College Sports Information Directors of America article: SPECIAL AWARDS SALUTE: JACK NEUMANN (UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY), LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Jack Neumann (University of Calgary) – Lifetime Achievement Award
by Dave Reed, Colorado College Associate Director of Athletics Communications/CoSIDA Special Awards Committee member
When Dr. Dennis Kadatz, then the athletics director at the University of Calgary, suggested Jack Neumann attend his first CoSIDA workshop (convention) in 1980, it was impossible to predict the profound impact the adventure would have for Neumann.
Neumann set aside the era’s tools of the trade – a rotary phone, typewriter and lots of WhiteOut – to travel to Kansas City in an effort to comply to his boss’s instruction to become the best sports information director that he could be.
“I was scared and apprehensive about not knowing anyone when I arrived at the Alameda Plaza Hotel,” Neumann said. “I was in the registration line with Nick Vista, who turned around and introduced himself. Moments later, Rosa Gatti comes by and Nick introduced me to her. It was like winning the lottery.”
That chance encounter with two CoSIDA legends — Vista is the award-winning retired Michigan State and CoSIDA Hall of Famer while Gattis is a former SID and ESPN executive, CoSIDA Hall of Famer and multi-award winner — is a perfect example of what made Neumann successful throughout his career. He had a penchant for being at the right place at the right time and he valued personal relationships above all else.
Personal connections were the lynchpin to Neumann’s remarkable 40-year career because he understood the value of the relationships he would make with colleagues, student-athletes, alumni and administrators.
“I took a cut in pay and lost my stock options, all for the opportunity to work longer hours,” Neumann said. “I made a great decision.”
Neumann has long been CoSIDA’s unofficial “Canadian Ambassador,” and will receive a CoSIDA Lifetime Achievement Award at the organization’s June 2018 Convention. He served admirably as sports information director with the University of Calgary Dinos for nearly three decades (from 1978 to 2007) and then was in alumni development for Calgary Athletics until his official retirement in 2012.
Neumann credits his friendships with CoSIDA Hall of Famers George Wine and Don Bryant, the (retired) sports information directors at the University of Iowa and the University of Nebraska respectively, for providing valuable professional opportunities and experience.
Wine introduced Neumann to the importance of service to CoSIDA by adding him to the Allied Organizations Committee. Bryant provided him valuable professional advice while they worked together at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
Since then, the affable Neumann, who earned CoSIDA’s 2012 Warren Berg Award for outstanding college division contributions to the profession, has served the organization on several committees, and also served a three-year term on the board of directors.
Neumann also was a founding member of Association of University Sports Information Directors and president of the group for two years.
A native of Saskatoon, Neumann unofficially began his career as a high school sports information director without knowing what the position was. It all began when a teacher asked him to be the public address announcer for the basketball team and then asked him later to phone in scores to the conference commissioner. It was something Neumann had been doing for the Saskatchewan Minor Hockey Association.
Displaying a keen sense for how to fulfill his duties more effectively, he bypassed the commissioner and called in scores directly to the editors and on-air personalities. It was no coincidence that Neumann’s teams received the best coverage.
Another occasion where the stars aligned for Neumann was at a holiday party in 1978, where he met Joyce Fromson, the SID at the University of Calgary, who was relocating to Winnipeg. She told Jack to give her a call at the beginning of the week to discuss the position, and that led to him being hired by Dr. Kadatz as the university’s first full-time sports information director.
Hearing about the position at a social function was especially appropriate since Neumann played a prominent role in a pair of once-in-a-lifetime athletics events in The Stampede City.
Dr. Roger Jackson, a Dean at the University of Calgary, was a prominent figure in the Canadian Olympic Association, which led to Neumann being involved in the 1988 Winter Games.
One day, Dr. Jackson told Neumann that Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the International Olympic Committee, would be visiting Calgary and ‘you are in charge of the press conference. Notify the media. No mistakes.’
While Neumann did not play a role in Calgary being selected to host the Olympics, it was his brainchild to bring the 2004 CoSIDA Convention to his hometown.
Nearly 500 CoSIDA colleagues ventured north to experience the best of what Western Canada has to offer, which that year included seeing its native son become the first Canadian SID inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame.
“Having CoSIDA in Calgary and Canada was a dream come true,” Neumann said. “It was an honor to host many of my colleagues in my city and country. Everyone who came loved it and the feedback was tremendous. Entering the Hall of Fame was extra special since it occurred in Calgary.”
After his career in sports information came to a conclusion a few years ago, Neumann continued to serve his school as its alumni fundraiser, or as he prefers to call it, the ‘friendraiser.’
“Jack Neumann is synonymous with the Dinos Athletics program at the University of Calgary,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, now president of the University of Calgary. “During his 39 years on campus, he has shown unwavering support for our student-athletes as a mentor, career counselor and fundraiser. And even in retirement, Jack remains a loyal supporter and volunteer within Dinos Athletics.
“Through his personal example of commitment as our Sports Information Director, Alumni Relations Coordinator, and an all-around Dinos supporter, Jack has inspired our students to grow to their full potential — both as athletes and as individuals.”
And giving back to his revered university is something Neumann continues to do. This past November, Neumann established a legacy fund at the University of Calgary to cover future uniform costs for the Dino Football program. Neumann will pay for all football players’ jerseys in perpetuity. He does however have one non-negotiable condition — that the uniform scheme remains the same, his beloved scarlet and gold.
"I always wanted to leave something that is different," said Neumann, quoted in stories around the announcement. "There's a certain amount of pride in it, yes, but I believe in giving back. The university was good to me — I had a great career there. I made some life-long friends there."
When a revered colleague receives a Lifetime Achievement Award, the first reaction is to list all of the awards he or she received during their illustrious career.
It’s nearly impossible to detail every award CoSIDA’s unofficial Canadian Ambassador has received, however it should be noted that Neumann is the organization’s only member to enter the Order of the University of Calgary as well as the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. He also is the first-ever SID to receive the Austin Matthews Award for his contributions to Canadian university sports.
For Neumann, however, his many awards and honors are not as valuable as the friends he has made throughout the last 40 years — friendships and relationships jumpstarted as he stood in line to register for his very first CoSIDA workshop.