Don Schumacher’s Sporting Life

When Don Schumacher left Northwestern University in 1962 with his master’s degree, there wasn’t a career track known as sports tourism. This week, he steps down from as executive director of the National Association of Sports Commissions (NASC), having helped build the sports tourism industry into a worldwide economic driver worth billions of dollars. 

The list of Schumacher’s jobs is an impressive one, even without his almost 25-year role as executive director of the NASC. The Cleveland-area native started with Hanna-Barbera Productions, (think Flintstones, Banana Splits, etc.) where he produced business-sponsored films, TV commercials and company meetings, then served as director of Latin American and Far Eastern operations. That led to the Taft Theme Park Group as director of Sponsorships and Promotions (think Kings Island), which led to the College Football Hall of Fame and general manager of the adjacent Galbreath Field, bringing in football and soccer championships. 

With sports now on his resume, Schumacher headed to downtown Cincinnati and Riverfront Coliseum (now US Bank Arena), where he helped bring in events such as the 1987 World Skating Championships and the 1987 NCAA Midwest Region basketball championships. And sports as an economic driver started to be an industry drawing a small, but mighty group of organizers.

“I’m sure there were 15 of us in 1989 but today there are probably 3,500 of us connected with the organizations we serve,” said Schumacher.

After that came a stint at a Cincinnati-based sports marketing firm, and the creation of the Greater Cincinnati Sports and Events Commission, now known as the Cincinnati USA Sports Commission, again bringing high-profile sporting events to Cincinnati. He then moved to the NASC, an organization that today brings together event rights holders, host venues and sports commissions for education and, of course, deal-making. 

NASC started in 1992 with 15 founding organizations, and today serves as the industry’s only non-profit, member-directed association for the sports tourism industry with an annual $2 million budget and more than 800 members. Schumacher joined NASC first as a contractor, then as its only executive director, the job he is relinquishing this week. 

“The NASC stands for best practices in the industry,” said Don. “That is to say, the best practices of the host cities, the best practices of the event owner. And we want to educate both parties so they can make good business together that benefits the city, the event owner and the athlete. 

The NASC is a great place to learn how to do the right thing.” 

In the middle of all this, he also founded Don Schumacher & Associates, Inc. DSA conducted seat license and premium seating campaigns for what became Paul Brown Stadium, Kentucky Speedway and Iowa Speedway and also served the sports marketing needs of national brands such as Pepsi, Huffy Bicycles, Mitre soccer products and Kroger.

During his tenure, the three accomplishments Schumacher says he’s proudest of at NASC are:

  • Growing the NASC budget to $2 million
  • Expanding NASC member services to include webinars, Market Segment Meetings and other educational programs
  • Starting the Certified Sports Event Executive (CSEE) program, launched in 2002 and revised in 2015 to include an on-line component in conjunction with the Ohio University Sports Administration Program

“I am searching for the elusive 30-hour week,” Schumacher says. “I look forward to staying involved with the NASC in a teaching role with the education programs while continuing my consulting practice.” 

Don will re-launch his consulting practice and already has projects lined up for May. 

So much for retirement for Don.

Jackie ReauPROFILES