Jack Cassidy | July 7, 2017
Sports, for some, is the moment when life makes perfect sense.
When body and mind strike the perfect chord to achieve lift or strength or speed. There are rules and measures, and there’s agreement. There are sounds – the swish, the thunk against a board, the smack of a caught ball, the cheers. There are the people – the teammates, coaches and fans.
And at some point, there’s a buzzer. For everyone, there’s the end of a game, the end of a season, the end of an athletic career.
Unless. You find a way to stay.
You move off the court or field or arena to the sidelines or dugout or front office. And you find a new, powerful way to serve your team.
The following five alumni of the Mendoza College of Business — Ted Phillips, Stan Bowman, John Paxson, Brooks Boyer and Ruth Riley — have made that transition with grace and innovation, and now lead successful careers with professional sports teams.
Ted Phillips: Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips (ACCT ’79), a business mind who could have undoubtedly succeeded in any number of fields, gets right to the root of the question when asked why he chose a career in sports.
“Well,” he says, before pausing. “It’s fun. You work hard, but you get to have fun.”
In many ways, Phillip’s career has become a means to share that joy. He, along with so many in the sports world, fulfills the adulthood obligation of working while not yet surrendering the childhood prerogative of having a good time.
Phillips entered the workforce as an auditor at an accounting firm, where he spent four years. During his final year, however, a fortunate opportunity arrived with his newest client: the Chicago Bears.
Phillips, an ardent sports fan, worked on the team’s corporate tax and, needing a controller, the Bears eventually reached out to Phillips with a job offer. He accepted in 1983. Moving through the ranks, he became the director of finance in 1987, the vice president of operations in 1993, and finally the president and CEO in 1999, a position he still holds.
“I’ve gotten great opportunities, so I get a lot of thrill out of giving opportunities to other staff here, to challenge them in their jobs,” Phillips said. “You don’t always get that in your corporations, but here I’ve gotten that and I’ve tried to give those opportunities to others as well.”
His aim is to spread joy outside of the company as well, in the way that only sports can — the way that takes a meaningless game and suddenly makes it mean everything.