The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Saturday that University of Kentucky alumnus Jim Host is one of two winners of a 2018 John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award.
Host founded Host Communications in 1972, and he started the first collegiate corporate marketing program with the NCAA in 1985.
Host grew up in Ashland and earned one of the first two full baseball scholarships given by UK in 1955. He earned a degree in radio arts and played one year of pro baseball before an arm injury forced his retirement from the game.
“Host introduced college basketball to the modern world of business, corporate sponsorships and entrepreneurial possibilities. When he began working with the NCAA in the mid-1970s, there wasn’t even an official label called “Final Four.” Two staffers, Tom Jernstedt and Dave Cawood, ran the NCAA Tournament. The arena for the Final Four produced an official program. Earlier rounds had no program. A single sheet of paper contained bare bones information.
“Host … helped the NCAA learn to market basketball and, in particular, its postseason tournament. Official programs for each site. A national radio contract. Corporate sponsors. Host recalled Gillette paying $500,000 for sponsorship rights and then generating $41 million in revenue.
“When NBC, surely to its eternal regret, balked at a higher TV rights fee, CBS got the NCAA Tournament and agreed to televise all rounds.
“This Genesis project began with Host. Let there be March Madness.”
“When I look back on it, maybe I did make a little bit of a contribution,” Host told Tipton for that story.
Host is a member of the UK Alumni Association Hall of Distinguished Alumni, was named Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Communications; received the Excellence in Public Relations Award from the UK Journalism School and is a member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame. He has also been honored with a number of regional and national awards including being inducted in the National College Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the National Tourism Hall of Fame.
Harley Redin, who compiled a 431-66 record as a women’s basketball coach, also earned a John Bunn award.
The Hall of Fame also announced its 2018 induction finalists.
Those included Ray Allen, Charles “Lefty” Driesell, Hugh Evans, Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Kim Mulkey, Steve Nash, Katie Smith, Rudy Tomjanovich, Tina Thompson, Chris Webber and the Wayland Baptist women’s basketball team.