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Volume 26 No. 111

People and Pop Culture

Buoniconti was inducted into the Pro Football HOF in '01 after a long career as a productive LB
Photo: getty images
Buoniconti was inducted into the Pro Football HOF in '01 after a long career as a productive LB
Photo: getty images
Buoniconti was inducted into the Pro Football HOF in '01 after a long career as a productive LB
Photo: getty images

Pro Football HOFer NICK BUONICONTI, who following his playing career "raised half a billion dollars for research to cure paralysis while becoming one of the most distinguished and accomplished alumni in franchise history," died on Tuesday night after a bout with pneumonia at age 78, according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. Buoniconti had been in "declining health, physically and mentally, in recent years and blamed his diminishment on the impact of a football career that spanned 14 seasons." Buoniconti was "one of the most productive middle linebackers in pro football history, earning induction" into the Pro Football HOF in '01. But he "left an even greater legacy off the field as the co-founder of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis." Buoniconti "devoted much of his time" to that cause after his son, MARC, was "paralyzed by a collision" during a college football game in '85. After retiring following the '76 season, Buoniconti "worked for a time as a sports agent, representing baseball stars BUCKY DENT and ANDRE DAWSON and nearly 30 other athletes." He was also president of the U.S. Tobacco Company during the late '70s and early '80s and "became familiar to a new generation of football fans in his role as a commentator on the HBO program 'Inside The NFL.'" His 23-year run on the program ended in '01 (MIAMI HERALD, 8/1).

DEDICATED TO A CAUSE: THE ATHLETIC's Chris Perkins wrote perhaps Buoniconti's "most high-profile and most rewarding achievement was founding the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis," which have raised more than $500M for "research on and treatment of spinal cord injuries." The Miami Project is "one of the largest spinal cord research centers in the world" (, 7/31). In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib writes Buoniconti following his son's paralysis was "dissatisfied with the lack of research on spinal cord injuries," and so he "spearheaded an effort to launch one" at the Univ. of Miami. Athletes, entertainers and even presidents "found it hard to say no when Buoniconti came asking for their time, money or both" (PALM BEACH POST, 8/1). In Boston, Tom Keegan writes the same qualities -- "boundless determination, refusal to accept labels, intelligence -- that allowed an undersized linebacker not considered a pro prospect to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, made him ideally suited to raising money for a cause so personal" (BOSTON HERALD, 8/1). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: “The amount of money raised and the amount of people saved who were in this certain terrible circumstance is directly attributable to Nick Buoniconti” ("PTI," ESPN, 7/31).

MORE THAN AN ATHLETE: In Miami, Greg Cote writes Buoniconti's life was "so much bigger than football." His "impact on the field was great, but his impact off the field was even greater." He was a "champion both ways" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/1). ESPN's Chris Mortensen: “He is one of the most accomplished men to have played the game of football" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/31). In Ft. Lauderdale, Hyde & Lerner write Buoniconti's football accomplishments "would be life-defining for most players." Yet his "life's work, as he defined it, began with the crushing tragedy of his son" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 8/1). Also in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes, "Here's what set Buoniconti apart from most sports stars: He had a second act." And his second act "dwarfed his football success" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 8/1).

"Going Off The Grid" is a weekly survey of sports execs and personalities offering their thoughts on a handful of pressing (and trivial) issues in sports and pop culture. This week, our panelists give their thoughts on general alcohol sales at college games and what their favorite movie genre is.

  • SMAC Entertainment co-Founder & Partner Constance Schwartz-Morini
    -- She is currently interested in the mainstreaming of cannabis.
  • MLS Senior VP/Partnership Marketing Jen Cramer
    -- Her favorite dog breed is a Tibetan Terrier.
  • Conference USA Assistant Commissioner for Sports Services Kelly Gatwood
    -- Likes to watch "Lion King" and ABC's "The Bachelor." 
  • CMO Scott Bush
    -- Enjoys hiking around Oregon.
Going Off The Grid

Favorite movie genre? Alcohol sales at college games are ... MMA or boxing? Most influential sports figure you have met? Last place you went for the first time?
Drama/Crime/Suspense -- Love a good thriller!
A right of passage
Michael Jordan
Israel -- Highly recommend it once for everyone!

Why not sell alcohol in a controlled environment?
The Great One -- Wayne Gretzky
Saint George Bistro in Hastings-On-Hudson
Romantic comedy
An opportunity
Jennie Finch
Decatur, Miss., for a wedding...interesting!
Slow-paced dramas -- "Good Will Hunting," anyone?
A no brainer
Nike's Mark Parker

Do you want to get your thoughts in the Grid? If so, shoot an e-mail to

Download the
Going Off The Grid chart

Learfield IMG College named Staples Center Senior Manager of Premium Sales MATT MENDES GM of its Spartan Sports Properties at San Jose State (THE DAILY)....Presbyterian College named UTEP Senior Associate AD/Development & External Relations ROBERT ACUNTO AD (Charleston POST & COURIER, 7/31).

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Ready to make your next great hire? Or take the next step in your career? Connect with the industry’s top employers and job seekers on the Sports Business Career Link. For more information, contact Megi Beqiraj at 212-500-0705, or

AP national golf writer DOUG FERGUSON "lost the ring" that was given to him when he received the PGA of America's Lifetime Achievement Award last April while "at the beach with his family." However, PAM and JAMES BRUBAKER were walking on Atlantic Beach in N.C. on Monday when they "noticed what they thought was a gold bottle cap." Pam "picked it up and it was Ferguson’s ring -- which had his name inscribed on it." Brubaker then "found Ferguson on Facebook and sent a photo of the ring with a message, 'I think I found a ring that belongs to you'" (AP, 7/31). 

SPEAKING OUT: U.S. figure skater ASHLEY WAGNER in a special to USA TODAY writes she was "sexually assaulted" by late U.S. pair skater JOHN COUGHLIN in June '08 just after she had turned 17. Wagner: "I want to make this sport safer for those kids. I went to U.S. Figure Skating and proposed changes to athlete education and wellness designed to keep these young skaters as safe as possible." Wagner added, "People need to start talking about how to create boundaries" (USA TODAY, 8/1).

TALKING POLITICSCHARLES BARKLEY "attended the two Democratic presidential debates" this week in Detroit. He said that he "just wanted to come one time" to a debate among presidential candidates (WASHINGTON POST, 8/1)....U.S. Sen. KAMALA HARRIS (D-Calif.), a Giants fan, wore a "cap with the logo" of the Dodgers at her walk-through before last night's debate (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/1)....UFC fighter COLBY COVINGTON said that DONALD TRUMP JR. “will be in attendance” for his fight against ROBBIE LAWLER on Saturday night in Newark (, 7/31).

NAMES: Former NFLer MERRILL HOGE in a lawsuit alleges that Roundup “caused him to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma,” a complaint that “could lead to a multimillion-dollar judgment against the weed killer’s manufacturer, Monsanto.” Hoge appears to be the “most notable name out of the thousands of lawsuits filed against Monsanto since the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was labeled as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer” in ’15 (USA TODAY, 8/1)....Former NFLer CLAY MATTHEWS JR. will be inducted into the Browns Ring of Honor during halftime of the team’s Sept. 22 game against the Rams (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/31)....California-based Loma Brewing Co., operated by former MLBer KEVIN YOUKILIS, has created an IPA called “Bow to Bochy,” which is “named in honor” of Giants manager BRUCE BOCHY (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 7/31).