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'Show Me The Money': Pirates' President, Steelers Director Talk about Big Business of Sports

Pittsburgh-area sports figures talk about dollars, cents and goals as St. Barnabas hosts 26th annual CEO Leadership Conference.

No one screamed "Show me the money!"—the way Tom Cruise did in Jerry Maguire—but a panel of Pittsburgh sports figures had plenty to say about the multibillion-dollar world of sports.

Six speakers addressed the "Show Me The Money: The Big Business of Sports" theme Monday at the 26th annual CEO Leadership Conference hosted by St. Barnabas Health Sytem in Richland Township:

Here are quotes from the speakers who addressed a crowd of more than 200:

 

Mark Hart: As the Steelers evolve, the people at his office debate "who are we?" he said.

While the coaches and Rooneys probably would say the organization is  a football company, others in the NFL would call it an entertainment company, Hart said.

Although he does not tweet or do Facebook, Hart said he sees his kids multitask while watching football on a 60-inch flat-screen TV. They sit with their laptops, see a great play and download information, tweet and do whatever technology allows them to do, he added.

"The question is: Why should they come to the stadium?"

Hart spoke of the transformation of "selling entertainment and content and getting the next generation of fans," adding that the stadium needs to ensure fans have WiFi and clear cell phone service.

Fans in the stadium then will be able to look at rosters on their mobile devices, download video, tweet or post on Facebook, Hart said.

 

Steve Pederson: "We don't believe in winning at all costs," Pederson said, adding Pitt's 475 student-athletes are there to get an education.

He said he is in favor of student-athletes receiving stipends.

When it comes to social media, he said Pitt does not prevent players from tweeeting, as some colleges have.

Pitt's approach is to educate the student-athletes about tweeting, but some players nonetheless have said things they wish they had not, Pederson said.

"It's a life lesson."

 

Suzie McConnell-Serio: "I know we are a professional sports town," she said. "I'm flattered to be here as the women's basketball coach at Duquesne and I'd really like someone to show me the money."

A person's attitude can determine how successful he or she becomes, McConnell-Serio said.

"I'm only 5-foot-4. My attitude helped me accomplish goals I set," said the U.S Olympian who played on the 1988 gold-medal-winning team.

"No matter what it is, it's important to have a passion for what you do," she said.

Her goal is to put Duquesne on the national map, the coach said.

 

Bob Ford: "Golf is the game of a lifetime," the Oakmont pro said. "It brings people together."

Though golf is a big business, "golf is really about charities," he said. The PGA Tour raises $118 million for charity, Ford said.

He referred specifically to The First Tee of Pittsburgh, which teaches golf to kids of all backgrounds. It gives the youths a chance to develop life-enhancing values such as confidence, honesty, integrity, perseverance and judgment through golf and character education, he added.

"Golf teaches you so much about life," Ford said.

When asked who the greatest golfer of all time is, he said Jack Nicklaus. Others rounding out his Top 5 are Tiger Woods, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.

He said the the Walker Cup might be coming to Oakmont in 2021, but plans have not been finalized.

When Oakmont hosted the U.S. Open in 2007, the economic impact for that week was $60 million, Ford said. The U.S. Open will be back at Oakmont in 2016. 

Ralph E. Cindrich: The revenue and salaries in sports are "astounding," he said. 

Then he went on to criticize the NCAA and say "the student-athlete is a farce."

He also said the NCAA's treatment of Penn State is "grossly unfair."

However, he added that Pitt's program is "clean."

Speaking about Twitter, he said some players get themselves in trouble by tweeting when they are hot or drinking.

"Once it's out there ... Zoom! Everybody jumps on it," said the agent who got himself into Twitter wars after criticizing Alabama head coach Nick Saban.

 

Frank Coonelly: "It's the passion we have for sports that make it a big business," he said, adding that the Pirates generate $2.1 million in direct spending for each game. 

The impact pro and college sports have on a community is "enormous," Coonelly said. 

Winning is a goal, he continued, because "winning converts into revenue."

To develop its team, the Pirates have spent money on scouting, developing and spending in the draft, he said.

"We haven't written off this year," he said. "We have to figure out a way to finish."

Speaking about Twitter, Coonelly said it is an effective tool to show what the Pirates are doing. 

"It can be a great marketing tool," he said, but players need to be knowledgeable about how to use it.

It also has a downside—like when a minor league player tweeted a criticism of an umpire and less-than complimentary musings about the city where he was playing.

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Jim Roddey, former Allegheny County chief executive, moderated the panel discussion.

Ray Carter, vice president and general manager of WPXI-TV, served as conference moderator.

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