A View From On High At HBO & Fox Sports

by Michael Saladik '06 and Elliott May '06

Ever heard of Barry Bonds? How about Bill Walsh or Billy Beane?  Probably. Well, according to the San Jose Mercury News, Jeffrey Krolik ’78 is a more powerful figure in the San Francisco Bay Area sports world than any of these prominent individuals. Yet Krolik, senior vice president and general manager of Fox Sports Net Bay Area, remains humble about his career.

“I am certainly not a more powerful executive than Billy Beane or Bill Walsh,” Krolik confesses. Instead, he attributes his high ranking to the fact that FSN controls the TV rights for the San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s, Golden State Warriors, and San Jose Sharks.  Not to mention all of Pac 10 conference athletics. Not bad. Thus, Krolik deflects his own popularity to the prominence of FSN. However, his quiet success can arguably be traced back to his academic career at Dartmouth.

While his father, a member of the class of 1941, largely inspired his venture to Dartmouth College from New York City, Krolik quickly found himself at home in Hanover. At Dartmouth, he discovered what every Dartmouth student has discovered: “small is big.” Small class sizes and activities like the Daily “D” allowed Krolik to develop close relationships with many students, yet it was the D-Plan, coupled with a strong alumni base that paved the way for his future success.

In the summer of 1975, following his freshman year, Krolik was welcomed as a White House intern during the Ford administration, where he worked with Dartmouth alum and Vice President of the United States Nelson Rockefeller, class of 1930. Though he had no prior experience in politics, Krolik thrived as a White House intern and developed a working relationship with Rockefeller, for whom he primarily summarized lengthy documents, aiding the Vice President’s problematic dyslexia. At the end of his internship, Krolik was asked to come aboard as the youngest member of Rockefeller’s speechwriting team. Krolik accepted and thus forewent his sophomore return to Hanover. “I couldn’t have [worked at the White House] had there not been the Dartmouth plan. Taking a year off is in a lot of places a very big deal, and at Dartmouth it wasn’t that big a deal.”

However, Krolik’s political career would be brief, as the Ford government failed to win re-election in 1976. Krolik thus returned to Hanover after just over a one year absence, and quickly sought to cover for lost time, ambitiously striving to graduate on time with his class. While he succeeded in his goal, in retrospect he might have chosen otherwise. “I wish I would have attended four years instead of rushing to graduate with my class.” Nonetheless, his White House experience further cemented the “small is big” Dartmouth mantra as he stepped out into the “real world.”

From Dartmouth, Krolik, a History and English double major, moved to New York City where he hoped to work for Time Inc., the precursor to the modern day Time Warner. Upon arrival, however, he was informed that no magazine jobs were available, but was guided down the hall to Time Inc.’s small television start-up company. Despite the fact that he had never heard of the company previously, Krolik took the job, rising to prominence behind the company’s three letter acronym: HBO.

Krolik moved around with HBO for fifteen years as the startup increased in popularity.  After running several HBO branches, including Sao Paolo, Brazil, Krolik decided that he did not prefer the international direction his career was heading.  Citing a regret that he had not become fluent in a second language during his time at Dartmouth, and a wish to head back to the States with his family, Krolik ended up taking an opportunity offered to him in the San Francisco Bay Area to head up Fox Sports Net Bay Area.

It has been with Fox Sports Net Bay Area that Jeff Krolik has become most successful in business, and yet he understates this success and ultimately defines his career in other more difficult terms.  He noted that Pat Riley, one of the most successful basketball coaches of our era, once said, “There are two things in sports—winning and agony”.  Although Krolik is a cable television executive first and foremost, he backed into being a sports executive in his current position with Fox Sports Net, and therefore defines the sports business and his career in much the same way.  Krolik’s Bay Area teams have gotten close, but have not been able to reach the illustrious and career-defining championship.  So he has not had the joy of “winning” with his current job.

Win or lose, Krolik is clearly thriving with Fox Sports Net Bay Area just the same.  Although his number one sports moment is yet to come, he has had much success leading and growing a high profile and large market cable television station.  Krolik has used the “much-vaunted liberal arts skills” he amassed at Dartmouth and has since built an even stronger base of business and financial knowledge that has allowed him to succeed in his sales and marketing endeavors.  And perhaps that elusive world’s championship will soon come to a Bay Area team and Krolik will finally have that “defined victory moment” when one of his Bay Area teams feels the rare joy that does not fall under Pat Riley’s nearly all-encompassing label of “agony”.