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Volume 24 No. 114

People and Pop Culture

ERIC THOMAS sits in a corner cafe in uptown Charlotte and admits this is the quietest setting in which he has ever been interviewed. Thomas, not used to having to tone down his often vivacious and passionate comments, was in town as the motivational speaker for the Jordan Brand Classic. When Thomas isn’t making the rounds as a motivational speaker, he is an avid Detroit sports fan. In fact, his residence in Detroit has seen an opposite effect of the recession. As the economy took a turn for the worse, he utilized the opportunity to deliver a good message amid dire straits. And he notes that now more than ever, people need to hear a good message; to get inspired and motivated to look for a greater goal. With experience as a consultant for Michigan State for the past seven years, he has insights as to how the NCAA could better serve today’s athletes, the one-and-done rule, the Saints' recent troubles and more.

Q: Where can the NCAA do a better job serving today’s college athletes?
Thomas: I think we have to do a better job of giving them the support that they need. The principles that they need. The books that they need to be reading. Their character courses that they should be going through. They should be connected to mentors like MICHAEL JORDAN. Individuals who didn’t just play the game but who have a business mind, who have a vision. Who see the bigger aspect of the game. I think that we could mentor them better, put them in programs that will support them so when they get to college they won’t be asked to make some of the major decisions they are being made to ask without the tools that they need.

Q: How about NCAA and the one-and-done rule?
Thomas: I think the one-and-done, if used properly, it could be advantageous for younger athletes. If the students go in with the mindset of ‘I’m not just coming here because of a rule. I’m not just doing one-and-done. I’m here and I want to maximize, I want to meet professors. I want to meet other students. I want to meet other athletes.’ Think about it, when you play basketball, you have an opportunity to meet guys who play football. So when graduate or when you get drafted, your network is so much greater.

Q: Talk about motivation -- what’s the biggest area where you feel people or employees can be motivated?
Thomas: I go back to personal motivation. My thing is intrinsic values. We got to tell people how their lives will be so much fuller if they reach their own personal level of excellence. There are people who want to be promoted, there are people that there are certain things that they want in life, but I think the intrinsic value is the greatest one of all. We need to motivate people to think differently about themselves, think differently about their opportunities.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes you see companies making today in leading people?
Thomas: I think what most companies do wrong is that they come up with this vision statement, they come up with this brand but they don’t walk it out. They don’t live it. That’s the mistakes companies make. They ask you to do what they say, but not do what they do.

Q: Do you find Jordan to be a successful businessman?
Thomas: I do. I know there are people who beg to differ in terms of the outcomes ... the Charlotte Bobcats are having. But when you talk about a brand, he’s a guy that’s with Nike and has found a way, you know Nike is a major brand, and he’s found a way in Nike to duplicate that and brand himself. Definitely a successful businessman.

Q: When do you turn off your ‘motivational’ buttons?
Thomas: 9:30 at night (when he goes to bed). … Other than that, I’m on. Let’s be honest, we’re in a recession right now. We’re coming out of it, but this country we’ve taken a hit in the last 10, 12 years. So if people ever need to be inspired and encouraged, if people have ever needed hope to keep going, it’s now. And I’ve been given that gift, and until I die -- like a MOTHER TERESA, like a GANDHI -- I want to give out every single inch of it.

Q: If your business was booming during a recession, what happens when the recession comes to an end? What happens then?
Thomas: I think managing in success is different than managing in poverty. … Our business will be around for a long time because there are people who seem to be successful in one area of their lives but not in the other. And then more specifically, we’ve seen people’s personal lives even hinder their professional lives and the success that they’re used to attaining because their personal lives unfortunately, some of the negatives, are now creeping into their professional life.

Q: Do you have a bucket list of teams or organizations you would like to talk to, or some that you think need to hear your message?
Thomas: I would like to talk to (the Saints) not necessarily because of the bounty issue but when you lose your leader -- you know they are losing a coach. … So not necessarily from the bounty perspective, but from the loss. … There is a gap right now that the Saints are dealing with and I would love to just go in and not just talk to them, but I’d like to talk to DREW BREES. I’d like to talk to other players and really get a feel for them. Ask, ‘Hey guys, how are you going to keep going under these circumstances? What are you going to do?’ I wish I could have talked to teams during the lockout who didn’t know if they were going to be playing football again. Who didn’t know if they were going to be playing basketball. Because the information that I get from them I could use in Detroit. GM, Ford, Chrysler – people have lost their jobs and to be able to go back to them and say, ‘Hey guys, I talked to some other people who have loss and this is how they manage it.’

Q: What’s the largest audience you ever spoke in front of?
Thomas: Cairo, Egypt was about 10,000 people.

Q: What is the worst part of your job?
Thomas: I have to leave people’s lives. I’m with this kid for 30 minutes to an hour, he’s pumped. He’s motivated, we're feeling each other. Now I got to get on a plane and go home. And then my family, you know I got to leave my family. I’ve got a son who needs just as much motivation as these kids I’m talking to right here. … That’s the biggest part: coming in people’s lives for a moment, then having to leave.

Former UConn AD JEFF HATHAWAY yesterday was formally introduced as Hofstra Univ. AD. Hathaway agreed to a five-year contract with the school, and will begin in June (Hofstra). In Connecticut, John Altavilla noted Hathaway accepted the job at Hofstra "less than a year after he resigned under pressure" at UConn. Hathaway has spent the last 13 years "as a high-level administrator, beginning as a trusted assistant" to former UConn AD LEW PERKINS from '99-'01. Hathaway left to become AD at Colorado State Univ. until replacing Perkins, who left in ‘03 for Kansas Univ. (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/16). The AP noted Hofstra interim AD DANNY MCCABE will “remain as the executive associate athletic director” (AP, 5/15). Hofstra President STUART RABINOWITZ said that a significant reason for hiring Hathaway “is to navigate Hofstra through conference issues." On Long Island, Steven Marcus noted toward the end of Hathaway's UConn tenure, the athletic department was “scrutinized by the NCAA for recruiting violations in men's basketball and declining academic scores.” Hathaway said, “I didn't come here to retire. Anybody who knows me, knows I'm either 110 percent in or I'm out.” Rabinowitz said that Hathaway was "fully vetted by the university." Rabinowitz: “I am absolutely convinced that what went wrong there was not due to anything he did or should have done” (NEWSDAY, 5/16).

In New Orleans, Lyons Yellin notes the Univ. of New Orleans hired DEREK MOREL as its new AD. Morel, a New Orleans native, was previously IMG Sports Marketing VP & GM for its Wake Forest Univ. properties. He is the school’s “fifth athletic director in three years, and replaces AMY CHAMPION.” UNO President PETER FOS said that the school “considered more than 75 applicants before selecting Morel, citing his fundraising experience as a key factor.” Yellin notes Fos "singled out Morel’s tenure" as St. Bonaventure Univ. AssociateAD/External Relations. While at St. Bonaventure, Morel “delivered a 150 percent increase in sponsorship revenue” between ‘97 and ‘04. Morel is “not contractually obligated to begin at UNO until July 1” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/16).

NYRA promoted COO ELLEN MCCLAIN to President, replacing CHARLES  HAYWARD, who was dismissed last week (, 5/14)….Palace Sports & Entertainment hired ANDY LOUGHNANE as VP/Corporate Partnerships (PS&E)....African-American TV network Aspire named GMC Senior VP & General Counsel PAUL BUTLER GM. Butler will oversee all operations of the MAGIC JOHNSON-owned station, which is set to launch next month. He will continue his role with GMC up until channel’s launch (, 5/15)….ANDRIA NOLAN has been named Exec Dir of the Florida Panthers Foundation. Nolan was previously Henderson Behavioral Health Dir of Development. She also previously worked as an Exec Assistant in the Panthers' marketing department from ’95-98 (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal)….FanVision hired SEAN O’BRIEN as its first Senior VP/U.S. Motorsports. He previously worked at Sony, where he held several senior positions in sales and marketing management. O'Brien will be in charge of the company's new five-year partnership with NASCAR, as well as any other motor racing initiatives in the U.S. (FanVision)….Concordia Univ. Texas named STAN BONEWITZ AD. He will continue in his role as men’s basketball coach (Concordia)….Univ. of Mary Washington named KEN TYLER AD. Tyler comes to UMW after holding the same position at West Virginia Wesleyan College (UMW).

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President BARACK OBAMA yesterday welcomed the Galaxy to the White House in honor of the club's '11 MLS Cup victory and said of MF DAVID BECKHAM, it is a "rare man who can be that tough on the field and also have his own line of underwear" (AP, 5/15). Beckham later said, "I'll have to send him some long johns and some of the different pieces. He'll definitely be getting a package" (WASHINGTON EXAMINER, 5/16). Meanwhile, Beckham is scheduled to make a "guest appearance at the official handover ceremony of the Olympic flame in Athens and bring it back to Britain for the torch relay" (PA, 5/16). 

ON THE PAYROLL: In Miami, Neal & Beasley note Florida Int'l Univ. "never has given an official reason for firing ISIAH THOMAS as men's basketball coach in April." But Thomas' FIU personnel file indicates that he "didn't violate his contract in any way, and the university owes him the $660,000 base salary of his contract's final two years" (MIAMI HERALD, 5/16)....In Ft. Worth, Dwain Price reports the Mavericks yesterday gave coach RICK CARLISLE a four-year contract extension. The team "didn't release" Carlisle's financial package, but he earned $4.5M this season and "received a salary increase in his extension." Celtics coach DOC RIVERS, who made $7M this season, is the NBA's highest-paid coach (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/16).

SUN SCREEN: In Pittsburgh, Kaitlynn Riely notes CBS' BILL COWHER, who lost his wife to melanoma in '10, yesterday helped launch "Melanoma Exposed," a campaign to "encourage more people to get screened for the form of skin cancer." The goal of the campaign is to "educate the American public ... about the importance of being screened for skin cancer." The campaign, which launched its website yesterday, will hold its "first free public skin screening" at Sun Life Stadium next month. The NFL Giants, Broncos and Ravens will host other free screenings (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 5/16). Cowher appeared on CNBC's "Fast Money" yesterday to promote the campaign (THE DAILY).

THIS ONE'S FOR THE GIRLS: Vikings RB ADRIAN PETERSON appeared at Southwestern Univ. last weekend to watch the AAU girls' basketball team he sponsors, AD Elite, play in a tournament. Peterson said that he helps the team "to honor his six sisters and a dozen aunts." In exchange for his sponsorship, Peterson asked that the players "spend at least one day a month working on a community service project" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 5/16).

NAMES: MLB Rangers 2B IAN KINSLER donated $7,500 to Make-A-Wish North Texas (, 5/14)....MLB Giants President & CEO LARRY BAER and his wife, PAM, attended the '12 Tipping Point Benefit Dinner last week in S.F. Since '05, the poverty-fighting group charity has raised nearly $50M to support its 34 organizations (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/16)....The National Football Foundation will honor ESPN Exec Chair GEORGE BODENHEIMER with the '12 NFF Distinguished American Award, which recognizes a person who has maintained an interest in football, exhibited leadership qualities and made a significant contribution to the betterment of amateur football in the U.S. (NFF)....MLB Rangers broadcaster ERIC NADEL on Aug. 11 will become the 15th member of the Rangers HOF. Nadel has been with the organization for 34 years, including the last 18 as the team's lead voice. Rangers Senior Exec VP JIM SUNDBERG said, "When I think of Eric, I think of excellence. I love listening to him" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/15)....Former college football coach JIMMY JOHNSON yesterday was inducted into the College Football HOF. The '12 class included 14 players and three coaches (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 5/16)....Lions DT NDAMUKONG SUH yesterday spoke at the opening of D1 Detroit, a sports training and therapy facility he co-owns with Lions TE TONY SCHEFFLER and others. The fitness center is the 14th facility in the U.S. for D1, which has as roster of site owners that includes Broncos QB PEYTON MANNING, who owns three locations in Tennessee. Other owners include Chargers QB PHILIP RIVERS, Jets QB TIM TEBOW and Braves 3B CHIPPER JONES (DETROIT NEWS, 5/16).