Jim Harrington, an integral member of the CBS Sports management team for nearly 30 years, died suddenly on May 17. He joined CBS in 1970 as manager, Recruitment, Personnel and remained with the company, working his way up to vice president, Program Administration and Operations, where he was responsible for integrating the sports-programming schedule into the operations division. He worked on some of the biggest events in sports, from Super Bowls to Olympics, and, in addition to being a responsible, tireless worker, he was a loyal, thoughtful friend.
“As a veteran of CBS and CBS Sports throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Jim Harrington played a key role in establishing CBS Sports’ standard of excellence in sports television,” says Sean McManus, president, CBS News and Sports. “Jim’s remarkable knowledge of production, programming, and operations made him an invaluable member of the CBS Sports team.”
In 1977, Harrington moved over to CBS’s Sports division as director, Program Planning. In 1979, he was named vice president, Program Planning and Administration, with responsibility for the overall planning and administration of the program department. In 1981, he became executive in charge of production for all National Basketball Association broadcasts and auto-racing and horse-racing events. In 1983, he was named vice president, Program Administration and Operations, a post he held for more than a decade.
“Jim Harrington was a great manager for CBS sports, but, more important, he was one of the best people I’ve ever worked with in the business,” says Ken Aagaard, EVP of operations and production services for CBS Sports. “He was always fun to be around, always had a smile on his face, and always wanted to solve a problem or an issue. He was a true leader for CBS Sports and an innovator through a whole lot of years. He will always be very dear to a lot of people at CBS.”
Among the events that Harrington worked on were the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, NBA Finals, World Series, NCAA tournament, the Masters golf tournament, and U.S. Open tennis championships.
“He had a can-do approach to every challenge,” says Neal Pilson, president of Pilson Communications and a former president of CBS Sports. “If you asked Jim to do any assignment, it got done. And people who worked for him loved him. He had great skills as a manager and as a leader. Words like responsible, loyal, careful, tireless, solid — these are all adjectives I would use to describe Jim.”
Harrington was responsible for integrating CBS Sports’ programming schedule with the needs of the operations division, which was a critical job.
“When we decided we wanted to produce an event from anywhere in the world, Jim’s assignment was to make sure we had the people, cameras, and equipment in the right amount at a cost-efficient level,” Pilson explains. “And it always happened. We’d say we’re going to do 40 college basketball games this season, and we never wondered if we were going to have trucks and people show up, because Jim always handled that. He had a behind-the-scenes efficiency that is absolutely critical if you’re running a billion-dollar division of CBS, which we were.”
Survived by his wife, Connie, and children Jimmy and Jeanie, Chris and Joan, and Matthew and Oralee, Harrington had recently been spending more time with his family in his cabin in the Adirondacks, where he was enjoying retirement. An avid runner all his life, including multiple marathons, Harrington took the opportunity afforded by his retirement to begin volunteering as a track coach for young children.
Harrington was a graduate of Kansas State College and held an MBA degree from the Baruch School of Business.
In lieu of flowers, the Harrington family has requested donations be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Jim’s memory.