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Volume 26 No. 231

People and Pop Culture

Pickens' total lifetime benevolence amounts to more than $1B, with roughly half that going to OSU
Pickens' total lifetime benevolence amounts to more than $1B, with roughly half that going to OSU
Pickens' total lifetime benevolence amounts to more than $1B, with roughly half that going to OSU

Oil tycoon and influential Oklahoma State athletic booster T. BOONE PICKENS has died at 91 after his health "had been an issue" since December '16, according to a front-page piece by Bill Haisten of the TULSA WORLD. Pickens' total lifetime benevolence "amounts to slightly more" than $1B, and "roughly half of that money went to his alma mater." OSU AD MIKE HOLDER in a statement said, "We could never thank him enough for all that he did for our university." Pickens' gifts to the school were split between academics and athletics, but the "most famous single donation" was the $165M he gave to the athletic department in '06. With that money, along with "subsequent donations from Pickens and others, there was an extensive renovation of the Cowboys' football venue." Since '03, OSU has played home games at Boone Pickens Stadium (TULSA WORLD, 9/12). CNBC's Jim Cramer said if "every school had a backer like Boone, we would have such a great educational system in this country" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 9/12).

GIVING BACK: USA TODAY's Steve Gardner noted Pickens "made his fortune in the oil and gas industries, but he saved his greatest passion" for OSU and its sports programs. His $165M gift to the athletic department is "among the largest to any university's sports program in collegiate history." OSU football coach MIKE GUNDY tweeted that it "would have been difficult for the Cowboys to have climbed as high as they have without Pickens." The football team will "pay tribute to Pickens with a helmet decal players will wear for the rest of the season" (USA TODAY, 9/11). In Dallas, Chuck Carlton notes as an athletic donor, "maybe only Nike co-founder PHIL KNIGHT at Oregon has exceeded Pickens for impact on a single school" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/12).

GRIDIRON GLORY: The TULSA WORLD's Haisten notes Pickens will "forever be celebrated by Oklahoma State people as the man whose generosity was a driving force in the transformation of Cowboys football." The team "wouldn't play in such a beautiful stadium -- or have such a striking and spacious locker room -- if not for Pickens" (TULSA WORLD, 9/12). In Oklahoma City, Scott Wright notes the upgrages at Boone Pickens Stadium "coincided with Gundy's work to rebuild the football program, and the timing couldn't have been better." What had been "nothing more than an overgrown high school stadium became the crown jewel of the OSU campus and a symbol of change in how athletic facilities would be viewed at the school" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/12).'s Jake Trotter noted before Pickens' largest donation, OSU football had "reached double-digit wins only three times in their history" (, 9/11). In Stillwater, Jason Elmquist notes Pickens and Gundy had "times of conflict over the years," but they also "understood the importance of one another to the success of the football program." The "usual mediator between the two" was Holder, who was "influential in getting Pickens to buy into the vision of an illustrious athletic department" (STILLWATER NEWS PRESS, 9/12).

COWBOY FOREVER: In Tulsa, Frank Bonner notes a piece of Pickens' legacy will "always be about him helping the Cowboys win on the field, but he went out of his way to treat players like family" (TULSA WORLD, 9/12). In Oklahoma City, Jenni Carlson in a front-page piece writes Pickens "didn't just alter the landscape of his alma mater," he also "transformed the psyche." Pickens rarely made an appearance "on a national show to talk business without giving a shoutout to OSU" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/12). Also in Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes under the header, "Boone Pickens Found A Sense Of Community With Oklahoma State" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/12).

The founders of SBD back in 2013: (l-r) David Abrutyn, Jeffrey Pollack, Chuck Todd, Steve Bilafer and Abe Madkour
Photo: marc bryan-brown
The founders of SBD back in 2013: (l-r) David Abrutyn, Jeffrey Pollack, Chuck Todd, Steve Bilafer and Abe Madkour
Photo: marc bryan-brown
The founders of SBD back in 2013: (l-r) David Abrutyn, Jeffrey Pollack, Chuck Todd, Steve Bilafer and Abe Madkour
Photo: marc bryan-brown

THE DAILY published its first edition 25 years ago today, and JEFFREY POLLACK had the idea that started it all. In the early '90s, Pollack, now President & COO of the XFL, worked as a political consultant, but had MLB as a client and began to pay closer attention to the sports industry. What he saw was a "fledgling industry with no real infrastructure for the exchange of business information," so he set out to change it. Since leaving the Daily in '98, Pollack has gone on to hold many roles in the sports world, including roles with the NBA, NASCAR and the Chargers. Pollack said, "The Daily is still part of my morning routine. I have not missed reading an issue in 25 years."

Q: What first inspired the idea for the Daily?
Pollack: Lightning struck on a flight from LAX to JFK. I had a copy of Variety, a copy of Sports Illustrated, and at least one scotch in me. I hypothesized that, not only was sports a business, but very much an entertainment business. And, if that was the case, where was the Variety of sports? Where was the daily trade publication to connect the people that work in the industry and fuel a marketplace of ideas? I did some research, couldn't find what I was looking for, and the core idea for the Daily was pretty much fully inspired and set.

Q: How did the first iterations of the Daily come about?
Pollack: The doors to Digital Sports Network, which was the company I created to launch the Daily, opened on Feb. 14, 1994. My partner in the venture was DOUG BAILEY, who was not only a political consultant, but also the founder of another company called the American Political Network. They were in the business of publishing daily electronic trade publications for the political industry, so we tapped into their platform, publishing model and technology. The internet as we know it today, email and mobile communications, social media and other digital platforms, was all still a dream. It's also worth noting four other key players in our launch: STEVE BILAFER was our founding editor, CHUCK TODD was our assistant editor, ABE MADKOUR was a staff writer and DAVID ABRUTYN was our head of marketing. Three of those names are well-known to your readers; the first name is one that deserves to be.

Q: How has the Daily met your expectations?
Pollack: My goal was simple: be of service, help wire up the industry to talk itself, and promote a greater sense of connectivity and identity. I think that's been accomplished. And, when you look at the proliferation of sports business news and information services over the past 25 years, there's no doubt that the sports industry is fully connected with a strong sense of self. While the news of the day and the substance of each issue has changed, the structure of the Daily today is essentially what we launched 25 years ago, and it's stood the test of time. I imagine it will all look a lot different 25 years from now. I'll be proud of whatever it becomes -- as long as the brand continues to stand for trust, truth and connection.

"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 discuss what niche sports they watch on TV and what their favorite family tradition is. 

  • Turnkey Search Managing Dir Diana Busino
    -- Enjoys the fall premiere season to see what shows have been dreamed up.
  • Big Ten Network VP/Ad Sales Jim Reeder
    -- Likes watching spaghetti westerns. 
  • MX Sports Pro Racing President Davey Coombs
    -- Will do deep dives on podcasts related to history and sports.
  • Spectra VP/Partnerships Brian Esposito
    -- Pop culture interests include Netflix, Twitch and HBO's "Hard Knocks." 
Going Off The Grid

What skill should everyone have? Favorite theme park? What MLB team makes a late September push? Favorite family tradition? Niche sport you watch on TV?
Active listening
Magic Kingdom
Brew Crew
Sunday brunch

Cooking. If you can read, you can cook
Wally World
Family game of Clue on Christmas Eve
Kickboxing. It's the sport of the future
Their own inner social media filter
LegoLand in Carlsbad, Calif.
Our cutthroat Easter egg decorating contest
Downhill mountain-bike races are pretty impressive

Work well with others
Not much of a theme park guy
Summer weekends at the Jersey Shore
High school football

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

Download the
Going Off The Grid chart

The Cubs promoted Senior VP/Amateur Scouting & Player Development JASON MCLEOD to Senior VP/Player Personnel. McLeod has spent the last eight seasons overseeing amateur scouting and player development in the Cubs organization (Cubs)....The Kentucky Derby Festival promoted Senior VP/Events MATT GIBSON to President & CEO. He will be "responsible for overseeing the festival's 22-person staff and roughly 4,000 volunteers who put on the annual celebration and its more than 70 events every spring" (LOUISVILLE COURIER JOURNAL, 9/11)....The Univ. of Arkansas promoted Senior Associate AD DERITA RATCLIFFE to Deputy AD/Student-Athlete Wellness and Senior Woman Administrator and Dir of Administration KAT DEVENPORT to Chief of Staff (Arkansas)....Navigate Research promoted VP/Business Development ALEXA (LINGER) HUCHINGSON to the newly created role of CRO (Navigate Research)....The Canadian Elite Basketball League named Event Energy Inc. Partner BRETT FRASER President (POSTMEDIA NEWS, 9/11).

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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

Orlando Pride player Toni Pressley (r) was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year
Orlando Pride player Toni Pressley (r) was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year
Orlando Pride player Toni Pressley (r) was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year

Some of the NWSL's "biggest stars are auctioning off items to raise funds for breast cancer awareness in honor" of Orlando Pride D TONI PRESSLEY, who was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. The Pride also announced they will host a Breast Cancer Awareness match on Oct. 12. The "idea for the online auction was spearheaded" by Chicago Red Stars G ALYSSA NAEHER and D CASEY SHORT. The auction "went live during halftime" of Red Stars-Pride yesterday and will run until Oct. 10. It will "feature items from throughout the league, including a pair of Nike cleats signed" by Red Stars F SAM KERR, an ALEX MORGAN USWNT jersey and a ball "signed by the North Carolina Courage team" (, 9/11).

DORIAN AFTERMATH: Rockets G ERIC GORDON is "raising money to give back" to the Bahamas in the wake of the impact from Hurricane Dorian. Gordon "started an online fundraiser by donating $50,000" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/12)....Former FSU football player MYRON ROLLE, a third-year neurosurgery resident, is "expected to see the destruction" caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas "firsthand as a team member of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health Office of Global Disaster Response" (TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT, 9/12).

GOOD STUFF: Bears DT AKIEM HICKS helped host more than 100 children and their families "for a day of games" at SOS Children's Villages Illinois' "Tailgate Tuesday" event in Auburn Park (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/11)....Rockets broadcaster CALVIN MURPHY and several Rockets players yesterday visited "all 94 Houston-area fire and police stations" as part of the team's annual Sept. 11 show of thanks (HOUSTON CHRONCILE, 9/11).

ON THE BIG SCREEN: Capitals national anthem singer CALEB GREEN and his a capella group "Voices of Service" were "voted through to the finals" of NBC's "AMERICA'S GOT TALENT" after a "stunning rendition of OneRepublic's 'Choke'" (, 9/11)....Former NHLer TOM LAIDLAW will be on the newest season of "SURVIVOR," called "ISLAND OF IDOLS," that will premiere on Sept. 25 (USA TODAY, 9/12)....JOHN MCENROE will narrate Netflix' new coming-of-age comedy series, "NEVER HAVE I EVER," from MINDY KALING (, 9/11).

NEW VENTURES: Former NBAer TONY PARKER has started working for NorthRock Partners, overseeing a "team of 20 in the sports, artists and entertainment division" and guiding athletes in "managing their money" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/12)....Former BTIG analysts RICHARD GREENFIELD, WALTER PIECYK, BRANDON ROSSJOSEPH GALONE and MARK KELLEY have opened their new tech, media and telecom firm LightShed Partners (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 9/10).

NAMES: Journalist ANDREA KREMER was named the Association for Women in Sports Media's '20 recipient of the Mary Garber Pioneer Award. Kremer will be recognized during AWSM's annual convention set for July 30-Aug. 2 at the Fairmont Dallas (AWSM)....Athletes that have taken part in the latest cycle of Harvard Business School's Crossover Into Business program include: figure skater ASHLEY WAGNER; tennis players CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS, and ANDREA PETKOVIC; former NFLer WILL BEATTY; Knicks F REGGIE BULLOCK; Magic F AMILE JEFFERSON; NBA free agent JOSE CALDERON; and former NBAer DAVID LEE (BOSTON HERALD, 9/12)....Nets G KYRIE IRVING sat in the front row for Coach's N.Y. Fashion Week show on Tuesday (, 9/11)....MICHAEL PHELPS and his wife, NICOLE JOHNSON, have welcomed their third child, MAVERICK NICHOLAS, to the world (N.Y. POST, 9/12).

Sports Business Journal is looking for future industry leaders -- the young and diverse group of entrepreneurs, risk-takers and disrupters who are reimagining sports business. New Voices Under 30 honorees will be celebrated at a special evening event in New York City in December and will be featured across multiple SBJ platforms. Nominate someone today or read more about the New Voices Under 30 program. Deadline to nominate is Sept. 22.