Jim Scherr '89
Alum's marketing savvy spurs 'wrestlemania'
By Chris Van Nostrand
Editor’s note: Jim Scherr served as CEO of the USOC from April 2005 until April 2009.
Between 600 and 1,000 spectators attended the 1988 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials. In 2000, over three days, 60,000 fans came to watch the nation's top wrestlers compete for spots on Team USA.
This booming interest in the sport occurred under the leadership of Jim Scherr '89, who in April was named CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee after serving as executive director of USA Wrestling from 1990 to 2000. Scherr built a core audience for wrestling by transforming the competitions into entertainment events, but he also focused on developing athletes. The team earned eight medals at the 1996 Summer Atlanta Olympics, the most of any nation.
When Scherr joined the USOC to lead its wrestling program, he maintained a clear vision: "I wanted the organization to become what I wished it had been when I was an athlete," he says. A 1988 Olympic wrestler - and former NCAA champion - Scherr knew the type of services and support required to compete at the highest level.
While improved funding for coaching and training enhances athletic performance, Scherr believes that the Olympic Games fulfill a broader mission for the American public. "[They] feel they are connected, a part of the U.S. Olympic team . . . and they expect Olympic athletes to be their ambassadors to the world and a reflection of American society." As such, the athletes' conduct and achievements serve as evidence of "national vigor."
As Scherr continues to build the USOC into an efficient and athlete-centric organization, he looks back fondly on his Kellogg experience. After competing at the highest levels in a grueling individual sport, he credits the school with his "learning how to work within a team to get something accomplished." It's a critical skill for an executive who believes his organization should reflect the best qualities of some of the world's best athletes.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2005 issue of Kellogg World alumni magazine.