SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40

Shannon Terry

SHANNON TERRY
RIVALS.COM

By Eric Fisher      
Staff writer

Shannon Terry
Age: 36
Title: CEO
Company: Rivals.com
Education: B.S., finance and economics, Lipscomb University, 1992
Family: Wife, Cayce; children Elly, 10, and Jack, 7
Career: Began career as a senior credit analyst in the banking industry; has spent the last 10 years in online sports publishing.
Last vacation: Seaside, Fla., in August
Last book read: "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind" by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Last movie seen: "Walk the Line"
Pet peeve: Poor free-throw shooting!
Greatest achievement: Raising Rivals.com from the ashes of bankruptcy to profitability in just 12 months
Greatest disappointment: Selling my first company, AllianceSports
Fantasy job: Head basketball coach at the University of Alabama
Executive most admired: Bob Bowman at MLB Advanced Media
Business advice: Building a great organization is all about having the right people — surround yourself with hard-working, intelligent people that subscribe to a team-first attitude.

Shannon Terry, Rivals.com chief executive, bases his operation in Brentwood, Tenn., about as far from the media pulses of New York and Los Angeles as possible. But Terry figured out years ahead of his vastly bigger competition the true depth of fan passion for college sports.

While the likes of ESPN, Fox Sports and CBS now are pouring millions into developing Web and video content related to college and high school sports and recruiting, Terry has been doing it for a decade, long enough to see the Internet bubble rise, burst and rise again.

Terry was one of those early online casualties, as his original outfit, AllianceSports, went out of business in 2001. But reformed with several former AllianceSports executives as Rivals.com, Terry now has the big boys paying close attention. Despite an annual revenue base of less than $25 million and no mass marketing to match the likes of ESPN.com, Rivals.com is a mainstay among the most-visited sports Web sites, has been profitable for three years and its average user stay of nearly one hour and 20 minutes is easily the best in the business.

There's little secret to Terry's success. While the pro leagues capture the lion's share of media attention, Terry made a business catering to the rabid following enjoyed by college football and basketball teams, particularly in the Southeast. He then set out to provide a depth of content unmatched by any mainstream outlet.

"At the end of day, what we do is build and service the team affinities that exist out there, and the tightly knit communities that build around those affinities," he said. "The bigger players are obviously entering our space now, but it's hard to have local affinities when you're a national, top-down operation."

As a result, Terry now finds himself in the enviable position of the big boys scrambling to attach themselves to Rivals.com. AOL signed a distribution deal with the company last fall, and Terry said another top-tier Internet company will announce a similar relationship with Rivals.com in early April.

Terry lived the college sports experience at Tennessee's Lipscomb University, where he won 145 games with the basketball team. Playing for Don Meyer, now the fifth-winningest coach in college basketball history, Terry learned a quiet, steady management style that has helped fuel business for Rivals.com and keep his key senior executives from joining bigger competitors.

"Shannon's a leader, but not in an ego-driven way at all," said Alan Karpick, publisher of Gold & Black Illustrated, which covers Purdue University sports and is part of the Rivals.com network. "He's not about himself at all. … He's soft-spoken, to be sure, but he knows how to get his point across, and does so quite effectively."

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