• Athletic Director of the Year: Jeff Long, University of Arkansas

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    University of Arkansas AD Jeff Long
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long heard his name called, worded an eloquent speech, posed for a few photos — and then it sunk in.

    “You’re floating on a cloud up there on that stage, but now it’s starting to hit me,” the choked-up, freshly named Athletic Director of the Year award winner said backstage. “It really is an emotional moment for me.”

    Long received the honor in large part due to his ability to run a top-tier Division I program while simultaneously serving as the inaugural College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair.

    The key to his success? “It’s a team effort. It’s been a fantastic experience for me to let go a little bit, and a fantastic experience for my senior leaders who get to take on a larger role in my absence.”

    Long watched games Saturday, watched replays of matches Sunday and prepared for the committee meetings from Monday until midnight Tuesday night, all while leading Arkansas to an $8 million profit. And yes, he will be doing it all over again next year, having already been re-elected to lead the selection committee.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Sports Facility of the Year: Levi's Stadium

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    The 49ers’ Al Guido
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    Officially, the Sports Business Award is for a given year. But for San Francisco 49ers Chief Operating Officer Al Guido, Wednesday night was a celebration for the ages.

    “I think we’re celebrating a decade here, there’s no question,” a beaming Guido said after Levi’s Stadium won the Best Facility honors.

    Indeed, the stadium’s long, difficult road to opening day started in 2006, a time when the odds didn’t look good thanks to a noncompetitive football team holding down enthusiasm, an awful economic climate and intense political headwinds against public financing.

    But the stadium opened a year ahead of schedule. It now boasts a rejuvenated fan base, a bevy of high-profile events like Wrestlemania and world-renowned technology and environmentally sustainability design features.

    Guido spread the credit around far and wide, from the every segment of the 49ers organization, to its fans that lined up to buy seat licenses long before the team’s return to winning. But he also praised the Cowboys, Jets and Giants for innovating new paths to private financing.

    Guido wants to build a great stadium brand, but that doesn’t happen on construction alone. It takes great events. And Guido’s team has to keep aiming high and locking down top-flight events, he said.

    But in the meantime, “Something tells me I’m going to pour a lot of champagne into this thing,” Guido said, gesturing to the trophy.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Aaaaand cut! Congrats to all 2015 SBA winners

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    Tags: On the Ground, Sports Business Awards
  • Recipients of the 2015 Sports Business Awards

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    A look at the all of the winners at the Sports Business Awards tonight at the Marriott Marquis Times Square:

    Best in Digital Sports Media: ESPN Digital Media

    Best in Sports Event and Experiential Marketing: Momentum Worldwide

    Sports Facility of the Year: Levi’s Stadium

    Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services: Learfield Sports

    Sports Event of the Year: 2015 College Football Playoff

    Best in Sports Technology: Zebra Technologies

    Best in Talent Representation and Management: Excel Sports Management

    Lifetime Achievement Award: Dick Ebersol

    Sports Team of the Year: Los Angeles Kings

    Best in Sports Television: ESPN

    Athletic Director of the Year: Jeff Long, University of Arkansas

    Best in Corporate Consulting, Marketing and Client Services: Octagon

    Sports League of the Year: NBA

    Best in Sports Media: ESPN

    Sports Sponsor of the Year: AT&T

    Sports Executive of the Year: Adam Silver, NBA

    Tags: On The Ground
  • More from Twitter as the ceremony winds down

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    Tags: Sports Business Awards, On the Ground
  • Best in Sports Technology: Zebra Technologies

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    Zebra Technologies' Jill Stelfox
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    Zebra Technologies is not used to being thrust into the spotlight. “We’re a huge company,” said Jill Stelfox, vice president and general manager of location solutions, “but we’re always behind the scenes. So something this big, this public, we’re normally not this cool, so it’s really awesome.”

    This year’s Best in Sports Technology award winner had never crossed over into sports until just last year when it partnered with the NFL to implement its tracking capabilities. Besting a group that includes the likes of ESPN, SAP, Daktronics, MLB Replay Operations Center and OneTwoSee is no small feat, but it’s also just the beginning.

    “Player tracking has been around for three years in totality,” Stelfox said. “It’s such a new thing and there’s so much to learn. Every league worldwide is going to have to make a statement on player tracking, and everyone’s going to want more and more and more. I think it’s this firehose that’s going to open up over the next 24 months. And it’s going to be a wave, because it takes time to put the infrastructure in, but once it’s in place, the data just keeps coming.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Talent Representation and Management: Excel Sports Management

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    Excel's Alan Zucker
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    If he’s not already, Alan Zucker is going to start getting really comfortable on stage.

    Excel Sports Management took home the honors in the Best in Talent Representation and Management category of the Sports Business Awards for the second straight year, and Zucker accepted the award for the second time in his short 13-month tenure as a partner.

    “The double barrel!” he exclaimed to his celebratory team backstage.

    In a year when the talent agency expertly managed Yankees superstar Derek Jeter’s retirement tour and helped launch his post-retirement website The Players’ Tribune, Zucker swears the team at Excel didn’t realize what a good year they had going until much later.

    “You don’t reflect upon it until you have to put the presentation together, and that’s when I think you look back and say, ‘OK, that was a good year,’” Zucker said.

    So what’s next? “The Trifecta,” he says, predicting big things for the boutique agency in an era of consolidation. He and partners Jeff Schwartz, Casey Close and Mark Steinberg will continue focusing on making sure they have “the right clients,” he said.

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Watching the clock — SBAs are cruising

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    Tags: On the Ground, Sports Business Awards
  • Sports Event of the Year: 2015 College Football Playoff

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    CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    In its first year, the College Football Playoff was selected as the 2015 Sports Business Award winner for the Sports Event of the Year. But even as the national championship game had a record cable television audience with more than 33 million average viewers, CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock was still shocked to hear that they were taking home the award.

    “We were really in tall cotton with these other events in the category, these are all bucket-listers, so to just be nominated was tremendous,” he said. “We knew we had a great event, and it’s a tribute to the hundreds of people who made these games happen, and to the passion of the game. In less than three years to go to no event to this, it’s remarkable.”

    Tags: On The Ground
  • Best in Property Consulting, Marketing and Client Services: Learfield Sports

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    Learfield’s Andy Rawlings
    Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
    No portion of the sports business has been changing faster and more dramatically than college sports. With a series of moves to keep pace, including acquisitions, advancements  in multimedia offerings and innovative social media programs, Learfield Sports more than kept pace.

    “It was incredibly hard to put all those things together,” said Andy Rawlings, executive vice president and chief revenue officer at Learfield, which won the 2015 Sports Business Award for Best in Property Consulting, Sales and Client Services. “Deals that look great on paper only are great if the people that come with them are great and work together. Our expectations were high, but they were all exerted.”

    Tags: On The Ground
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