Tom McMillen on his former University of Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell ~
“. . .Lefty, I still keep in touch with him. He’s indomitable. He’s really a special person. He should be in the Naismith Hall of Fame. It’s such an injustice. I mean when he retired as an active coach, there were only three other coaches who had more wins than he did. I think it was Dean Smith. . .”
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town. We have such a special man to talk to today. He’s done so much in his lifetime, it’s tough for me to keep up with him. But not only is he six feet 11, but he’s got a track record that’s unbelievable what he’s done in the community. From playing professional basketball in the NBA to serving as US Congressman from the fourth congressional district of Maryland. He was a Rhodes Scholar. He’s written a book about ethics and sports. He’s been on a board of directors for the President’s Foundation on sports, physical education, and nutrition. And these are only a few of his accomplishments, in addition to the unique distinction of being the tallest member of Congress. I got to know Tom McMillen with my involvement many, many years ago with Lefty Driesell and the University of Maryland. Tom McMillen, welcome to Our Town.
Tom McMillen Loses U.S. Congressional Seat to Gerrymandering
Tom McMillen: Well, it’s great to be here Andy.
Andy Ockershausen: Our Town is so big now, McMillen. Everywhere you went except Pennsylvania was Our Town. Certainly when you were in Congress in the fourth district was part, it’s still part of Our Town. But they changed the voting district and they voted you out.
Tom McMillen: It’s the whole thing about gerrymandering they talk about today. Well, my district was basically split up into six different congressional districts. It’s not new. It happens all over. The real question for me was … It would have been nice to stay in Congress maybe 10, 12 years. There’s really a choice you make whether you want to be there 30 years. I don’t think I ever wanted to be kind of …
Andy Ockershausen: It wasn’t a lifetime for you.
Tom McMillen: … a lifetime thing. It was more an opportunity to serve and make a difference. I had that experience and it was fantastic.
Andy Ockershausen: Great. They were great years. Everything changed during your period in Congress. The whole delegation changed. And Virginia changed and Maryland changed. That’s all part of our life has changed. I want to talk to the Tom McMillen I first heard about as a high school athlete. We had a relationship with the University of Maryland for WMAL and Lefty Driesell was one of our contacts. Lefty was trying to recruit a kid in Pennsylvania to come to the University of Maryland.
The Road to University of Maryland Basketball and Coach Lefty Driesell
Tom McMillen: Well, if you recall the history of that. My brother had played at Maryland-
Andy Ockershausen: That’s correct.
Tom McMillen: -with Gary Williams, Coach Williams.
Andy Ockershausen: They were players?
Tom McMillen: They were teammates. My brother had played there. My brother was heading into medical school. He wanted me to go to Maryland. My other brother was at Carolina. He wanted me to go to Carolina. My other sister was at University of Pennsylvania. She wanted me to go there. The coach at University of Virginia used to coach in my hometown. He wanted me to go there.
Andy Ockershausen: You had a lot of people pulling on you.
Tom McMillen: Yeah. It was very difficult. It was compounded because I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I was the second high school player on the cover of Sports Illustrated in February of my senior year. That just created this meltdown for my family. I decided to go to Maryland at the very last day of registration. And the coach at Virginia was sitting in my house the night before. Dean Smith from North Carolina was calling from Europe every hour. It was pure chaos. But coming to Maryland, it turned out okay.
Andy Ockershausen: It turned out great for Maryland because you led the parade of Lefty to turn that franchise. What did he call it? The UCLA of the east.
Tom McMillen: Actually that was coined by my brother when he was recruiting Lefty to come to Maryland. He said, “You could make this the UCLA of the east.” Lefty-
Andy Ockershausen: Where was Lefty at? Davidson?
Tom McMillen: Lefty was at Davidson. He came to Maryland. People don’t remember this, but Washington had no college basketball remember. They had great high school basketball.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, absolutely.
Tom McMillen: But no college basketball. This was before John Thompson and Georgetown. Lefty really put Maryland on-
Andy Ockershausen: On the map.
Tom McMillen: -the map.
Andy Ockershausen: And your brother was instrumental in that. I’m glad to hear that because it was a great thing to try to be the UCLA. But I think they exceeded expectations because getting Tom McMillen opened the door. Then as I understand it, and we were part of it, the other players started to come. Because your first year, you played freshman ball, correct?
University of Maryland Basketball Teammates Len Elmore and John Lucas
Tom McMillen: With Len Elmore, my teammate.
Andy Ockershausen: You couldn’t play senior, right?
Tom McMillen: That’s right. We only played 16 games. 16 and 0. We just blew everybody away. My teammate, Len Elmore, who went on to play in the NBA and Harvard Law School.
Andy Ockershausen: An agent. He’s done everything.
Tom McMillen: He’s done a lot. We were together. And then John Lucas joined us and we had really just a great basketball team.
Andy Ockershausen: I guess it was the ’71 season. We did the broadcast of the JV at WMAL. And then we got a phone call the following year. I don’t know. Who was the AD? It wasn’t Bill . . . was gone by then.
Tom McMillen: Jim Kehoe.
Andy Ockershausen: Jim Kehoe, the track man. Kehoe was a friend of some people at our company and said, “Look, we got a problem. We don’t have enough tickets. We have too much desire for people, demand. This basketball team’s unbelievable. We got to televise these games and can you help us?” And we said, you know, Channel 7, “We can do that.” But the conference has got to approve it, Lefty, because they got a deal. Right? You had to go through the conference. Lefty and Kehoe got it and we did get permission to televise that second year after your freshman. It was live TV.
WMAL Foundational for University of Maryland Basketball Program Early 1970s
Tom McMillen: I remember. And WMAL was such a foundational aspect for the program. The Cole Fieldhouse, that iconic arena, was sold out all the time. It was-
Andy Ockershausen: Students were in revolt. They wanted to see the game.
Tom McMillen: It was an electric environment. Just a lot of fond memories.
Andy Ockershausen: I think it’s so indicative of our times that we had to beg to get the right to televise the game. Now, there are 70 games on every Saturday.
Tom McMillen: Absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s too much. But then, it was the University of Maryland basketball had to be on. And Kehoe was a great friend too. And what happened at the university, later of years of course, but that was a great experience for you.
Tom McMillen: And Lefty, I still keep in touch with him. He’s indomitable. He’s really a special person. He should be in the Naismith Hall of Fame. It’s such an injustice. I mean when he retired as an active coach, there were only three other coaches who had more wins than he did. I think it was Dean Smith.
Andy Ockershausen: Bobby Knight.
Tom McMillen: Bobby Knight and Adolph Rupp. That’s it. Three coaches were greater than him in career wins.
Andy Ockershausen: He did a fabulous job. We had a great experience. He did a radio show for us. For some reason somebody told him what Dean Smith was making. And he called me and he was stamping his foot on the phone, “Damn, Andy, we got … This is unfair. You’re paying Dean more than you’re paying me.” I said, “We’re not paying anything, coach. The sponsor pays it. The station has no money. We have only sponsor money. There is a difference that Dean has won a national championship twice and you haven’t won one yet so the sponsor will pay more.” He said, “I don’t know about that.” I said, “Look it up. Go talk to people.” But he was so great. I loved to talk to him on the phone.
Youngest Appointee by Richard Nixon to John Kennedy President’s Council
Tom McMillen: Well, when I was in high school I was appointed by Richard Nixon as the youngest member of the President’s Council on physical fitness and sports. That was the John Kennedy President’s Council and all that.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow.
Tom McMillen: To this day, I’m still the youngest presidential appointee ever at 17 years old. One of the things I did at Maryland was I would go down to the White House for our meetings. It was kind of a heady thing for a …
Andy Ockershausen: You couldn’t sneak it.
Tom McMillen: No. One picture of me and Richard Nixon was on the front page of the Washington Post. That was the time of all the riots on the campus of Vietnam.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, we lived through it.
Picture with Richard Nixon Results in First and Only B During Freshman Year
Tom McMillen: And one of my teachers, my speech teachers, specifically, saw that picture. And there’s no way that I was going to get an A in that class because she was very progressive and liberal. She gave me a B. It was my only B my whole, literally my whole freshman year. Literally because of the picture with Richard Nixon. But it was a great experience for me, coming here, being in our nation’s capital, being on a presidential commission, playing for really the talk of the town here in Washington in terms of basketball.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. It was. It changed everybody’s impression of Maryland. It had good football teams because they had Jim Tatum way before you. But they had great teams. But never had the basketball that brought the excitement. His presence brought the excitement, then you get the players that made the big difference. Kehoe was so happy to do that.
UMD Expereinces – Lefty Driesell, Hail to the Chief | 1972 United States Olympics Basketball Player | Rhodes Scholar
Tom McMillen: And he’d walk out to Hail to the Chief. He put his two V’s up, extend his arms. The White House always got mad at him because he was playing the presidential sort of march song.
Andy Ockershausen: Hail to the Chief.
Tom McMillen: Hail to the Chief. Those were good memories at Maryland. For me, I had two other experiences while at Maryland. I was on the United States Olympic team in ’72, which was a very controversial Olympics.
Andy Ockershausen: Terrible, terrible ending. I know that.
Tom McMillen: You could spend a whole show talking about that.
Andy Ockershausen: Munich.
Tom McMillen: Israeli athletes were tragically murdered in the village. And then, of course, the basketball game when we ended up coming from behind, winning the game and literally having it taken.
Andy Ockershausen: They put time back on the clock.
Tom McMillen: And then my senior year, when I won the Rhodes Scholarship, my father was sick. It was the last thing he found out before he died was that I won the Rhodes Scholarship. He was very proud of that. Interesting, Maryland had never had a Rhodes Scholar before.
Andy Ockershausen: Probably to this day.
Tom McMillen: We just won …
Andy Ockershausen: It was an agriculture school at one time.
Tom McMillen: Maryland’s a terrific school. Today we just won a couple years ago our second Rhodes Scholarship. It was a great honor. Anyway, the experience at Maryland was really pretty special.
Andy Ockershausen: One of the things that made it special for you is that being close to Washington for other things other than basketball. That maybe your decision turned out much better than you could have. You ain’t going to get much in Chapel Hill or down south, but here you got. You got national press here.
On Committing to Play for University of Maryland – Right Decision
Tom McMillen: Well, I had committed to Dean. I had committed to Carolina. I didn’t sign anything.
Andy Ockershausen: Was Donald Dell involved in that? Was he?
Tom McMillen: No. I didn’t even know Donald.
Andy Ockershausen: You didn’t know Donald then?
Tom McMillen: But he-
Andy Ockershausen: He was doing Davis Cup then.
Tom McMillen: Right. He later became my lawyer and agent. But I had committed to Dean and my father got ill my senior year in high school. I said, “You know, he really wants to see me play.” I ended up rethinking it, saw what Lefty was going to do. Ended up coming to Maryland also because the presidential appointment. And I came to Maryland. Actually my father saw so many of my games that he passed away my senior year. From a family, personal standpoint, it was the right decision.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, I’m sure. And I know your brother was crazy. Your brother did get to be a doctor, correct?
Tom McMillen: He’s practicing medicine in Missouri. He went to Maryland’s medical school.
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
Tom McMillen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andy Ockershausen: We’re going to be back in a minute and talk to Tom. We’re going to take a break. Tom, take a deep breath and start talking about after basketball. That’s when you really shined. This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Our Town, Andy Ockershausen. And talking to Tom McMillen. Tom, I said we’re not going to talk basketball, but one final time. Will you tell us about the recruiting war that you were involved in when you were in high school?
Tom McMillen: Well, the rules were much less then. You could have a coach at your house every day. And they were. They were coming. Lefty sent a coach up every week, so did Dean Smith, so did Bill Gibson from Virginia. They had a coach in our hometown every week. Dean Smith once said that he came to my hometown 75 times. I’m not sure. But remember this has been-
Andy Ockershausen: It sounds good, though.
Tom McMillen: He started recruiting me in ninth grade, so over four years. He came up there a lot. It was so excessive because there were really not the strict rules there are today limiting coaches recruiting. In addition, we had the backhanded offers. My parents had to throw some people out and say, “We’re not going to listen to any of that.” But it was the wild west.
Andy Ockershausen: I believe it, Tom. At the time when you’re in the front page on the Washington Post almost every day talking about the recruiting and what was going on and people in broadcasting waiting. This is going to change everything for us in the broadcast business to get these people on TV and get them on radio. It was a big story, Tom.
Tom McMillen: College sports was going through a change as well. Lefty put them on the map. There’s no question about it.
Andy Ockershausen: What’s going on now, Tom? It’s so much ink now about the shoe wars. It’s probably not new, but for this time it seems to me they’re on the front page of Sports Illustrated every month.
Tom McMillen: Well, you know I’m the CEO of an organization called Lead1 which represents 130 of the largest college athletic programs in the country. We work with 10 conferences and all the biggest programs. Clearly what’s happened is the NCAA is an organization that doesn’t have the power to investigate a lot of things. There’s a lot of things probably going on by a couple bad actors and the NCAA does not have subpoena power. They don’t have wire-tap. They don’t have all those tools that the FBI has. So that’s what the FBI’s brought to this, a whole level of investigation that heretofore college sports has never seen before.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s all about money for all them, too.
It’s All About the Money – A Few Bad Actors
Tom McMillen: It’s all about money. The big difference is obviously the apparel shoe companies have really thrown a lot of money at high school sports and recruiting and so forth. And obviously you’re going to have in any industry, whether it’s medicine, real estate, politics, you’ll always have a few bad actors will create problems. College sports in my estimation, the people that I work with, the athletic directors across 130 major schools are really good people. They try to adhere to the rules and the letter of the law.
Matter of fact, the fastest growing area in college sports is the compliance area. We have over 500 compliance officials working at 130 schools just to make sure the school stays within the law of the rules of the NCAA. I hope this is an aberration. It’s not a real reflection, I think, of the fact that college sports is-
Andy Ockershausen: It’s certainly more than basketball.
Tom McMillen: More than basketball.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s in football too, of course.
Tom McMillen: It’s all the money. Anytime you have an enterprise. Our schools generate $8 billion, our 130 schools. Whenever you have that kind of money, it’s going to always, there’s going to be bad actors.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom McMillen graduates from Maryland. Goes to Rhodes Scholar, becomes bilingual learning the English language. Then starts your own career in politics. But then after politics, Tom McMillen became a force in sports in so many ways.
ABA | NBA Career
Tom McMillen: Well, going back to. I graduated from Maryland. I was the first round pick in the NBA, in the ABA at the time. I chose to go to-
Andy Ockershausen: In Buffalo.
Tom McMillen: In Buffalo.
Andy Ockershausen: You didn’t want to live in Buffalo.
Juggling NBA Career and Rhodes Scholar Program
Tom McMillen: In Virginia Squires. And I went to Oxford and was finishing my first year there. Donald Dell comes over and says, “You have to give up your Rhodes Scholarship because the NBA and the ABA are going to merge and it’s going to cost you a million dollars.” And I said, “Donald, I don’t want to give up my Rhodes Scholarship. I committed here two years.” I was playing basketball in Italy 50 some times a year. I was commuting back and forth. And Donald says, “You got to give it up or it’s going to cost you money.” I went to see the head of the Rhodes Scholarship and I said, “Can I come back to Oxford in the summers? I’d really like to go back and play in the NBA and just fly back over in the summers and do my program over the next three years.” And he said, “Absolutely not. We don’t make those exceptions here in the Rhodes Scholars.”
I found out that the founder of the Rhodes Scholarship, Cecil Rhodes, who the country-
Andy Ockershausen: Great explorer, absolutely.
Tom McMillen: Country Rhodesia was named after and all that. He, himself, had gone to Oxford only in the summers, when home from Africa. I went back to the Warden of Rhodes Trust and said, “Our founder did it, you must let me do it.” “He did?” So three straight years I was in the NBA.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow.
Tom McMillen: I would fly back and finish up my Rhodes Scholarship. I took my exams, got my degree. Now, not everybody takes their exams and gets their degree. Bill Clinton never got his degree. Anyway …
Andy Ockershausen: But Bradley did?
From the Atlanta Hawks to Washington Bullets (now Wizards) to Congress
Tom McMillen: Bradley did. I ended up coming back, playing in the NBA for 11 years. I was playing for Atlanta Hawks for Ted Turner. What a great, great owner. I had been there six years and I said to Ted, “Please trade me to Washington because I’m looking to run for Congress. I’d like to go back and run in Maryland for Congress.” Low and behold, Stan Kasten, who was the GM of the Atlanta Hawks, Stan Kasten trades me to Washington for Randy Wittman. That was kind of the funny trade. I get traded. First political trade in sports. I get traded back to Washington where I play for three years. My last season in the NBA with Jeff Ruland and Rick Mahorn, all those guys.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh god, yeah.
Tom McMillen: Before the season, I announce for Congress. I am going to be the only person ever to run for Congress while they’re in the NBA.
Andy Ockershausen: Playing …
Tom McMillen: Bill Bradley told me to do that. I announced in September before training camp that I’m going to be a candidate for Congress. I play the whole season as a candidate for Congress bringing people out to the game and getting Michael Jordan and Larry Bird involved in my campaign and everything. As soon as the season’s over, I run. I barely win. I win by-
Andy Ockershausen: 300 and some votes?
Tom McMillen: 424 votes. Closest race in the country. But, having been the only active athlete to run for Congress. And then I served in Congress for six years.
Andy Ockershausen: And you won the race, which is really bigger than anything, of course.
Tom McMillen: Won the race. It’s interesting how it all started with Ted Turner when I asked him to trade me to Washington. He sends me back here. It gives me a platform so that I could run for Congress. It would be pretty hard to do that today.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. But it worked for you, Tom. And then in addition to then being in Congress, you started your legal work, correct?
Chair, President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports with Co-Chair Florence Griffith Joyner “Flo Jo”
Tom McMillen: No, no. I actually served in Congress and was on the Night Commission that started out looking at intercollegiate athletics when I was there. And then when I left Congress after six years because of the gerrymandering, President Clinton, who actually went to the same college I did at Oxford years before me, asked me to head up the President’s Council on physical fitness and sports. I took over for Arnold Schwarzenegger. They wanted a stretched out guy after Arnold, so they got me. And then Flo Jo, Florence Griffith Joyner, was my co-chair was the world’s fastest woman at the time.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my god, I remember Flo Jo.
Tom McMillen: Remember something full circle. I was on the President’s Council as the youngest presidential appointee ever under Nixon.
Andy Ockershausen: When you were in high school.
Tom McMillen: Then I get the Chair under Clinton. Actually, the President’s Council is the most sought-after position in administration next to Cabinet positions. People really want. Because you spend a lot of time with the president. I would go running with Clinton. I would go to events with him. I ended up going to the Olympics in Lillehammer with Hillary and going down to Atlanta.
Andy Ockershausen: You went all over.
Tom McMillen: Yeah. You do, being head of the President’s Council, is kind of a fun job. You get close to the president.
Andy Ockershausen: Did George Allen get something like that in later years?
Tom McMillen: George Allen was the head of the President’s Council. I think he was-
Andy Ockershausen: After you.
Tom McMillen: He was appointed by … No, he was before me.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, he was before you?
Tom McMillen: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: I remember he had something …
Tom McMillen: I’m trying to think. He was appointed by maybe Reagan.
Andy Ockershausen: Something like that.
Tom McMillen: Yeah. He headed it for a while. Bud Wilkinson.
Andy Ockershausen: Boy, there’s some names. I remember Arnold. Charlie Brotman got involved and I went to the White House with him when Arnold was doing some things like that. That was after you? Arnold or before you?
Tom McMillen: Arnold was right before me.
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah.
Tom McMillen: I took over for Arnold.
Andy Ockershausen: He vas a man.
Tom McMillen: No, he was a great Chair and he brought a lot of energy to it.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely. Charisma.
Tom McMillen: Then while I was chairing that I ended up getting legislation through Congress to pass a working with Senator Warner and Representative Sarbanes, a bill to create this foundation for fitness, sports and nutrition that would support the President’s Council. I chaired that for a while. I’m still on that board. I’m still very engaged in those issues.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom, I don’t see how you get by in your social life. I’m going to check into that. This is Our Town. This is Andy Ockershausen and Tom McMillen is such a great character in our community.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen, brought to you by Best Mark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and we’re talking to Tom McMillen. He’s a big part of Our Town. He’s six eleven part of Our Town. But Tom, when you gave up all these presidential commitments and all the things you did, you got involved in the community deeper I think than you expected to. But my association with you goes in so many charities that you’ve been involved in and I’ve been involved in. Certainly, Fight for Children is as prime to me as anything we’ve done in this community.
Philanthropy – Fight Night and Humane Society
Tom McMillen: Well, Joe was … Robert was a very good friend. I worked with him, actually, during the savings and loan crisis. I was in the banking committee.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh.
Tom McMillen: And one of the things that the Bush administration wanted to do was try to federalize selling all these assets. And I fought that because in Maryland we had gone through a savings and loan crisis and I ended up privatizing it. And as a result of privatizing, Joe became one of the leading contractors of that.
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
Tom McMillen: We became friendly and I supported Fight Night from the very beginning. I was still been to every one of the Fight Night events. As a matter of fact, the first Fight Night, the stereo system that was used was from my house.
Andy Ockershausen: It was downtown too.
Tom McMillen: Remember it was at the Grand Hyatt.
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
Tom McMillen: With Joe’s, obviously, passing and Kevin Plank’s taking over with Raul Fernandez have kept it alive. And I’m still involved. I’m very involved in the Humane Society in the United States and protecting animals worldwide. That’s a real passion for me. I have a lot of animals. I have a farm out in Virginia and a house in Maryland.
Andy Ockershausen: You live in the city?
Tom McMillen: We have actually a house on the Hill too.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh, good.
On the Maryland Board of Regents
Tom McMillen: My wife and I kind of bounce around a little bit. And then I was on the University of Maryland Board for seven years, which is a huge commitment being on the Board of Regents at a university. It took about a day a week of my time.
Andy Ockershausen: That was a big, big job.
Tom McMillen: It’s a big commitment. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom, did they have a special committee that recruited Gary Williams too, didn’t you? Were you on that group that recruited Gary?
Tom McMillen: No, that was a little before my time. The search committee-
Andy Ockershausen: You were out of school by then.
Tom McMillen: Yeah. I literally been … The last decade I’ve been very involved in the governance of the university.
Andy Ockershausen: Right.
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Well, the University of Maryland has really made a change. It’s grown and it’s really gone up to another level.
Tom McMillen: It has been extraordinary how the university has changed. When I think back when I was going to school there today, it was kind of a commuter school. Today it’s like a world class institution.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh it is. Absolutely. I know a lot of people that went to Maryland in my age group and all of us say to a person, “We couldn’t get in now.” It’s so tough. You could get in.
Tom McMillen: It’s a special school.
Andy Ockershausen: You really got to be good to get into Maryland.
Tom McMillen: And I was a chemistry major at Maryland. I was pre-med so that’s extremely difficult curriculum. And Lefty would tolerate me because I had labs in the afternoon and I would often show up late for practice. But they wouldn’t, probably you couldn’t get away with that today. It would be almost impossible to be a chemistry major. It’s very difficult. That’s one of the changes. The time demands on these young athletes are so extraordinary. In my day, there was a little more flexibility for players. But today, it’s every hour, every minute is tied up.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, there’s so much controversy with the school with switching to the Big 10. That was a long period of agony for a lot of people.
University of Maryland Switching to the Big 10 – Different Times
Tom McMillen: Well, I was on the Board of Regents and it came to us very quickly. I actually was the only regent to vote against it. Not so much of the substance of the decision but how it was brought to us in a couple days. I think the administration knew that if they had a protracted discussion it would be really hard because people would get very incensed.
Andy Ockershausen: Absolutely.
Tom McMillen: And the bottom line, moving to the Big 10, so it’s a world class league with world class institutions, but bottom line, it was dollars and cents. The University of Maryland will be getting a $50 million check every year. That’s kind of hard to say no to.
Andy Ockershausen: It pays for a lot of scholarships.
Tom McMillen: Well, the hard part about it is you have to stay competitive in football. Keeping up with the Jones’s, the Ohio States and the Michigan States makes it difficult. They’ve got a great coach out there now, but going through quarterbacks is tough. Maryland has a challenge. Basketball they’ll be very competitive. And, I guess, the one difficulty in having these spread out conferences, and this is true not just of the Big 10, but a lot of conferences, the amount of travel these kids have to. The amount of travel that …
Andy Ockershausen: It’s easy to get to Charlottesville. It’s very difficult to get to Nebraska.
Tom McMillen: Yeah, we used to drive to Charlottesville. We played Georgetown. We played Navy. We played GW. We would play American. We would play … We could go up to Philadelphia. We could play in UVA and we drove. It’s just a different ball game today.
Andy Ockershausen: And the football, it’s so difficult, because those schools have a great … they’ve been in it for years this whole idea of going to Ohio State or Penn State, Nebraska. The whole state of Nebraska is there.
Tom McMillen: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: They don’t have anything except Nebraska.
Tom McMillen: Well, it gets down to high school football and the fact that those states have really robust high school programs. It’s hard. Maryland’s got a challenge. This is a very competitive, as you know better than anybody, competitive media markets.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my god. It’s incredible what we go through. Tom, what do you foresee now? One of the things you were involved in an effort one time with Peter O’Malley. Remember that? It was a long time. We lost Peter too. A great guy, great supporter of the school, even though his school was Saint Francis or something, right, up in Emmitsburg. But there’s so many people in your life and my life that are not around anymore.
Tom McMillen: I know. I’ve had a good business career. I was one of the founders of cellular telephone.
Andy Ockershausen: I remember that.
Tom McMillen: Mark Warner was very involved with me in that or actually I was very close to Mark back in the early eighties. When I got involved with cellular, through Ted Turner, by the way, people didn’t think of it as a telephonic term. They thought of it as a biological term. That’s how early it was. 1983.
Andy Ockershausen: I know.
Tom McMillen: I’ve been in ten public companies, real estate. I’ve had a great business career. I’ve been very fortunate. And life’s good. I can’t complain.
Andy Ockershausen: Your health is good?
Tom McMillen: Health’s good. Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, you’ve been in all these committees and they’re all health and fitness. But, Tom, you don’t play basketball anymore obviously, but you shoot around, of course.
Professional Sports Takes a Physical Toll on Later Years
Tom McMillen: I do shoot around. I don’t run up and down the court quite like I used to. What people don’t realize is how much a toll professional sports takes on an athlete.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh my.
Tom McMillen: You really end up … you feel it when you’re in your sixties.
Andy Ockershausen: We’re very close to Sonny Jurgensen and his wife. We travel together. Very dear friends from the early sixties and it’s showing on his body now. It’s inevitable.
Tom McMillen: Yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: After all the operations, he’s had some speech problems and so forth. It happens.
Tom McMillen: Well, it’s one thing that people don’t realize. They think being a professional athlete’s great.
Andy Ockershausen: But you pay the price.
Tom McMillen: You pay a price with your body. Some of my teammates in the NBA can barely walk today. And certainly the NFL is even worse.
Andy Ockershausen: Well, we lost Sam Huff because he’s in never, never land. You know Sam was instrumental with our company and worked on WMAL and Channel 7 for years. But, Tom, you’re such an inspiration to a lot of people. I’m so delighted that you’re still active and will stay active and remember the good old days. That cellular phone. One of the guys that got into that way back was John Kluge. You remember that name.
Tom McMillen: Of course. Of course. Metroedia.
Andy Ockershausen: He said, “We don’t know where this one’s going, but I’m going to get in it.”
Tom McMillen: Yeah. It was a big …
Andy Ockershausen: I didn’t know what it was. Who was it that had the paging service?
Tom McMillen: Well, I was in the paging business too. That’s how I-
Andy Ockershausen: He got put out of business, right?
On Business – Paging | Cellular | Broadcast
Tom McMillen: Well, that’s right. But that’s how we got into cellular was through paging. Through Ted Turner. I got involved with some of these people. We bought paging companies that led us to cellular. This is while I’m in the NBA. I’m still in the NBA doing this. We ended up selling our licenses a little early, but if we hadn’t, the license that we owned which was part of Atlanta, Miami, Tampa-
Andy Ockershausen: Major markets.
Tom McMillen: -were probably two and a half billion dollars.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Tom McMillen: Cellular was a big, big business. It turned into a big business.
Andy Ockershausen: Changed the world.
Tom McMillen: But, you never, as Joe Kennedy said, you never complained about making a profit. You should never. It can go the other way too, as you know.
Speaker 3: That’s for sure.
Andy Ockershausen: The whole world stops when you make a profit. It’s a great thing.
Tom McMillen: Absolutely.
Andy Ockershausen: Tom McMillen, it’s a delight to be with you. I hope we will see each other and keep our friendship up in more ways than we have over the years.
Tom McMillen: No, and by the way, I’m actually in the media business. I’m on the board of the second largest television company in the United States, broadcasters. We own 171 television stations. The company’s called Nexstar. Public company. Great company. Having been involved in radio and TV-
Andy Ockershausen: You’re way beyond us, Tom.
Tom McMillen: No, it’s an amazing.
Andy Ockershausen: Sinclair is a Maryland company too. They’ve done so well.
Tom McMillen: We are number two to Sinclair. But we both were the competing for the Tribune acquisition and we lost to Sinclair.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s a Maryland company, Sinclair.
Tom McMillen: Sinclair’s a Maryland company.
Andy Ockershausen: Go Maryland.
Tom McMillen: Nexstar’s a Texas company. Anyway, there’s a lot of things in the pipeline.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re a fountain of information and a great guy. And nothing but good roads ahead. Good baskets for you, Tom. We’ll see you around town because this is Our Town, Tom.
Tom McMillen: Look forward to it.
Andy Ockershausen: You own it a lot more than I do. And you’re certainly a bigger presence. But we love you and we thank you so much for being with us on Our Town.
Tom McMillen: Thank you.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season 3, presented by GEICO, our hometown favorite, with your host, Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook, or visit our website at ourtowndc.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL Radio in Washington D.C, for hosting our podcast, and thanks to GEICO. Fifteen minutes can save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.