RITA BENSON LEBLANC is back working for the Saints and according to the team is “busier than ever.” LeBlanc, the heir apparent to her grandfather, team Owner TOM BENSON, and listed as a co-Owner on the club’s website, was reported last month by the New Orleans Times-Picayune to be on an involuntary leave of absence because of her management style. A source confirmed the story for SportsBusiness Journal when it was reported. Saints VP/Communications GREG BENSEL, said via e-mail, “Rita is working as normal, busier than ever.” As for her leave of absence, Bensel said, “She was out of the office attending meetings [some for Benson and the Saints] and attending conferences.” Asked if that meant the reported characterization of her absence had been inaccurate, Bensel reiterated his comment. Bensel also said Benson LeBlanc had not been in the hospital in late April, as her grandfather told reporters at that time. “She had the flu, was never in the hospital. She was traveling for a month or so,” he said.
People and Pop Culture
Stanford Univ. Deputy AD PATRICK DUNKLEY will serve as interim AD while the school searches for a replacement for the departing BOB BOWLSBY. Dunkley “joined the athletic department last spring after nearly a decade in the office of the general counsel." The university said that “it expects to announce” a new AD by September (SFGATE.com, 5/11)....EPL club Liverpool Dir of Communications IAN COTTON is “leaving the club after 16 years.” His last day will be Sunday. Cotton’s departure “follows last month’s departures" of Dir of Football DAMIEN COMOLLI and Head of Sports Medicine & Sports Science PETER BRUKNER (PA, 5/11)....The USFL announced Pro Football HOFer FRED BILETNIKOFF and former Browns and Ravens Exec VP JAMES BAILEY have been named to the league’s board of advisors. Biletnikoff will serve on the football operations side of the USFL’s advisory board and Bailey on business operations (USFL)....Florida State Univ. has promoted Associate AD/Compliance VANESSA FUCHS to Senior Associate AD and Senior Woman Administrator (FSU).
DEADLINE.com's Mike Fleming reported actor JON HAMM has been tapped to "play a sports agent in 'MILLION DOLLAR ARM,' the drama based on the true story of how sports agent J.B. BERNSTEIN discovered professional pitchers RINKU SINGH and DINESH PATEL through a reality show he staged in India with cricket players." Mayhem Pictures’ MARK CIARDI and GORDON GRAY are producing the film with MLS Sounders Owner JOE ROTH and producer PALAK PATEL. Screenwriter THOMAS MCCARTHY "wrote the script and the plan is to shoot in the fall" (DEADLINE.com, 5/9).
THINKING GREEN: In L.A., Tony Barboza notes the California Coastal Commission on Wednesday approved a plan from actor CLINT EASTWOOD, golfer ARNOLD PALMER, former MLB Commissioner PETER UEBERROTH and other Pebble Beach Co. owners "that is billed as the last development ever at the gated complex of golf courses, mansions and hotels on the Monterey Peninsula." The deal, approved "unanimously by the panel at a hearing in San Rafael, allows limited hotel development and home building while preserving hundreds of acres for public use." The development has been "significantly scaled back" since '07 (L.A. TIMES, 5/11).
COINS FOR CANTON: U.S. Sen. ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio) and Rep. JIM RENACCI (R-Ohio) Thursday introduced a bill that would create a commemorative coin to benefit the Pro Football HOF (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/11). The coin would "raise money to preserve the seven million football artifacts the museum in Canton has gathered and help it collect more" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/11).
LEADING THE CHARGE: ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz profiles Clippers VP/Basketball Operations NEIL OLSHEY under the header, "The Man Behind Clippers' Rise." Arnovitz writes, "More than anything, the prospect of morphing the Clippers from a punch line to a paragon is his passion project." Olshey said, "The thing that's most important to me and all of us is that we want players who want to be here" (ESPN.com, 5/11).
TELLING HER STORY: Former Canadian synchronized swimmer CATHERINE GARCEAU appeared on “ET” Thursday night to discuss her new book, “Swimming Out of Water.” Host Nancy O’Dell said the book chronicles Garceau's “long battle with bulimia.” O’Dell: “She’s telling her story and helping others with her new book.” Garceau said, “My mother still says it to me: ‘Catherine, don’t be so hard on yourself. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.’” O'Dell noted upcoming episodes of the show will features the “inspirational stories of other female Olympians and how they overcame their battles with eating disorders” (“ET,” 5/10).
NAMES: Packers QB AARON RODGERS received the Wisconsin Sports Awards' Pro Athlete of the Year honor Thursday night, and shared the Best Team award with the Packers. This is the first year of the event, created by Good Karma Broadcasting and ESPN Radio 540 Milwaukee Owner CRAIG KARMAZIN. A panel chose the "nominees, and 100 sports executives, administrators and media members chose the winners" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/11)....GMR Marketing VP ALLISON KELLY was named recipient of the '12 Charles R. Higgins Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented annually to a graduate of the Ohio Univ. sports administration program that has positively impacted the sports industry and the lives of others. Past recipients include D'Backs President & CEO DERRICK HALL, ACC Commissioner JOHN SWOFFORD and consultant ANDY DOLICH and (THE DAILY)....Pro Football HOFer ART MONK and 62 other plaintiffs have sued the NFL and helmet manufacturer Riddell over "short term memory loss, headaches and speech difficulties" from multiple concussions sustained during their careers. Monk is the lead plaintiff in an 82-page lawsuit filed last week in L.A. Superior Court (WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/11)....The MLS Galaxy will visit the White House Tuesday in honor of their '11 MLS Cup Championship. President BARACK OBAMA will honor the team at 11:05pm ET on the South Lawn, and First Lady MICHELLE OBAMA will be the host for a "Let's Move!" soccer clinic to follow (ESPN.com, 5/10)....MLB Rangers 1B MITCH MORELAND has left Hendricks Sports Management and is now repped by BBI Sports Group's JAY FRANKLIN, who also reps Rangers 2B IAN KINSLER (TWITTER.com, 5/10)....
Patriots TE AARON HERNANDEZ was with the NFL media sales team "to pitch the NFL Network’s expanded 13-game schedule and other new online and mobile aps to Boston media buyers in Faneuil Hall" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/11)....Univ. of Tennessee women's basketball Coach Emeritus PAT SUMMITT will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage award at the '12 ESPYs, in honor of the strength and courage she displayed during her tenure at the school and in the face of illness. Summitt was diagnosed last year with early onset dementia (ESPN)....The Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston will hold their annual House Party on May 19 at the Brookline home of Red Sox Owner JOHN HENRY and his wife, LINDA (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/11).