SI writer details leap to Vt. hoops team owner

Students, faculty and members of the community packed the Old Chapel as a jubilant journalist-turned-businessman detailed his experiences running a professional sports team. Alexander Wolff, a writer for Sports Illustrated since 1980 and owner of the American Basketball Association’s Vermont Frost Heaves, spoke at an event hosted by Castleton’s sports administration club.

Less than a month prior to his on-campus arrival, the Frost Heaves completed its inaugural season by capturing the league’s championship.

“We are still pinching ourselves for winning the title,” Wolff said. “This is proof that having a vision is one thing, but execution is what it’s all about.”

According to Wolff, he and his wife, Vanessa, had been interested in owning a basketball franchise since 2004.

After an interview with Marty Blake, director of NBA scouting – who was frustrated by the ABA’s scheduling – Wolff decided to pursue an opportunity at the professional level.

“I found out through Blake that purchasing an ABA team costs only $10,000,” he said. “I figured I could also cover the team for Sports Illustrated and”

For Wolff, it was not difficult to select a geographic location and nickname for the newfound business.

“I knew Vermont had a track record in minor league sports,” he said. “Once we went public with our choice, places in Central Vermont immediately jumped on board as sponsors.

“The idea for our team name came to me in a flash; frost heaves are things that are dynamic and produce an obstacle.”

Throughout his speech on a cold Tuesday afternoon, Wolff preached the importance of putting together a squad that represented the team’s goals and ideals.

“Our players understood what the team stood for and appreciated the fans’ support,” he said. “Our mission is to be successful as a community resource as well as winning championships, and I think these players excelled at both.”

According to Wolff, the next step for the Frost Heaves is to make the team purchasable by the fans while giving them ownership abilities. The Green Bay Packers is currently the only sports franchise owned by its fans.

Wolff’s various methods toward building a successful product both on and off the playing field were influential to at least one sports administration major in attendance.

“His values of putting together a community-friendly team and giving fans more than they paid for definitely opened my eyes a bit,” junior Jordan McGee said. “At first, I thought teams were just about winning championships.”

With the basketball season concluded, the Princeton graduate has now returned to the Sports Illustrated newsroom. While he acclimates back to his life as a sportswriter, Wolff believes this season’s accomplishments will impact more than just him and his players.

“The magazine was very generous about me balancing writing and the team,” he said following the lecture. “But the kick we, as a team and members of the community, got out of this whole experience can not be duplicated.

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