June 13, 2019
How two Seneca faculty helped found the Raptors
Chris McCracken, David Strickland among original franchise employees
Before there was the Raptors, two Seneca employees were part of a team that sold the idea of Toronto as a basketball-loving city to key NBA executives.
It was the early 1990s and Chris McCracken, Chair of School of Marketing, and Marketing Professor David Strickland had both left CTV, where they were working in the marketing department, to join Raptors founder John Bitove.
“Although both of us were having great careers at CTV, the opportunity of giving back to the city we love — in the form of marketing it as a suitable home for a professional basketball team — was something that we found really appealing,” Strickland said.
“It was certainly a risk,” McCracken added, “but it was worth taking, and taking smart risks is something we try to teach our students.”
Combining the insights that they gained at CTV — including working on the 1994 International Basketball Federation World Championship — with their professional connections and a market research based on the understanding of Canadian consumers, McCracken and Strickland provided invaluable strategic guidance to Bitove’s group.
While Strickland went on to become Raptors’ first employee as director of consumer products, McCracken became its first director of broadcasting to create the game broadcasts from the ground up, including hiring Leo Rautins, who has been a broadcaster for the team since inception.
Both McCracken and Strickland still follow the team closely and the Raptors merchandise they encounter on Seneca campuses serve as reminders of their fruits of labour.
“Like the Raptors, Seneca is a powerful brand that represents opportunity and forward thinking. It’s what drew me to Seneca and the reason David jumped at the chance to join our faculty,” McCracken recalled.
Strickland agrees. “Seneca represents everything that makes the Raptors great, including diversity,” he said. “The Raptors has had a diverse fan base from the start, and the diversity of the Seneca community will remain a strength as more broad-thinking, skilled graduates go on to contribute in their chosen fields and in the communities.”