Competitive edge

McGraw hired as new leader
of Louisville Sports Commission

She is former wife of the late Tug McGraw

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(April 2007) – Louisville has landed a star in the sports and entertainment world to take the city’s already-successful sports commission to the next level. And the new executive director, Diane McGraw, comes with celebrity star power, considering she is the former wife of the late Major League Baseball star Tug McGraw and stepmother to country music singer Tim McGraw.

Diane McGraw


A leader in sports and entertainment marketing for more than 25 years, Diane McGraw has taken the helm of the Greater Louisville Sports Commission and pledges to take advantage of Louisville’s recent growth and energy.
“The commission’s work in recruiting and attracting sporting events is so important because Louisville is a big-time sports town and because sports in Louisville can mean big-time business,” said Metro Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson. “Diane brings considerable experience in sports marketing and management that will help us extend and expand Louisville’s sports economy. I look for her and the Sports Commission to energize our community with sports activities – things like the AVP Volleyball tour coming Memorial Day and the National Senior Games and Ironman triathlon this summer – that create excitement and activity, bring in visitors and create significant economic opportunities.”
A new resident of Prospect, Ky., McGraw said that about a year ago, she traveled to Lexington, Ky., to do a presentation on a youth sports mentoring program, and she thought the area was beautiful. “I really didn’t know much about the state at that point, and little did I realize that a year later I would be living here,” she said.
McGraw heard about the director’s opening at the Louisville sports commission and thought it would be a great opportunity to help nurture a growing association. “I was pleasantly surprised to find the commission was already off to a good start with the Ironman triathlon, the 2007 National Senior Games and the Ryder’s Cup,” she said.
McGraw actually began her career in the entertainment industry in New York, working for the Screen Actors Guild and the Astoria Motion Picture & TV Center. A few years later, she started her own special events production company and produced the “I Love NY Pro-Celebrity Tennis Tournament,” which was televised on USA Network.
Six years later, she moved to Holland and produced events such as the British Caledonian Airways Tennis Legends Championships.
She moved to Philadelphia in 1988 and accepted the position of executive director at the Philadelphia Sports Congress, one of the first sports marketing associations in the country.
“Although I started in entertainment, and I did not have a college education or specific training in sports marketing, I knew how to get things done,” she said.
While in Philadelphia, she spearheaded the city’s bid to host the 1994 World Cup. She said she had made contacts while in Holland with the Dutch soccer team. She had tried to set up a soccer match in Philadelphia between the national teams of Holland and Brazil, but actually ended with the first U.S. Men’s National Team game against the Russian national team. That set the stage for Philadelphia to host the World Cup.
She also helped keep the Army-Navy Game in the city and prepared successful bids for the 1992 NHL All Star Game, Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championship, World Cup Karate Championships and many other U.S. Olympic and NCAA events.
After six years in Philadelphia, she moved to Orlando and was named president of the Orlando Area Sports Commission. While there, she served as chairperson of the Special Events for the 1996 Olympic Soccer Games, hosted the U.S. Junior Olympic Volleyball Championships at Walt Disney World, the U.S. Olympic Pan Am Games Team Processing and Training, the U.S. National Field Hockey Champions and a numerous other major events.
She then was offered a unique opportunity in Los Angeles, where she became the founding president of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and helped bring many major world events to the city, including the return of the Grammy Awards and the MTV Awards.
After Los Angeles, McGraw decided she needed a break, so she traveled back to Philadelphia. There, she created the Dare to Dream mentoring program for youths who want to pursue behind-the-scenes careers in the sports and entertainment industries.
McGraw said she hopes to recreate her successful Dare to Dream program in Louisville. “I would like to team up with marketing students from the University of Louisville and guide them on how to set up a similar program.”
Some of her additional plans for the Louisville organization include expanding the list of events already secured, establishing a sports advisory committee and getting the city’s business community involved in forming a bid pool for major events.

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