Story by RSN Sports President Dana Ferrell
My schedule was hectic over the spring break week and culminated with a family camping trip to Stonewall Resort where I was purposely “off the grid”. So it was with stunning surprise and deep sadness on Monday morning that I learned of Dan Shoemaker’s sudden death on April 5th.
For those who may not know Dan Shoemaker and his contribution to sports in West Virginia I can only give a brief synopsis and never equal what he meant to so many.
Shoemaker was from the Huntington area where he was a teacher and coach. He coached former Huntington East High School to multiple state championships in the 1980s. He then moved on to TV broadcasting and production where he teamed with Bray Cary to form part of the Big Ten Network before being bought out by ESPN. Dan Shoemaker opted to move with ESPN and was eventually promoted to Director of Collegiate Development.
In his job with ESPN as I understand it, Dan was able to steer which games were on TV on any given weekend and directed the production resources to make it happen. He even helped establish a ESPN production office in Huntington until 2015. Shoemaker used his position at ESPN to help both Marshall and WVU to gain great exposure on cable TV. He knew that both school brands were attractive to a national audience. The exposure in turn helped both schools recruit in lucrative markets and benefit financially from apparel sales and more.
Dan Shoemaker lived in the Charlotte, NC area while working for ESPN. He eventually retired from the sports cable giant around 2014 but stayed on as a consultant. He then moved to Charleston, South Carolina where his two daughters had went to school at the College of Charleston.
In his so called retirement Dan Shoemaker served as Director of Athletic Development at The College of Charleston and helped schedule the school a game with WVU. He worked briefly as an advisor for the upstart sports network ASN. Dan also had a passion for putting together college basketball invitationals such as the one in Puerto Rico each Thanksgiving.
I’m sure I’m missing much about Dan Shoemaker’s life and accomplishments. I only want to capture enough to show that this native West Virginian was ultra successful in most everything he did and he loved to use that success to help his home state and Marshall University.
Finally, I would not be doing him justice if I didn’t point out what a great husband and father he was. Through my time and conversations with Dan Shoemaker it was clear he loved his family. He chose Thanksgiving for his holiday basketball invitationals so he could block off Christmas to be with his cherished family.
The above accomplishments and qualities were just a few things I could say about Dan Shoemaker. However, there is one that is personal to me.
Dan Shoemaker was instrumental in steering RSN Sports Network to the level it has grown. He worked as an unofficial consultant since 2011. It started with contact on a Marshall message board and then a phone call. The next thing I was visiting Charlotte to consult with Dan. We developed a friendship and business relationship in which he coached me on ways to grow RSN Sports as TV and video production network.
I recall at first Shoemaker was blunt about what he liked and didn’t like in what we were doing at RSN Sports. He knew how to brand and make money from it. He knew the TV cable business and he knew West Virginia. He gave us regular advice of which much we are using today.
RSN Sports Network is a West Virginia start up that wasn’t funded by deep pockets that many medias typically have. With Dan Shoemaker’s help, RSN has grown into a multi-state sports network that has garnered a significant niche of the younger audience.
I always considered Dan Shoemaker as a Godfather of the sports media world and was privileged to have him as a friend and consultant. I was never offended when he critiqued my work or the company. He was the “ol Coach” and you knew he meant well for you.
He was always thinking big, sometimes bigger than maybe he realized our budget could afford at RSN. At one point he had a vision of bringing a national collegiate basketball invitational to West Virginia. He wanted me to reach out to Jim Justice about the idea of hosting that tournament at The Greenbrier. Of course the question came up of “where would it be played” and Shoemaker indicated that if Justice could build a tennis stadium then basketball wasn’t out of the question. Dan understood what such an annual event would mean to both The Greenbrier and West Virginia. Who knows, maybe his dream will become reality some day.
I remember one time recently there was a story trending on Twitter about a soccer athlete from Parkersburg that had died tragically. The family was trying to get the story trending nationally and reached out to us @RSNsports1 I then placed a phone call to Dan Shoemaker to see if he could get ESPN involved and he offered to make some contacts to corporate on the family’s behalf. That’s the kind of guy Dan Shoemaker was and will be remembered. With ESPN’s help the story did in fact trend nationally.
As long as there is a RSN Sports Network in West Virginia and beyond, Dan Shoemaker’s legacy in sports media will live on. He was clearly a cornerstone in our growth and development. His fingerprints are all over us. With that, his spirit to promote West Virginia sports and athletes will live on in us as well.