As is our annual tradition, the Post team presents In Charge, a compendium of Middle Tennessee’s top business, political and civic leaders. The 450-plus women and men on our list — our fifth annual — make a positive impact not just on their individual sectors, but on the city in general. These folks are the best of the best — and always “in charge.”
1. Will Bartholomew — CEO, D1 Sports: Former UT fullback and MBA grad runs world-class fitness and training company with 21 training locations and 29 sports-medicine facilities and continues to grow. Clients and/or partners include Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow.
2. Rick Byrd — Belmont Men’s Basketball Coach: Long-time coach has directed the program’s rise from NAIA to NCAA Division I and, recently, a victory at North Carolina, the latest among numerous achievements that spur people take notice of a program they otherwise might not.
3. Jeff Cogen — CEO, Nashville Predators: Experienced sports and entertainment executive whose ability to generate revenue through sales and sponsorships is critical for a franchise short on cash reserves and that has two of the highest-paid players at their respective positions, defenseman Shea Weber and goalie Pekka Rinne, signed to long-term deals.
4. Beth DeBauche — OVC Commissioner: One of the few female NCAA Division I conference commissioners is anything but a novelty as evidenced by the expansion and innovation under her direction. Also will be the local point person for the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
5. Sean Henry — COO, Nashville Predators: Experience in selling hockey in a non-traditional market is evident in his savvy, personal touch on social media, person interactions and game operations. Presence is a major factor in the franchise’s “every man” appeal that has created a fiercely loyal fan base.
6. Mark Howard — Co-Host, The Wake-Up Zone: Lead voice on the city’s highest-rated morning talk show. Host of Predators’ post-game television show and Titans’ post-game radio show, which means no one does more to frame the discussion on the local pro sports scene each day and week.
7. David Poile — President of Hockey Operations/GM, Nashville Predators: Veteran executive, nominated for league’s GM of the Year award three times and architect of the team’s seven playoff appearances in nine years. Served as U.S. Olympic team GM this year.
8. Scott Ramsey — President and CEO, Nashville Sports Council: Leads organization that claims almost $400 million in financial impact since 1992 and the Music City Bowl. Council has created the Country Music Marathon and helped Nashville become primary site for SEC men’s basketball tournaments and host of 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
9. Tommy Smith — CEO, Tennessee Titans: Says he will be thoughtful and measured in his role as successor to father-in-law and franchise founder, the late Bud Adams. Will be an owner in absentia but promises to maintain close contact with local operations.
10. Frank Ward — Owner and Partner, Nashville Sounds: Point man for partnership that bought the Nashville Sounds in 2009. Group spent more than $2 million on needed repairs and renovations to 31-year-old Greer Stadium in 2009. Now focused on Sulphur Dell ballpark set to open in 2015 and on ancillary infill development.
11. Ruston Webster – General Manager, Tennessee Titans: Has shown he is prepared and decisive when it comes to adding players in free agency (more than $100 million in contracts last season) and hiring coaches, as he did with Ken Whisenhunt and clearly has the trust of CEO Tommy Smith.
12. Trigg Wilkes — General Manager, A-Game Sportsplex: Former Belmont hoopster runs massive Franklin sports complex, which boasts an ice rink, numerous gyms, weight rooms and meeting facilities. A-Game hosts numerous amateur sports events that create a significant economic impact on Middle Tennessee.
13. David Williams II — Athletics Director, Vanderbilt University: Focused on athletics after years of wearing multiple hats throughout the university. Is critical to fundraising efforts designed to upgrade facilities and operations for all sports, particularly football. In January, replaced then-head football coach James Franklin with Derek Mason in a major hire.
14. Brad Willis — Program Director 104.5 FN-The Zone/Titans radio: All three of his local programs recently were included among the Sports Talk Heavy 100, a national ranking by trade publication Talkers. Station also is local home for the Titans and University of Tennessee, easily the top two entities for local sports fans.