It is safe to say that Bill Rasmussen changed the face of sports and the face of television. His brainstorm for a 24-hour cable sports television station, born out of adversity, has become the Worldwide Leader in Sports—ESPN. Bill is the man with that dream. He founded ESPN in the summer of 1978, and had his innovative brainstorm for an all-sports cable TV network within days of his firing by the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association on Memorial Day weekend. His idea for an all-sports cable TV network captured his imagination, and he incorporated the fledgling network on July 14, 1978. He had already begun to seek out cable television companies, sponsors, investors, and partners. With an idea that was truly ahead of its time, and running out of cash, Bill found one investor who believed in the concept in February 1979, and by September 7, 1979, ESPN was on the air for the first time—just 14 months after his moment of inspiration.
A lifelong entrepreneur and sports fan, Bill's innovations in advertising, sports, and broadcasting are numerous and include not only the creation of ESPN, but also the concept for Sports Center, which provides wall-to-wall coverage of NCAA regular-season and "March Madness" college basketball, as well as coverage of the College World Series. He broke the advertising barrier to cable television by signing Anheuser Busch to the largest cable TV advertising contract ever.
Bill's entrepreneurial daring, his irrepressible enthusiasm, and a dash of good luck gave the world the first 24-hour television network. Once unleashed upon sports fans, ESPN's impact forever changed the way we watch television. Bill is the author of the best-selling book, "Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN." Bill tells the inside story of the birth of ESPN in the book.
In addition to his role as the "George Washington of ESPN"—as longtime ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman has tagged him—Bill served as a consultant to the Big Ten Conference as well as several of the member institutions on television matters. He has been at the helm of numerous other startup companies both in traditional media and on the Internet.
Bill is a frequent guest on radio and television shows, including recent appearances on the nationally-syndicated radio shows "Sports Byline USA with Ron Barr" and "The Dennis Miller Show" and the cable television interview show "It's Your Call." He has also been a featured guest on the FOX News Channel's "Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld."
He has received many awards and honors over his career. Named "The Father of Cable Sports" by USA Today, Bill was named to "The Sports 100," honoring the 100 most important people in American sports history. His place in sports history was further recognized by Sports Illustrated in 1994, when he was honored as one of the "40 for the Ages," one of 40 individuals who has significantly altered and elevated the world of sport in the last half of the twentieth century. He has been awarded the Bill Conners Communications Award from the Jim Thorpe Association and is currently the Executive in Residence at The Robert C. McDermond Center for Management & Entrepreneurship at DePauw University.
Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Bill went to DePauw University, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Economics in 1954. He then served in the United States Air Force before beginning his professional career working for Westinghouse's lamp division (Bloomfield, NJ) in sales and marketing. He later earned his Masters of Business Administration from Rutgers University.
He frequently returns to Bristol, CT for ESPN's annual anniversary celebrations. He is a gifted raconteur and a popular public speaker discussing American entrepreneurship, innovation, and the birth of ESPN. He has spoken at numerous colleges and universities throughout the country and often delivers speeches at private corporate events, trade shows, and fundraising engagements.
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