topic Name

Crew’s Rootes leaves MLS for Houston, NFL

Columbus Crew president and general manager Jamey Rootes is leaving the Major League Soccer team to become vice president of sales and marketing with Houston's NFL expansion franchise, according to people familiar with the plans.

Along with Crew operator Lamar Hunt, Rootes, 33, has been an architect of the Crew's fan-supported success since the MLS launched in 1996. He was also instrumental in getting the 22,500-seat Columbus Crew Stadium — the first prosoccer stadium in the nation — opened this year.

Rootes was named MLS executive of the year following the league's 1996 season. He was named MLS marketing executive of the year for 1999.

Rootes declined to comment. His salary and benefits package in Houston, while undisclosed, is said to be significantly higher than his Crew compensation package.

Robert McNair, owner of the Houston team, was unavailable for comment.

Hunt was unavailable for comment, but one source close to him characterized him as "disappointed but understanding" of Rootes' decision to join the NFL.

It's unclear who will replace Rootes as Crew president and general manager.

In making the transition, Rootes will become part of the management team overseeing the birth of a major league franchise for the second time in his career. Rootes headed the Crew for its first four seasons.

The Crew topped the MLS in attendance this year with an average crowd of 17,696 a game. That total was larger than last season's averages for the NHL, NBA or Ohio State University's men's basketball team.

Originally from Stone Mountain, Ga., Rootes graduated from Clemson University in 1989 after helping lead the school's soccer team to two national titles. He joined IBM Corp. in 1989 as a marketing representative. In 1992, he joined the coaching staff of Indiana University's soccer team, among the nation's most successful college programs.

In 1994, Rootes become an operations manager with World Cup USA's Chicago venue. Later that year, he joined Procter & Gamble Co. as an account brand manager.

He was named the Crew's first chief executive in mid-1995.

Dan Crawford writes for Business First in Columbus, Ohio.

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Columbus Crew, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL

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