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Since the announcement in 2009 that the College Football Hall of Fame would move to Atlanta, John Stephenson Jr., an Atlanta native, has played a vital role in making the move a reality. Stephenson has served as the interim chief since December 2011, and last month he was unanimously approved as the new president and CEO of Atlanta Hall Management and the College Football Hall of Fame. Construction continues on the $66.5 million hall, scheduled to open in fall 2014. Stephenson spoke with staff writer Brandon McClung.
■ New title: President and chief executive officer, College Football Hall of Fame (Atlanta Hall Management)
■ Previous title: Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP
■ First job: Landscaping and maintenance for apartment complex during the summer after eighth grade
■ Education: Bachelor of science, University of Georgia (1997); Juris Doctor, University of Georgia (2000)
■ Resides: Atlanta
■ Grew up: Atlanta
■ Executive most admired: Roberto Goizueta, former Coca-Cola chairman and chief executive officer
■ Brand most admired: Disney
■ What will be the biggest challenge in your new position?
To ensure that the new hall attraction exceeds expectations and is a worthy tribute to college football.
■ What career advice do you have for people wanting into the sports industry?
Focus on “industry,” not “sports.” First, be excellent at what you do (sales, accounting, law, finance, marketing, etc.), and then let the sports opportunities come to you.
■ What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Taking on the Hall of Fame project.
■ What is your biggest professional accomplishment?
Making partner at Troutman Sanders at an early age.
■ What is your biggest professional disappointment?
Not playing first base for the Braves.
■ What is one story you are continuing to watch in the sports world today?
Approvals for the new Atlanta Falcons stadium.
■ What is the one element you would like to see changed about the sports industry?
Cost of attending some events live is prohibitive to some families.
The Chicago Cubs hired Justin Piper as general manager for Mesa spring training operations. Piper was executive vice president of business operations for the Reno Aces.
The St. Louis Cardinals named former Cardinals player Willie McGee a special assistant to the general manager.
The Texas Rangers promoted Jon Daniels to president of baseball operations and general manager and Rick George to president of business operations.
The Class AA Southern League’s Birmingham (Ala.) Barons named Don Leo corporate sales manager, Brett Oates group sales manager, Steve Bayko community group ticket representative, Sydney Weldon corporate event planner, Joseph Cooper director of retail sales, Randy Prince chief financial officer, George Chavous director of community relations and Nick Lampasona director of stadium operations.
The Baltimore Orioles named Nelson Norman director of baseball operations for the Dominican Republic.
The New York Mets promoted Dick Scott to director of player development, Adam Fisher to director of baseball operations, Jon Miller to director of minor league operations, T.J. Barra to manager of minor league operations/baseball information and Ian Levin to manager of baseball analytics.
The independent Northern League hired Dan Evans as commissioner. Evans is president and chief executive officer for Evans Baseball Consulting.
East Carolina University hired Jeff Compher as athletic director. Compher was associate vice president and athletic director at Northern Illinois University.
Floyd Keith resigned as executive director of Black Coaches & Administrators to become a consultant with the NCAA Office of Inclusion and Leadership Development and a senior adviser for the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida.
McNeese State University hired Bryant Carter as associate athletic director for internal affairs. Carter was associate director of games and event management at the University of Alabama.
Grand Canyon University named Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball chairman, a special assistant to the president.
Ohio University hired Lauren Ashman as associate athletic director for compliance. Ashman was assistant athletic director for compliance at Coastal Carolina University.
The University of Massachusetts Boston hired Garin Lee Veris as director of external business development and marketing.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee hired Amanda Braun as athletic director. Braun was executive senior associate athletic director at Northeastern University.
Repucom America named Ibrahim Koese head of consumer insights.
ESPN promoted Kevin Martinez to vice president of corporate outreach.
Ken Read stepped down as director of Canada’s Own the Podium winter sports program.
USA Hockey hired Rob Koch as director of communications and social media. Koch was senior director of public relations and team operations for the Atlanta Thrashers.
Ron Rossi stepped down as executive director and chief executive officer for USA Luge.
Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing hired Matt Chavlovich as senior director of licensing, Mauricio Cruz as coordinator of player relations and competition and Ali Nicastro as coordinator of partnership marketing, and named David Scholl coordinator of player relations and competition.
The Colorado Rapids hired Richard Fleming as director of broadcasting and play-by-play analyst.
The Philadelphia Union hired Tommy Wilson as director for the Philadelphia Union Academy. Wilson was technical director and reserve team coach for Rangers FC in Scotland.
Sporting Goods and Apparel
Prince Global Sports promoted Mike Ballardie to chief executive officer.
Killerspin hired Kenneth Valdiserri as vice president of marketing and strategic alliances.
Newton Running named Craig Heisner president. Heisner was vice president of marketing, sales and product merchandising for Li-Ning.
Skins Compression hired Johnny West as general manager for North America. West was director of brand and sports marketing for 2XU North America.
Lawn Tennis Association Chief Executive Officer Roger Draper will step down, effective at the end of September 2013.
Parker Executive Search promoted Daniel Parker to vice president of its sports practice.
Awards and Boards
The Bowl Championship Series presidential oversight committee named University of Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman chairman.
Oliver Tait resigned from the Breeders’ Cup board of directors.
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Citi honored for ‘Every Step of the Way’
Citi’s Liz Fogarty (second from left) and Matter’s Mary Scott (second from right) accepted the PR Week Award for Cause-Related Campaign of the Year on March 7 for Citi’s “Every Step of the Way” Olympic and Paralympic program. From left: PR Week Awards master of ceremonies Ralph Harris; Fogarty, Citi’s director of strategic media relations; Scott, Matter general manager; and Ellen Ryan Mardiks, GolinHarris vice chairman and president of consumer marketing practice.
Photo by:LARRY FORD
Ford a two-time winner
Ford became the first two-time winner of the NASCAR Driving Business Award when it was honored at the NASCAR Fuel for Business Council Meeting on March 8 at the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas. From left: Matthew Braydich, account manager, NASCAR partnership marketing; Tim Duerr, Ford motorsports marketing manager; and Mike Kozak, NASCAR senior director of partnership marketing.
Game Changer awards
Above: At the Natural Resources Defense Council Game Changer Awards (from left): John Mara, New York Giants president, CEO and co-owner; NRDC Executive Director Peter Lehner; and New York Giants Chairman Steve Tisch. The event was March 14 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. Below: NFL player Ovie Mughelli (left) greets NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as Tisch looks on.
Photos by:MIKE COPPOLA / GETTY IMAGES
NASCAR at Autism Speaks gala
Left: NASCAR drivers Clint Bowyer (left), Brad Keselowski (second from right) and Martin Truex Jr. (right) join NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France (second from left); his wife, Amy; and hall of famer Bobby Allison at the Speeding for a Cure gala to benefit Autism Speaks. The event was March 12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Right: (from left): Autism Speaks President Liz Feld; Autism Speaks co-founder Bob Wright; honoree Rick Dreiling, Dollar General chairman and CEO; Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright; and honoree Artie Kempner, coordinating director of NASCAR on Fox.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES FOR NASCAR
Photo by:JOSH WONG PHOTOGRAPHY
Tourney time for Pac-12
Pac-12 Enterprises President Gary Stevenson hosted conference sponsor Esurance at the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 14 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. From left: Cal mascot Oski, Stevenson, Pac-12 Networks analyst Rick Neuheisel, Chris Lee and Helena Ghez of Esurance, Pac-12 Networks host Ashley Adamson and Utah mascot Swoop.
Photo by:JEFF BOTTARI
Bracket Day at CNN Center
Ushering in the start of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament on National Bracket Day, March 18, at CNN Center in Atlanta (from left): Lenny Daniels, Turner Sports executive vice president and chief operating officer; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Turner Sports host Ernie Johnson, who was master of ceremonies for the event; and Phil Kent, Turner Broadcasting chairman and CEO.
Photo by:JENNIFER BOXLEY
USTA launches sponsor summit
The U.S. Tennis Association held its first sponsor summit March 4 at the Westin New York Grand Central. Among those attending were (from left) John Bogusz of CBS, Jon Levine of Xerox, Rick Singer of IBM, the USTA’s Gordon Smith, Jennifer Carper of Engine Shop and Eric Linder of Mercedes-Benz USA.
Photo by:LOUIS LU / USTA
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What I Like …
Grossman with daughter Stella at Fenway Park
Photo:MICHEAL IVINS / BOSTON RED SOX
■ An insight: “Just keep showing up”: Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino, to whom I’ll be forever grateful for helping me get my start in sports, when I asked about my future with the club on the last day of my internship with the Red Sox.
■ An influential person in my career: My father, Ned Grossman, who taught me that “can’t doesn’t exist,” “there’s no substitute for hard work” and “it’s better having everyone in the room think you’re stupid than opening your mouth and proving it.”
■ An out-of-the-box idea: Seven-inning baseball games and a fourth-inning stretch.
■ A timeless idea: Tailgating.
■ A business deal: The evolution of the StubHub deal with MLB and its impact on the industry is fascinating to watch.
■ A sports facility: Cameron Indoor Stadium. I’m biased, but even Duke haters should experience a game there.
■ A sports event: I saw the Australia-Spain Davis Cup finals while in Barcelona. It was one of the most memorable sporting experiences of my life.
■ A strategy: 1) Hit ’em straight. 2) Hit ’em where they ain’t. 3) Deliver content on your fans’ terms, not yours.
■ A hire: Larry Scott becoming Pac-12 commissioner. A progressive visionary who has distinguished and transformed the conference in a short time frame.
■ A brand: Equinox Fitness. I gained a little insight into the way they approach their business and the market while I was with the Dolphins. They do a great job of defining who they are, building partnerships that augment the customer experience, and providing communication and touch points to solidify relationships with their members.
■ An innovation: Disney Magic Band. Just another example of Disney leading the way: Magic Band will enhance the Disney experience and provides a
A timeless idea: Tailgating.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
■ An idea or invention I wish I had thought of: The Muppets.
■ A fantasy job: Product tester for any large-scale athletic/fitness brand to ensure their products are specifically designed to meet the needs of highly mediocre athletes everywhere.
What I Like about …
Cameron Indoor Stadium
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
■ My job: The opportunity to work with some of the brightest people in the industry, like Sam Kennedy and Mike Dee, on some of the most iconic brands in all of sport, all wrapped up in a family-oriented environment. It’s a rare combination, and I’m very fortunate.
■ Sports: I took my grandfather to Fenway Park when he was 85 years old. It will always be one of the most lasting memories of my career.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
■ Change: Restore college basketball to its former glory by increasing the NBA age limit. Go back to old-school college hoops where the majority of stars stay in school for at least three seasons.
■ More of in sports: Sudden-death opportunities. Game 7’s, overtimes, play-in games. MLB has done a nice job of developing more opportunities for “thriller” games.
What I Like …
■ Hero: The highest compliment someone can pay me is that I’m my mother’s son. She approached each day with enthusiasm, love, selflessness and tenacity.
Photo by:NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
■ City: San Francisco — scenery, technology and West Coast start times. Amazing combination.
■ Memento: Two World Series rings.
■ Time of year: April — Opening Day, Final Four, Masters, Easter, Passover. There’s something for everyone.
■ Music: U2, Ray Charles, Rihanna.
■ Books: “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” by Garth Stein; “The Given Day,” by Dennis Lehane; “Wooden,” by John Wooden; “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” by Roald Dahl.
■ Authors: David Halberstam, Brad Meltzer.
■ IPad apps: MLB At Bat, HBO Go, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja.
■ Chores: The dishes and diaper changing with pit-crew-like efficiency. Jack Roush would be proud.
■ Hobbies: Running, biking and slowly learning Portuguese one Rosetta Stone at a time.
■ Trips: My wedding in Rio de Janeiro.
■ Food: Grilled yellowtail and fries at Garcia’s in Miami.
■ Drink: Glenlivet on the rocks.
■ Scent: Sex Panther. If it’s good enough for Ron Burgundy, it’s good enough for me.
■ Singer: I’d like Alicia Keys to sing at my birthday party one day.
■ Quote: “Eighty percent of success is just showing up,” Woody Allen. He’s right.
Bill Peterson was named commissioner of the North American Soccer League in November after a career that’s had him spanning the globe. He spent much of the 1990s with the World League of American Football (later branded as NFL Europe) before joining AEG Sports in 2000. At NASL, which has three-month seasons in the spring and fall, the goal is to have 18 franchises in the now nine-team league by 2018. That should keep Peterson, 48, on the road from NASL’s Miami headquarters in the years to come. He also will continue to serve as chairman of USA Cycling’s board of directors, a position he’s held since 2010.
— By Christopher Botta
Our club owners want to be a part of NASL. They want to build something. They’re not focused on joining MLS or any other leagues.”
Doing business in the U.S. vs. Europe: Europeans measure time in centuries, not minutes. Real, personal relationships are valued more and accomplish more.
Favorite place to live: Central Pennsylvania, Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Ponte Vedra Beach … I’ve had the chance to stand in more than 50 countries. I’m the luckiest guy I know.
Favorite place to work: Every stop has contributed to my personal growth, but I must say doing business in flip-flops is nice.
NASL’s mission statement: We’re not established to be a minor league or a feeder league. Our teams are in it to win matches and championships. The league is here to entertain fans and help pro soccer grow in North America.
On the New York Cosmos joining NASL in the fall: As the NASL, how can you not want the legendary New York Cosmos to be a part of it? I’m excited about the approach of Cosmos management. They come with a legacy, but they also know Pelé’s not playing for them anymore. They will stand on their own.
Keys to success: Tickets and sponsorships, tickets and sponsorships, tickets and sponsorships. We need each team to be relevant in its own market.
Other properties that intrigue: Formula One and NASCAR, because I love all types of racing. I believe there are a lot of interesting opportunities to grow those properties globally.