The Program Pioneer
By: Betsy Devine (M.S. Sports Administration, Spring ’12)
That’s what Rick Jones was at Georgia State University.
Jones has the distinguishing honor of being the first graduate in the history of the Georgia State University Sports Administration program in 1985. But the honor almost didn’t happen for the Atlanta native, because, you see, Jones found out just two weeks before graduation that the program he created for himself was approved.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention Jones created his own curriculum for his degree? While working in the Decatur school system, the Scottish Right hospital, at a law firm clearing title objections, coaching basketball, and interning at Georgia Tech in the marketing department, Jones found time to take the right combination of classes and put together a Sports Administration degree for himself.
“I don’t remember sleeping in those two years,” said Jones. “It was nuts working that much, but I was able to get my degree.”
Jones graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in health and physical education and the mindset that he wanted to teach school and coach basketball. For four years after graduation, Jones could be found on the sidelines of a high school calling out plays before moving on to the University of the South in Suwanee, Tenn. where he coached soccer and basketball for four years.
It wasn’t enough for Jones, and he sought to further his education, returning to his hometown of Atlanta and to Georgia State. The idea was that a master’s would help him get more into athletic administration. The goal was an athletic director’s position at a Division III school where he could also coach basketball.
The reality was marketing.
After Jones finished the program in June of 1985, he received word from Wake Forest that they wanted him on the sidelines as an assistant coach with the men’s basketball team. A degree on his wall and a job offer in his pocket, Jones was on top of the world … well actually he was on his honeymoon.
While vacationing Jones found out that the coach at Wake Forest quit and when he returned to Atlanta he was back to square one.
Luckily for Jones, in those couple years of not sleeping, one of his many jobs was in the marketing department at Georgia Tech under the direction of the legendary Homer Rice and Norman Arey. They liked his work so much that they offered him the position of marketing director.
“That is when I got out of coaching and went towards marketing,” continued Jones. “I stayed at Tech a year. Norman left and went to a PR firm in Atlanta called Cohn & Wolfe and hired me right away.”
And that was how Jones’ life unfolded.
One year after joining Cohn & Wolfe he left to start his own marketing firm in 1986. In 1994, he and his partners sold The Strategic Group to Advantage International, which is now Octagon, where Jones took a position. But in 1997, he formed his second company, CMA which he also sold this time to GEM Group. In 2002, Jones left GEM and formed FishBait Marketing, a job that he loved so much he still remains there today.
“I’m 57 years old today and I have to say that I have the best job I have ever had, right now,” Jones explained. “I built two agencies and sold them both, wonderful experiences, but FishBait Marketing is a labor of love. I absolutely love college football and basketball. I will spend all of Saturday watching Gameday, I was in Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-Tennessee Game, I will get to see South Carolina play and at the end of the October I will see Harvard and Yale play in New Haven, that is something I have never done. I have the perfect job. I had dinner with some old colleagues, Georgia State guys, this week in New York, and one of my friends said that he thought this was as enthusiastic as I have ever been. I really love what I do and I am still excited about it. I think I travel too much, but I still like it.”
Jones’ new company has him working with college coaches on a daily basis from the Coach to Cure MD foundation, Coaches vs. Canter, the College Basketball Experience, or even Samaritan’s Feet. He runs his company from his ‘little bitty house on an island off the coast of Charleston’ but goes into the office a few days a week when he isn’t traveling.
He’s worked with the likes of Geno Auriemma, and a couple of his good friends, Ron Hunter and Bill Curry, have decided to coach at his alma mater of Georgia State. Jones is hoping to get to a game soon.
Jones credits networking while in school at Georgia State for all of the success that he has seen in his life, especially one particular class on marketing.
“My teacher that taught Intro to Sports Marketing when I was in school, was also the head of sports at Turner Broadcasting,” Jones continued, “he had 11 guest speakers come to our class and 10 of the 11 directly impacted my career, either hired me, influenced me, or worked with my clients, it was staggering the number of people that I met in that class that impacted my career.”
Though his life didn’t turn out how he planned, Jones is very happy with the road that his life’s journey has taken.
“At the end of the day, I found my calling in sports marketing. I have had a phenomenal career, been very blessed, worked on some amazing projects with amazing people, lived all over the world, been to every sporting event in the world, it has been very good for me and very gratifying.”
Getting to Know Rick Jones
Favorite City: Venice, Italy
Favorite Fast Food Restaurant: Five Guys
Favorite Food: Fried Chicken (The best was from Deacons Grill in Inman Park)
Favorite Place He’s Lived: Charleston, S.C. (Has also lived in London, San Antonio, Dallas, & Atlanta)
Favorite Gadget: Not much of a gadget guy. Loves Yellow Pads of paper and claims he has been through a million of them! But does like his iPod while traveling and has over 5,000 songs.
Favorite Quote: ‘Coachisms’ “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch”
Most Influential Person In His Career: Personally, his father. Professionally, Bob Curry of Curry Wolfe in Atlanta. A brilliant and creative guy.
Favorite part of his job: The money! But seriously, he gets to work every day with college football and basketball coaches. Coaches are the best people he knows. They do amazing things, are great teachers, great educators and care about their athletes. Just good people to be around.