Jim Host is known around the globe, but Ashland and Eastern Kentucky is home.
Host served as Commissioner of Public Information and Tourism under Governor Louie Nunn in 1967 and became the founding chairman of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission. He returned to government some 40 years later as Commerce Secretary from 2003 to 2005 under Governor Ernie Fletcher.
The marketing mind behind modern college athletics
It was Host’s work in college athletics that made his name synonymous with sports broadcasting, marketing, and branding. It started as Jim Host and Associates in 1972 with its first client, the Lexington Tourist and Convention Commission. This group later became the Lexington Center Corporation, which built Rupp Arena. He also served as each group’s first executive director.
In 1974, Jim Host and Associates acquired the radio rights to UK Sports, which led to the NCAA radio network rights in 1975. Soon, conferences like the SEC and the Southwest Conference became clients of Host. Institutions like Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida State, and South Carolina, as well as a number of others, became clients as well.
In 1983, the company introduced the NCAA Corporate Partner Program. Before this time, there was no licensing of similar programs in College Athletics. In 1998, Host created the NCAA Football logo; a pennant shaped logo to promote the college football game as an alternative to the NFL logo.
“When we thought about a person who could bring all of the elements of our event together, Jim checked off all of the boxes,” said Colby Hall, Executive Director of SOAR. “Jim’s leadership working at the cabinet level in tourism and commerce spans over 40 years. His experience leading marketing and branding with the University of Kentucky, other notable universities, and the NCAA is relevant to our communities and our region as we shape our story to share to the world.”
One of Ashland’s native sons
Growing up in Ashland, Host obtained one of the first two full baseball scholarships given by the University of Kentucky in 1955. During his time at the University of Kentucky, he started doing play by play of college and high school sports and created the Kentucky Central UK Network, which was one of five UK originations of radio networks.
He graduated from the University of Kentucky with an undergraduate degree in Radio Arts. He also holds honorary doctorates from the University of Pikeville, Kentucky State University, and the University of Kentucky. Host played for two minor league teams in the White Sox organization before injuring his arm, which forced his retirement from the game.
Host retired as CEO of Host Communications in 2003. Following his stint as Commerce Secretary for Kentucky, he became Chairman of the Louisville Arena Authority, which built the KFC YUM Center, serving until 2012. When the Arena was dedicated on October 10, 2010, the 14,000 square foot lobby was named Host Hall in his honor.
Host is a member of the UK Alumni Association Hall of Distinguished Alumni, was named Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Communications, received the Excellence in Public Relations Award from the UK Journalism School, and is a member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame. He has also been honored with a number of Regional and National awards including being inducted in the National College Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Tourism Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the CP-1 Baseball Hall of Fame, a prestigious honor in the Ashland community for those who played and excelled on the original baseball diamond of Central Park.
He served as a founding member of the SOAR Executive Board until 2021.
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