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John Bankert, Chuck Neinas, Mike Van Diest

John Bankert
President, Pro Football Hall of Fame

Why You Should Know Him: John Bankert began working at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio in the film library and theatre as a part-time employee in August of 1964. Over a 40 year period he became an Administrative Assistant, Business Manager, Vice President of Operations, Executive Director, and, now President.

After leaving the Army as a 24 year old, Bankert enrolled at Canton’s MaloneCollege. He found part-time work as a projectionist at the Hall and once an employee,never left. At the time, the Hall had only 17,000 square feet of floor spacewhich was far too much for a limited collection of memorabilia and exhibits.Today, the floor space has expanded to 83,000 square feet and accommodates morethan 50,000 artifacts. The Canton shrine attracts about 200,000 visitors a year.

Bankert’s overall responsibilities include planning, directing, and coordinatingactivities for the Hall. Open year-round, the Hall’s two biggest eventsare over the same weekend each year: the annual induction ceremonies and thepreseason Hall of Fame game which traditionally kicks off Monday Night Footballon ABC. Induction week itself includes 21 events over nine days but more than4,000 local volunteers.

“The only reason we’re in existence is to perpetuate the historyof the game and to honor its greatest heroes,” said Bankert. That has tobe the focal point of what we do and how we run the building. And I’m proudto say that very few people leave here with a bad taste in their mouth. Our biggestchallenge is to get people here and then have them go back to their hometownsand say, ‘You really ought to see that place.’”

Chuck Neinas
President, Neinas Sports Service

Why You Should Know Him: When a major Division l-A football program has a job opening, many times the first call is to Chuck Neinas, President of Neinas Sports Services. His firm specializes in first identifying, then contacting, and judging the interest of specific coaching candidates. His consulting firm has helped place over 30 head coaches and athletic directors, including Notre Dame’s Tyrone Willingham and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops.

Neinas has had a long and distinguished career in the world of intercollegiateathletics. He was an assistant executive director of the NCAA from 1961-71 andin charge of both the National Collegiate Basketball Championship and the CollegeWorld Series. From 1971 to 1980 Neinas was Commissioner of the Big Eight Conferenceand helped develop promotional and marketing programs that are now used by otherconferences.

He was also involved in two major federal pieces of legislation that had a majorimpact on the world of amateur sports: the adoption of the Amateur Sports Actin 1978 and, while Executive Director of the College Football Association, thefederal government’s decision to overrule NCAA jurisdiction on the televisingof college football.

Neinas chaired the NCAA Olympic and International Relations Committee that recommendedthe NCAA withdraw from the United States Olympic Committee, eventually resultingin the reorganization of the USOC and the subsequent Amateur Sports Act. Uponthe government’s ruling that overturned NCAA appearance limitations, Neinasnegotiated television contracts and administered a television plan on behalfof the CFA (1984-1995) that included ABC, CBS, NBC, and ESPN. That ruling was20 years old this past June.

Neinas has also served as an associate of the American Football Coaches Associationand was a recent recipient of the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award, the highest honorpresented by the AFCA. He has also received the James. J. Corbett Memorial Awardby the National Association of Collegiate Directors of athletics and is one ofonly two individuals to be honored by both the AFCA and NACDA.

Mike Van Diest
Head Coach, Carroll College (MT)

Why You Should Know Him: Mike Van Diest may not be slowly becoming a legend in NAIA circles, but he’s pretty close to doing so. Head Coach of the Carroll College Fighting Saints, last year’s NAIA Coach of the Year enters his sixth season on the Helena campus this fall.

During the past five campaigns, Carroll has posted a 52-14 overall record anda 33-7 mark in the Frontier Conference for a winning percentage of .820. Additionally,the Fighting Saints have earned four straight Final Four appearances in the NAIAplayoffs and last year were the National Champions for the second straight season.They completed a perfect 15-0 record by defeating Northwestern Oklahoma Statein the championship game. In addition to 47 wins over the last four seasons,Van Diest and his staff have a 12-2 record over the same time in national playoffcompetition.

A Helena native, Van Diest also doubles up as Defensive Coordinator for the FightingSaints. This past season, Carroll finished second nationally in scoring defense,giving up just 12.6 points per game. They finished in the top ten in both rushingand total defense in each of the last four years. In 2001, the team finishedfirst in rushing defense among all 96 NAIA schools.

Van Diest has had career stops at his alma mater, the University of Wyoming,Montana, Massachusetts, and Northwestern. He’s won four different titles-theBig Sky, Western Athletic, Pacific Division, and Yankee Conference-during histenure as an assistant coach. Now, with four Frontier Conference Championshipsand two national titles at Carroll, it’s not surprising the Fighting Saintsare the top ranked team in the NAIA this fall. They began the 2004 auspiciouslyby beating Division II’s Central Washington, 27-21 in overtime.

You can reach Coach Van Diest at


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