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NFF recognizes George Bodenheimer

ESPN executive chairman George Bodenheimer will receive this year's Distinguished American Award from the National Football Foundation in a Dec. 4 ceremony in New York, the organization announced.

In a statement released Tuesday from Dallas, the foundation said that the award honors "an outstanding person who has maintained a lifetime of interest in football and who, over a long period of time, has exhibited enviable leadership qualities and made a significant contribution to the betterment of amateur football in the United States."

Bodenheimer, who assumed the role of ESPN executive chairman in January after serving the previous 13 years as the network's president, will become the 41st recipient of the award. Previous honorees include Tom Brokaw, Bob Hope, Vince Lombardi, Alan Page, T. Boone Pickens, Pete Rozelle, Jimmy Stewart and Pat Tillman.

"College football has greatly benefited from the hard work and leadership of George Bodenheimer," NFF president and CEO Steve Hatchell said. "Fans from across the nation owe a debt of gratitude to his innovations in vastly expanding the number of college football games delivered to their living rooms every fall. We have all learned a great deal from George and his superior business acumen, creativity and relentless focus on innovation."

As executive chairman, Bodenheimer continues to chair ESPN's board of directors and provide strategic direction for the network. He begin his career at ESPN in the mailroom, 16 months after the network's 1979 launch.

Bodenheimer was named president of ESPN's domestic operations in November 1998 and was given the reigns of the network's global operations four months later. He added president of ABC Sports to his list of responsibilities in March 2003 and was named co-chairman of Disney Media Networks in April 2004.

Under Bodenheimer's leadership, ESPN acquired significant multiplatform rights agreements across college football, signing landmark contracts with the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC, locking in each league for a decade or longer.

The network also acquired rights to the Bowl Championship Series beginning with the 2010 season. The 2011 Tostitos BCS National Championship and the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship have attracted the top two audiences in the history of cable television.

The network experienced enormous growth under Bodenheimer's leadership, from four to eight domestic networks and from 20 international markets to 48. Under his watch, the organization has launched 12 HD services and ESPN3D, and his leadership has helped drive ESPN and ESPN2 into nearly 100 million homes, and the number of employees has expanded from 1,900 employees to approximately 7,000.

Bodenheimer also championed ESPN's philanthropic efforts, helping The V Foundation raise more than $100 million for cancer research since 1993 and spearheading efforts of employees to contribute 30,000 hours of community service in celebration of the company's 30th anniversary.