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January 08, 2004

Top 100

John D. Swofford, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, was the fifth-most-powerful person in American sports in 2003, according to The Sporting News. The magazine, which on Wednesday published its annual list of the 100 most powerful people in sports, also ranked James E. Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, at No. 30 and Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, at No. 38.
Other people with ties to college sports in the top 40 of The Sporting News's "Power 100" list were:
• 1. George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN, which has contracts with the NCAA and most Division I conferences to broadcast games.

Bodenheimer must decide soon about the NHL. Commissioner Gary Bettman predicted the league's upcoming TV contract again will net $600 million, but Bodenheimer insists he won't overspend just to keep all four leagues on his menu. "That (large rights fee) happened because the moon and stars all aligned," he says. "We don't need hockey. Our brand is big enough to carry the company forward with an evolving mix of products."
Perception-wise, Bodenheimer's handling of Playmakers, whose plot lines infuriated the NFL and prompted Gatorade to pull its ads, is an even bigger power play. Bodenheimer didn't back down during the show's run but is biding his time on its future, acknowledging that he may have to capitulate to sports' most powerful league. "I listen to everyone's point of view," he says. "The show was a flat-out hit, and there's no evidence that it hurt NFL ratings. But I must not only respect their opinion. I must take it into account. They're my partner." (Meantime, be forewarned, commissioner Stern: He has Spike Lee developing a dramatic basketball series.)