SBJ/October 17-23, 2011/People and Pop CulturePrint All
The NFL had a love-hate relationship with the late Al Davis. The Oakland Raiders owner transformed his team into one of sports’ iconic brands and changed how the game was played, but he also was a litigious and persistent thorn in the league’s side.
One national reporter recalled Davis, with the aid of a walker, shuffling by at an owners meeting a few years ago as the reporter interviewed an NFL executive. And the league nemesis rasped unsolicited, “They keep lying, and you keep writing.”
“Al returned, and he was furious,” Irsay said, laughing.
The story was one of many anecdotes shared last week by owners as they gathered in Houston for their fall meeting. Davis died Oct. 8 at age 82.
GETTY IMAGES (2)
Al Davis at Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 (top) and on his induction to the Hall of Fame in 2003
Under Davis, the Raiders refused to be part of the NFL Internet Network, which meant that unlike the league’s other clubs, NFL headquarters could not access the team’s emails. Many would call that typical Raiders paranoia; others might privately admire the team’s rebelliousness. (It’s why even current Raiders team email addresses don’t have “NFL” in them but most other clubs’ email addresses do.)
“Some of his views were important and needed to be embraced,” Irsay said. “The power each of us should hold in the league and the rights that we hold and the right to have full disclosure and to guard against things in terms of favoritism, perceived or real — he fought against these things.”
At the league’s annual meeting, reporters could count on Davis, smart as a whip, to hold court, unscheduled, on all matter of topics, a long-winding, quasi-press conference journalists dubbed “The State of the Al.”
Some owners last week recalled Davis’ often-unseen soft side. New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said his dad, the late Robert Tisch (who previously co-owned the team), attended Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., around the same time as Davis. The Raiders boss would always ask the younger Tisch once he took over his father’s ownership stake how his mother was faring, the Giants owner said smiling.
Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, whose father, Lamar Hunt, founded the American Football League — of which Davis’ Raiders were an original member — cited Davis’ tenure in 1966 as AFL commissioner as his greatest contribution to the NFL.
“As commissioner of the league and escalating the war with the NFL, which I think contributed to the NFL’s willingness to merge with the AFL,” Hunt said, “to me that was the most important thing he did business-wise in his 50 years with the league.”
Still, it was hard to avoid the raw feelings Davis engendered, even in the wake of his death. Davis sued the league and other teams multiple times, including over relocating his team to Los Angeles and whether the Raiders or the NFL controlled that market. He once helped his own player, George Atkinson, sue Chuck Noll for slander after the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach, enraged over an Atkinson hit on Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann, spoke of a criminal element in the NFL. Atkinson lost the 1977 decision, but the trial deeply embarrassed the league.
“I had some disdain, like we all did, on some of the things he did as a partner,” Irsay said. “It is a conflicted kind of situation in terms of his character on what he did and some of the things that were good and not so good.”
Davis had one last jab at the league recently by abstaining from the vote on the new collective-bargaining agreement, robbing the NFL of being able to boast that the owners had unanimously approved it. The team never fully explained. Asked soon after the July 21 vote why the Raiders had not approved, New York Giants co-owner John Mara, a crucial labor negotiator, just smiled and said, as if the answer was self-explanatory, “It’s the Raiders.”
This sportsman knew the value of people
The Raiders were successful winners in two of the first five Super Bowls I was in charge of planning. I learned from the emphasis that Al placed on accommodating his players’ and coaches’ needs (with special attention to their families) how important that was toward winning … and also success in the Super Bowl. For years, I spoke to Super Bowl participants about his philosophy and how it affected play on the field. He once called me the night of the event to ensure that I got “great” seats for the mother of one of his players to a Frank Sinatra concert at Super Bowl XVIII. He caused me to rethink and change what the league covered in costs and in making arrangements for all Super Bowls after 1984. There became an emphasis to find events for the coaches’ and players’ families to attend.
At Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, Al came to me on Saturday before the game and wanted to move his suite because he believed that sitting in the corner of the stadium gave him a better view of the game than sitting on the 50-yard line. Now think about moving suites at the Super Bowl on 24 hours notice, that was Al’s focus.
He was a unique figure and reviled as much as revered. Others have tried to compare him to other individuals, but he was truly one of a kind.
Jim Steeg is director of the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, and former COO of the San Diego Chargers and senior vice president of events for the NFL.
The Los Angeles Dodgers named Alex Tamin director of baseball contracts, research and operations.
Washington Nationals executive vice president Bob Wolfe is stepping down.
The rookie level Pioneer League’s Orem (Utah) Owlz promoted Brett Crane to general manager. Crane replaces Jason Badell, who resigned to start his own sports marketing company.
The America East Conference hired Amy Huchthausen as commissioner. Huchthausen was director of academic and membership services for the NCAA.
Kent State University promoted Tom Kleinlein to deputy athletic director.
Old Dominion University promoted Deborah Polca and Bruce Stewart to senior associate athletic directors, Marty Bradley to associate athletic director for athletic training and sports medicine, Sandra Niedergall to associate athletic director for compliance and student athlete welfare and Nicole Turner to assistant athletic director of business and finance. M.L. Morgan was hired as assistant director for compliance.
Rutgers University named Janine Purcaro chief financial officer for intercollegiate athletics and Patrick Crawford assistant director of athletic communications. Purcaro was chief financial officer and assistant treasurer for the Rutgers University Foundation and Crawford was a media relations assistant at the University of Arkansas.
Texas Tech University named Marsha Sharp associate athletic director. Sharp was executive director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and a former coach of the Texas Tech women’s basketball team.
The University of Virginia hired Eric Baumgartner as associate athletic director for compliance. Baumgartner was associate athletic director for compliance at the University of Georgia.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee hired Kelly Diener as assistant athletic director for student services, Matt Millet as director of corporate sales and Clare Thompson as associate director of athletic development.
The Sun Belt Conference promoted Kathy Keene to senior associate commissioner, Dominick Giambrone Jr. to assistant commissioner for championships and Keith Nunez to assistant commissioner of media relations, and named Scott Connors assistant commissioner for compliance and Thomas Hill director of championships.
George Washington University named Brian Sereno executive director of athletics communications. Sereno was director of basketball communications for the Washington Wizards.
Georgia State University promoted Dena Freeman-Patton to associate athletic director for student-athlete development.
Saint Joseph’s University promoted Renie Shields to associate athletic director for varsity programs and senior women’s administrator.
Savannah State University hired Sterling Steward Jr. as athletic director. Steward was a senior consultant for athletics at Mississippi Valley State University.
The University of New Haven hired Chris Brown as associate athletic director for business affairs and marketing.
Centerplate hired Ron Lee as general manager of its hospitality operations at Qualcomm Stadium. Lee was division manager of premium services at Angel Stadium.
Iowa Speedway named Doug Fritz chief executive officer and Stan Clement president.
The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts named Elizabeth Scott chief media and digital officer. Scott was vice president of programming and business affairs for Major League Baseball Properties.
The Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos named Len Rhodes president and chief executive officer, effective Dec. 1. Rhodes was senior vice president and general manager for Reebok-CCM Hockey.
The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America named Richard Konzem chief operating officer. Konzem was athletic director at Rockhurst University.
The NHL hired Dan Marr as director of central scouting. Marr was formerly director of amateur scouting and player development for the Atlanta Thrashers.
The American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves named Lindsey Willhite director of public relations. Willhite was a sportswriter for the Daily Herald in Chicago.
The Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen hired Joanna French as communications coordinator.
The New York Racing Association promoted Ellen McClain to executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Major League Lacrosse’s Chesapeake (Va.) Bayhawks hired Brian Reese as general manager. Reese was general manager for the MLL Denver Outlaws.
Philadelphia Youth Lacrosse Association and Team Philadelphia named Jack Morrison director of lacrosse operations.
GroupM ESP hired Evin Dobson as an account director and Kendel Fiorentino as an account manager.
Prodigy Public Relations hired Zach Rosenfield as executive vice president of television and sports entertainment.
Idegy hired Chelsea Penzone as marketing director. Penzone was director of marketing for Charles Penzone Inc.
Marketing Werks named Jay Lenstrom chief marketing officer. Lenstrom was chief executive officer for Red Peak Group.
PMI College, a division of Playbook Management International, hired Samantha Lepovetsky as ticket sales manager and Jeff Homens as fan development executive at Florida Atlantic University Athletics. Playbook Management hired Pablo Troncoso as fan development executive for Chivas USA.
Korrio hired Steve Banfield as chief product officer. Banfield wassenior vice president of production and digital strategy for
NBC Sports Group named Greg Hughes senior vice president of communications. Hughes was president of Sedan Communications.
Golf Digest publishing director Tom Bair resigned.
Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing hired Olivier Manigat as legal counsel, Anne Graham and José Luis Los Arcos Nagore as managers of partnership marketing, Evan Burns as finance manager, Chris Mahadeo as information technology coordinator, Rachel Merkin as community relations coordinator, and Matthew Williams as accounting coordinator. David Agrell was named digital club services coordinator for MLS Digital.
Women’s Professional Soccer hired Jennifer Pogorelec O’Sullivan as chief executive officer, replacing Anne-Marie Eileraas, who stepped down.
D.C. United hired Roy Tewell as director of ticket sales.
Sporting Goods and Apparel
Under Armour promoted Diane Pelkey to vice president of global brand communications and entertainment.
iSportconnect named Christopher Campasano managing director of U.S. operations.
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Bringing back the big game
At the Oct. 11 announcement awarding Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 to Arizona (from left): Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, who led the effort to bring the game back to the Phoenix area; Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer; and host committee Chairman Mike Kennedy.
Olympians on hand for London preview party
BRIAN ACH / AP IMAGES
At a London 2012 Olympic preview party sponsored by AP Images, PMG Sports and AQ at Hudson Terrace in New York on Oct. 5 (from left): Fernando Ferre, AP Images VP; Olympic greats Mark Spitz, Cullen Jones, David Boudia, Janet Evans and Dominique Dawes; and Lloyd Pawlak, AP Images director of sales.
DeVos students love L.A.
COURTESY OF MATT VINSON
Second-year MBA/MSBM students from the University of Central Florida’s DeVos Sport Business Management graduate program made a networking trip to Los Angeles, spending four days talking to executives as well as hosting several industry professionals at a networking dinner and breakfast panel. Here the group stops for a photo op Sept. 22 at Staples Center before visiting with AEG.
A taste of MSG
AVI GERVER / MSG PHOTOS
Madison Square Garden hosted an exclusive tasting event Sept. 27 introducing the new MSG Signature Collection, which will feature exclusive items from top New York culinary talent beginning this fall. From left: restaurateur Drew Nieporent, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Madison Square Garden Co. President and CEO Hank Ratner, chef Andrew Carmellini and chef Jeremy Marshall.
ESPN chief honored
ESPN/ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer (center) accepts the Grand TAM Award, the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s highest honor, Oct. 7 in New York City. He accepted the award from CTAM President and CEO Char Beales (right) and CTAM Chair Jon Hargis, Cablevision Systems Corp. EVP for marketing and advertising.
Subway's marathon men
DIANE BONDAREFF / AP IMAGES FOR SUBWAY
Olympic champion Michael Phelps (left) poses with Tony Pace (center), Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund global CMO, and fellow Olympic champion and Subway endorser Apolo Anton Ohno, who is training for the ING New York City Marathon, during an event at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York on Sept. 27.
Golden Dragon for Magic
GARY LAU / ASIA TREND MAGAZINE
The Asian-American Chamber of Commerce presented the Golden Dragon Award to the Orlando Magic on Oct. 8. The award recognizes an individual, entrepreneur or business that has made the most significant positive impact in Central Florida. From the Magic (from left): Lucas Boyce, director of community relations/multicultural insights/government affairs; Stormy Washington, community relations executive assistant; Latria Leak, community and government affairs coordinator; and Deborah Rios-Barnes, assistant director of community relations/cause marketing.
Tennis legends play Philly
Four of the world’s all-time top men’s tennis players, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Sept. 24 for the Champions Shootout, posed with Global Spectrum employees (from left): Pete Sampras; arena operations manager Ryan Hemenway; Andre Agassi; arena assistant marketing manager Mary Paolantonio; Jimmy Connors; arena event manager Casey Haverling; and Jim Courier.
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COO, National Hockey League
TIFFIN WARNOCK / STAFF
The NHL is riding the momentum of its new domestic TV agreement with NBC into the 2011-12 season. Collins, the league’s COO, recently talked about the league, its brand and its future at our Charlotte studio, and these questions and answers were edited down from our conversation … to 11 words or less. The full video is posted below.
COLLINS: Big new TV agreements, new European deals, “we’re locked and loaded.”
Working closer with NBC Sports on sales means …
COLLINS: NBC’s selling Olympics, “SNF,” Super Bowl alongside NHL.
Why do sports rights fees continue to increase?
COLLINS: Nothing else is live. “Sports is beginning to get fair value.”
So it’s been undervalued?
COLLINS: “It’s a proven commodity,” you “know what you’re getting.”
What about TV Everywhere?
COLLINS: “The rights deals have to catch up with the concept.”
How do you define NHL brand to potential partners?
Collins: Great fan base in U.S., but in Canada “a unifying force.”
What did HBO’s “24/7” do for brand?
COLLINS: “Hockey culture has been so closed … team-oriented.” Series looked inside.
What’s next for the league’s big-event strategy?
COLLINS: “Biggest opportunity … is the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
Getting the Cup more eyeballs, attention, ad support?
COLLINS: “It could be treated almost like a March Madness.”
Sports business stories you’re watching.
COLLINS: NBA labor, and what the NFL does next.
NBC Sports Network: How do they build a 24/7 brand?
COLLINS: “I think they’re going to look at properties” over news/info.
Start by telling stories around the properties they already have?
COLLINS: “That’s what they’ve done so well with the Olympics” and others.
Has the iPad changed your media consumption?
COLLINS: It’s “the all-media consumption anywhere and everywhere kind of device.”
Are you on Twitter?
COLLINS: “I’m not, but I am a follower.” Use it for research.
Your advice for young people who want to enter the industry?
COLLINS: “If you want to get in … really understand the business.”
Difference between working for a league and for a team?
COLLINS: “League you root for ratings … team you root for wins.”