Bernie Mullin, Founder and Chairman of The Aspire Group, Named McCormack Department of Sport Management Executive-In-Residence at UMass Amherst

Bernie Mullin
Bernie Mullin

AMHERST, Mass. – Internationally acclaimed sport management and marketing executive Bernie Mullin will serve as this fall’s Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management Executive-In-Residence at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

Mullin, a former member of the sport management faculty, currently serves as chairman of The Aspire Group, an Atlanta-based firm that is the industry leader in ticket sales and marketing for college athletic programs. Since founding The Aspire Group in 2008, Mullin’s firm has worked with 80 schools and universities, helping programs generate more than $1 billion in ticket and donation revenue. The Aspire Group was named one of the “Top 10 Best Organizations To Work For In Sports” by Forbes Magazine in 2015.

The centerpiece of Mullin’s visit will be the Mark H. McCormack Sport Innovators Lecture on Monday, Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in 151 Integrative Learning Center. His lecture, titled “The Future of Sport Spectatorship: Will anyone under 35 be watching?” is open to the public.

During his residency, Mullin’s activities will also include classroom visits, roundtables with McCormack students and faculty, and participation in the McCormack Collection Oral History Project.

“We are honored to have Bernie Mullin join our impressive roster of McCormack Executives in Residence who have shared their stories of innovation and career insights with our students and faculty,” said Janet Fink, chair of the McCormack Department of Sport Management. “His remarkable track record of innovation in sport management, spanning academia, the professional sport industry, and college athletics, exemplifies the spirit of sport industry innovation and leadership that remains the hallmark of Mark McCormack’s legacy.”

Mullin joined the sport management faculty in 1977 and over nearly a decade helped the program gain its international prominence. While at UMass Amherst, Mullin was the principal author of the first sport marketing textbook, now in its 4th edition and available in 11 languages.

From 1986-90, Mullin worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates as senior vice president - business operations and within five years, a franchise record was set by drawing over 2 million fans in one season. In 1991, Mullin was hired to lead business operations for the Colorado Rockies, where during his two-year tenure, a MLB record for single-season attendance was set with 4,482,250 fans. He also oversaw the design and construction of Coors Field. After leaving the Rockies, Mullin served for two years as president and general manager for the Denver Grizzlies of the International Hockey League and for five years as the University of Denver’s vice chancellor of athletics, Mullin oversaw the fundraising for, and construction of, Denver’s new athletic facilities which ultimately bumped it from NCAA Division II to Division I. Denver has since won 13 titles in men’s hockey, lacrosse and skiing.

In 2000, Mullin joined the National Basketball Association as a senior vice president of marketing and team business operations. In this role, he was instrumental in the NBA’s creation of Team Marketing and Business Operations (TMBO). After having created the model for how professional sport leagues share business practices with their teams, Mullin became the president and CEO of the Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Thrashers (NHL), and Phillips Arena in 2004. He inherited an organization losing US $47 million per annum, the worst team in the NBA and an NHL team that had never had a winning season. In just four years, operating losses were reduced by 80 percent, the Hawks were rebuilt into a team that has now made the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons, the Thrashers won their division and Philips Arena enjoyed its most profitable year in its history. As a result of this new foundation, the organization was sold seven years later for over five times its acquisition price.

Mullin joins a stellar roster of recent McCormack executives in residence including Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, former WTA chair Stacey Allaster, former ESPN chairman George Bodenheimer, former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, and Octagon managing director of Olympic and action sports Peter Carlisle.

The McCormack Department of Sport Management, housed in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, is the second oldest degree program of its kind in the world, and the largest and most academically diverse sport management department in the nation. Widely respected for the breadth and quality of its curriculum and research, the department has been widely hailed as a leader in its field. UMass Amherst also houses the collection of papers from Mark McCormack and the company that he founded, IMG.