Westen Illinois University - College of Education and Human Services - Profiles Magazine - Departmental Update
What is your current position?
I am the Chief Executive Officer of iHoops, the official youth basketball initiative of the NCAA and NBA.
What positions have you held since graduating from WIU that have helped you in your journey to your current position?
I have been very fortunate to work in the sports industry since graduation and have learned something from every job. Job experiences at places like Wayne State College (NE), and Wichita State University have been just as helpful as my time serving as the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference in that those early experiences allowed me to develop solid communication skills and to practice and observe the fundamentals of sports management in a real world setting. Serving as the vice president of the Big Ten Network, the position I held immediately prior to being selected as the CEO of iHoops, has also been very helpful in expanding my knowledge of the television and digital media business which is an important part of the iHoops venture. Of course, there is no substitute for the experience you gain in decision making from serving as the head of an organization and I draw on my nine-years experience as the Big 12 Conference commissioner in that regard nearly every day.
Explain your current responsibilities and how your position is personally fulfilling.
As the CEO of iHoops I am leading an exciting new venture that is striving to improve pre-collegiate basketball in the United States. It is wonderful opportunity to do something good for the sport and for kids, parents, coaches and others involved with youth basketball. My career has been mostly centered around advancing educational opportunities for young people through sports and I see the iHoops intiative as very consistent with that focus.
What are some of the most interesting challenges you have had in your career?
I have had a number of opportunities to be involved with the start-up of new administrations or new ventures throughout my career. These are always exciting opportunities but are also very challenging in that a new venture almost always carry with it a focus on change which is something that people in organizations and supporters and constituent groups struggle to embrace.
My two-year stint as the coordinator of the Bowl Championship Series was also a very interesting challenge. During that two-year period, we had to negotiate a major new television contract for the Series as well as implement changes to the ranking formula and find ways to increase access to teams from conferences without automatic qualification. It was a complicated set of things to achieve in an environment in which there was a lot of media interest and a structure that is controversial in many ways.
Why did you pursue a Master’s degree in Sport Management from WIU?
I have always loved sports and the ability to be involved with it through sports management has been rewarding. Western Illinois University seemed like a good fit for me back in the late 1970s when I was looking for a Midwestern university to pursue this kind of more specialized advanced degree. It was a good experience and has been valuable to me in my career.
What advice would you give to graduating students? To what do you attribute your success?
Always seek opportunities to work in areas where you can be passionate about the mission. Every job is going to carry with it challenges and day-to-day problems and I have found that you need to have passion for the organization’s mission to get through some of those rough patches. Also, I think sometimes young people underestimate what they can achieve and how well prepared they will be as a result of the training you receive at WIU. I grew up in a town of 3,000 people in rural southern Kansas and have had wonderful career experiences that have allowed me to live in places like Washington DC, Chicago and Dallas. You have to have a little luck along the way but I would encourage graduates to aim high in terms of career opportunities and goals. I have also been very fortunate to work with and for a number of great people over the years. Always remember that it will be your friends and colleagues who will be the most helpful to you in your career progression. I know that has been the case for me.