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The Chicago Cubs promoted Jason Sondag to director of strategy and development.
The St. Louis Cardinals named Jim Watry general manager and chief operating officer of the Cardinals’ Ballpark Village.
The Los Angeles Dodgers named Roy Clark national crosschecker. Clark was assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel for the Washington Nationals.
The San Diego Padres named Wayne Partello senior vice president and chief marketing officer and Steven Ziff senior vice president of sales. Partello was senior group director of marketing and content for the Miami Dolphins, and Ziff was senior vice president of marketing and brand activation for the Florida Panthers and BB&T Center.
The Texas Rangers promoted A.J. Preller to assistant general manager and Mike Daly to senior director of minor league operations.
Fred Stanley resigned as San Francisco Giants director of player development.
Ball State University named Gina Bradburn director for development for athletics and Kirk Davis manager of ticket sales and fan development. Bradburn was chief customer officer at Praxis Consulting.
The Big East Conference named Rick Gentile senior associate commissioner of broadcasting.
The Horizon League named Tom Crowley special assistant to the commissioner. Crowley was athletic director at Niagara University.
Temple University named Kevin Clark vice president and athletic director. Clark was senior adviser to the president.
Jon Haskins resigned as University of Florida football director of player personnel.
California State University, Bakersfield named Dena Freeman-Patton to the newly created position of associate athletic director for academics. Freeman-Patton was associate athletic director for academic support for Georgia State University.
The University of Northern Colorado named Darren Dunn athletic director. Dunn was deputy athletic director at the University of Houston.
California State University, Monterey Bay promoted Kirby Garry to athletic director.
The University of Colorado named Lance Carl associate athletic director.
Jim Weaver is retiring as Virginia Tech University athletics director, effective Dec. 31.
Global Spectrum named David Farrar general manager of Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex in Indiana, Pa. Farrar was assistant general manager and director of events at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo.
AEG Facilities promoted Steve Rosebrook to general manager of the Barclays Center.
Atlanta Motor Speedway promoted Dustin Bixby to director of marketing and promotion.
The Miami Dolphins named Nick Forro vice president of sales and service and Dave Baldwin director of consumer sales. Forro was director of ticket sales and service for the New York Yankees, and Baldwin was director of business development for the Phoenix Suns.
The PGA Tour Northern Trust Open named O.D. Vincent executive director. Vincent was senior associate athletic director at the University of Washington.
The Buffalo Sabres hired Pat LaFontaine as president of hockey operations. LaFontaine was vice president of development and community affairs for the NHL.
Professional Sports Partners named Tia Norman director of client development. Norman was a district manager for Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
Cenergy named Jennifer Zimpfer director of agency services, Brian Meyer senior copywriter and Allison Giacomini account manager. Zimpfer was project manager at Publicas Kaplan Thaler, Meyer was with Paragon Advertising, and Giacomini was digital manager at MediaVest.
Excel Sports Management named Rachel Walsh senior director of client services. Walsh was an international communications specialist for the NBA.
Fox Networks promoted Michael Biard to president of distribution.
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For the first time in its 28-year history, the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, is adding a sports-focused track to its programming, called SXsports. Three days of the 2014 festival’s two weeks next spring will include a series of presentations, panels and film screenings centered on the role of sports in technology and culture. Rebecca Feferman, a programmer and head of media relations for SXSW Film, has been principally involved in the development of the new sports track.
We want to focus on the future of sports — like LGBT equality issues and youth sports, the cultural impact angle. And ways technology can affect it all, like the enhancement of the in-stadium experience.”
Photo by:NICK SIMONITE
What’s planned?: There will be approximately 40 conference sessions and five or six films in the SXsports program. We’re having a featured session with Bill Simmons of Grantland and Nate Silver, who recently took his FiveThirtyEight blog to ESPN. We see Bill and Nate, who will sit with a moderator, as perfect for South By Southwest. We’ll also have a session with coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the U.S. men’s national team, just two months before the start of the World Cup. … Other panels and core conversations will cover everything from sports brands’ influence on culture to the use of drone technology.
Sponsorships?: There won’t be a title sponsorship for the sports section of the conference. There will be a handful of sales opportunities, like hosting happy hours and what we’re calling the Overtime Party, which is a nighttime event after the last day of our sports programming on Sunday, March 9.
Reaction to the new content?: It’s been exciting and wonderful. Many brands and major players in sports have offered to help and offered their input. There are still sessions that we are working on and will announce in the coming weeks. We’re looking at a lot of areas. We hope that we’re providing a broader look at the sports world that hasn’t been done before at a festival with our reach.
— By Christopher Botta
W e are trying to keep our fans connected, involved and give them a reason to come to our venues, instead of sitting in front of their 72-inch flat-screen.
We’ve got the largest football stadium in the country, dug into a hole in the ground, with no overhangs or second decks to hang stuff from. So, we’re still trying to figure out how to get it Wi-Fi compliant and have a pipe big enough to accommodate 112,000 people. That’s a bit of a riddle.
Photo by:ERIC BRONSON / UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
I was the CEO for 22 years of two different companies. I’m sure a lot of that translates, but this is a very different job. I don’t have shareholders and my stakeholders are very different in general and in it for a very different purpose.
I was considered an unconventional choice, as a CEO and someone from the business world. Almost four years later, I think it’s become far more common for university presidents to reach out to someone with business experience.
You’ve got to generate revenue, you’ve got to manage costs, you’ve got to appropriate capital, you’ve got to hire and build a great team, you’ve got to recruit, you’ve got to fundraise, and you’ve got to follow NCAA rules, which is a lot like following SEC rules, in the final analysis.
A lot of the skills are very transferable, which is why I think you’ll see more people come into this role from the business world. Once upon a time, this [job] was where retired coaches went. It’s different now.
The only thing you don’t know about this job until you get into it is the intensity. There’s hundreds of thousands of people out there that all think they can do this job better. They all speak their minds. So, there’s the intensity of this environment, where every decision is scrutinized, and if it isn’t controversial, we’ll make it controversial.
This is a job that never quits.
I ran a multibillion-dollar global company before this, and my schedule now is way more demanding. However, my view is that a lot of athletic directors around the country wish they had people who cared about what they do. I don’t have that problem.
We have 900 student athletes; they’ve got to go to school, get degrees and prepare for the next 50 years. That’s something the average fan doesn’t always think about.
One of our initiatives is to leverage our facilities as much as possible. We are renting out our facilities now for corporate events, bar mitzvahs, weddings.
More people get married on the block M in the middle of our stadium than you would believe. The most popular wedding photo is the groom holding the ball for the extra point, while the bride is going through the motions of kicking the ball.
Paying student athletes is a stupid idea. We have 900 student athletes. Tell me who I should pay and who I’m not going to pay? It ruins the whole collegiate model.
If any individual wants to be paid to perform in a sport, go somewhere and have somebody pay you. I don’t want anything to do with it. We’re running a not-for-profit enterprise here that is an auxiliary unit of a public university. We’re here to provide great experiences to student athletes. If somebody just wants to be an athlete and they want to be paid for it — leave.
Meeting-mania can take over a culture. To me, they are a necessary evil. So I’m big on meetings having a clear agenda, a starting time, an ending time and a purpose. Otherwise, you can end up in a meeting room doing nothing but eating doughnuts.
Everybody keeps saying that somebody is going to make a lot of money [from a BCS playoff], but the last data I saw, there were 127 Division I schools with 85 football scholarships [apiece] at large stadiums. Of those 127 schools, 23 are cash-flow break-even or positive. That means 80 percent of the schools participating are losing money. The average subsidy per institution was estimated at $11 million.
If anyone suggests that any of these athletic programs are getting rich, there is tremendously specific evidence to refute that. The 23 of us that are cash-flow positive are running cash-flow margins that are VERY small and all that surplus ends up getting reinvested in capital because we have big facilities to maintain.
We’ve been growing our top-line revenue pretty aggressively. It helps when you have a men’s basketball team competing for a national championship and a football team that’s very competitive. We’re not going to continue to grow at double-digit rates, but there’s still strong middle single-digit growth left.
I’ve always gotten my best ideas talking to the people at the grassroots of any organization.
When I ran Domino’s, the best ideas always came from the franchisees. So I’d go to the stores and ask the people making the pizzas how we can do this better. It’s the same thing here; the people on the front line are going to be much smarter about that kind of stuff than some of the people you’ll meet in the boardroom.