The sporting life: 20 influential N.C. athletics executives

 In September 2019

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By Harrison Miller & David Mildenberg

Sports are a pillar of North Carolina’s economy and culture. Ranging from youth leagues to the professional level, sports fuel rivalries, fill hotels and restaurants, and become centerpieces of development projects across the state. North Carolina is home to three major league professional sports teams; two annual PGA Golf tournaments; 11 minor league baseball clubs; 18 Division 1 collegiate athletic programs; and one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Billionaire David Tepper paid $2.3 billion for the Carolina Panthers, while the Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Hurricanes are valued at $1.3 billion and $420 million, respectively, by Forbes magazine. Here are 20 sports executives in North Carolina responsible for ensuring that the games ultimately pay off.

 

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Path-setter:

Tera Black

chief operating officer, Charlotte Checkers
Charlotte


Steady driver:

Mark Brazil

tournament director, Wyndham Championship
Greensboro


Kick-craze:

Gary Buete

chief executive officer, N.C. FC Youth
Raleigh


Scandals? what scandals?

Bubba Cunningham

athletic director, UNC Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill


Deacon dreams:

John Currie

athletic director, Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem


Turnaround time:

Jon Gilbert

athletic director, East Carolina University
Greenville


Rocking the Rockers:

Ken Lehner

president, High Point Rockers
High Point


Kick-starter:

Steve Malik

owner, North Carolina Football Club
Raleigh


Race-tracker:

Steve O’Donnell

executive vice president, NASCAR
Charlotte


Beyond the course:

Tom Pashley

president, Pinehurst Resort
Pinehurst


Take me out to the ballgame:

Dan Rajkowski

chief operating officer, Charlotte Knights
Charlotte


Going private:

Marcus Smith

chief executive officer, Speedway Motorsports Inc.
Charlotte


Chipping for charity:

Gary Sobba

tournament director, Wells Fargo Championship
Charlotte


Returning home:

Meredith Starkey

chief marketing officer, Carolina Panthers
Charlotte


Revving college sports:

Ben Sutton Jr.

founder, Teall Capital Partners LLC
Winston-Salem


Youth-booster:

Que Tucker

commissioner, N.C. High School Athletic Association
Raleigh


Puck power:

Don Waddell

general manager, Carolina Hurricanes
Raleigh


No slam dunk:

Fred Whitfield

president, Charlotte Hornets
Charlotte


Startup-stalwart:

Mark Zarthar

president, Fayetteville Woodpeckers
Fayetteville


Going national:

Amy Yakola

executive associate commissioner and chief of external affairs, Atlantic Coast Conference
Greensboro


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