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Volume 24 No. 158

People and Pop Culture

THE DAILY each Friday offers our take on the performances over the past week of people and entities in sports business. Here are this week's newsmakers:

WIN: MLB -- With the NFL locked out and the NBA heading that way, it's refreshing to see MLB kick off its '11 season as the model of labor consistency for professional sports. While the MLB CBA expires in December, comments at this week's IMG World Congress of Sports from both BUD SELIG and MICHAEL WEINER add to the growing sentiment that baseball should breeze through the upcoming negotiations. With labor on everyone's mind in the sports business industry, MLB -- not too long ago struggling through decades of CBA strife -- can provide the blueprint for peace that the NFL, NBA and (perhaps soon) NHL should follow.

LOSE: FIESTA BOWL -- The NCAA is demanding the Fiesta Bowl explain why it should remain in the BCS rotation after a damning 276-page report reveals spending irregularities and potentially illegal employee conduct. The findings cost President & CEO JOHN JUNKER his job and cast a dark cloud over the prominent game. Fiesta Bowl officials, for their part, have instituted reforms in an attempt to curb future improprieties, but with the Cotton Bowl and others eager for an opportunity to join the BCS, it may be too little too late.

DRAW: MARYLAND JOCKEY CLUB -- The organization that runs the Preakness Stakes is at it again, creating the controversial "Kegasus" character to drive attendance for the infield party during the second Triple Crown race. The campaign is already achieving its goal of raising awareness for the race, as Baltimore-area residents and politicians are discussing the Preakness six weeks before it occurs. However, on the heels of last year's similarly divisive "Get Your Preak On" effort, is the MJC going too far in promoting the party aspect of the Preakness instead of the actual horse racing?

DiGiovanni is headed to Dallas
for the MLG Pro Curcuit
Ever wonder how executives in sports business spend their weekends? THE DAILY this week continues "What's Up For The Weekend," providing readers with an inside look at people in our industry. This week, we catch up with Major League Gaming co-Founder & CEO SUNDANCE DIGIOVANNI, who chatted with Staff Writer Theresa Manahan.

Q: What are your plans for this weekend?
DiGiovanni: I am heading to Dallas, Texas, where I will be joined by thousands of my closest friends for the season opener of the 2011 MLG Pro Circuit. This is our 8th annual Pro Circuit and our biggest yet.

Q: What are you really looking forward to this weekend? Anything special planned?
DiGiovanni: I’m really looking forward to meeting as many fans and members of the MLG community as possible, while spending a bit of time working on my "StarCraft II" game.

Q: What do you like to watch and read on the weekend?
DiGiovanni: My weekend reading and television time is centered around the Sunday edition of the New York Times, "SportsCenter" and whatever sport is in season.

What workout routines or activities do you like to do on the weekend?
DiGiovanni: Winter is all about skiing and summer is geared for mountain biking and swimming.

Q: What would our readers be most surprised to learn that you love to do on your weekends?
DiGiovanni: Gardening. My family owns a farm in upstate New York that produces amazing organic meat and produce. Closer to the city, I'm known for the tomatoes I’ve planted on my back deck.

Q: Favorite video game?
DiGiovanni: My favorite game of all time is "Halo." It served as the inspiration for MLG. My current game is "StarCraft II."

Q: Longest amount of consecutive time you have spent playing a video game?
DiGiovanni: Thirty-six hours. As part of a bet I had to complete a season of "NHL Hockey" for the Sega Genesis over one weekend my freshman year in college. I played as the Quebec Nordiques (lowest-rated team in the game) and didn't drop a single game.

Q: Best weekend ever?
DiGiovanni: Extended weekend skiing or on the beach with the family is great, but I love bringing the whole crew to our Pro Circuit events. Having them see the crowds and interact with the players is amazing, and my boys love it. Watching them get autographs from our players puts a smile on my face every time.

Q: Favorite weekend getaway?
DiGiovanni: Grilling on the back deck of my house with the kids, or Miami for a break with the wife.

Q: Favorite local restaurant?
DiGiovanni: The Waverly Inn in New York’s West Village. A good friend is one of the owners and it's always nice to go sit at his table and reminisce over a drink or two.

Magna Int'l Chair FRANK STRONACH Thursday said that he is "quitting ... in May after four decades." He "will remain a Magna adviser with annual multi-million dollar fees." Stronach "collected a whopping" $60M in total compensation last year, and he said that he "will be investing the money and not relaxing at home" (TORONTO STAR, 4/1)....NESN Exec VP/Programming & Exec Producer JOEL FELD is "done at NESN after more than five years as one of the network's chief decision-makers." NESN in a statement said Feld "decided to leave," but a source said that the decision was "made by network executives." Feld joined NESN in November '05 (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/1)....The Blue Jays have hired Baseball HOFer ROBERTO ALOMAR as a Special Assistant (CP, 3/31)....The Univ. of New Hampshire has hired Univ. of North Florida Dir of Compliance & Senior Woman Administrator MICHELLE BRONNER as Senior Associate AD for Compliance & Senior Woman Administrator (UNH)....The UFL Virginia Destroyers have hired BRIAN MELEKIAN as Senior VP (UFL)....SMG has hired THOMAS ALBRECHT as Dir of Sales for the Cobo Center in Detroit (SMG).

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The Univ. of Michigan revealed that new football coach BRADY HOKE has signed a six-year contract "potentially worth $18 million or more." The deal for '11 calls for a $300,000 base salary "bolstered by $1.7 million in additional compensation, which includes broadcast, promotional and other payments." The additional compensation "increases by $100,000 each year" of the contract, which runs through '16. Hoke gets a $1.5M bonus after the third and sixth seasons of the deal, and there also are "bonus payments for bowl game appearances and conference championship games" (, 3/30).

MAKING THE BEST OF THE SITUATION: ESPN college basketball analyst DICK VITALE "wants to make money for cancer research with the banner that Venture Richmond created to poke fun at him" for criticizing VCU's inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. Venture Richmond Exec Dir JACK BERRY is "packing the 30-foot-by-20-foot banner in a very large suitcase and taking a VCU alumni charter flight to Houston" for this weekend's Final Four, hoping to meet with Vitale. Vitale is "looking forward to signing the banner for Berry in Houston and using it to raise money for the V Foundation" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 3/31).

NAMES: Mission Hills Country Club and its members announced a fundraising effort for this week's LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship at the California course. During all four rounds of the event, the group "will donate $1,000 for every birdie and $500 for every eagle and $1,000 for any hole in one scored on the 17th and 18th holes" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 4/1)....N.Y.-based GSP Finance, the lending arm of Galatioto Sports Partners, is "suing KPMG LLP, alleging that the accounting giant misrepresented the finances" of TOM HICKS' former sports properties, including the Stars and MLB Rangers. The suit alleges that GSP "lent $67 million to Hicks' sports companies as part of loan deals in 2006," adding that an '08 audit by KPMG "wrongly gave the companies a clean bill of health" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/1)....Izod IndyCar Series team Owner SARAH FISHER announced on her blog that she and her husband, ANDY O'GARA, are "expecting their first child in September" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/1)....HBO's documentary "MAGIC AND BIRD: A COURTSHIP OF RIVALS" and ESPN's "30 for 30" series have won Peabody Awards (THE DAILY)....Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations JOHN ELWAY and his business partner, TIM SCHMIDT, plan to open a third Elway's steakhouse in Vail later this year (DENVER POST, 3/31).