Category Archives: Political Wankery

If Mark Emmert didn’t exist, Claire McCaskill wouldn’t want to invent him.

As far as problem solving goes, yesterday’s appearance by the NCAA president in front of a Senate committee hearing was expectedly short on specifics, but as far as political theater goes, it was boffo.

McCaskill offered some of the sharpest criticism of Emmert, questioning why his role exists if he can’t shape reform or prevent athletic departments from investigating sexual assaults.

“I can’t tell if you’re in charge or a minion” to the schools, McCaskill said. “If you’re merely a monetary pass-through, why should you exist?”

As best I can tell, the bulk of Emmert’s day was spent listening to harsh criticism of the NCAA’s role in college athletics and quite often commiserating with his critics.

But it was New Jersey’s Cory Booker, who played football at Stanford, who got off the shot of the day.

Booker questioned why the NCAA can move quickly when schools’ money and reputation are at stake, but not on basic issues for athletes. Booker noted that Cam Newton’s eligibility problems at Auburn were adjudicated quickly in 2010 so he could continue playing, yet Ramsay’s academic issues at North Carolina took far longer.

Sounds like the man’s been reading a few comment threads at a football blog somewhere.

I’m not being totally fair to McCaskill, as she did manage to drop a major substantive matter into the discussion.

More than 20 percent of universities give their athletic departments oversight of sexual violence cases involving college athletes, according to a report released Wednesday by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

I may be appalled by that statistic, but I am not surprised.  Unlike Emmert and his constituents.  Supposedly.

Emmert said he only read McCaskill’s sexual assault data on Wednesday and wants to better understand the results. He agreed the survey results contain an “enormous” amount of conflicts of interest that don’t help sexual assault victims.

Emmert said most NCAA members “are going to be very surprised” by the sexual assault data. Several senators called on Emmert and university presidents to change their procedures immediately.

If Emmert is right there, that’s just further proof of how detached school presidents are from the reality of how college athletics operate.  Not to mention that it’s more fuel for a certain kind of fire.

Rockefeller, who has said he isn’t seeking re-election in 2014, said that if the Democrats control Congress “we want to make this a continuing subject of this oversight committee. We have oversight of sports. All sports. We have the ability to subpoena. We have a special investigative unit. We are very into this subject. This is part of a process here.”

Remember, these are the people Jim Delany hopes to engage for protection after the NCAA gets its clock cleaned in antitrust litigation.

In the end, though, it always comes back to Emmert’s leadership, or lack thereof.

Emmert said the hearing was a “useful cattle prod. It makes sure we know that the world is watching, that the Senate is watching. I believe we will wind up in the right place in a couple of months (after NCAA governance changes). If we don’t, I’m sure we’ll have these conversations again.”

As long as Mark Emmert’s talking, you know he cares.

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Filed under Political Wankery, The NCAA

In for a penny…

The NCAA decides it would be a good idea to repeat everything it argued during the O’Bannon trial in an amicus brief supporting Northwestern’s appeal of the ruling by a regional director of the NLRB.  It’s joined by six Republican members of Congress – gosh, who would have ever expected that development?

The truly amusing part’s gonna come down the road when the schools, having gotten their asses kicked in antitrust litigation, realize they need a players’ union to negotiate with and find Republicans fighting them on it. Because, you know, unions and freedom.


Filed under Look For The Union Label, Political Wankery, The NCAA

Don’t get John McCain started on college sports.

I’ve mentioned before that the NCAA’s long-term strategy of seeking redress in Congress if the courts don’t go its way on amateurism may not be that easy a path, because there may not be the groundswell of support the schools and conferences expect there (except for Republican knee-jerk opposition to unions, of course).

John McCain is an example of what I’m referring to.

“I worry a little bit about some of the professionalism that is in college football particularly,” McCain said.

He mentioned the effort to form a union among collegiate athletes, while mistakenly referring to the Northwestern case by saying it involved the University of Illinois.

“Obviously some legal experts told them they had something they might be able to succeed in court and yet I worry about the competitiveness of some of the smaller schools and their ability to attract athletes the caliber that we now see at the highest level,” McCain said. “I also worry when you and I can probably predict the top four college football teams in the country before the season starts. There is a certain, shall I say, advantage, that some schools have over the rest of them.”

A former wrestler at the Naval Academy, McCain said he’s nostalgic for the days of the service academies’ dominance.

“And the role that you play, in my view, is to blow the whistle on the egregious aspects of it. Is it really an amateur sport when the coach makes about $10 million when you count everything? Let’s just call it what it is.”

It’s a rambling response, but it seems to take note of the fiction of competitive balance that the NCAA is hanging its amateurism hat on.  Of course, I can see the NCAA agreeing with his last point and noting that with the right kind of antitrust exemption, schools could restrict Nick Saban’s salary as well.  Something for everybody!


Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

Playing the long game

As yesterday’s statement from the Big Ten indicates, I think it’s slowly dawning on college presidents that O’Bannon is turning into a losing proposition for them.  Now even if they lose the trial, the walls don’t start falling down around their ears immediately.  There’s an appeal process that they’ll likely milk for all it’s worth if for no other reason than that every day the inevitable is postponed is another day they don’t have to share the loot with anyone else.  But that won’t last forever.  Plus, there’s the concerns raised by the unionization effort at Northwestern and other litigation threats.  All it takes is losing once.

At some point, then, it’ll be time to turn to the last refuge – politics.  And don’t think that’s not already on their minds.

Did the reform movement arrive too late? Delany doesn’t think so. “Are you kidding me? This will be with us for a decade,” he said. “Between the reform, the restructuring, the litigation, congressional activity. This is the beginning. Not the end.”

A sentiment echoed by one of his bosses:

“A lot of water has got to go under the bridge before we’d have serious conversations about doing that,” Kaler said. “There’s a whole long list of possibilities that are out there. … A lot of people think this will go to the Supreme Court and maybe even Congress. There’s a lot of water to move.”

These guys, as much as they may protest to the contrary, ain’t going the Division III route.  There’s simply too much money involved for them to walk away from it.  They will run to the feds instead, to try to hold on to what they’ve got.  And, yes, the irony of Jim Delany asking people like Joe Barton and Orrin Hatch for assistance isn’t lost on me.  (And probably won’t be lost on them, either.)

Here’s the thing, though – who’s to say they’re any good at lobbying?  Delany can be Delany when it comes to bullying mid-major conferences who want him to throw them a bone, but how does that work when he’s the one who comes asking for a favor?  Will the presidents he speaks for be willing to do any serious horse trading for an antitrust exemption, or will they continue to operate with the same combination of arrogance and myopia that’s gotten them into the mess they’re trying to extricate themselves from?

And, maybe more importantly, should they even assume Congress is of a mind to help?


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

Tony Barnhart isn’t a lawyer, although he plays one on Twitter.

Mr. Conventional Wisdom tells it like he thinks it is.

No debate, eh?  Allow these folks to retort.

If the law is so clear, maybe Tony needs to explain it to Ken Starr.

“Most schools are not treating athletes equally 40-plus years after Title IX passed, so it’s hard to know exactly how that would play out because so often the support coming from the school already is so unequal,” Chaudhry said.

Congress recently pointed this out at a House subcommittee hearing about player unions in May. Rep. John Tierney asked Baylor president Ken Starr to explain why in 2012-13 Baylor had a 56-44 ratio for athletic financial aid in favor of men’s sports given that participation rates would indicate the funding should be closer to 58-42 in favor of women.

Responded Starr: “Well, that is a very fluid and dynamic process, so it may change from year to year, but if there is in fact a disparity, and I accept what you’ve said, it has to be addressed, so we have to come forward with explanations as to why there may be a temporary disparity. We recently created two new women’s sports with scholarships in order to address the disparity, so we have for example created equestrian with a number of scholarships for women. We have created acrobatics and tumbling.”

A legal mind is a terrible thing to waste.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

Thursday morning buffet

Okay, here you go.


Filed under Arkansas Is Kind Of A Big Deal, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water, Political Wankery, Recruiting, SEC Football

Wednesday morning buffet

Some things to take your mind off… well, you know what.


Filed under Big Ten Football, College Football, Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, Political Wankery, Recruiting, Science Marches Onward, SEC Football, Texas Is Just Better Than You Are., The Blogosphere

“At some point, you hit a ceiling and you can’t keep doing it.”

Giddy.  That’s what the SEC is today over the announcement that it’s distributing a record-high average payout of $20.9 million per school in 2013-14.  The conference members aren’t just fist pumping over revenues almost doubling in a five-year span; it’s what they think is coming down the turnpike that’s really got them excited.

… The SEC’s payouts are expected to eventually increase more after the launch of the SEC Network, which wouldn’t have occurred without the SEC expanding.

The amount of new revenue is dependent upon distribution of the network, which launches Aug. 14. ESPN and SEC officials say they are optimistic the network will have full distribution. DISH and AT&T U-Verse have signed agreements.

“We’re not concerned at this point,” said Justin Connolly, ESPN senior vice president for college networks programming. “If you look back, not just with conference networks but networks as a whole, often times distribution holes are filled toward the end.”

But what if they’re wrong about that?

But come Aug. 14, if DirecTV and Comcast have not signed on to carry the Southeastern Conference’s new regional sports network because of the cost of the programming, the fans of Bulldogs, Tigers, Gators and the rest will not be happy. The fans will lose restraint and demands will become actions: They just might cancel their service.

Meanwhile, the roughly 70% of TV viewers inside the SEC’s 11-state footprint who do not care much about college sports are on the verge of seeing their bills rise again, because of the SEC Network. There will be nothing they can do about it except drop their service. If enough SEC fans threaten, or actually cancel, Comcast and DirecTV, it might force the providers to carry the SEC Network, pay the carriage fee and pass the cost on to its customers. All of them.

It is the latest dust-up between regional sports networks and cable, satellite and telecommunications TV carriers, and follows controversies in Houston and Los Angeles. The Comcast regional sports affiliate in Houston was driven into bankruptcy court. DirecTV is balking at the asking price per subscriber for the Dodgers, which has left millions in the Los Angeles area without TV access to the baseball team.

Sports programming is the biggest reason TV bills have been rising nationally as professional leagues and major college conferences continue to pay higher and higher salaries to coaches, players and executives and improve their stadium infrastructures.

There’s a saturation point, even in a region that’s as crazy about college football as the South is.  Like it or not, we’re still a minority when it comes to the viewing audience, and you have to wonder how long those who aren’t fans are going to subsidize our passion.  And don’t think the delivery people aren’t watching that closely.  It’s their livelihood, after all.

DirecTV CEO Mike White once told Wall Street analysts on a conference call, according to Bloomberg, “If I could wave a wand, the first thing I would peel off is regional sports networks. The cost is just too high.”

John Demming, a Comcast spokesman, would not comment on price other than to say Comcast was in negotiations with the SEC Network. “We’re very optimistic we are going to have an agreement,” Demming said.

Dan York, chief content officer for DirecTV, would not comment on the exact cost of carrying the SEC Network.

“We would certainly wish to carry the SEC Network sooner than later. Timing will depend on at what point do we feel we are getting a fair value proposition from Disney/ESPN to make it available,” York said.

York, however, also said, “As popular as sports content is, the vast majority of consumers will not watch any national, regional or local sports network, yet the networks demand they pay a tax so that those who do want to watch it get access to it.”

So again, what if ESPN is wrong about the business model?

David Preschlack, head of affiliate sales for ESPN and Disney media networks, said the SEC Network is not a regional sports network but a brand strong enough to sell outside the South. Asked if that meant DirecTV, Comcast and DISH would be able to charge an “inner market” price around the country to all of their subscribers, Preschlack would not comment.

The SEC Network will not be available on pay-per-view or on a sports tier but will be sold as part of a provider’s wide package of programming. Preschlack said, “The economics of the pay-per-view model just don’t support the business we’re looking to get into, which is the same for any other programming ESPN owns.”

At a buck-thirty a head in the regional market, that’s a pretty steep tariff to ask everyone to pay (especially for this) for a general programming package.  What happens if the screaming of the 70% gets loud enough? Either the carriers do something, or the politicians make them do something.

“I got a call the other day from a staff person in Congress, and the House is going to look into this stuff. As reluctant as the U.S. Congress is to regulate in this day and age, it seems like this situation is inviting some regulation. It’s not good for the consumers. These sports leagues have a lot of market power.”

A la carte packaging, where the cost of the SEC Network jumps five- or six-fold, would be problematic for Slive and his presidents, to say the least, because the size of the paying audience drops dramatically.  (And just think what that would mean for the Pac-12, which owns its network outright.)  There would be a struggle to figure out a way to justify that sort of cost.  Better games?  More conference expansion?  Those aren’t easy calls to make, as we’ve seen over the past couple of years.  In the meantime, what can they do?  ESPN and the market tell them the marketing strategy works.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, SEC Football

Thursday morning buffet

The shipment from Destin has arrived.  Dig in.


Filed under 'Cock Envy, BCS/Playoffs, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Political Wankery, Recruiting, The Body Is A Temple

Wednesday morning buffet

The chafing dishes are full, so knock yourselves out.


Filed under Academics? Academics., College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, Media Punditry/Foibles, Pac-12 Football, Political Wankery, Strategery And Mechanics