Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO

 

Rocky Harris was named Chief Executive Officer for USA Triathlon, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic National Governing Body for the sport, in August 2017.

 

Under Harris’ leadership, USA Triathlon was recognized as one of the Best Places to Work by Outside Magazine (2020), the Best Employer in Sports by Front Office Sports (2020) and Best Workplaces by the Colorado Springs Gazette (2019). The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) honored USA Triathlon with its diversity and inclusion award for three consecutive years (2017-2019), and four U.S. elite athletes have earned World Triathlon Championship Series or World Triathlon Para Series titles (Katie Zaferes, 2019; Allysa Seely and Mark Barr, 2018; Grace Norman, 2017). Harris serves on the USOPC Para Advisory Council, the USOPC SafeSport Funding Task Force, the COVID-19 Task Force, and is Vice Chair of the Association of Chief Executives for Sport (ACES).

 

Harris’ tenure has focused on serving the multisport community, enhancing the value USA Triathlon provides its constituents, and developing collaborative partnerships to help grow the sport. The sport saw significant growth in 2019 after nearly a decade of declines, with significant increases in participants, members, officials, coaches, sanctioned races and certified clubs. Harris has prioritized attracting non-endemic corporate partners and philanthropic donors to the sport, and the organization has more than doubled its corporate sponsorship support and funds raised through the USA Triathlon Foundation.

 

Harris oversaw the development and launch of the Power Within campaign to reposition the sport from one that is perceived as elitist and impossible to a sport that is inclusive and accessible, and the Together We Thrive initiative to combat racism and champion social justice in the multisport community and throughout the endurance sports industry. Harris led collaborative partnerships with IRONMAN through the Time to Tri initiative to introduce 100,000 new participants to the sport, and with Triathlon Business International (TBI) to launch Endurance Exchange, an industry-wide conference for endurance sports that quickly became the largest multisport conference in the United States. In 2021, Harris put together a long-term partnership with Pocket Outdoor Media to enhance the value and resources provided to athletes, race directors, coaches, clubs, officials and brands. Harris has initiated a comprehensive technology overhaul to better support the multisport community by developing a new membership, race sanctioning and rankings system, while launching an online education platform and the world’s first all virtual swim, bike, run challenge. In 2020, USA Triathlon created the Safe Return to Multisport Initiative in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help race directors, coaches, clubs and athletes safely return to racing and training. In addition, Harris helped spearhead efforts to enable sport activities to safety return across the United States, including positioning USA Triathlon to be a founding member of the Endurance Sports Coalition and Aquatics Coalition.

 

Throughout his tenure Harris has been committed to supporting athletes at all skill and experience levels and empowering them to be successful both in the sport and beyond. He developed and implemented the Transition 3 elite athlete, career, education and wellness program, which included being the first National Governing Body to partner with marketing consultant Jeremy Darlow. In late 2017 Harris launched Project Podium, which develops top young male USA Triathlon Elite athletes with the goal of helping them achieve medal performances in the Olympic Games while allowing them to get an education from Arizona State University. Through the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Engagement Program, USA Triathlon provided a grant to Hampton University in 2018 to enable them to become the first historically black university to add a women’s varsity triathlon program.

 

Prior to his appointment at USA Triathlon, Harris was the Chief Operating Officer in the athletics department at his alma mater, Arizona State University, where he spent nearly six years serving in multiple executive level-positions. As Chief Operating Officer, Harris directed overall strategic planning, implementation, administration, direction, supervision, and day-to-day operations of Sun Devil Athletics. Harris also served as the liaison with the Pac-12 Conference, as well as University and community constituencies. During Harris’s tenure at ASU, he oversaw the department business plan and led fundraising, communications, marketing, customer service, ticket sales, sponsorships, community outreach, capital programs and supervised multiple sports.

 

Under Harris’ direction, Sun Devil Athletics broke numerous fundraising records, including $86 million in donations for FY15, $49.96 million in FY14 (compared to $7.47 million in FY11), and memberships grew from 7,800 to over 16,000 individuals. Harris oversaw Sun Devil Athletics’ involvement in the development of ASU’s 330-acre Athletics District to utilize and monetize ASU land into mixed-use facilities that generate revenue for the university and the athletics department and provide assets for the community.

 

Harris arrived at ASU after serving as Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo and AEG Global Partnerships. In his tenure with the Dynamo and AEG, Harris helped initiate a $110 million stadium project in downtown Houston, and assisted in doubling the season ticket base and sponsorship revenue. He also managed the MLS All-Star game communications, marketing and sales plan that resulted in the fourth highest attended all-star game across all sports in United States history.

 

Before the Dynamo, Harris was the Director of Sports and Marketing Sponsorships at Reliant Energy, an NRG Energy, Inc. Fortune 500 company, where he oversaw the largest naming rights deal in the National Football League and helped create the Reliant Energy Scholarship for Champions. He also was a member of the Houston World Cup Host Committee, Super Bowl XXXVIII Host Committee, as well as an NFL Media Representative for Super Bowls XXXVII, XXXVIII, and XXXIX.

 

Harris' other work on the professional sports level includes the Director of Communication with the Houston Texans and the Media Relations Coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers. Prior to joining the NFL, Harris worked at a web-marketing agency in San Francisco and a sports marketing agency in Scottsdale, Arizona.

 

Alongside his business initiatives, Harris helped create the foundation "Dynamo Charities," and serves on the Board of Trustees for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which recognized him as the 2010 Houston Man of the Year. He has also been awarded the Sports Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award, the Houston Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award, the Major League Soccer Marketing Executive of the Year Award and the Pete Rozelle Award for overseeing the NFL's top public relations staff.

 

Harris has taught graduate-level courses for ASU’s Master of Sports Law and Business program and is a Ph.D. candidate in Community Resources and Development. He attended management programs at Rice University and Purdue University and received his master's degree in sport management from the University of San Francisco (USF) where he graduated summa cum laude and earned the 2002 Director’s Award for being the top graduate student in the program. Prior to USF, Harris earned his bachelor's degree in communications from Arizona State University. Harris and his wife Elizabeth have three daughters, Hope, Grace and Ruby.