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Power Ranking Northwestern Alumni in Pro Sports Managerial Positions

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While Northwestern may not constantly churn out pro athletes year after year, the University does boast many alumni who hold prominent roles in professional sports.

Bob Levey

The NCAA has a famous mantra, echoed in its commercials and other promotional materials. "Most [student-athletes] go pro in something other than sports." At Northwestern–despite the ironic-tone the words take on following the unionization of the schools' football players–that idea is true and is one the University takes a great deal of pride in. Pat Fitzgerald always talks about growing young men and the athletic department often promotes its student-athletes preparing for a professional life not related to sports.

But what about students who aren't student-athletes? What do they go pro in?

Even as Northwestern produces relatively few professional athletes, many alumni (both non-athletes and athletes) go on to be prominently involved in professional sports as owners, front office executives, scouts and coaches.

How do they stack up?

Here's a power ranking of Northwestern alumni in pro sports based on recent history.

(NOTE: This is a list that I generated through my research. If you have additions, objections or adjustments, let me know in the comments.)

Honorable Mention

Katrina Adams, who received a certificate in 1989, has been the vice president of the United States Tennis Association since 2011.

The former general manager of the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks and a graduate of Northwestern's School of Law in 1984, Glen Grunwald reportedly was a candidate for NBA executive jobs this offseason, including the Memphis Grizzlies' "general-manager-in-waiting" post.

Wendy Lewis earned an MBA in 1995 from the Kellogg School of Management and is the senior vice president for strategic planning for recruitment and diversity for Major League Baseball.

Four-year starter for Northwestern and 1993 graduate of the School of Education and Social Policy Mark Loretta returned to the San Diego Padres as a special assistant in baseball operations.

Todd Martin left Northwestern to pursue a professional tennis career before graduating and eventually earned a career-high ranking of No. 4 in the world and was recently named CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

A 1989 graduate and former Northwestern Wildcats football player, Jeff Robinson is a pro scout for the Minnesota Vikings.

Following an illustrious career at Northwestern where she led the nation in scoring with 30.5 ppg in her senior season of 1985, Anucha Browne Sanders is the vice president of women's basketball championships for the NCAA.

Jim Smith graduated from Northwestern in 1988 and is the chief marketing officer for the Atlanta Falcons.

10. Daryl Morey | Class of '96 | General Manager, Houston Rockets

It's rare to see an executive go from being one of the most highly regarded GMs in the NBA to the most criticized in the span of a few weeks, but Daryl Morey has done it. Once the class of the new-school NBA movement toward analytics, Morey struck out on Carmelo Anthony and then was spurned by Chris Bosh. He traded assets Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin for next to nothing and lost restricted free agent–and probably the epitome of what Morey has brought to the league–Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks. Just a couple years removed from robbing the Oklahoma City Thunder of James Harden and nabbing Dwight Howard off the market in 2013, Morey, who has moved the NBA's thinking forward in recent years, has moved the Rockets backward this offseason.

9. Billy McKinney | Class of '77 | Director of Scouting, Milwaukee Bucks

Since the Milwaukee Bucks hired McKinney in 2008, the franchise has had one season over .500 ('09-'10) and finished last season with just 15 wins, the worst record in the NBA. To be fair, the Bucks haven't been relevant since Ray Allen led them to a 52-win season in '00-'01 so it's not as if McKinney had much too work with. Another handicap for McKinney is that his tenure has almost entirely overlapped with head coach Scott Skiles', meaning that the Bucks were stuck in the middle of the NBA, straddling the border between being a playoff and lottery team. The longtime NBA executive has drafted pretty well in recent years, picking solid NBA players Brandon Jennings, Larry Sanders and John Henson with the No. 10, 15 and 14 picks, respectively. But the crown jewels of his years with the Bucks are the No. 15 pick in the 2013 draft in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, the No. 2 pick in 2014. On the shoulders of those two players, the Bucks hope the franchise's fortunes will turn for the better.

8. Jerry Reinsdorf | School of Law Class of '60 | Owner, Chicago White Sox
Eddie Einhorn | School of Law Class of '60 | Vice Chairman, Chicago White Sox
Rick Hahn | Kellogg School of Management Class of '98 | General Manager, Chicago White Sox

Despite winning the World Series in 2005, Reinsdorf's White Sox still play second fiddle in the Windy City to the Cubs and that's true even when the North Siders have been stuck in the cellar for the past few seasons. Reinsdorf purchased the White Sox in 1981 for $19 million and Einhorn joined him as a minority owner. Now, according to Forbes, the White Sox are the 14th-highest valued franchise in Major League Baseball, worth an estimated $695 million. From a business perspective, Reinsdorf and Einhorn are doing just fine. As far as the team is concerned, GM Rick Hahn took over his current post in 2012, a year after Sports Illustrated ranked him as the best GM prospect in the sport. He has come under fire this summer for allegedly telling star pitcher Chris Sale to shave his mustache. The team is currently in fourth place in the AL Central and five-and-a-half games back in the AL Wild Card race.

7. Andrew Miller | Kellogg School of Management and School of Law Class of '07 | Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Analytics for the Cleveland Indians

The Indians aren't a particularly good team on the field (two games out in the AL Wild Card race) and from a business perspective they aren't good either (Forbes has the club as the seventh-least valuable franchise in the MLB). But, really, who cares? LeBron James came back, so all is well in Northeast Ohio.

6. Joe Girardi | Class of '86 | Manager, New York Yankees

The Yankees, like the Indians, are a pretty mediocre team and sit just a half-game out of the AL Wild Card race. The Yankees, though, are largely getting a pass on their mediocre play while riding on the coattails of Derek Jeter's final season. With Alex Rodriguez still suspended and opposing teams holding pregame celebrations for Jeter, Girardi has been all smiles. Also, he's the second-highest paid manager in the MLB.

5. Mark Cohon | Class of '89 | Commissioner, Canadian Football League

The biggest job of the CFL's commissioner is keeping the league somewhat relevant both in Canada and south of the border. And Cohon has done just that. The league just signed a multi-year deal with ESPN to air every single CFL game on ESPN networks in the United States. Former NFL star Chad Johnson also signed with the Montreal Alouettes in the offseason, generating even more coverage of the league.

4. Mark Walter | School of Law '85 | Owner, Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Sparks

Teaming up with Magic Johnson and a plethora of really, really rich people, Walter, the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, purchased the Dodgers for $2.15 billion in 2012 and then purchased the Sparks in 2014. The Dodgers are currently the second highest-valued team in baseball and are battling the San Francisco Giants for first place in the NL West. The Sparks are struggling so far this season with a 10-13 record, but Walter's investment in the future of the league brings a responsible, well-respected ownership group to the WNBA.

3. Joe Ellis | Kellogg School of Management Class of '88 | President and CEO, Denver Broncos

When the sad news broke that longtime Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen will release his control of the team due to his battle with Alzheimer's disease, control of the franchise largely fell on Ellis, who has worked for the Broncos since he started as a marketing intern in the early 1980s. For years, Ellis and John Elway have been making the majority of the major decisions related to the Broncos and have guided one of the most storied franchises in the NFL back to prominence with a Super Bowl appearance in February. The Broncos enter the 2014 season as one of the best teams in the league behind 2013 MVP Peyton Manning and Forbes values the franchise as the 13th most profitable in the NFL.

2. Jerry Reinsdorf | School of Law Class of '60 | Owner, Chicago Bulls

Quietly, the Chicago Bulls have been one of the biggest winners of the NBA off season even while missing out on Carmelo Anthony. The Bulls signed veteran Pau Gasol and bring in rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, who both seem able to able contribute from day one. With the breakup of the Miami Heat's big three and the return of a (hopefully) healthy Derrick Rose the Bulls are probably the top team in the Eastern Conference right now. Reinsdorf has managed to put this team together without ever going over the salary cap. Plus, the Bulls have been in the top-five in attendance every years since 2003 and have led the league in that category since the 2009, a major factor in the Bulls reportedly collecting the second-most revenue in the NBA last season.

1. Rocky Wirtz | Class of '75 | Owner, Chicago Blackhawks

There hasn't been a better franchise turnaround in sports over the past decade than that of the Chicago Blackhawks, and it starts with Rocky Wirtz. Before the Blackhawks became the cream of the crop in the NHL, they were one of the most poorly run franchises in sports. Just a short time ago, home games weren't shown on television in Chicago and attendance figures were toward the bottom of the league. Now Wirtz, who became the principal owner following the death of his father Bill in 2007, has led the franchise to success both on and off the ice. The Blackhawks have won two Stanley Cups since 2010 and have been a consistent contender year-after-year. This summer, the club signed young superstars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane through the '22-'23 season, basically ensuring that Chicago remains one of the top NHL teams for the next decade. In one season, the Blackhawks went from 19th in the league in attendance in '07-'08 to first place in '08-'09 and have stayed atop the rankings ever since. Forbes values the franchise as the fifth highest in the NHL, behind three Canadian clubs and the New York Rangers. In the spring, Businessweek named the Blackhawks as the most efficient spenders in American sports with a metric combining performance and business measures. Wirtz has built the Blackhawks into an overnight sensation, on the verge of becoming the NHL's latest, greatest dynasty.