SBJ/Jan. 10-16, 2011/People and Pop Culture
Six new Champions to be inducted in class of 2011
Published January 10, 2011, Page 1
This year’s recipients are women’s basketball trailblazer Val Ackerman, former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman, IMG Media’s Barry Frank, influential baseball labor leader Marvin Miller, ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen and longtime sports executive Alan Rothenberg.
Each was selected for having an accomplished body of work throughout their careers.
A pioneer of women’s sports, Ackerman was a special assistant to David Stern when she was named the inaugural president of the WNBA in 1996, and she led the league’s growth over her eight-year term. An attorney with a love of basketball, she was a four-year starter at the University of Virginia, helped create the USA Basketball women’s national team that won gold in Atlanta in 1996 and was the first female president of USA Basketball.
A visionary who improved the financial health and television presentation of golf, Beman was commissioner of the PGA Tour for 20 years and was clearly the most influential and powerful executive in the game. He created such benchmarks as the Champions and Nationwide tours, The Players Championship, TPC Sawgrass and its Stadium Course. His tenure forever changed the financial landscape of the tour, and he is credited with spearheading the tour’s emphasis on charitable giving.
As a rights negotiator, event creator and talent agent, Frank has devoted more than 40 years of his life to sports television. Outspoken but known as a fair negotiator and top dealmaker, Frank has seen the ever-changing media landscape from the perch of ABC Sports, CBS Sports and IMG. He has negotiated rights fees for multiple Olympic Games, created popular programming ranging from “Superstars” to “The Skins Game,” and has helped nurture the careers of such television talent as Jim Nantz, Greg Gumbel and Mike Tirico.
Miller single-handedly changed the relationship between players and management during his 16-year leadership of the MLB Players Association, turning baseball players into one of the country’s strongest unions with uncanny solidarity among its members. During his tenure, Miller fought for the end of the reserve clause, the start of free agency and salary arbitration, and guided the players through strikes in 1972, 1980 and 1981, as well as lockouts in 1973 and 1976.
When you have a championship trophy named after you, chances are you’ve left a legacy. Rothenberg is largely known for developing soccer in the United States, which includes leading the 1994 World Cup and 1999 Women’s World Cup, both in the U.S. He was the founding chairman of Major League Soccer, which named its title trophy after him. Outside of soccer, he was a key executive in Jack Kent Cooke’s sports business with the Los Angles Lakers and Kings and the Los Angeles Forum, as well as serving as CEO of the NBA’s San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers. He currently is chairman of the sports and entertainment firm Premier Partnerships.
The entreprenurial Rasmussen was the man behind one of the most significant innovations in sports. Fired by the AHL’s New England Whalers in 1978, he followed his dream by leading a group of investors toward his vision of an all-sports network. He incorporated the idea in 1978, and 14 months later, on Sept. 7, 1979, he successfully launched ESPN. From “SportsCenter” to a deal with Anheuser-Busch that marked the largest cable TV ad contract, Rasmussen’s creativity forever changed sports and pop culture.
These six Champions will be honored at the World Congress of Sports during a luncheon and subsequent panel discussion, where they will discuss their careers and their views on the business of sports, including how it has changed over the years.