On September 7, 1979, ESPN was launched. Entrepreneurial daring, 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. The man who had the dream, the founder of ESPN, is Bill Rasmussen.
A life-long entrepreneur and sports fan, Rasmussen’s innovations in advertising, sports and broadcasting are too numerous to list, but they include the creation of “Sports Center”, wall-to-wall coverage of NCAA regular-season and “March Madness” college basketball, and 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.
Rasmussen is a frequent guest on radio, television and the internet, and is the author of the best-selling book, “Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN.”
A United States Air Force veteran, Rasmussen received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from DePauw University and his MBA from Rutgers University.
Bill Rasmussen at the plate - Gage Park, Chicago, IL - 1950Bill Rasmussen continues to be a popular guest on the speaking circuit, with recent engagements at Princeton University, the University of Florida, and The Center for Sports Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University. Rasmussen delivered the keynote address at the Entrepreneurship Center at the 2010 CEO Forum at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, IN and he spoke at the 2010 Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship, which is held on the campus of Missouri Valley College. He is a frequent guest on radio, television and the pitcher’s mound.
Dubbed a serial entrepreneur, Rasmussen continues to change the way sports news and information is delivered to fans worldwide, just as his earlier creation, ESPN, changed the way people watched television.
The Scholarship Fund completes a life-long dream for Bill. The Scholarship Fund provides contributions to college and university athletic departments for outstanding athletic achievement. Bill has a passion to help talented student-athletes attend college and reach their full potential both as an athlete and as a person. The Scholarship Fund is one way he is able to give back to the institutions that served him well in his youth.
Life Before ESPN
After an earlier successful entrepreneurial venture in the advertising business, Rasmussen’s career in the media began in 1962 at WTTT radio in Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1965, he moved to WWLP-TV, Springfield, where he spent eight years as Sports Director and two years as News Director and Evening News Anchor. During these years, he handled numerous football, basketball, baseball and hockey play-by-play assignments on both radio and television.
In 1974, he left Springfield to join hockey’s New England Whalers as Communications Director. At the conclusion of the 1977-78 World Hockey Association season, Rasmussen was fired (along with the entire front office) by the Whalers. Thus began the pursuit of the ESPN dream, incorporating the fledgling network on July 14, 1978. Fourteen months later, at 7 p.m. on September 7, 1979, Rasmussen’s dream, ESPN, became reality.
Life After ESPN
Rasmussen has served as a consultant to the Big Ten Conference, and several of the conference’s individual member institutions, on television matters. He has also been a consultant with numerous other startup media and internet companies. His internet ventures include serving as Chairman of the Attitude Network, home of the highly successful Happy Puppy and Games Domain sites, as Chairman of SportsatHome, a sports-themed game site that offered an array of virtual sports stadiums and games to play online within each of the stadiums, and founder and CEO of College Fanz Sports Network, the world’s largest online college sports social network.
Rasmussen has been active in numerous charity events, including nine years with the highly-acclaimed Winged Foot Scholarship Program, and five years with a Senior PGA Tour event. He is a frequent participant in celebrity charity golf events throughout the country.
For his many accomplishments, Rasmussen was named a Champion: one of the “Pioneers and Innovators in Sports Business” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Dailly in 2011. He was named in The Sports 100, honoring the one hundred 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 “Forty for the Ages,” one of forty individuals who has significantly altered and elevated the world of sport during the second half of the 20th century. He has been called “The Father of Cable Sports” by USA Today.
As part of ESPN’s 30th Anniversary celebration, the “father” of ESPN, Bill Rasmussen, threw out the ceremonial first pitch during ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball coverage of the Phillies/Mets game September 13, 2009. He continues to be a popular guest on the speaking circuit, with recent engagements at Princeton University, the University of Florida, and The Center for Sports Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, among others. Rasmussen delivered the keynote address at the Entrepreneurship Center at the 2010 CEO Forum at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, IN and he spoke at the 2010 Maastricht Institute of Entrepreneurship, which is held on the campus of Missouri Valley College. In August 2009, he delivered the keynote address at the Centennial Celebration of Lambda Chi Alpha in Indianapolis
Notable honors include:
2011: Champion: one of the “Pioneers and Innovators in Sports Business” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, which honors executives who have spent a lifetime devoted to the sports industry
2009: Keynote speaker at the Centennial Celebration of Lambda Chi Alpha
2004: Jim Thorpe Association - Bill Conners Communications Award
2002: The Wall of Distinguished Business Alumni - Rutgers University (William F. Rasmussen)
2001: The Order of Achievement from Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity
1999: Induction into the Enfield, CT Athletic Hall of Fame
1997: Induction into the Connecticut Sports Museum and Hall of Fame
1996: The Sports 100 - The One Hundred Most Important People in American Sports History (# 57)
1994: Sports Illustrated - “Forty for the Ages” (# 29)