It takes guts to call the NCAA the most fraudulent organization that ever lived in front of a packed auditorium on a campus where the Terps athletic teams hold high esteem. But chutzpah is something Sonny Vaccaro, a sports marketing legend best known for brokering major endorsement deals with basketball stars the likes of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, certainly does not lack.
About 200 Robert H. Smith School of Business students the majority of which participate in the Undergraduate Fellows Program filled Van Munching Halls Frank Auditorium the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2007 to hear an animated Vaccaro speak about his experiences working more than four decades in the sports business.
Vaccaro, 68, spoke candidly about the shoe deals he brokered for top athletic apparel companies Nike, Adidas and Reebok including the deal that started it all: signing Michael Jordan to Nike. He openly talked about paying coaches and universities to outfit their basketball teams in the shoes of companies he represented. He also lobbed criticism at the NBA and NCAA the NBA for an age-limit rule that prevents teams from drafting players under 19 years old, and the NCAA for what he called unfair practices that profit off student athletes without benefit to the players after they've left the team.
Vaccaro who is to be portrayed by Emmy-winner James Gandolfini of Sopranos fame in the upcoming HBO original movie, ABCD Camp spoke for nearly and hour and a half before taking questions from Smith students. After the presentation and Q&A, Vaccaro and his wife Pam chatted with students. Vaccaro warmly welcomed feedback and questions from the students that approached him, in several cases even offering his e-mail address and promising to respond to any correspondence.
The event was part of the Smith Schools Freshman Fellows fall Speaker Series. The Freshman Fellows Program is one of several Undergraduate Fellows programs, which offers students small-scale specialized academic concentrations with hands-on experiences and close interaction with faculty, alumni, peers and industry professionals. Smith will launch a Sport Management Fellows program in the spring and many of the students that will participate in that program attended the Vaccaro event and a special pre-event reception to meet Sonny.
Vaccaro's Web Site: www.nextfactors.com
▓ Carrie Handwerker, Office of Marketing Communications