Sporting Goods Industry HoF to Receive Three New Luminaries

The Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame Committee has elected three industry leaders, innovators and pioneers for the 2016 Class of the Hall of Fame: Bill Battle, founder of Collegiate Licensing Company, Jack Smith, founder of Sports Authority, and Jim Throneburg, CEO and owner of THORLO, Inc. The inductees will officially be recognized at the 52nd Annual NSGA Management Conference & 18th Annual Team Dealer Summit next May in Hilton Head Island, S.C.

"We are proud to continue our tradition of recognizing striving leaders and innovators who have made outstanding contributions to the sporting goods industry," said Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame committee chairman Cathy Pryor of Hibbett Sports. "Each of this year's three inductees truly exemplify passion, integrity and, most of all, a dedication to the betterment of the sporting goods industry during their illustrious careers. I look forward to presenting them their prestigious awards next May at the NSGA Management Conference & Team Dealer Summit."

Battle, Smith and Throneburg join the iconic list of more than 160 men and women inducted into the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame since its inception in 1955. All three recipients will be honored at the Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony, an event which has regularly been generously sponsored by Mizuno and W.L. Gore, to be held the evening of May 24.

Bill Battle
Founder, Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC)

Battle is not just the founder of the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC). He is arguably the founder of the concept of collegiate licensing itself. In 1981, upon signing legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant to a licensing agreement, Battle had to first help the University of Alabama make a licensing department in which to work. From there, the CLC was born.

Battle was a visionary who understood strength and efficiency in numbers. Using a model similar to the NFL's, Battle went door to door convincing administrators of a vision where all trademarks were regulated and available in one place. According to Battle, schools, licensees and retailers would all benefit if they just joined together.

Battle's vision became a reality and collegiate licensing became a $4.3 billion dollar industry. He was able to develop the first label that signified "officially licensed collegiate products." Under Battle's
guidance, the CLC grew to represent more than 200 schools, conferences and bowl games, as well as NASCAR and the PGA Tour.

However, he never strayed from his passion for college sports. Bill Battle also made himself famous as a college head coach. At 29, Battle was the youngest college head coach in the country while at the University of Tennessee from 1970-1976. He is now the Athletic Director of the University of Alabama, where he once played football and was assistant coach under "Bear" Bryant.

Battle remains one of the most quietly influential figures in college athletics today. Working as CLC's chairman and adviser at the age of 70, Battle is still essential to client relations. In fact, athletic directors still respect and call upon him, whether they have a question about business or they're looking to hire a position. Battle is the go-to guy.

Jack Smith
Founder, Sports Authority

The idea behind the company that would grow to become the nation's largest sporting goods chain in just five years came from Smith, former COO of Herman's World of Sports, who opened the first Sports Authority store in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1987. While at Herman's, Smith tried unsuccessfully to bring the same comprehensive megastore concept that had fueled the tremendous growth of Toys "R" Us and Home Depot to the sporting goods industry.

With the backing of a group of venture capitalists, Smith got another chance and set out to build his own sporting goods giant with the simple concept of having an unparalleled selection, competitive pricing and merchandise always in stock.

After Smith opened his first store in 1987, he sold it 18 months and eight stores later for $75 million. He stayed on as CEO for the next five years while the store grew to more than 150 locations. He eventually re-acquired the company, and in 2010, the business turned over $3.5 billion and held 330 stores in the United States alone. At that time, the company also held an additional 50 stores in Japan with about $1 billion in annual revenue.

"No one had ever seen anything like Sports Authority before and that's what I wanted," Smith explains. "But we had 'authority' in our name and that meant service was essential. When we opened our first store in Fort Lauderdale, we did a million dollars in the first month. I knew I had a tiger by the tail, and I made a promise to myself that we may be a big box operator but we would never lack for service."

Smith stepped down as CEO in 2000 to enjoy his time and to serve on the boards of directors for other major corporations, including Fiesta Restaurant Group, Carrols Restaurant Group and Darden Restaurants, Inc.

Jim Throneburg
Founder and CEO, THORLO, Inc.

Throneburg credits walking with saving his life. More than 40 years ago, Throneburg was admitted into Duke University's weight loss program due to excessive weight gain that caused him to suffer from life-threating illnesses. Walking was an essential component to his daily exercise regimen — how he ultimately regained a healthy weight — yet his feet caused him severe pain when doing so.

Throneburg decided to take matters into his own hands and began working with his father's company Throneburg Hosiery to design the first  padded foot protection. Subsequently, he invented the term, "activity-specific" padded sock to include all the individual activities for which a padded sock was designed.  In 1980, the company changed its name to THORLO Inc. and introduced the Thorlos® brand of padded foot protection (socks). He followed two guiding principles-- being the best in the world at foot protection and sustainability of the company beyond his own lifetime.

Today, THORLO Inc. is a $35 million dollar business with more than 250 employees and features a line of 32 activity specific products that are distributed throughout the US as well as 35 countries globally. Located in Statesville, North Carolina, THORLO is one of the few remaining sock manufacturers that make 100% of its products in the United States.

Realizing that millions of people around the world were suffering from foot pain, he founded The Institute for Preventive Foot Health, a non-profit foundation dedicated to research and education related to preventive foot health and other foot issues. He also founded the Academy for Self-Discovery Leadership, a 501(c)(3) education organization, to prepare tomorrow's transformation leaders today by providing a safe environment for self-discovery. 
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