SBJ/April 16-22, 2012/Opinion

On Shaheen’s future, Nike’s play, AD’s stand

The future of longtime NCAA executive Greg Shaheen was unclear as of press time, but it is a story people continue to talk about. The surprise wasn’t so much that a move was made early last week to replace him with longtime sports exec Mark Lewis; the handwriting was on the wall for months, and the timing suggests that Shaheen never really had a chance to stay in the job.

This takes nothing away from Lewis, who is an accomplished and respected executive. But people in the business are shocked that the NCAA would remove Shaheen.

I’ve known Shaheen for years; we probably talked as much about our Lebanese heritage as we have the nuts and bolts of the sports business or the NCAA. He is a member of our Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame and is credited not only with the NCAA’s groundbreaking deal with CBS and Turner, but also in bringing a more progressive mind-set to corporate sponsorship under the tenure of former President Myles Brand. I’ve rarely seen someone as dedicated and devoted to an organization; and the rare public outcry over the NCAA’s move showed the support Shaheen has built over the years.

Among the responses: Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski told CBS Sports, “Greg furthered the cause of men’s college basketball as much as anyone in the last decade.” On Twitter, SI.com’s Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) wrote, “Absolutely dumbfounded the NCAA ran off Greg Shaheen”; Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy (@tsnmike) wrote, “Replacing G Shaheen is ludicrous. Brilliant guy.”

I fully expect — and hope — Greg stays in sports business, and wouldn’t be surprised if he lands at the NBA, where he has developed close relationships and is recognized as a talented executive/operator.

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Nike pairs its tag line with NFL team names on its new shirts.
I was struck by the reaction of a friend as we looked at one version of Nike’s new NFL apparel line. A shirt featured the traditional swoosh on the sleeve, but had the team name and logo with Nike’s brash “Just Do It” tag in big type. My friend was livid; he couldn’t stand the fact the team logo that he is loyal to was shared equally with Nike’s well-known but polarizing tag and he didn’t want that phrase connected to his team.

Many would argue a connection with Nike would enhance a brand, but it made me wonder whether owners and league execs liked the “Just Do It” tag getting equal play with their logos, or does it detract at all from the brands they work hard on and invest in? NFL owners went for a lucrative deal, and they knew what they were getting. It’s only ONE shirt, but it made me wonder: Will other apparel lines from the new deal be about showcasing the NFL and its teams’ brands … or Nike’s?

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Good for University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, who made a bold move and terminated football coach Bobby Petrino, citing “a pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior,” while also adding, “Our expectations of character and integrity in our employees can be no less than what we expect from our students.”
 
It was refreshing to see a university and an athletic department leader not tolerate being lied to. Some would have succumbed to the pressure to win. Even though our nomination decisions were made months ago, I’m proud that he’s one of our nominees for Athletic Director of the Year for the Sports Business Awards in May.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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