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School of Business grad runs national sales for Nike

Ed Haberle at Nike headquarters

The Point, Fall 2010

If you ran into Ed Haberle (BUS 1979) at Pittsburgh International Airport, you might guess he is a successful executive on the go.

Which he definitely is.

But don't let the power suit and the leather dress shoes fool you.

The former star first baseman for the Point Park University Pioneers is also living out a sports fanatic's dream.

Haberle, Nike's U.S. commercial director of sporting goods, has golfed with John Elway, chatted with Michael Jordan and met Wayne Gretsky. Entertaining clients has enabled him to see eight Super Bowls, the NCAA Final Four and NBA All-Star games.

"It's been a great ride," Haberle says. "It's all about sports enabling people to lead a better life."

Most days, Haberle laces up one of his 50 pairs of high-performance sneakers and puts on a polo shirt before heading to work in the Nolan Ryan Building in Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. The dress code here is Swoosh-powered casual. Time permitting, he even breaks a sweat inside the Bo Jackson Gym on Nike's sprawling campus.

Every month, he flies to Pittsburgh to work at the Nike office in Robinson so he can see clients at Dick's Sporting Goods. In fact, Dick's is such an important client that Haberle lobbied the company, which was looking to move from its Binghamton, N.Y. base, to relocate its headquarters to Pittsburgh in 1994. When he shows Dick's clients the latest sports apparel, Haberle dons formal business attire.

Haberle has the confident stride of an athlete. His imposing 6-foot-3-inch build seems to fill a room. But he has the natural salesman's gift of putting people at ease.

The son of a steelworker, he grew up in Monroeville, playing baseball. Once at Point Park, "Big E," as his roommate called him, distinguished himself as a power-hitting lefty. "He had the tools to play professional baseball -- that opinion was backed by scouts," says his classmate Mike Fetchko (COM 1978), who did play-by-play for the college radio station. Any pro hopes were dashed when Haberle injured his knee as a sophomore. Even so, Haberle lead the underdog Pioneers to two College World Series championships in St. Joseph, Mo. in 1978 and 1979, placing fifth and third. The trip out in 1978 was his first plane ride.

Haberle, who was inducted into the university's athletic hall of fame, says Point Park taught him the fundamentals of business. His first job after graduation didn't fit him like a well-worn baseball glove-selling hair care products for Cosmair L'Oreal.

In 1981, Jeff Cohen, his college baseball teammate, tipped him off to a sales job at Nike's Pittsburgh office. By 1990, he became a manager and by 1996, he had advanced so far he moved to Oregon.

But his Northwest office is still awash in Steelers, Pirates, Pens and Point Park memorabilia. "It is like Pittsburgh west coast," says Fetchko, president of Integrated Strategic Marketing in Pittsburgh.

Haberle loves talking athletic shoes. His personal favorites are a pair of 1982 Air Force One high tops, in pristine condition in their box, and a copy of the Air Jordan Limited Edition the superstar wore in the Olympics. "To me, they're priceless." He runs the coolness factor of products past his two sons, Evan, 14, a baseball star, and Hayden, 18, a talented fencer.

Haberle gave Point Park alumni a taste of sneaker culture at a University event held on the Oregon campus of Nike, a $20 billion global power. Point Park President Paul Hennigan was there. So was Fetchko, who says, "Ed took his passion for baseball and applied it to a different major league-Nike."

Article by Cristina Rouvalis
Photo by Martha Rial

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of The Point, a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University.