SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/Forty Under 40

Forty Under 40

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Photo: HEATHER VAUGHAN
Woodie Dixon remembers the day when Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott told the staff that they were about to start their own TV network.

“I looked around the room and thought, ‘Wait a second. Nobody in here has ever run a network before or hired on-air talent,’” said Dixon, the Pac-12’s general counsel, with a laugh. “To be running a conference one day and then jumping on a conference call about a TV network the next day has really been an entirely different experience.”

Dixon joined the Pac-12 from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010, about the time that the college landscape was shifting. Schools were jumping from one conference to another, college networks were forming, huge rights fees were being paid. It hasn’t settled down much in his 2 ½ years with the conference.

“So many things are happening,” he said. “It’s a much more diverse and dynamic space than I thought it would be.”

As the conference’s lead counsel, Dixon, a Harvard Law School grad, oversees football and helps manage the conference’s new TV network, as well as the conference’s broadcast agreement with joint partners ESPN and Fox. One minute, he might be disciplining a coach for an outrageous comment; the next minute, he could be working with a network on a scheduling issue.

Growing up in Minneapolis, Dixon was an avid sports fan and played hockey and soccer. He went to law school because “when you grow up in a blue-collar, urban environment, the dream is to be either a doctor or a lawyer.”

The law career took him to a couple of firms early on before he caught on with the NFL and later with the Chiefs, where he managed the salary cap for the franchise.

Now, as one of the Pac-12’s top executives, Dixon finds himself “in a constant whirlwind of activity.”

“Conference realignment has most everyone hoping that things are going to settle down now,” Dixon said. “I know we’re done expanding. We have nowhere left to go. I think most people hope this much realignment won’t be the norm.”

— Michael Smith



Age: 40 (turned 40 Feb. 21)
Title: General counsel and vice president, business affairs
ORGANIZATION: Pac-12 Conference
Education: B.A., history, Amherst College; J.D., Harvard Law School; M.S., sport management, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Family: Wife, Nicole; son, Carver; daughter, Marina
Career: Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP and Dorsey & Whitney LLP before NFL (2003-04) and Kansas City Chiefs (2004-10); Pac-12 since 2010

FIRST JOB: Bagging groceries at Sullivan’s in Minneapolis
How do you strike a work-life balance? Having a clear understanding on how incredibly important it is to be a good dad and husband.
BEST BUSINESS ADVICE RECEIVED: Be a great person; the rest will follow.
Worst advice received: Winning cures all.
Favorite iPad apps: Cali Traffic, Google Maps
REACTION TO FORTY UNDER 40 SELECTION: To immediately tell my wife. She’s done so much to get both of us here; certainly more than I have.
Stress release: Getting to the outdoors
Pet peeve: Slow drivers, left lane
Guilty pleasure: Hitting the snooze button more than once
FANTASY JOB: Fishing guide or pro bass fisherman


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