McCormack's Legacy Lives On At UMass

If Michael Jordan became the ultimate pitchman, it was only because Mark McCormack started laying the groundwork with the often told legendary handshake agreement with Arnold Palmer 24 years before Jordan was ever drafted by the Chicago Bulls.

Considered the father of modern day sports marketing, the name of Mark McCormack, founder of IMG who passed away in 2003, will now live on through the future stars of the sports marketing world.

A gift by the McCormack family, announced Wednesday, will ensure that McCormack's legacy will be lasting. Not only will the school's highly regarded sport management program be named after McCormack, but in conjunction with the school's library, students will have access to McCormack's incredible archive of writings, photos and memorabilia that fills approximately 10,000 boxes from his years as chief executive of the nation's largest sports management firm. The school plans to digitize the archive and develop a Web home to make it even more accessible to people across the world.

"Similar to most parts of the business world, we were looking for the best partner for this," said Todd McCormack, one of McCormack’s sons and senior corporate vice president at IMG. "When I got into the business, following in my father's footsteps, this obviously wasn't a discipline and now there are some 300 sports marketing programs out there."

Photo by Tom Kendall

McCormack said the family narrowed down the list to six schools and visited four before arriving at UMass after a three-year search.

Most gifts given to schools often involve an alum, but Mark McCormack had no affiliation with the school. He graduated from William & Mary and later, Yale Law School.

The family also announced that it has given the school $1.5 million to endow an executive in residence program, which will have an oral history component, as well as to provide the school's sports marketing students with an opportunity to study the business of sports overseas.

Mark Fuller, dean of the Isenberg School of Management, told CNBC that having the capacity to store and circulate the archival material was one aspect that differentiated UMass, but housing the sport management program in a business school as UMass does, compared to many programs that fall under a continuing studies or kinesiology umbrella, was also important.

At 465 current students studying sport management, the UMass program is among the largest in the world in teaching the discipline. The school currently has 425 undergrads, 35 graduate students and five people studying for their doctorate in sport management.

The McCormack gift will certainly help to make UMass more appealing to those who want to get into the sports marketing business, says Lisa Masteralexis, who will continue to head up the program. But Masteralexis stresses that the student body might not grow since UMass still has to do its job to place its students in real-life sports marketing positions before they graduate. Masteralexis said for this previous year, the school's freshman class of 100 was selected out of 750 applicants.

Placing students and giving them real life experience is even more important now, Masteralexis said, because the donation now challenges the school to help teach what McCormack wrote in his bestseller, "What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School,"said couldn't be taught.

"My father always joked that the real world was where everything was learned and the world of education was disconnected in ivory towers somewhere," McCormack said.

Some of the collection does include contracts with current IMG clients and Masteralexis said some of those documents might have to be kept confidential for a certain period of time before it can be released publicly.

"One of my great regrets is that we didn't get to write that big book -- that inside story -- before he died," McCormack said. "Well, here it is, not with his voice but with the great data hidden in these documents. There are tax shelters he helped arrange for players living in Monaco and there are details about his going to China even before Nixon."

McCormack started with Palmer in 1960 and went on to represent the likes of Bjorn Bjorg, Chris Evert and countless others.

Said McCormack: "Every story written about my dad references his handshake agreement with Arnold Palmer. It's like every journalist just looked at the article before. There are so many other great stories and great deals my dad did and now it will all be out there."

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