Few people understand safety and security better, or take it more seriously, than former FBI field agent and administrator Milt Ahlerich.
Ahlerich, 65, currently serves as vice president of security for the National Football League, a post he has held since 1996. He is responsible for all league-wide security programs, including stadium security; special event security, including the Super Bowl; all investigative matters, including fraud, pre-employment, player misconduct and due diligence. He oversees a staff of 11 security professionals and 70 security consultants.
Ahlerich’s security expertise will be on display, along with a bevy of colleagues, during the inaugural National Sports Safety and Security Conference and Exhibition set for Aug. 2-4 at the Astor Crowne Plaza in New Orleans. The sold-out conference is being hosted by The National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) at The University of Southern Mississippi.
“I consider it an honor to be part of the exciting discussions that will take place at this national conference,” said Ahlerich. “Yes, there will be some time for relaxation but this conference will feature serious people examining some very serious issues. You’ve got a lot of people in the security business that are hungry for information and motivated to share ideas.”
A typical Sunday afternoon in the fall will find Ahlerich at one of the 32 NFL stadiums scattered throughout the United States. He normally attends every Monday Night Football contest and has not missed a Super Bowl since joining the league 15 years ago.
A Kansas native, Ahlerich did not play sports past the high school level and says he was nothing more than a “casual” football fan before landing the NFL security job that basically fell in his lap.
“I spent 25 years in the FBI, working my way up from field agent to running a field office in Connecticut to finally ending my career as assistant director in charge of the FBI’s laboratory,” said Ahlerich. “I had retired and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I was asked to interview for the NFL position. I didn’t have high expectations about getting the job with my limited sports background but I kept getting asked back. I was told that my diverse experience with the FBI was the main reason I was hired.”
During the past 15 years, Ahlerich has devised and implemented a number of important programs and initiatives as head of NFL security. Notable among these:
* In 1996 contacted experts within and outside the NFL to ensure all department employees and associates possessed the necessary technological skills
* Shortly after joining the league, he visited each NFL city, meeting with the owners and key executives to explain how the Security Department operates
* Met with key representatives of the major police departments in each team city as well as federal law enforcement agencies to offer the NFL’s assistance and strengthen the lines of communication
* After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he coordinated the development of the Stadium Best Practices policy and personally directed its implementation
* Initiated and directed the NFL international security plan for NFL European League Operations and other NFL special event operations worldwide
* Established the annual “Train-the-Trainer” seminars within the NFL where all stadium managers, fan conduct personnel, security and lead law enforcement personnel united to share ideas
“Milt has had a very significant impact on safety and security in the NFL,” said Jeffrey Miller, director, Strategic Security Programs with the NFL. “He is responsible for really professionalizing the department post-9/11. He established the organizational structure that we use today.”
Ahlerich is scheduled to introduce NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who will address attendees on the opening day of the upcoming national conference. He will also participate in a panel discussion on Wednesday, Aug. 4 with Dan Mullin, director of security for Major League Baseball; Dennis Cunningham, vice president of security for the National Hockey League; Mike Rodriguez, director of security for the United States Tennis Association and Stacey Hall, assistant director at NCS4.
“Milt has personally changed the entire sports security landscape due to his leadership, influence and passion for sports security,” said NCS4 Director Dr. Lou Marciani. “Milt has provided the National Center with guidance and support for its growth in becoming a national resource center for sport security.”
A founding member of the NCS4 Advisory Board, Ahlerich will be recognized for his contributions to the National Center on the closing day as a recipient of the inaugural National Sports Security Distinguished Leadership Award. U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) will also receive the same awards.
“I hope I can live up to the expectations of the University of Southern Mississippi in receiving such a prestigious award,” said Ahlerich. “I am very honored. And I can tell you that I believe very strongly in the work being done at NCS4 and many others who work so hard in sports security and safety behind the scenes.”
With an average of 67,500 fans in attendance at NFL games and more than 100,000 attending some college contests, Ahlerich realizes that sports stadiums represent prime targets for terrorists.
“I don’t want to appear overly confident, but we’ve invested a lot of time, money and energy into keeping our stadiums safe and secure,” he said. “And we’re constantly addressing ways to do this crucial job better.”
Milt Ahlerich, left, serves as a vice president of security for the National Football League which includes 32 professional organizations. (Submitted photo)
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.