James Pitaro ’91 Named President of Sports Media Giant ESPN

James Pitaro ’91, a former football player on East Hill and one of several high-ranking Cornell alumni in the world of sports, has been named the president of flagship sports media outlet ESPN, the Walt Disney Company, ESPN’s parent company, announced on March 5.

Prior to being named ESPN’s eighth president, Pitaro led Yahoo! Sports as the head of Yahoo! Media. He has held a number of high-up positions in Disney, most recently as the head of consumer products and the company’s interactive division.

Pitaro, 48, studied economics and played wide receiver on the football team at Cornell, where he graduated from the College of Human Ecology with a degree in economics.

“Between the opportunity to play football and the incredible academics, there really was no question,” Pitaro said about why he came to Cornell in a past interview with the College of Human Ecology. “I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated, but was really attracted to the variety of academic options at Cornell.”

After graduating from Cornell, Pitaro earned his J.D. from St. John’s University and practiced law in New York before becoming involved in the media industry.

Among other Cornellians at the height of their respective sports field, Pitaro takes his new position with the sports media titan alongside Rob Manfred ’80 and Gary Bettman ’74, the commissioners of Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, respectively, as well as his classmate Mark Tatum ’91, deputy commissioner of the National Basketball Association.

Pitaro joins Dick Schaap ’55 and Jeremy Schaap ’91 in the ranks of ESPN. The elder Schaap was editor in chief of The Sun, and Jeremy Schaap, now a television personality and investigative journalist with the network, was a Sun sports editor. Sarah Spain ’02, a former Cornell track and field athlete, and Keith Olbermann ’79 are also longtime ESPN journalists.

Pitaro’s promotion within Disney comes less than three months after the previous ESPN president, John Skipper, abruptly resigned, “citing a substance addiction problem.” George Bodenheimer, a former ESPN president and executive chairman, oversaw the transition process and served as interim chairman.

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