Legislation allows Tennessee Athletic Commission to continue, function more efficiently

Gov. Bill Haslam has given the future of professional boxing and mixed martial arts in Tennessee a fighting chance. For a time, at least.

Legislation signed this week extends the Tennessee Athletic Commission through June 30, 2017, albeit with changes designed to cut costs and streamline its operation. Financially insolvent prior to 2015, the body had been scheduled for termination.

The TAC oversees professional boxing and mixed martial arts events in the state.

“Changes needed to be made to the Tennessee Athletic Commission in order to create a better-functioning commission,” said Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), who sponsored the legislation (SB 0212/HB 0392) in the Senate, in a release from the state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance. “These updates ensure that boxing and mixed martial arts events will continue to be held in Tennessee. I thank my fellow members of the General Assembly for their support.”

Among the changes to the commission under the new legislation:

• All current commissioners must vacate their positions by the start of 2016 and a new, five-member commission will be appointed. Former commission members may be reappointed.

• The commission will fall under the direction of the Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Division of Regulatory Boards, whose director will oversee all administrative duties. There will be no TAC director.

• Promoters will be responsible for many costs associated with their events, i.e. “physical examinations and blood tests as well as the costs of referees, a ringside physician, a neurologist and an ambulance.”

• Money from the General Fund is not available for cover TAC expenses. All money collected by the TAC must be carried forward to cover future expenses.

The UFC, the world’s top mix martial arts promotion, has an Aug. 8 event scheduled for Bridgestone Arena.

May 7, 2015 10:25 AM

Commentary: Smith's resignation the right move done the wrong way

Tommy Smith could not have handled his departure as Tennessee Titans CEO any worse.

Then again, that just proved that it is best for him not to be the man in charge.

Smith tried to slip out unnoticed with the classic Friday afternoon press release in middle of a big sports weekend (the NCAA Tournament, in this case).

Hey, Tommy. This is the NFL. People are going to notice.

But then that just speaks to the fact that franchise founder Bud Adams’ son-in-law does not know what he and the other heirs have in the Titans. It’s not an ordinary business. It’s something about which people are passionate, sometimes even irrational. For six months out of the year, the happiness of some depends on whether their team wins or loses.

Smith said he decided to ‘retire’ as Titans CEO so that he could focus his energy on Adams Resources and Energy Inc., his father-in-law’s oil and chemical company based in Houston. The reality is that he quit. One does not ‘retire’ yet remain in charge of a corporation with 870 employees and more than $4 billion in annual revenue.

This is a man who simply does not want the Titans job. But then he never has.

Back in 1997 when the franchise first moved from Houston, Adams’ plan was for Smith to come too and run the day-to-day operations. Smith declined, and in 1999 Adams finally went outside the family and the organization and hired Jeff Diamond to be the man in charge. Maybe it was a coincidence (maybe not) the next five years were the best the franchise ever had with four playoff berths, including the only Super Bowl appearance in team history.

When Adams died roughly a year and a half ago, Smith had no choice. He was the man at the top of a major business and sports empire, albeit one — as Adams was — in absentia when it came to the Titans. He maintained his primary residence and business operations in Houston and relied on telephone, email and other modern forms of communication to run this particular business.

In so doing, Smith did not exactly inspire confidence in the fan base. Then he made a coaching change and the team promptly spiraled downward to a 2-14 record. He also approved alterations to game day operations at LP Field and fans found it much more difficult to navigate the parking lots and encountered lines at the entry gates that they had not previously.

Thus, for many, his departure was a welcome move. Still, the manner in which Smith made it should not make anyone feel better about what’s in store now that he’s out.

Smith's statement in that dubiously timed press release included his assertion that “We have made some moves within the Titans organization, both on and off the field, that I believe will bring some very positive immediate results.”

But what has he said or done that gives any indication he knows what it takes to make an NFL team successful?

If Smith understood what it means to run a franchise in this country’s highest profile professional sports league, he would not have skulked away. He would have departed in a way that stirred the Titans’ faithful.

Smith should have stood up and listed the reasons that it’s better he turns over the operation to someone with actual football experience. He should have publicly acknowledged that the franchise would be better with a CEO who lives and works here. He should have thanked the fans for their patience while he sorted out all of those things and more.

And he should have done it all in a highly public manner.

Sure, there’s going to be a change at the top. But Smith’s decision to shrink away into his so-called retirement has to have Titans fans thinking, ‘What’s the difference?’

Mar 23, 2015 5:20 AM

CEO of the Year: Cogen prepared to pounce

Predators boss a nearsighted visionary with ideas for the present
Mar 13, 2015 7:46 AM

Commentary: Titans front-office move signals shift in local pro sports scene

The Nashville Predators scored a victory even before their team took the ice Tuesday night against Colorado.

The shakeup in the Tennessee Titans’ front office sent a telling message about the state of affairs in the local professional sports scene.

The resignation (that’s their story, at least) of executive vice president of administration and facilities Don MacLachlan was a resounding triumph for the Predators, whose front-office members long have behaved like a younger sibling starved for attention from his or her parents.

Why? Because one of the two men tabbed to replace MacLachlan is Bob Flynn, who was named head of facilities and game day operations. The Titans hired him from the Predators, where he had been senior director of corporate partnerships.

For more than 15 years, the Predators have fought to carve out their spot in this market while operating in the shadow of the Titans. Now, at a time when things are at their worst for the local NFL franchise, it wants a little of what the NHL club has going on. My, how times have changed.

From the moment they threw open the doors at LP Field with the start of the 1999 season, the Titans operated in their own stratosphere. The team went to the Super Bowl that season, finished with the league’s best regular-season record the next. TV ratings soared. Merchandise flew off the shelves. And so on.

Ticket sales were not something that required annual strategy meetings. They were a cause for celebration. There was a lengthy waiting list for season tickets and single-game sales typically concluded within a couple weeks of when they commenced.

All the while, the Predators went through their growing pains — the expansion years, the desire by outsiders to purchase and relocate the team, high-profile player departures and playoff failures.

One thing that franchise always did, though, was put on a good show. Even when the team wasn’t competitive, there was a reason to come to Bridgestone Arena. How many times since 1998 has the following been uttered? “I went to a hockey game last night and had no idea what was going on. But I had a great time.” Never has that been more true than under the direction of current CEO Jeff Cogen and COO Sean Henry.

Through it all, the front offices of the clubs have been mutually respectful — publicly, at least. They say all the right things. They make the effort to congratulate each others’ successes.

Privately, it’s a different story.

Predators staffers often speak begrudgingly — at best — about what’s happening with the Titans on and off the field. The professional jealousy is palpable, although not as pronounced as it once was.

The Titans, on the other hand, never gave an indication that they knew what was going on with the Predators other than what the standings reflected.

Obviously, someone was paying attention, though.

In fairness, Flynn is not just some guy the Titans plucked out of Bridgestone Arena. He was the general manager of the Nashville Kats when Bud Adams resurrected the Arena Football League franchise and integrated them with the Titans as other NFL teams did in their markets at that time. The Titans staff know him.

Flynn did nothing remarkable in that Kats role, though. Attendance foundered. Little attention was paid to the team and it wasn’t long before the Kats were gone again, this time for good. But Flynn, who had come from Los Angeles, stuck around and got a job at 501 Broadway.

Maybe he learned a thing or two in his years with Predators that will help him now. The Titans — no doubt — think that’s the case because, not long ago, it was unthinkable that they could — or would need to — model themselves after the Predators in any way.

Feb 25, 2015 5:05 AM

Reports of Pennsylvania soccer team sniffing around Greer raises local club's hackles

A story in The Tennessean on the post-Sounds future of Greer Stadium raises the possibility that Pennsylvania's Harrisburg City Islanders soccer team is looking to relocate south as early as 2017.

From Joey Garrison's story:

Eric Pettis, majority owner of the Harrisburg City Islanders, a club in the United Soccer Leagues, met with Nashville officials in the fall about the possibility of moving his team to Nashville, perhaps to Greer. His goal is to stay in Harrisburg, but the club's ownership team has been unable to move forward on getting a new stadium there.

"Soccer in this country is growing like crazy and you've got to look at whatever opportunities are out there," said Pettis, who has explored other markets in addition to Nashville. The hope would be to relocate by 2017 if the team picks that route. He called Greer and Nashville "definitely one of the better options we're looking at."

After the Nashville Metros folded in 2013, Nashville was a void on the American soccer ladder. A social-media movement ultimately led to the creation of Nashville FC, a supporter-owned club that competes in the National Premier Soccer League (the supporters-backed group merged with Nashville Atlas, which was intended as a traditional, ownership-group controlled club). The NPSL is on the fourth tier of the American soccer pyramid (the Metros were also on that level); Harrisburg's USL is the third tier.

The scuttlebutt about Harrisburg has, understandably, raised the ire of Nashville FC backers — there are now 800 or so member-supporters of the club — who feel they've been left out of the conversation about the growth of pro and semi-pro soccer in Middle Tennessee, despite regularly drawing 1,500-2,000 fans to games last year at Vanderbilt's soccer complex.

"When I first read the article, I immediately felt a level of disrespect for our club and our members. Then it turned to feeling sorry for those in Harrisburg who have supported that club for all those years. Leveraging a city like that goes against everything we stand for at Nashville FC and to think the local soccer community would just turn a blind eye is a bit arrogant on their part. We’ve worked very hard to create a first class NPSL organization and first class product on game days…our supporters recognize that and we love them for it," Chris Jones, Nashville FC's president of business development and the man whose tweet started the ball rolling for Nashville, said to the NashvillePost.

Chairman of the board Marcus Whitney wrote an impassioned post on Facebook, which read in part:

I didn't think I'd react this way, but I'm pretty furious about this. I've been hearing rumblings from all sorts of people around town about other groups trying to bring a team here, and the fact that these folks wouldn't even speak to the leadership at Nashville FC is a total smack in the face to the local supporters. And don't say you didn't know we existed.

Harrisburg City Islanders... This is Our Town, and Nashville FC is Our Club. You wanna come here? Talk to us first.

Any move to Greer, according to Garrison's story, is far from a done deal, though one of the other interested tenants — a rodeo operator — said Metro's response to his proposal was less than enthusiastic and a representative for Kroger said the grocery company was in "wait and see mode."

Apparently, the most popular proposal for the future of Greer, at least among folks in the neighborhood, is for expanded green space, but if that isn't the answer Metro chooses, and if the Harrisburg City Islanders want to make their future in Nashville, they'll have a vociferous group of locals pushing back.

Feb 13, 2015 11:21 AM

Sounds name new COO

The Nashville Sounds have named senior advisor Garry Arthur as the team's COO. Arthur had been in his role as advisor since the acquisition of the team by the current ownership group in 2009.

Nashville is Arthur’s fourth stop in the Pacific Coast League. He previously served a combined 14 seasons as General Manager in Sacramento (1999-2004), Vancouver (1998-99), and Calgary (1989-95). During those tenures, Arthur’s teams recorded more than 1,000 wins and his teams carry a 30-18 record in eight postseason appearances.

Arthur was the 2002 winner of The Sporting News’ Minor League Executive of the Year award. He was also named as the 1999 recipient of the PCL Executive of the Year award.

Arthur was Senior Vice President and General Manager of the River Cats during the team’s first six seasons in Sacramento from 1999-2004 and oversaw the successful opening of Raley Field. During his tenure, the River Cats won two Pacific Coast League Championships (2003-04) and four PCL South Division titles (2000-01, 2003-04).

During his six years as Sacramento GM, Arthur was affiliated with the Oakland Athletics organization, the new parent club of the Sounds.

After departing Sacramento at the conclusion of the 2004 campaign, Arthur served as a consultant to the River Cats as well as to the Pacific Coast League, chairing its Scheduling Committee. He has been associated with the PCL since October 1988 when he was named General Manager of the Triple-A Calgary Cannons, a position he held for seven seasons from until 1995.

After his Cannons stint, he was named Vice President of Japan Sports Systems, a Japan-based company which owned the Triple-A Vancouver Canadians, in November 1996. He became General Manager of the Canadians in 1998, and he held that position until the franchise was relocated to Sacramento following the 1999 Triple-A World Championship season.

Prior to his career in baseball, Arthur spent five years working for the XV Olympic Winter Games, which were held in 1988 in Calgary. He began his tenure with the XV Olympic Winter Games as the Manager of Information Systems (1984-85) and was promoted to Press Secretary (1985-87) in 1985. In 1987, he was appointed Director of the Chairman’s Office for the XV Olympic Winter Games.

His professional career began in sports broadcasting. Arthur was a broadcaster with Canada's CBC on radio and television for 12 years.

Jan 26, 2015 12:51 PM

Sounds unveil new uniform colors for 2015

It’s all going to be different for the Nashville Sounds in 2015.

New stadium. New Major League affiliation. Now a new look, albeit one that taps into the team’s history.

The Sounds unveiled what they termed a “modified” color scheme Wednesday. The look is “a return to the classic red and black colors that the team has worn for the past 16 years while adding in a new platinum silver accent color.”

The new primary logo was introduced in October, shortly after the team reached an affiliation agreement with the Oakland A’s. Wednesday’s announcement also included the unveiling of secondary logos – a guitar and a guitar pick.

From the team’s release:

The centerpiece of the identity is a new guitar pick "N" logo stylized from an f-hole on a guitar. The logos feature Music City style lettering and the platinum silver color is a reference to platinum records associated with the music industry.

Nashville will wear white jerseys at home except on Fridays, when the players will go with alternate black Music City jerseys with black pants. On the road, they will wear gray jerseys. The guitar logo will be featured on caps worn during batting practice and Sunday home games.

"We heard loud and clear the strong feedback of our fans after our new logo was unveiled last fall. We have made the decision to return to our traditional red and black color scheme to accompany the new Nashville-styled logos," Sounds owner Frank Ward said in a statement.

Brandiose, a San Diego-based company, created the team’s new look.


Jan 21, 2015 2:23 PM

Titans CEO dismisses reports that franchise is for sale

It matters not if the price is right. Likewise, name recognition has nothing to do with it.

Simply put: The Tennessee Titans are not for sale.

CEO Tommy Smith addressed continuing reports of the franchise’s availability Monday in an interview with The Tennessean. The latest report came from CBSSports.com and listed two potential buyers, FedEx CEO Fred Smith and David Tepper, a hedge fund manager and minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Earlier reports claimed that quarterback Peyton Manning could be involved in a bid to purchase the team.

Smith shot down the possibility for each individually and some of his strongest comments involved the idea that Manning and his family members might be involved in the team’s ownership.

"All of that is just nonsense. It's completely unfounded. It's just irresponsible,'' Smith said. "It's not going to happen. Peyton may retire; I am not saying that's not going to happen. And I want to say I have only the highest regard for Peyton and the Manning family. They are a first-class family, Peyton and Eli and Archie have contributed greatly to the National Football League and I appreciate their efforts.

"I wish them the best in their future pursuits, but it's not with me."

Smith is the son-in-law of franchise founder K.S. “Bud” Adams and assumed leadership of the franchise following Adams’ death in October 2013. He, his wife and sister-in-law serve as co-chairs of the franchise and Adams’ grandson is on the board of directors.

The team went 2-14 this fall, the first full season under Smith’s direction. It was preceded by a coaching change early last year for which Smith had the final say in selecting Ken Whisenhunt.

“The team is not for sale. We are not entertaining any conversations in regard to the sale of the team. Period,’’ Smith said. “Any statements that say so are completely off base, and I resent it. It is not helpful to what we are trying to accomplish as an organization and as a family.”

Jan 20, 2015 5:15 AM

Preds much more valuable and much more watched

Forbes is out with its annual list of NHL franchise valuations. (No surprise at the top — it's Toronto!) The average NHL franchise saw an 18.6 percent increase in value, fueled by the new Canadian TV deals, and is now worth about $490 million. The Predators are the 24th most valuable franchise in the 30-franchise league, per the study, at $250 million, but that's an increase of 22 percent from the number of last year.

Meanwhile, the Preds' TV partner, Fox Sports Tennessee, tweeted that ratings are up 88 percent against last year's numbers for the surging team's games.

Nov 26, 2014 10:17 AM

NHL expected to announce All-Star Game for Nashville

Commissioner to be joined by Preds execs, Bridgestone officials, mayor at media event
Oct 15, 2014 10:14 AM