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On this Date in 1979, ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen Changed the Way the World Watches Sports and Television

“Always be Curious, Never be Complacent” – Bill Rasmussen, when asked to define success in six words or less

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES, September 7, 2022 /⁨⁩/ — On Friday, September 7, 1979, at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, ESPN …


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ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen on the new set of ESPN Sports Center in Bristol – July 2014 (courtesy of ESPN)


A gifted storyteller, ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen often tells the story of ESPN’s birth at speaking engagements around the country.


ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen’s first book “Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN” chronicles the origin story of the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

“Always be Curious, Never be Complacent” – Bill Rasmussen, when asked to define success in six words or less

This is a guy whose idea gave birth to, arguably, the most successful media story of our time.”

— Jim Miller, Author, “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN”

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES, September 7, 2022 / — On Friday, September 7, 1979, at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, ESPN went on the air for the first time. Entrepreneurial daring, irrepressible enthusiasm and a dash of good luck gave the world the first 24-hour television network. Once unleashed upon sports fans, ESPN’s impact forever changed the way we watch television. The man who had the dream, the founder of ESPN, is Bill Rasmussen.

A life-long entrepreneur and sports fan, Rasmussen’s innovations in advertising, sports and broadcasting are too numerous to list, but they include the creation of ESPN, the world’s first 24-hour, 7-days-a-week sports television network; the network’s signature program SportsCenter; wall-to-wall coverage of NCAA men’s and women’s regular-season and tournament college basketball coverage; and coverage of the College World Series.

In May 2020, Rasmussen joined the team at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research as a Foundation ambassador and a member of the Foundation’s Patient Council. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014 at age 81, Rasmussen has taken on the disease with his signature positive attitude and his commitment to staying active, embracing engagement and inspiring others, one person at a time. As a Foundation ambassador, he speaks to Parkinson’s patients and families about the invaluable contribution they can make by participating in research studies, especially in the first days and months after a diagnosis with PD. By telling his own story of Parkinson’s diagnosis and engagement in the community, he hopes to quarterback an effort to find, educate, encourage and recruit newly diagnosed patients in research studies during their critical earliest stages of disease. Rasmussen is also associated with his local (Seattle) chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association.

A frequent radio, television and podcast guest, Rasmussen has appeared on ESPN frequently in the past decade, including the 2019 celebration of ESPN’s 40th Anniversary. He has been a guest on programs including Red Eye on FOX News, Fear{less} with Tim Ferriss on the AUDIENCE Network, the Dennis Miller Show on syndicated radio, among other recent national broadcasts.

Born out of adversity, his brainstorm, ESPN, has become the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Jim Miller, co-author of the best-selling book, “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” told John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal that “this is a guy whose idea gave birth to, arguably, the most successful media story of our time.”

Rasmussen founded ESPN in the summer of 1978. He had his innovative brainstorm for an all-sports cable TV network within days of his firing by the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association on Memorial Day weekend. A former radio and television sportscaster, Rasmussen had been the Whalers Communications Director but when the Whalers didn’t make the 1978 WHA playoffs, most of the front office staff were fired, including Rasmussen.

The idea of an all-sports cable TV network captured his imagination, and he incorporated the fledgling network on July 14, 1978. He had already begun to seek out cable television companies, sponsors, investors and partners. With an idea that was truly ahead of its time, and running out of cash, Rasmussen found one investor who believed in the concept in February 1979, and by September 7, 1979, ESPN was on the air for the first time, 14 months from Rasmussen’s moment of inspiration.

The entrepreneurial legend left ESPN in the early 1980s and has been involved with a number of high-profile ventures since, including serving as a consultant to the Big Ten Conference, and several of the conference’s individual member institutions, on television matters. He has also been a consultant with numerous other startup media and internet companies. His Internet ventures include serving as Chairman of the Attitude Network, home of the successful Happy Puppy and Games Domain sites, as Chairman of SportsatHome, a sports-themed game site that offered an array of virtual sports stadiums and games to play online within each of the stadiums, and founder and CEO of College Fanz Sports Network, the world’s largest online college sports social network.

Rasmussen has been active in numerous charity events, including nine years with the highly acclaimed Winged Foot Scholarship Program, and five years with a Senior PGA Tour event. He continues to be involved in celebrity charity golf events throughout the country.
His place in sports history was recognized by Sports Illustrated in 1994, when he was honored as one of the “Forty for the Ages,” one of forty individuals who has significantly altered and elevated the world of sport during the second half of the 20th century. He has been called “The Father of Cable Sports” by USA Today. For his many accomplishments, Rasmussen was named a Champion, one of the “Pioneers and Innovators in Sports Business” by the Sports Business Journal and Sports Business Daily in 2011. He was cited in The Sports 100, honoring the 100 most important people in American sports history. He has been elected to numerous sports, business and television Halls of Fame, and received multiple business and academic awards.

Rasmussen recounted the inside story of the birth of ESPN in his book “Sports Junkies Rejoice! The Birth of ESPN,” which gives the real insider’s account from the man who changed the landscape of television and sports forever. He is currently completing his next book, slated for publication in late 2022.

A United States Air Force veteran, Rasmussen received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from DePauw University and his MBA from Rutgers University.

Additional information is available at his website,

Jim DeLorenzo
Jim DeLorenzo Public Relations
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A recent TV interview with ESPN Founder Bill Rasmussen

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