NFL Execs Attend Business School Program

The one-week, custom-designed NFL-Stanford Program aims to develop and deepen core business skills among NFL executives leaders.

June 23, 2004

Stanford GSB recently brought together leaders of the National Football League and executives from all 32 NFL teams for the second NFL-Stanford Executive Education Program.

The one-week, custom-designed NFL-Stanford Program included sessions led by Stanford Business School faculty members as well as speakers from professional football including Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and former San Francisco 49er player Ronnie Lott.

The NFL-Stanford Program is codirected by management professor George Foster and lecturer Bill Walsh, Hall of Fame NFL coach and former general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. “This is an opportunity to get a broad and strategic understanding of the industry, operations, and competition from Stanford GSB professors and NFL management,” said Walsh, who is also a former Stanford football coach. “We give a complete program from which participants can gain invaluable experience, plus there is important networking and peer sharing in the process.”

“This type of executive development has a strong impact on the front office as well as the team executives who are present,” said Gene Washington, NFL director of football operations, who attended the June 21-25 classes on the Stanford campus. He also took part in the first NFL-Stanford Program in 2003.

The program grew out of an expertise in sports management developed for the Stanford MBA Program through the collaboration of Foster and Walsh. Walsh had supported the idea of executive development within the NFL for years. Washington visited Stanford in 2003 as a speaker in one of Foster and Walsh’s MBA classes, saw the content Stanford had developed, and launched discussions about a custom program for the league. “Our objective is to develop and deepen the core business skills of the participants and give them a greater appreciation of all aspects of the NFL and the clubs,” said Foster, who is the Paul L. and Phyllis Wattis Professor of Management.

In addition to Stanford faculty, program speakers included Bill Polian, president of the Indianapolis Colts; Rod Graves, vice president of football operations for the Arizona Cardinals; John Jones, executive vice president and COO of the Green Bay Packers; Carmen Policy, executive adviser at the Cleveland Browns; and Art Shell, supervisor of football operations for the National Football League.

Sessions included topics such as “Team Economics and Stadium Management”; “Foundations of Team Effectiveness”; “What Makes a Great Executive in the Sports Industry”; “Negotiation Strategies and Tactics”; and “The Future of Football.”

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