SBJ/August 20-26, 2012/In Depth

Most Influential: College Football, 11-15



No. 11
Jack Swarbrick
Athletic director, Notre Dame

Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
He is commissioner in the conference of one. Given Notre Dame’s national and international following, Swarbrick’s sphere of influence is sometimes considered greater than that of an actual commissioner. That might have been the case in the glory days of Irish football, but it’s more difficult to make that case now. Notre Dame doesn’t carry the same cachet on the field or in living rooms, where average TV ratings on NBC dropped to a record low of 1.6 last season. But the bottom line is that every commissioner in the country, whether they’re working on an expansion plan or not, will take a call from Swarbrick. His school might be the last great prize in expansion roulette, and if the Irish ever decide to join a conference in football, they can assuredly pick their new home. No other school can bring the media value that Notre Dame does, and that gives plenty of weight to Swarbrick’s words.

No. 12
Ed Ray
Past chairman, NCAA executive committee

Lou Anna Simon
Current chairman, NCAA executive committee

As NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the staggering penalties against Penn State, Ed Ray stood by his side.
Lou Anna Simon
Photo by: Michigan State University
Ed Ray
Photo by: Oregon State University
Until then, most college football fans probably had no idea who Ray was. Ultimately, he was the guy who gave Emmert the authority to serve such harsh penalties. Ray, whose day job is president at Oregon State, acknowledged that the death penalty was a consideration by the fellow presidents and chancellors on the executive committee who consulted with Emmert. The 21-person panel of university CEOs make up the NCAA’s highest-ranking committee, and voted unanimously to approve Emmert’s unprecedented sanctions. On Aug. 1, Ray’s term ended and the role shifted to Lou Anna Simon, president at Michigan State. The NCAA’s influence in football is often limited to things like initial eligibility and academic progress, but the more leash the presidents give Emmert, the greater their voice.

No. 13
George Pyne
President, IMG Sports & Entertainment

Ben Sutton
President, IMG College

George Pyne
Photo by: Tony Florez Photography
Ben Sutton
Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
Under the guidance of Pyne and Sutton, IMG has blown up the traditional model of the old multimedia rights holder that mostly sold radio advertising. IMG has developed additional lines of business that help schools sell more tickets, more merchandise and more sponsorships. The company’s bold move into the college space five years ago has evolved into relationships with more than 80 colleges across the country, giving IMG the ability to sell national sponsorships that cover nearly all of the top 50 markets. That adds up to new revenue for its client schools.

No. 14

Sean McManus
Chairman, CBS Sports

David Berson
Executive VP, CBS Sports; president, CBS Sports Network

CBS does not have many college football deals, but the one it features on the broadcast network is the biggest, bringing
David Berson
Photo by: John P. Filo / CBS
Sean McManus
Photo by: Shana Wittenwyler
in huge viewership for the SEC’s Saturday afternoon matchups. CBS has not been active in trying to acquire new rights; McManus’ strategy is mainly to keep the rights it already has. But with CBS Sports Network in the fold, Berson has been active, particularly with shoulder programming, like the “Tim Brando Show,” that focuses heavily on college sports.

No. 15
Nick Saban
Head coach, University of Alabama

Photo by: Getty Images
Saban has the college football world by the tail. His program, coming off its BCS national championship victory over LSU, is the most dominant in the nation’s most dominant conference. He recruits better, he schemes better and his teams execute better than anyone else’s. Every other coach in the country is trying to figure out how to be like him. Saban’s influence has lifted the business of Alabama football as well. The Crimson Tide annually ranks second only to Texas in licensed merchandise sales, while Bryant-Denny Stadium continues to grow and improve, which buoys a $100 million athletic department budget. Few would argue with the statement that Alabama has the best bargain in the country with Saban, even at $5.6 million a year.

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