In its previous two editions, the University of South Florida Sport and Entertainment Lecture Series has featured a variety of guests from both worlds, ranging from agent David Falk and BET co-founder Sheila Johnson to ESPN analyst Andrew Brandt and Women's Tennis Association CEO Stacy Allaster.
This year is no different, as the series welcomes a trio of speakers, including executives from the NBA and WNBA and pizza magnate "Papa John."
"We've had an amazing group of people (speak)," said Dr. Bill Sutton, director of the USF Muma College of Business Sport and Entertainment Management program. "This year, I kind of went with a leadership theme of trying to get people that are great leaders to come in here."
Those leaders include Scott O'Neil, who will speak at 4:30 on Wednesday, January 13. The CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team, the New Jersey Devils NHL team and the Prudential Center arena in Newark, NJ, will talk about creating a competitive advantage through talent and culture.
"The morale and the spirit on the business side of the 76ers is the best I've seen in any team I work with," Sutton said, in spite of the team's recent poor on-court effort (an NBA worst 4-36 record this year, with only 37 wins combined in the previous two seasons).
"I think that goes to show that if you have a leader that is a charismatic leader and has an appreciation for what it takes to be in the trenches and knows how important talent is, they can build a great business operation in spite of how the product poorly performs on the athletic surface," Sutton added.
John "Papa John" Schnatter will follow at 7 p.m. Wednesday, as he speaks with SportsBusiness Journal editor Abe Madkour and receives the USF Sport and Entertainment Management program's "Sport Marketer of the Year" award.
"That business (Papa John's Pizza) is...the number one pizza chain or close to it in the United States," Sutton said. "And (Schnatter) starts off selling his car to raise money to prevent his father's bar from being foreclosed, and then going into business with his father and building a pizza oven in a closet. That's how this business started and I think it's just incredible."
"Donna's message is women need to be competitive in the business world as they are on the athletic surfaces," Sutton said. "Donna also has some tips for men to also be able to help women in their strive to be competitive and to be successful in the business world. I think it's a good message for our business community to hear."
The lecture series, which is sponsored in part by Fox Sports Florida and the Tampa Bay Lightning, is free and open to students of all majors, as well as the public. Reservations are required. The series takes place in USF's Marshall Student Center Oval Theater.