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Big Red sports leaders to meet in NYC Sept. 18

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Rebecca Valli

Nearly 300 Cornell alumni shaping today’s sports world will gather Sept. 18 to discuss some of its hottest topics and to celebrate Big Red’s impact on the industry.

The Cornell ILR Sports Leadership Summit will include sessions featuring National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman ’74, Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. ’80, former CEO and president of the YES Network Tracy Dolgin ’81, co-head of CAA Sports Mike Levine ’93, and Major League Soccer Chief Administrative Officer JoAnn Neale ’91.

An estimated 500 Cornell and alumni hold top leadership positions in sports.

The Sept. 18 event will also draw the newest generation of industry professionals and current students active in the ILR Cornell Sports Business Society, which is a training ground for many aspiring to sports management careers.

The society offers networking events and talks by sports professionals, along with opportunities to manage the club’s blog, radio show and magazine, and helps many students prepare for careers in sports or in parallel industries that open doors to sports management.

Manfred endorses the value of a Big Red education as part of the path to pro sports management.

“My experiences at Cornell instilled in me a foundation to pursue many of the goals of our game beyond labor relations, from youth engagement to technology,” he said in an interview.

“The people-centric curriculum, innovative solution finding approach, and civic engagement principles of ILR have been extremely beneficial in the various capacities in which I have served Major League Baseball.”

Robbie Cohen ’13, an executive at CAA Sports Consulting, was passionate about sports when he arrived at ILR as an undergraduate.

He said the curriculum helped nurture his dream of a sports career, and the Sports Business Society gave him leadership experience – he served as its president his senior year and vice president his sophomore and junior years – and chances to network with industry veterans.

A particularly memorable club event for Cohen was a talk via Skype by CAA Sports’ Levine. CAA Sports has completed more than $3.5 billion in new sponsorship business on behalf of its clients and activates on more than $2.5 billion annually in sponsorships rights deals on behalf of leading global brands.

“This is what I want to do,” Cohen recalls thinking during Levine’s talk. A month after graduating, Cohen began working for the agency as an intern.

“We help our brands make an impression on consumers,” he said, and that entails being conversant with the latest technological and cultural trends.

Leadership roles held by Big Red alums have made an impression on the sports business, Cohen said, and the Sept. 18 gathering at the Westin New York Grand Central in Manhattan will underscore that.

“It’s huge. It further illustrates how Cornell and ILR have contributed to the sports industry.”

Mary Catt is assistant director of communications at the ILR School.

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