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Volume 26 No. 85
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Bill Rasmussen Leads Celebration Of ESPN's 40th Anniversary

ESPN is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, and Founder BILL RASMUSSEN, 86, is sharing his best stories with staffers in four cities. Rasmussen is ESPN's ambassador of sorts for the 40th celebration, which kicked off in Charlotte yesterday. He will visit ESPN offices in Manhattan, Bristol and L.A. later this week. During his Charlotte visits, two messages rang clear: 1) There was never a moment when he thought ESPN would fail; 2) Without college sports, there might not have been an ESPN in '79. The turning point for ESPN programming in the early days came when Rasmussen was able to secure rights to NCAA basketball tournament games and other college sports like lacrosse and soccer in the network's first year. That became important live action on the content-starved network, especially the early-round NCAA hoops games, which previously were not carried anywhere. "Those tournament games really provided some buzz around us for the first time," said Rasmussen, who did the deal with the NCAA's former Exec Dir WALTER BYERS. Rasmussen's storytelling skills and recall remain sharp, even though he is battling Parkinson's disease. He disclosed the disease publicly through ESPN in July. The same entrepreneurial, can-do attitude that defined his approach to launching a 24/7 cable sports channel is fueling him against the neurological disease.