Jack A. Smith, a member of the Sporting Goods Hall of Fame and NOVA Southeastern University Hall of Fame, died at his home on June 26. He was 88.

Jack Smith was the visionary who turned Sports Authority into one of the biggest sporting goods retail brands worldwide. Smith also served as chairman of the board of the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) and was inducted into the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame in 2016.

Smith saw Sports Authority grow from one store in Fort Lauderdale, FL, in 1987 to nearly 400 locations in the U.S. and Japan in 2010. He was a member of the NSGA Board of Directors for over eight years and was the Board Chairman from 1997 to 1999.

“Mr. Smith was one of the iconic figures of our industry, and he had a phenomenal career in retail,” said Matt Carlson, NSGA President & CEO. “He was a tremendous leader, not only for the companies he worked for but also for the entire industry through his service on the NSGA Board. It was great to see him honored with his induction into the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame. Mr. Smith’s loss will be felt by many people and we extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.”

Smith was raised in West Philadelphia and began his retail career with Singer Sewing Machines in the early 1960s. He would also work for Sears, Roebuck & Co., Montgomery Ward, Jefferson Department Stores, and W.R. Grace.

Smith was the chief operating officer of Herman’s Sporting Goods. He unsuccessfully tried to bring the megastore concept that fueled the growth of Home Depot and Toys “R” Us to the sporting goods industry at Herman’s. He got another opportunity with the backing of a venture capitalist group to build a sporting goods giant through the concepts of an extensive selection, competitive pricing, and merchandise always in stock.

After opening his first Sports Authority, the business grew to eight stores in 18 months, and Smith sold it for $75 million. He remained with the company as CEO for the next five years as Sports Authority grew to 150 stores. He eventually re-acquired the company and, in 2010, the business generated over $3.5 billion in annual sales and had 330 stores in the United States.

Smith created his successful business with people who believed in his mission and by thinking differently, not just in size and price but in almost every dimension. He was loyal to his employees and prided himself on frequently visiting every store so employees knew what was expected of them.

In 1994, SportStyle Magazine voted Smith No. 2 among the Top 100 Most Influential People in the Sporting Goods Industry. He retired as CEO in 2000 and moved to help other businesses reach the same level of success he achieved.

Smith sat on the board of directors for Darden Restaurants, Inc., Fiesta Restaurant Group, Carrols Restaurant Group, and Beverages & More.

Smith and his wife Anita, of 67 years, had four children. Smith was a lifelong Philadelphia Phillies fan and a big thrill was attending the final games of their 1980 and 2008 World Series championships with his son Howard. Smith was preceded in death by his wife on October 8, 2023, and their children Donna, Robin and Randi. Jack and Anita had seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Smith’s funeral service was held on March 24 in Hollywood, FL. Instead of flowers, the family requested donations to the Livestrong Foundation at www.livestrong.org.

Image courtesy NSGA