Grand Rapids, Michigan – January 22, 2014 -- ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen, the legendary entrepreneur who founded ESPN, is the latest distinguished speaker in the 27th Annual Calvin College January Speaker Series, at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.
Rasmussen’s presentation, “Channeling Sports: A Conversation with ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen,” is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time to 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time at the Covenant Fine Arts Center on the Calvin College campus. Admission is free of charge.
In addition, there will be a live webcast of the presentation available at http://www.calvin.edu/january/2014/Rasmussen.htm.
During Rasmussen’s presentation, he will tell the story of the birth of ESPN and the creation of a global sports enterprise. He will also speak about leadership and the skills necessary to create such a successful global brand icon. It’s a rare opportunity to hear and feel the stories of a man who was considered by the three major television networks at the time (ABC, NBC & CBS) a dreamer and all-around “crazy man” to even think that he could compete with them.
For over 25 years, the January Series of Calvin College has been the leading lecture/cultural arts series in the country. Rasmussen is among a number of distinguished speakers this month, which also includes Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson; John M. Perkins, a leading evangelical voice of the American civil rights movement; and Olympia Snowe, a former U.S. senator and the only woman to serve in both houses at the state and federal level. In 2013, nearly 40,000 people attended the lectures at the on-campus and remote sites. Additional information about the January Series of Calvin College is available at http://www.calvin.edu/january/2014/.
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 network, 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.
Rasmussen is the author of the best-selling book, “Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN,” which was recently published in a brand-new paperback edition, and is also available in a Kindle edition at ESPNFounder.com and at Amazon.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.”
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 October 2012, Rasmussen was named Executive in Residence at The Robert C. McDermond Center for Management & Entrepreneurship at DePauw University. In his new role, Rasmussen met with students on the DePauw campus, particularly with the Management Fellows Program and the Media Fellows Program. He also delivered a lecture at DePauw University as part of the college’s 175th anniversary Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series, received the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for Media and was inducted into the Media Wall of Fame at the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media at DePauw University.
Rasmussen’s current speaking tour has included private and corporate events, as well as public engagements at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, University of South Carolina, University of Kansas, Villanova University, Bay Path College, Princeton University, Quinnipiac University’s School of Law, the University of Florida School of Law, Azusa Pacific University, Lindenwood University, Saint Xavier University, Indiana Tech, Auburn University, Arizona State University, Union College, University of Texas at Arlington and The Center for Sports Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, among others.