Detroit Sports Commission taps Mark Hollis to help bring more marquee events to city

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Mark Hollis, the former Michigan State athletic director who started the trend of outdoor hockey games and who put the Spartans basketball team on an aircraft carrier, has been tapped to help the Detroit Sports Commission put together winning bids to bring more marquee sporting events to the city.

Hollis on Wednesday was formally named chair of the Detroit Sports Organizing Corp, a volunteer wing of the sports commission that includes high-profile members from the private sector, philanthropy outlets and the sports community.

Mark Hollis helped stage unusual sporting events during his time as Michigan State's athletic director.

Hollis currently is Rock Venture's vice president for business development, and plays an instrumental role in the PGA Tour's annual stop in Detroit, the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

“It’s an honor for me to lead a diverse and talented group of community leaders in metro Detroit that are committed to elevating the sports landscape here,” Hollis said in a statement. “I’ve been fortunate enough to experience some of the greatest sporting events around the globe and believe Detroit is one of the best sports destinations. There is no other city where events can impact it more immediately and significantly than Detroit. I look forward to working with the DSOC members … to bring world-class events here.”

More: Niyo: Efforts to lure big-time sporting events to Detroit have hit roadblocks

Hollis, 58, was athletic director at Michigan State from 2008 until his retirement in January 2018, and is known for his marketing skills.

Most notably, as a Michigan State athletic department staffer before he was AD, he helped create the "Cold War," the hockey game between Michigan State and Michigan outdoors at Spartan Stadium in 2001. The event drew more than 70,000 fans, and since, the NHL has made an outdoor game part of its schedule.

Hollis also established the 2011 Carrier Classic between Michigan State and North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson, attended by President Obama off the coast of San Diego. In 2003, there was Basketbowl, Michigan State playing Kentucky at Detroit's Ford Field.

Hollis also is credited with helping launch a marquee 16-team basketball tournament to celebrate Nike president Phil Knight's 80th birthday in 2017.

In the new position, Hollis succeeds Michael G. Wright, chief of staff at Wayne State.

The Detroit Sports Commission bids annually for marquee sporting events, mostly on the college level. Last fall, the DSC landed a 2024 Division I men's basketball tournament regional for Little Caesars Arena, and also has helped secure the 2022 Division I men's wrestling championships at LCA, 2022 Division II men's golf championships at TPC Michigan in Dearborn and the 2024 women's bowling championships at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park. In February 2020, the commission bid on 12 events in seven sports.

We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984