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Ex-UK Baseball Player & Sports Marketing Pioneer Jim Host Receives National Honor


Kentucky-based sports marketing pioneer Jim Host (pictured during his college days) has been named the recipient of the 2014 NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award, it was announced recently by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF).

“Jim Host created a lasting legacy as a sports marketing innovator, and his creative genius will continue for many years as the bedrock of multimedia rights in college athletics,” said NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell. “From humble beginnings, Jim built Host Communications, essentially launching the practice of marketing in college athletics. His efforts have resulted in millions of dollars for colleges and universities nationwide, and those numbers only continue to grow. It is a great privilege to recognize him and his contributions to the collegiate landscape.”

Added UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart, "Congratulations to Jim for this well-deserved honor. Jim was the pioneer of collegiate sports marketing. His innovations have made a huge impact on everyone associated with college athletics -- fans, student-athletes, schools, sponsors and the NCAA. The effect of his accomplishments are strong today and his legacy will be felt for years to come. We’re proud of Jim as a UK alumnus and Wildcat student-athlete."

Host becomes the 38th recipient of the national award, which was first presented in 1974. The NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award provides national recognition to those whose efforts to support the NFF and its goals have been local in nature or who have made significant contributions to the game of football either to the manner in which it is played and coached or to the manner in which it is enjoyed by spectators.

Born in Ashland, Ky., Host received a baseball scholarship to the UK where he generated his passion for college athletics. After running for lieutenant governor in 1971 and with only $107 to his name, he opened Jim Host & Associates, a one-man operation above a barbershop in Lexington.

Host eventually picked up the exclusive rights for UK radio in the 1970s, and he grew the network into one of the largest in the country with 117 stations carrying games across most of the eastern United States. He changed the company’s name to Host Communications, and he began printing programs for Kentucky football and basketball games, selling advertising across both the programs and the radio broadcasts.

In 1975, Host began a long-standing business relationship with the NCAA, handling all its radio, publishing and corporate sports marketing for more than 25 years. He is personally credited with implementing the first collegiate corporate sponsorship program with the NCAA in 1983, and was instrumental in the founding of NCAA Football USA, Inc. in 1998, which served as the collective promotional and marketing arm of college football.

Then, in 1989, Host established the multimedia rights model at the UK that currently generates millions annually for universities across the country. He initiated his “full-meal deal,” which bundled local TV, radio, publishing, sponsorship, signage and endorsements into one rights package, and the practice soon spread to more than 20 schools across the country. The innovation allowed Host Communications’ annual revenue to exceed more than $140 million.

After dominating the sports marketing landscape for decades, Host retired in 2003. In 2007, IMG bought Host Communications, combining it with the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) and rebranding it as part of IMG College. ISP Sports subsequently joined IMG College, and the company currently serves more than 200 universities, conferences, bowls and collegiate associations as the nation’s leading collegiate sports marketing company.

Since his retirement from the company, Host remains active in various organizations and community events in Kentucky.

He currently also serves as chairman of Volar Video, which delivers customized video solutions across television, computer and mobile platforms. Volar produced the live webcasts of both the NFF 56th Annual Awards Dinner and the NFF’s announcement of the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class.

Host will be honored at the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. He will accept his award alongside the recipients of the other NFF Major Awards, including including Frank Beckmann (the recipient of the Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting), Duke Athletics Director Kevin White (the recipient of the John L. Toner Award for excellence in athletics administration) and the yet-to-be-announced recipients of the NFF Gold Medal and the NFF Distinguished American Award.

In addition to the presentation of the NFF Major Awards, the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner will provide the stage for the induction of the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class and other presentations.

This year’s College Football Hall of Fame Class includes: Dre Bly (North Carolina), Tony Boselli (Southern California), Dave Butz (Purdue), Shane Conlan (Penn State), Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech), John Huard (Maine) Darrin Nelson (Stanford), Willie Roaf (Louisiana Tech), John Sciarra (UCLA), Sterling Sharpe (South Carolina), Leonard Smith (McNeese State), Derrick Thomas (Alabama), LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU), Wesley Walls (Mississippi) and coaches Mike Bellotti (Chico State [Calif.], Oregon) and Jerry Moore (North Texas, Texas Tech and Appalachian State).

Photo Credit: UK Media Relations

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