Thursday, October 4, 2012

ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen Named “Executive in Residence” at The Robert C. McDermond Center for Management & Entrepreneurship at DePauw University


Greencastle, Indiana – October 4, 2012 – ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen, a 1954 graduate of DePauw University, has been named Executive in Residence at The Robert C. McDermond Center for Management & Entrepreneurship at DePauw University.  He began his new post on Monday, October 1st.

Rasmussen, the legendary entrepreneur who changed the face of sports and the face of television with his vision for ESPN, will meet with students regularly on the DePauw campus, particularly with the Management Fellows Program and the Media Fellows Program.  He will work with students on case study workshops and other programs throughout the course of the academic year. 

It’s a happy Homecoming week that highlights Rasmussen’s first week as Executive in Residence, Rasmussen will deliver a lecture this Thursday, October 4th, as part of DePauw’s ongoing 175th anniversary Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series.  He will speak at 8 p.m. in the Kresge Auditorium of the Performing Arts Center.  The lecture is free, and open to the public. 

On Friday evening, Rasmussen will receive the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for Media, and is being inducted into the Media Wall of Fame, at the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media.  The award will be presented by the President of  the Alumni Association, Marc Veatch ’75..

Rasmussen’s new role at DePauw is another highlight in a long career of innovation, risk-taking and success, much of it in the world of sports.  Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Rasmussen was most talented in baseball, but followed all sports with interest.  Rasmussen graduated from DePauw with a bachelor’s degree in Economics.  He then served in the United States Air Force before beginning his professional career working for Westinghouse’s lamp division (Bloomfield, New Jersey) in sales and marketing.  After earning his MBA from Rutgers University (1960), Rasmussen had the idea for his first entrepreneurial start-up, an advertising services business based in North Jersey (with Westinghouse as his first customer) that is still thriving over six decades later.

Rasmussen walked away from that business to pursue his dream to become a sports broadcaster, beginning at WTTT-AM radio in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1962.   Part of his tenure there is marked by his creation of the first-ever radio network for University of Massachusetts football and basketball games. By 1965, Rasmussen had moved on to WWLP-TV in Springfield, Mass., where he spent eight years on the air as the sports director, and two years as news director.  During these years, he handled numerous football, basketball, baseball and hockey play-by-play assignments on both radio and television.  In 1974, he left Springfield to join the New England Whalers (Hartford, Conn.) as Communications Director, a tenure which ended after the 1977-1978 WHA season. 

Jim Miller, the co-author of the recent best-selling book, “Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” recently told John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal that “this is a guy whose idea gave birth to, arguably, the most successful media story of our time.”

Try to imagine the world without ESPN and Sports Center, and for many, it is impossible. It is safe to say that Rasmussen changed the face of sports, and the face of television.  His brainstorm for a 24-hour cable sports television station, born out of adversity, has become the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN.  A former radio and television sports broadcaster, Rasmussen had been the Whalers Communications Director, but when the Whalers didn’t make the 1978 WHA playoffs, Rasmussen and others on staff were fired. His idea for an all-sports cable TV network captured his imagination, and he incorporated the fledgling network on July 14, 1978. He had already begun to seek out cable television companies, sponsors, investors and partners.

With an idea that was truly ahead of its time, and running out of cash, Rasmussen found one investor who believed in the concept in February, 1979, and by September 7, 1979, ESPN was on the air for the first time, 14 months from Rasmussen’s moment of inspiration.

A life-long entrepreneur and sports fan, Rasmussen’s innovations in advertising, sports and broadcasting are numerous, including the creation of ESPN, the concepts for “Sports Center,” wall-to-wall coverage of NCAA regular-season and “March Madness” college basketball, and coverage of the College World Series.  He broke the advertising barrier to cable television by signing Anheuser Busch to the largest cable TV advertising contract ever. 
Named “The Father of Cable Sports” by USA Today, Rasmussen was named to The Sports 100, honoring the 100 most important people in American Sports History.  His place in sports history was further recognized by Sports Illustrated in 1994, when he was honored as one of the “40 for the Ages,” one of 40 individuals who has significantly altered and elevated the world of sport in the last half of the 20th Century.  Rasmussen was named to the 2011 class of “The Champions: Pioneers & Innovators in Sports Business,” an award from the Sports Business Journal and the Sports Business Daily recognizing the architects and builders of sports.   

In addition to his role as the “George Washington of ESPN,” as longtime ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman has tagged him, Rasmussen served as a consultant to the Big Ten Conference as well as several of the member institutions on television matters, and has been at the helm of numerous other start-up companies both in traditional media and on the Internet. 

He frequently returns to Bristol, Conn. for ESPN’s annual anniversary celebrations.  This past September, Rasmussen joined original Sports Center anchor George Grande for a series of special segments celebrating the 50,000th episode of Sports Center.  In September 2010, ESPN dedicated the flagpole at its Bristol headquarters to its founder. On September 13, 2009, as part of ESPN’s 30th Anniversary celebration, Rasmussen was recognized for his role as the father of ESPN when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch during ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” coverage of the Phillies/Mets contest in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park. 

Among his numerous honors and awards, the state of Connecticut proclaimed October 9, 2008 as “Bill Rasmussen Day” with a number of attendant ceremonies in his honor, including events in the city of Enfield, Connecticut.  In 2004 he received the Bill Conners Communications Award from the Jim Thorpe Association, and in 2002, Rasmussen was named to Rutgers University’s Wall of Fame. In 2001, he received the prestigious Order of Achievement from Lambda Chi Alpha.  Rasmussen was inducted into the Connecticut Sports Museum & Hall of Fame in 1997 and into the Enfield, Conn. Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

Rasmussen is the author of the best-selling book, “Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN” (available in paperback and e-book at ESPNFounder.com).  He is a gifted raconteur and a popular public speaker discussing American entrepreneurship, innovation, and the birth of ESPN, and a frequent guest on radio and television shows.  His recent appearances include nationally-syndicated radio shows “Sports Byline USA with Ron Barr”, “The Dennis Miller Show” and the FOX News Channel’s “Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld.” 
He has been touring the nation over the past two years, with a national speaking tour that has included recent appearances at Azusa Pacific University, University of Connecticut, University of Kansas, Rutgers University, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, University of South Carolina, Wichita State University and Auburn University.  Rasmussen has also recently spoken to audiences at a number of private, corporate events, in addition to speaking at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Villanova University, Princeton University, University of Florida School of Law and The Center for Sports Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, among others. 
Additional information about Rasmussen is available at http://www.ESPNFounder.com.  You can also follow Rasmussen on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/ESPN-Founder-Bill-Rasmussen/124610977602209) and on Twitter (@Bill_ESPN).

Media Contact for ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen:
Jim DeLorenzo
215-564-1122
jdelorenzo@espnfounder.com