Sports Career Spotlight
We've been featuring executives from the sports industry since 2001.
Naturally, some of these executives have moved onward and upward in their sports careers.
We believe these profiles remain relevant and valuable because they highlight the hard work, dedication, brilliant successes, and lessons learned in a variety of career paths through the sports industry.
Jack Carnefix, Senior Manager of Public Relations
Professional Bull Riders
Name: Jack Carnefix
Current Job Title: Senior Manager of Public Relations
Company Name: Professional Bull Riders
First sports job: Sports Writer at Daily O’Collegian, Oklahoma State University student newspaper
College education: Bachelor’s degree in Journalism – News Editorial from Oklahoma State University
Executive most admired: Walt Disney
Brand most admired: Disney
I have been the senior manager of public relations for the Professional Bull Riders since February 2010. I have worked to increase the presence of the PBR in national sports media as well as in individual markets visited by the Built Ford Tough Series. My job allows me to work closely with a remarkable group of people including the PBR riders.
We take one rider to each BFTS city to do advance interviews with local radio, television and print publications. It has been very gratifying to help bring much-deserved attention and exposure to such a tremendous group of athletes, who continually amaze and impress every interviewer with not only their athletic ability but also their politeness, honesty, and integrity.
Hired as the director of communications, I achieved the position of senior vice president for communications and new media at the ECHL, formerly the East Coast Hockey League, during my 10 years of service. I often joke that I accepted the position at the ECHL because league offices had aggravated me for so many years that I wanted to see it from their side. It was an incredible learning experience although I admit that I did miss the daily interaction with athletes that I had enjoyed in the past. I oversaw the media relations directors for each of the teams, but my major responsibility was to increase the presence of the ECHL as a league. We accomplished that by branding ourselves as the Premier ‘AA’ Hockey League, and becoming the primary development league for the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League. One of the tasks I took the most pleasure in completing was to do a press release and update the list on the web site each time a former ECHL player played his first game in the NHL.
I was the director of communications for Diamond Sports from 1994-2000. Diamond Sports owned and operated the Boise Hawks and Sioux City Explorers minor league baseball teams, the Idaho Steelheads minor league hockey team, the Idaho Sneakers World TeamTennis team, and the Idaho Stallions minor league football team. Diamond Sports was also part owner of the Bank of America Centre, now Qwest Arena, in downtown Boise. My experience with the arena began with the groundbreaking ceremony, continued through the construction, and culminated with the grand opening ceremonies. The arena gave me a chance to expand my scope of experience by working a variety of events, including family shows and boxing.
I was the director of operations for the Oklahoma State baseball team from 1988-94. It was the first time I concentrated on one sport. Head coach Gary Ward allowed me the opportunity to have the role of minor league general manager, and continually added responsibilities. I was involved in the outfield fence sign sponsorship program, the game program, radio broadcasts, and team travel. I helped create the OSU Baseball Hall of Fame, a kid’s club, and a bat boy program. We also created a special group that oversaw fundraising and improvements for Allie P. Reynolds Stadium.
As a member of the Oklahoma State sports information office from 1994-88, I gained valuable experience working with a variety of sports, coaches, and athletes. I worked at the Daily O’Collegian, the Oklahoma State student newspaper, from 1981-84, beginning as a general assignment reporter and sports writer and eventually the sports editor.
Tell us a little about your first job in the sports industry. How did you land it?
My first job in the sports industry was as a sophomore in college when I was hired as a sports writer with he Daily O’Collegian, the student newspaper at Oklahoma State University. I applied for the position, and was chosen by the editor as the most qualified new applicant. That allowed me to begin attending games and meet working sports writers. It was through observing these sports writers that I was able to learn the aspects of the profession that weren’t taught in a classroom, including press box decorum and conduct, interview protocol, and much more.
How does working in sports differ from working in other industries?
Working in sports is unlike any other job because every day is different. Your day depends on what is happening with your team. There can be a trade, an injury or worse case scenario a problem with the law. It is not, however, a job for someone who wants to have regular hours. The events are usually at night, and your job typically begins before the game and can continue until after the game. You spend a lot of late nights and usually have to get up and be back at the office the next morning to prepare for the next game. In my current position, it is not uncommon to leave the hotel at 5 a.m. to begin morning interviews, and conclude it around midnight by posting the press release. During the day, you will finalize media credential requests, set up the press room, and make telephone calls to media confirming attendance.
What advice would you give to students looking to make sports their career?
I would recommend that you get internships to gain experience. Sometimes an internship can allow you to learn that this isn’t what you want to do. That can be just as valuable as the internship reinforcing that this is the career you want to pursue. The opportunity to be on the field or in the press box is very appealing. If you actually work for a team, you can find out that working for a team requires a lot more than putting on a shirt emblazoned with the team logo. You can experience the day-to-day work that is required. If you have the opportunity to rotate through departments in an organization, you might learn that you prefer marketing over media relations or game-day operations over ticket sales.
What advice would you give to people in established careers trying to make the transition into sports?
I would recommend meeting people involved in sports. Initially you might have to volunteer to get your foot into the door. You might be able to find an organization that is willing to let you work on game nights to gain experience, allowing you to keep your current job to pay the bills.
We all know that working in sports generally involves long hours. What are the perks that offset this?
The opportunity to attend games is one of the biggest perks as well as being on the inside of an exciting profession. I enjoy working with athletes. This is a group who not only have their success is measured every time they perform their job, but they do it in front of an audience. One of my favorite quotes is from Hall of Fame goaltender Jacques Plante, who said “How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?”
Sports can also give you the opportunity to travel. There isn’t always a lot of time to sightsee as you typically leave immediately following the game and you're busy throughout your time in each city. Sports has allowed me to meet many wonderful people, many of whom I am lucky enough to call friends. It is very satisfying to watch athletes achieve their goals. For me it is equally satisfying when I can see people advance off the field and realize their dreams.
When hiring, what major traits do you look for in a candidate?
For media/public relations I look for someone who has a strong background in journalism and writing. Newspapers and media outlets are understaffed and many times they have to use press releases and game stories you write in lieu of being able to assign a reporter to cover an event. Materials that are well written with correct AP Style have a much better chance of being run in a given publication or on a website than those that have to be rewritten.
Where do you see hiring in the sports industry heading in the next 3 years?
I think the sports industry will hire people who possess a variety of abilities; being versatile is beneficial. Minor league sports in particular need people who can perform a variety of tasks as they typically work with smaller staffs. In minor league hockey, radio broadcasters are usually asked to perform the media relations duties and during the offseason they may also be called upon to do sales. I used to tell aspiring broadcasters that their organization would pay them a salary to sell and do media relations, and that the ability to broadcast games was a bonus. Social media has become more important and will continue to grow as it gives organizations the ability to communicate directly with their fans, so having a working knowledge of the ways to effectively utilize social media will be a plus.
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