April 18, 2011

Alumni in sports management field reflect on the road maps to their jobs

It has been said that to be successful, one must truly love what they do. Panelists of the Entrepreneurship@
Cornell Sports Marketing and Management discussion appear to believe the old adage.

Jon Daniels '99, general manager of Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers; Linda Choong '90, senior vice president for merchandizing for the National Basketball Association; and Michael Huyghue '84, commissioner of the United Football League, discussed how their entrepreneurial endeavors helped them succeed in their respective fields, April 15 in the Statler Amphitheater.

Deborah Streeter, the Bruce F. Failing Sr. Professor of Personal Enterprise and Small Business Management in the Dyson School, moderated the panel.

Choong, who majored in design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology, started at the NBA in 1998 and said that she was instrumental in opening the first retail store owned and operated by a North American professional sports league. Since then, she has overseen three new store openings in Beijing and Shanghai.

Daniels, who majored in applied economics and management, recounted how he started his career in sports as an intern with the Colorado Rockies during the 2001 season. He joined the Rangers in 2002 and was promoted to director of baseball operations in 2003 and assistant general manager in 2004. In 2005, he became the youngest general manager in baseball history at the age of 28.

Since then, he said, he implemented a comprehensive rebuilding plan, and the Rangers have steadily improved. The team won the American League Championship in 2010 and is currently in first place in the American League West.

Huyghue, a graduate of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, reflected on his various roles in the sports industry. After graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, he worked with the NFL and the NFL Player's Association as a lawyer. He later spent time on the personnel side, as senior vice president of football operations for the Jacksonville Jaguars, which became the winningest expansion franchise in league history.

As the current commissioner of the United Football League, a startup football league, he aims to provide high-quality football to fans in non-NFL markets at more affordable prices.

In general, the panelists' message to students was to challenge the status quo and separate themselves from what has been done before.

The Entrepreneurship@Cornell celebration was a two-day conference bringing together more than 900 students, alumni, faculty and staff. Among other events, it included symposia, two business idea contests, a technology showcase, and a gala banquet hosted by President David Skorton.

David Keating '10 is a public affairs officer in University Communications.