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Volume 21 No. 2

People and Pop Culture

To this year’s graduating class…
There are lessons to be learned
from an NFL mini-camp.
From trips to Dunkin’ Donuts.
And from the cinema classic “Airplane!”
Members of the sports industry were among the
commencement speakers on college and university
campuses this spring. Here are excerpts of their words
of wisdom to this year’s graduates —
drawing from their unique, personal stories.
— Compiled by Stephanie Brown
Shahid Khan
Jacksonville Jaguars owner
University of Illinois

“So to achieve the American dream, it’s all on you to make it happen. For football fans, last week I was at the Jaguars rookie mini-camp, and you know this is where college players are trying to make an NFL team. Fewer than one out of 200 college football players make it to the pros. The odds are greatly stacked against you. I asked one of the players, ‘Why do you do this?’ And he said, ‘I might make the team, and if I don’t, I know I gave it my all, and then I’ll be able to live with myself.’ It really resonated with me because it kind of makes me think, ‘Am I giving it my all so I’m able to live with myself?’ This young man was pursuing his version of the American dream. Yours is different. I’m grateful to be living it, and I’m here as evidence that it is possible.”

Jeffrey Miller
NFL vice president and chief security officer
Elizabethtown College

“In considering what I wanted to say to you today, I couldn’t help but reflect upon a thought I had during one of my first meetings with [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell in his office: How did I get here? I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood outside of Harrisburg [Pa.] and was fortunate to have two very supportive parents who taught me at a very early age that I could do whatever I set my mind to and that I should always aim high. I took that lesson to heart and set my mind to becoming a state trooper. I knew in junior high school that this is what I was going to do. I even took Latin because I knew it was the root of the law and [I] wanted to prepare myself in every way possible. I’m a big believer in the premise that somebody else might be smarter or more gifted in some other way, but the one thing you can always do is out-prepare them. If you are willing to work harder, you can overcome any gap that may exist.”

Sal Paolantonio
ESPN NFL reporter

“We live in this world where just about everybody is looking for something on their smartphone, on their iPad, their laptop — constantly searching all the time on BuzzFeed, Facebook and Twitter. In this country alone, there’s about 320 million consumers of information and entertainment, always looking for content; unique content — something, anything different. And they’re looking all the time. So what does that mean? That means in the course of human history, there has never been a greater time to be a content provider.
“The whole world is looking down all the time, looking for content. You do it; I do it. You’ve got to look up. Look up and provide it. That means you’ve got to put [your phone] down once in awhile and look up at the world. Observe what’s going on. Talk to people.
“Find out what they love, what they fear, what they want – and then give it to them. Write it, draw it, sing it, preach it, design it, build it, play it, rock it, mock it — but make sure you go out and find it. …
“If you’re reading it on your iPhone, you’ve already lost. Somebody else is already providing content; you’re just another consumer. Remember: Hundreds of millions of people consume ESPN every day; there’s only about a hundred of us on ESPN. So do that math. ... Be a provider.”

Janet Marie Smith
Los Angeles Dodgers senior vice president, planning and development
Mississippi State University

“Before I tell you about the job I love and why it is important to do something you love, let me tell you I did not wind up in this position by spontaneous combustion or intelligent design. I worked hard, I tried harder. I had some good luck and I had some bad luck. The bad luck turned out OK, but it is difficult to accept setbacks and challenges [as] clouds with silver linings when you are in the midst of a storm. We are always told these downturns build character. I don’t know about that, but I can tell you they certainly inspired me to claw my way out of whatever pickle I was in and create a better situation for myself.
“My first jobs were not heady positions or even underling jobs in a sexy place. I worked as a switchboard operator for the night shift here at MSU. This was, of course, before cell phones. I worked as a secretary for an attorney before being called a secretary was politically incorrect. I spent a summer at the Sun-n-Sand in Jackson [Miss.], typing and retyping the same letter inviting companies to host their convention at the hotel. This was back in the days before computers, word processors or even white out. I am not telling you these things to make myself look aspiring or old or stupid, but to tell you that my jobs were not glamorous. But I earned money, built a résumé, and won the confidence of professionals who would attest to my work ethic when I needed a job reference. … And I learned what I did not want to do with the rest of my life.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Basketball hall of famer
New England Institute of Technology

“When I ‘graduated’ from the NBA, I faced the same question of what I would [do] next — not just from friends and family, like most of you, but from hundreds of reporters, which added a lot of pressure to whatever my answer would be. I know what you’re all thinking: With my witty charm, great body and pivotal role in the film “Airplane!,” I could have become governor. I’m still thinking that one over.
“Like most of you, I had a lot of choices about what to do next, but I kept coming back to the question itself; what it really meant: ‘What are you going to do next?’ On one level, it’s a very simple question: How will you be filling your time? What is your next step on your ladder to success? But on another level, the question is more philosophical: What will you do to be worthy of success? ... I wanted my actions to positively affect my entire community, not just the sports community. Whenever I reached my next ‘graduation,’ I wanted to look back and know that I’d improved other people’s lives, not just my own.
“So I did what no one expected. I wrote history books. … I also coached a high school basketball team on an Apache reservation. I tried to pass along some of the basketball skills — and some of the off-court lessons — I’d learned.”

Paul Fireman
Reebok founder
Suffolk University, Sawyer Business School

“I grew up with a father that had all kinds of issues, but the one thing he passed on to me was that my word was my bond, and that integrity would carry me farther than any other knowledge I could have. So when I started Reebok, I started a company with integrity. And I don’t mean just honesty. I mean actually focused on a purpose, dedicated to my mission and relentless in the pursuit of doing it the right way; not giving in to the temptations that lied ahead that we all encounter. And I want to tell you, keeping your integrity is a very, very hard thing to do. … When you have a culture that’s built on integrity, and that’s the core of what you do, I promise you, it is the most powerful medicine. It’s the most powerful excitement you’ll ever live with in your life.”

Bob Ryan
Boston Globe columnist / ESPN contributor
Southern New Hampshire University

“I grew up hearing that ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ Guess what? It’s very often the gospel truth. You’ll never hear me rail about privilege. I had three different summer jobs because different people had told my mother that ‘When Bobby is old enough, give me a call,’ and she did, and they came through. My father died when I was 11. My mother was a secretary. And we’re supposed to apologize because some old family friend had given me a job? Get real.
“For decades now we’ve been hearing about that great ideal, the so-called ‘level playing field.’ What a great abstract theory. What a crock of, um, horse manure. Real life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes there’s legitimate competition, sometimes there isn’t. All you can do is put yourself in a position such that if you get a break, if you get the phone call I got, if you get an interview for a job because someone else ahead of you in the pecking order decides not to take it — and this is how I fell into my summer internship at the Boston Globe 45 years ago — you are as ready and prepared as you should be.”

George Bodenheimer
ESPN executive chairman
Penn State University

“When I started at ESPN, it was a fledgling company, and I was single. Work nights? No problem. Weekends? Can do. Travel? Let’s go. As I moved up in the organization, the demands on my time only increased. And of course, I was fortunate along the way to get married and have three children. Talk about juggling all the things you have to juggle.
“Working at ESPN is truly a full-time job. However, ESPN is not unique. You’ll find that true regardless of the field you go [into]. [It’s] true in most, if not all, jobs: tremendous demands on your time, juggling work with T-ball, music recitals, school functions, even getting home on time for dinner so you can share a meal as a family. You’re going to be faced with hard choices and [different things] to balance, and in that environment, sometimes it’s difficult to maintain your priorities. But your priority always should remain, in my opinion, your family. Your family comes first; No. 1. It’s OK for your job and your career to be second ... but never confuse that order. Family first. In the long run, it is not your job that will define you, but it’s how you conduct your life and the choices that you make that will.”

Charlie Denson
Nike Brand president
Utah State University

“I can’t believe how incredibly fortunate I’ve been. I have stayed at the same company for 34 years. Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself why. The original plan was to stay a maximum of five years. I had options along the way, but I realized there were three questions I had to be able to answer yes to every time I considered another opportunity, whether it was inside or outside of Nike. First: Was I confident and prepared to be a success in the new role? Because success breeds opportunity. Second: Was it an opportunity that allowed me to continue to learn new things? Because you don’t know what you don’t know. And finally: Was it something I really had a passion for? Because boredom will never allow you to do your best. Beyond that, I didn’t have a plan. I felt that if I could answer those three questions in a positive way, then I took the role. I considered changing companies along the way, but in the end, Nike always allowed me to answer those questions over the span of my career.”

Bud Selig
MLB commissioner
St. Norbert College

“The [Milwaukee] Braves moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season, leaving many heartbroken fans in Milwaukee behind. I shared the sadness that swept our community. But I have never been one to sit back and wallow instead of searching for a solution, and the disappointment I once felt gave way to a sense of determination. While I was only 30 and the odds were tremendously stacked against us, I decided to do what I could to bring a big league club back to my hometown. …
“There were many disappointments along the way, but there was never defeat. All of our efforts became worthwhile on the night of March 31, 1970, when the American League’s Milwaukee Brewers were born. When baseball returned to Milwaukee, the people of Wisconsin had another reason to smile together. As the heir to the Braves, the Brewers re-established an important part of the Milwaukee and Wisconsin experience because of the shared sense of community that our team inspired. Through perseverance, vision, persistence and patience, we had restored the common bond that had been missing for four years.
“One of my most prized mementos that crystallized this long effort came from a man who made his name right here: the great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi. He sent the first telegram I received on April 1, 1970, that to this day is framed and hanging in my office — which said, ‘Congratulations on finally obtaining the team after so many years. I wish you great success.’ With this example in mind, I urge each of you to chase your dreams.”

Sanya Richards-Ross
Olympic track medalist (2004, 2008, 2012 Games)
University of Texas

“[I] headed into the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games as the hands-down favorite for gold. It was only right: I was No. 1 ranked for three consecutive seasons. I had only lost four races in four years. This was my time. ...
“I started out strong and came off the final bend with a huge lead. I could see the finish line. Victory was surely mine. Then, in a flash, I remember looking down at the Olympic rings, and everything starting to fall apart. I felt a cramp in my hamstring, and the finish line seemed to move further and further away. This wasn’t my dream; this was a nightmare. I remember feeling powerless as it felt like everyone rushed past me before the end of the race. I finished third. The one race I wanted to win all my life was the only race I’d lose for the season. I was devastated. ...
“I couldn’t understand then why it happened, but from this vantage point, I’m so grateful it did. You see, in order to achieve greatness, you will experience failure. It’s the bitter ingredient in the recipe for success. Without trying and failing, you never really get the opportunity to stand in the face of your disappointment, your insecurities, your arrogance, your pride, and say ‘I’m stronger.’ When things are great, we rarely stop and take a moment to truly evaluate what we’re learning or how we’re growing. Failure then becomes imperative to true prosperity. … Failing is temporary. It’s giving up that’s permanent.”

Rece Davis
ESPN college football and basketball host / broadcaster
Trine University

“I’ve said many times, I’ve never ‘gone to work’ a day in my life. So I would like to encourage all of you, as you start this journey, I hope that you elect to never just ‘go to work.’ I didn’t say — mom and dad, before you absolutely panic up there — never get a job. I didn’t say don’t work hard at that job. I didn’t say don’t be passionate about your career. I said never elect to just ‘go to work.’ …
“Be responsible for your own self-determination. You have to step out. You have to find a way to sing your song, because rest assured, no matter what path or what tune you pursue, somebody is going to be waiting in the wings, either on purpose or just by happenstance, trying to knock you off key.”

Robert Kraft
New England Patriots owner
Suffolk University,
College of Arts and Sciences

“I was flattered to receive an invitation a few months ago to give this address, and I was originally prepared to deliver a message to the graduates about dreaming big. But the realities of [April’s] event at the Boston Marathon on a day that celebrated Massachusetts as Patriots’ Day changed that. In the hours, days and weeks following the blast, Boston prevailed. We witnessed heroism and teamwork, and as a result, we felt great pride and patriotism. Those evil acts united us. We became one Boston. We became ‘Boston strong.’ And each of you were part of that. …
“But there’s a lesson here. You don’t have to wait for a tragedy to occur to rush to help those in need. The concept of ‘first responder’ doesn’t have to be at a time of such dire consequences as we witnessed here [in April]. Imagine if everyone applied the concept of being a first responder, helping others in need every day in your life? Help a complete stranger. Hold doors open for others. Show others respect. Make a small donation to support a worthy cause. Perform random acts of kindness. I’ll just tell you when I go into Dunkin’ Donuts most mornings, I get a great thrill out of buying the people behind me coffee or doughnuts or whatever they want. It makes me feel better, and I’ll tell you if you do things like that, it’ll make you feel better. It’ll make the people around you feel better, and our whole community will become stronger.”

Cal Ripken Jr.
Baseball hall of famer
University of Maryland

“It hit me; in fact, quite literally. I got hit with a 94-mph pitch in the side of my helmet in Baltimore. I was struggling mightily in the early part of my rookie season, and I was miserable. I was blaming others and stalled by my attitude. That shot to the head knocked some sense into me. Earlier in the week, my veteran teammate and All-Star Ken Singleton had pulled me aside and showed me a tape of me throwing a helmet and just said, ‘We don’t do that here. That’s not what it’s all about. That’s the wrong attitude.’ So after getting beaned and while laying on the X-ray table, I started to think more about what Ken had said. What’s this secret that everyone seems to know but me? Well, the conclusion I came to was that it wasn’t all about me, and the world certainly was not my enemy. I realized that I was affected with a negative attitude. That ball striking me helped flip the switch, and I made a choice to have a positive attitude. My talent and skill had supported me to that point. My change in attitude helped me achieve being named Rookie of the Year that year and MVP the next. And what a difference it made in my career. I was propelled forward by my positive attitude. As I continued playing the game I loved, I stopped blaming; I was accountable. I became aware. I felt more accomplished. I was more in control.”

Larry Baer
San Francisco Giants president and CEO
San Francisco State University

“Listen carefully to that voice inside you. Believe in it. The choice of how you spend your life is yours; not your parents’, not your professor’s, not your best friend’s. Find what you love and go all in. And when you get shot down, figure another way. Be relentless — and that’s lesson No. 2: perseverance. Some of you today have balanced full-time jobs with a full load of classes. Some of you have sent your children off to school in the morning before arriving on campus, and you helped them with their homework at night before diving into your own. Every graduate here today, every one of you, had to push through rough patches to make it to this day, and so many people don’t make it to the end. But you did. So all of you, you already know perseverance. It will keep you going when people say you’re dreaming too big. It will keep you going when you fail.
“In baseball, the best batters fail two out of three times. You’ll fail, too, because failure is not an aberration. It’s the price of success. It is how you learn. I’ve been with the Giants now for over 20 years. We have failed plenty and learned plenty. There have been heart-wrenching defeats, near financial collapse after a leaguewide players’ strike, empty seats as we worked to win back fans. And then on the other side, we’ve had dramatic victories, a home run record, a perfect game and now 191 consecutive sellouts. But nothing, nothing is more exhilarating and satisfying in my career at the Giants than being part of the Giants’ first World Series championship in San Francisco in 2010.”

Bowling Green State University named Chris Kingston athletic director. Kingston was executive senior associate athletic director at North Carolina State University.

Purdue University promoted Calvin Williams to associate athletic director.

The Southeastern Conference named Jake Bell coordinator of men’s basketball officials.

Southeastern Louisiana University Athletic Director Bart Bellairs resigned.

Transylvania University named Holly Sheilley athletic director. Sheilley was assistant director of championships for the NCAA.

The University of Denver named Cindi Nagai senior women’s administrator.

The University of Kentucky named Rachel Newman Baker senior associate athletic director for compliance. Baker was managing director of enforcement for development and investigations for the NCAA.

The University of Michigan named Darryl Conway associate athletic director of student-athlete health and welfare. Conway was assistant athletic director of sports medicine for the University of Maryland.

Western Kentucky University hired Thomas Harris as assistant director of athletic marketing.

AEG Facilities named Tim Hassett general manager of Consol Energy Center and regional vice president.

The College Football Playoff named Laila Brock team operations and logistics director, Allison Doughty events and hospitality services director, and Nikki Epley stadium and game operations director. Brock was events and team operations director for the Orange Bowl Committee, Doughty was football operations and event management director for the ACC, and Epley was alumni association reunions, affinity programs and academic societies director for the University of Kansas.

The New York Jets named Rod Graves senior director of football administration; Matt Bazirgan assistant director of pro personnel; David Boller, Aaron Glenn, David Hinson and Christopher Prescott area scouts; and Rick Courtright national college scout.

The Annika Academy hired David Allibone as a sales professional. Allibone was the founder and instructor at Strategic Golf Training Academy.

The Buffalo Sabres hired John Koelmel as president of Harborcenter. Koelmel was chief executive officer and president of First Niagara Financial Group.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough hired Donald Reino to practice in online brand equity and sports law. Reino was in-house general counsel for Roger Cleveland Golf.


The Aspire Group hired Emily Goodman and Mike Milero as sales consultants at Georgia Tech University and Gary Wilbert II as sales consultant at Louisiana Tech University.

Golden Boy Promotions promoted Monica Sears to vice president of operations, Nicole Sparks to marketing director, and Armando Gaytan to deputy chief operating officer and senior vice president of operations. Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Binkow added the title of chief operating officer, replacing David Itskowitch, who stepped down from the position. Chief of staff Robert Gasparri added the title of vice president of operations.

GMR Marketing promoted Bryan Rasch to chief digital officer and Joe Sutter to chief creative officer, and named Peter Joseph vice president of entertainment. Joseph was vice president at Live Nation.

IMG Golf named Russell Hannah operations director for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

Advantage International hired Kris Fillon as associate creative director.

Learfield Sports named Mike Hurley associate general manager for Wolfpack Sports Properties with N.C. State. Hurley was a partner in sports sales and marketing consultancy Intangibles.

Octagon named Sean Nicholls president of Octagon Asia-Pacific for marketing and events, Ryan Sandilands managing director for North Asia, Wylie Fowler general manager of marketing for Australia and New Zealand, and Ben Hartman general manager for Southeast Asia.

Sporting News Media named Rich Routman chief revenue officer, effective July 1.

Cumulus Media named David Halberstam vice president of sports sales for CBS Sports Radio Network. Halberstam ran the consultancy firm Halby Group.

Fox International Channels promoted Ward Platt to chief operating officer of Fox International Channels and chief executive officer of National Geographic Channels International, and Zubin Gandevia to president of Fox International Channels Asia.

Fox Sports Media Group named Ed Delaney executive vice president of operations. Delaney was senior vice president of broadcast operations and engineering for YES.

Kery Davis is stepping down from the position of HBO Sports senior vice president of programming.

Norman Howell stepped down from the position of communications director for motorsports governing body FIA.

The Grand Prix of America named Marty Hunt race operations director. Hunt was facilities director for Circuit of the Americas.

English Premier League club Arsenal named Chips Keswick chairman. Keswick was an Arsenal board of directors member and was chairman of Hambros Bank.

English Premier League  club Liverpool named Andy Hughes chief financial officer, effective July 8. Hughes was chief financial officer of Guoman & Thistle Hotels.

Sporting Goods and Apparel
Christine Day is stepping down from the position of chief executive officer at Lululemon.

Tennis Canada named John LeBoutillier chairman.

Bob Bryant is stepping down from the position of BB&T Atlanta Open director after this year’s tournament.

The U.S. Tennis Association promoted Jeremy Fehrs, Janine Galiotti, and Jenna Higueras to manager of partnership marketing.

The Association of Surfing Professionals named Liam Ferguson vice president of sponsorship integration. Ferguson was president and group publisher for Transworld Media.

Skate Canada named Dan Thompson chief executive officer. Thompson was president of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities.

USA Water Polo named Joanna Fielder travel manager and Phil Wooledge development coordinator.

WWE promoted Brian Maddox to vice president of global digital sales.

Awards and Boards
Connect Magazine named US Lacrosse’s director of special events, Beth Porreca, to its “40 Under 40” list.

The Button Hole Short Course and Teaching Center named former USGA executive director David Fay as a special adviser to its board of directors.

The Canadian Olympic Committee named Kevin Gilmore to its board of directors. Gilmore is executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society named Steve Ziff, Sunrise Sports & Entertainment senior vice president of marketing and brand strategy, its 2013 Fort Lauderdale Man of the Year.

People news
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ADs converge on Orlando

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics held its annual convention at the Orlando World Center Marriott during the week of June 10-15.  LEARFIELD SPORTS DIRECTORS’ CUP WINNERS (from left): Committee Chair Terri Howes, West Virginia; Ron Case, Gloucester County College; Robert Davenport, Oklahoma Baptist; Lisa Melendy, Williams; Keith Baker, Grand Canyon; Patrick Dunkley, Stanford; Greg Brown, Learfield Sports.

‘VALUE OF A SCHOLARSHIP’: NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith addresses attendees.

2013-14 OFFICERS (from left): 2nd VP Tim Selgo, Grand Valley State; President Mike Alden, Missouri; 3rd VP Chris Plonsky, Texas; 1st VP Jim Phillips, Northwestern; and Secretary Don Tencher, Rhode Island College.

PRESS PANEL: Discussing “The State of Intercollegiate Athletics From the Media’s Perspective” on June 14 (from left): Moderator Abraham Madkour of SportsBusiness Journal/Daily; Duke AD Kevin White; Maryland AD Kevin Anderson, the 2012-13 NACDA president; ESPN’s Jay Bilas; Georgetown AD Lee Reed; Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports; and Dan Wolken of USA Today.

FEATURED SPEAKER: John Foley spoke about “High-Performance Leadership.”

LEARFIELD EVENT: Learfield’s Diane Penny with New Mexico senior associate AD Kurt Esser on June 13 at Siro in the World Center Marriott.

Commissioner in San Antonio

NBA Commissioner David Stern (center) with (from left) Andrea Smith, Sheiludis Moyett, Enrique Gonzalez and John Wessman of BBVA Compass and BBVA before Game 5 of the NBA Finals in San Antonio.

Brett O’Brien (left), Gatorade GM and SVP, and Stern stopped for a photo before Game 3 in San Antonio.

President catches the Fever

President Barack Obama welcomed the 2012 WNBA Champion Indiana Fever to the White House on June 14 to honor the team for their victory in the WNBA Finals. The visit continued the tradition begun by Obama of also honoring teams for their efforts to give back to communities.

Handing off an honor to Kraft

Honoree Robert Kraft (left), chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group, is congratulated by Sanford Weill, chairman of Carnegie Hall’s board of trustees, at the 2013 Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence Gala on June 13 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

Aussie rules baseball

Graham Annesley, MP, New South Wales minister for sport and recreation; Jeff Bleich, U.S. ambassador to Australia; and Barry O’Farrell, MP, premier of New South Wales, joined MLB and the MLBPA to announce that the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers will play MLB’s Opening Series March 22-23 at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Australia.

Astros co-host MLB summit

At the welcome reception for the MLB Diversity Business Summit at the Hyatt Regency Houston on June 18 (from left): Houston Astros President Reid Ryan; Houston Mayor Annise Parker; Shawn Taylor, a member of the Houston Astros ownership group; Wendy Lewis, MLB SVP for diversity and strategic alliances; and Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane. The Astros co-hosted the event June 18-19.

Wharton checks into the golf business

Wharton held its “State of the Business of Golf” event June 12 in Philadelphia in connection with the U.S. Open at nearby Merion Golf Club. Left to right: Derrick Heggans, managing director, Wharton Sports Business Initiative; Dick Raskopf, publisher, Sports Illustrated Golf Group; Malcolm Turner, president, Wasserman Media Group’s golf division; Sarah Hirshland, senior managing director, USGA; Jon Last, president, Sports & Leisure Research Group; Mike McCarley, president, Golf Channel; and Ken Shropshire, director, Wharton Sports Business Initiative.

Picnic in the Park in Houston

The Astros Foundation played host to its first Picnic in the Park, a fundraiser that drew more than 700 after Houston’s game against the Chicago White Sox on Father’s Day. From left: owner and chairman Jim Crane, Astros Foundation board members Jud Grady and Bill Herrington, and Astros President Reid Ryan.

WISE Women of the Year Awards

Women in Sports & Events handed out its 2013 WISE Women of the Year Awards at their 19th annual awards luncheon June 18 at the Marriott Marquis in New York. From left to right: Kathleen Francis, WISE national president; presenter Christine Driessen; Carol Stiff, vice president of content program and integration, espnW; presenter Molly Solomon; Dick Ebersol, recipient of the 2013 WISE Champion Award; presenter Pam Harris; Danielle Maged, global head of business development and partnerships, StubHub; Sharon Byers, senior vice president of sports and entertainment marketing, Coca-Cola North America; presenter Lisa Baird; and Sue Rodin, WISE founder and chair emerita.

  CAA Sports’ Levine honored

UJA-Federation of New York honored Michael Levine, co-head of CAA Sports, as the Sports for Youth Honoree of the Year at a luncheon on June 19 at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

ABOVE: From left: Russell Wolff of ESPN International, Donna Orender of Orender Unlimited, John Skipper of ESPN, Levine, the NBA’s David Stern, David Berson of CBS Sports, fellow CAA Sports co-head Howie Nuchow, and Blackstone’s David Blitzer.

BELOW: Levine (right) with Richard Lovett, Creative Artists Agency president, who presented the award to Levine.

Please submit photos for review of industry conferences, parties, product launches and openings showcasing the people and personalities at the event. Include the event date, location, names/titles of those featured along with credit information. The photo specifications are as follows: 300dpi, tiff, jpeg or eps color images. Submit digital photos for review at: or send color prints to: Faces & Places, c/o Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, 120 W. Morehead St., Suite 310, Charlotte, NC 28202.

A former U.S. men’s national team player, Eric Wynalda now splits his time between working in one soccer league and analyzing others on television. Wynalda is in his first season as technical director of the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks and fourth year as an analyst for Fox Soccer. The three-time World Cup player makes his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

— Compiled by Christopher Botta


People told me I was out of my mind to take the challenge of being the technical director in Atlanta, but it was the kind of work I’ve always wanted to be involved with.

Juggling roles:
Next to being a player, nothing beats working with a staff and players on a team, so I always want to make time for it. I travel to Atlanta for a few days each week and speak with our coaches every day. I’m just an employee, not an investor, but it’s gratifying to be part of a franchise that’s growing. [The Silverbacks are averaging about 5,000 fans per game this season].

Sticking with the NASL: The Silverbacks’ business plan has never been to build to become an MLS franchise. I believe the NASL is a better platform for players. MLS makes it very clear that their intention is to keep players in MLS. In the NASL, our intention is to win games and also create a platform for players to reach bigger and better things. Not all roads lead to MLS. In that sense, the NASL is a maverick, looking to do things its own way.

On Fox Soccer losing EPL to NBC: It was disappointing because the Premier League is one of the world’s best sports properties and we put so much work and emotion into it. But long-term, in listening to [Fox Sports co-President and co-COO] Eric Shanks and [Fox Soccer executive vice president] David Nathanson about where we’ll go from here, I know this will be a big decade for Fox with the women’s World Cup [in 2015 and 2019] and the men’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022. EPL rights go in three-year cycles, so it can always return.

The future at Fox Sports: We’re still talking about how soccer guys like myself are going to be integrated into the new Fox Sports 1 in August. I’ll work on our Champions League coverage and they’ve asked me to be part of the analyst team for Europa League. My contract keeps me exclusive to Fox for the next few years. Right now, with us being done with the Premier League, my weekends may be free for a while. If that allows me to spend more time with the Silverbacks, I’d embrace it.

I would characterize myself as someone who is very disciplined, hardworking and wants to achieve results. What I did yesterday is now really irrelevant. What’s going to matter is what myself and the team do tomorrow and next year — down the road.

I wouldn’t characterize myself as being a very good leader in my late 20s and early 30s. I have taken onboard the feedback and my own self-learning. I have a CEO coach who’s worked with many Fortune 500 CEOs. He gives me good guidance.

Management and leadership are two separate things.

There might have been a time where I wasn’t as empathetic as I should’ve been and very much like, “We’ve got to get this deal done and everybody get out of the way if you’re not going to do it.” That’s not, obviously, very effective when you’re trying to inspire and build consensus and garner support.
I always thought I was a very caring person, who cared a tremendous amount about my team, but it wasn’t actually what the team felt. So I’ve adapted. I’ve got to be mindful of that and continue to nurture.

Everybody wants to be appreciated. If you look at extrinsic motivation, you can give them the raises and the benefits, but it doesn’t last. What your team really wants are the intrinsic factors. They want responsibility, they want authority, and they want appreciation when they do a great job.

I have a senior management team all on the same bonus so we’re all aligned. It’s aligned in the same bonus plan that I have so that we’re one team. My goals cascade down to their goals.
I’ll be the first one to accept responsibility if we haven’t achieved something because I didn’t set staff up for it or the expectations were not clear. But if I can honestly answer all those questions, then I go to, “Is this the right person for our organization?”

Cultural fit is mission critical to our success. This person has got to fit with our team. We’re small, agile, and we need passionate people, people who want to have some fun and respect each other. Those cultural elements in the DNA of who the people are are what I look for very much when I’m hiring.
I know if a person will be a cultural fit in the first two to three minutes of meeting them.

I look for how they introduce themselves, if they look you in the eye. Just their whole physical communication and it’s how genuine they are. You can feel it. You can feel confidence with humility or you can feel confidence with arrogance, and there’s a significant difference.

Someone who was a mentor for me was Tennis Canada COO Derek Strang. He would give me feedback and he knew the pressure I was under in generating revenue and building the stadium, so he understood the context and helped me to take a moment, take a breath, and look at a different way to give that feedback and move this group forward.

Sometimes we promote people because of their success, not because they can be good leaders. We don’t give them the tools to be leaders, to be managers. That’s certainly an area that I’m working on with our group because they are young, they are ambitious, they have achieved success.
We’re global and we’re not in the same office together and we’re a traveling circus. We’re on the road all the time, so how do you get that touch and feel and keep them all inspired?

I have to stay connected. I have a small staff, around 85. I don’t want them to ever feel that “Stacey’s not accessible to me.”

If I’m in a market, I will try to have dinner with the team that’s there. From our Beijing office, from our London office; [I] even took the St. Pete office out because I’m there so little that they might not get interaction with me.

I spend an incredible amount of time on the road in small meetings. We used to do one to two meetings a year, 150 players; not an effective way to communicate. Now it’s 20.
The best advice I was ever given was by former IMG Canada President Elliott Kerr. He said, “Stacey, you want to differentiate yourself in this business. You have to make the organization money, you have to get sales experience.”

I was not a natural salesperson, but I’ll put myself out there, and I got the sales training I needed and that has been the key to my success. You have to either make the organization money, save the organization money, or make your organization look great.
Everybody in this business needs to spend time selling, because that’s your connection with the fan and you’ll know how hard it is to close one ticket deal. You’ll know how hard it is to get a season-ticket holder to be satisfied and to renew.
It’s not an organization’s responsibility to develop your career. Your career is your responsibility, and I’m here today because I put the effort in, the learning in. I was fortunate to have good people around me.
The irony is, getting on an airplane is actually an escape for me. I decompress, I don’t talk to anyone. Sometimes I feel bad about it, but it’s my time.
I love to go to the beach. The beach is the place that really allows me to relax. I even like to hit some golf balls.
I really like autobiographies. I just finished Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs. Before that, I read Nelson Mandela’s “Walk to Freedom,” which is an incredible book.