SBJ/Sept. 11-17, 2017/Game Changers

Gina Lehe, College Football Playoff

Photo by: CFP IMAGES

G
ina Lehe and sports were locked arm-in-arm during her days growing up on California’s central coast. She was introduced to it at an early age through her father, Rip, who was a teacher at the local middle school and officiated football, basketball and baseball games. When new rule books came out, she’d read them with her dad.
Gina Lehe
College Football Playoff // Senior director, communications and brand management
But Gina wasn’t one to watch from the sidelines. Since there weren’t girl-specific leagues in her hometown, she was often the only girl playing on the boys’ teams.

“The only way my dad could get me to go to practice was to pay me,” Lehe said with a laugh. “I got a little extra to go to games.”

Lehe now runs communications and brand management for the College Football Playoff, where her daily responsibilities are likely to include social media across at least four platforms and communicating with the media and officials from the host city. Entering its fourth season, the CFP has managed to create a championship that in many ways is the Super Bowl for college football.

“What I like most is being able to experience a different environment every year,” she said. “Each host city has different strengths; they’re all very different.”

Lehe had hoped to find a profession that would feed her love of sports. When a serious knee injury ended her hopes of playing volleyball at Loyola Marymount, she went to the University of Arizona, primarily because of the Wildcats’ powerful basketball team.

That led to jobs at the Insight Bowl in Tucson, and later the Fiesta and Rose bowls before landing at the CFP. “I knew I wanted to work in sports,” Lehe said. “I changed my major three times and kind of stumbled into communications, but that’s when the lightbulb went off for me.”

— Michael Smith



  • Where born: Sacramento (grew up in Pacific Grove, Calif.).
  • Education: University of Arizona, B.A. in communications.
  • Attribute I look for when hiring: Someone who truly understands the definition of teamwork.
  • Networking tip I’ve learned: Get to know people on a personal level. Often in business settings, people become uncomfortable and feel the need to constantly “talk shop.” It is amazing how great your network level rises when you have an authentic conversation with someone about their non-business life.
  •  Best advice I’ve received for career development: Don’t be afraid to admit and acknowledge what you don’t know. Being a strong leader means believing and trusting in those around you.
  • Sports business industry can foster a healthier work-life balance by: Slowing down the demands of a 24-hour news cycle (is that even possible?!). The need for immediacy has had a detrimental impact on overall productivity, often resulting in burnout and at the expense of credibility. Coming in first place is meaningless if it is done without respect, consideration and patience.
  •  If I had it to do over again, I would: At the risk of sounding cliché, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. There is a plan in place from up above that I trust equally in the triumphs and tribulations.
  • Woman in sports business I’d most like to meet: Charlotte Jones Anderson. Among leading the way as the “first woman” on myriad accomplishments, I admire her diverse scope of oversight.
  • Is discussion about challenges women face working in sports necessary or played out? As long as gender inequity exists, the discussion will always be necessary.
  •  Cause supported: Cancer research. In 2011, I lost my mother at age 62 to colon cancer. I will be a lifelong advocate to raise awareness and funding for all cancers.

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