Daily Archives: March 23, 2015

“Deregulating the feeding of the student-athletes”

I thought the dumbest thing about the NCAA’s arcane food rules was the bagel topping nonsense.

It’s the NCAA; I should have known better.

“Not many kids growing up in Texas eat a bagel in the morning with nothing on it,” said University of Texas sports dietician Amy Culp.

It wasn’t that three meals wasn’t enough. It was that the athletes’ packed schedules often had them missing one or several of the dining hall time frames each day. The NCAA allowed one “training table” — a meal specifically geared for athletes — per day, but if a player had a class then he missed that window for the biggest meal of the day. When players missed their meals, they had to use money from their living stipend to find something on their own, which often resulted in bad decisions like fast food or pizza, like any college student would do.

The more often players had to use their own money, the less they had to do other things.

Stupid me, thinking the NCAA was aware student-athletes have to go to class.  D’oh!

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Filed under The NCAA

The NCAA and the “VP of Common Sense”

Andy Staples has a piece up today about amending the NCAA transfer rules.  I’m not saying I agree with everything he pushes in it, but this part made me think he’s definitely on to something:

The athletic director at the previous school signs a form allowing the transferring player to play immediately.

That’s it. If the coach and athletic director at the previous school don’t care if the player contributes to his/her new team right away, why should anyone else?

If this rule was in place now, there would be no confusion about Harding’s situation. Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs and coach Gus Malzahn are human beings with functioning hearts, and neither would object to letting Harding play in 2015.

Had this rule been in place in 2012, receiver Justin McCay would have been allowed to play immediately after transferring from Oklahoma to Kansas. The NCAA denied McCay’s request for a waiver even though Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione went to bat for McCay and requested that he be able to play immediately…

All of which makes me wonder exactly why the NCAA is in the transfer rules business in the first place.  I mean, if transfers are a matter of competitive balance, or however else you want to describe putting the brakes on kids jumping from one program to another, then in the case of a specific student-athlete, why should it be a matter of concern for the NCAA to be involved?  Doesn’t Staples’ hypothetical example make more sense?

If a hypothetical Georgia football player wants to transfer, he would request a release from his scholarship. If he decided to go to Maryland, the Terrapins could offer him a scholarship if they had one available. If the player wanted to transfer for dubious reasons, Bulldogs AD Greg McGarity could do nothing and the player would sit a year. There would be no appeal process because the only “penalty” is an extra year of free school. If the player wanted to transfer for a good reason, McGarity could waive the year-in-residence requirement and the player could suit up immediately.

That’s not exactly a rhetorical question.  I don’t know the origins of the NCAA rule, but I suspect nowadays it’s a handy place for a weaseling AD or head coach to hide instead of coming out directly to validate a decision blocking a student-athlete’s departure.  That’s hardly justification for screwing over Khari Harding’s family.

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Filed under The NCAA

At UAB, the fix was already in.

You will be shocked, shocked to learn that the decision to kill the UAB football program was made before the release of the report the school had hired a consulting firm to furnish.  Hell, it may have been made before the start of the 2014 season.

… according to documents obtained by AL.com, the decision to kill football and the other two programs may have been made prior to the start of the football season.

The documents show that public relations firm Sard Verbinnen & Co. prepared detailed plans for UAB to announce last September that it would eliminate the three programs, months before the school made the actual announcement.

The documents also show the school pushed back the announcement date until the conclusion of the football team’s regular season on the advice of both Sard Verbinnen and CarrSports.

The documents indicate that Watts misled his student-athletes, coaches, supporters, faculty members and others on at least three separate occasions in November and December when he said the decision to kill the three sports wasn’t made until November.

As appalling as flat-out lying may seem – really, when will bureaucrats ever learn the coverup is usually worse than the original story? – it’s the rationale expressed for delaying the decision until after the football season ended that’s really shameless.

That memo offers “our basis for opposing a mid-season announcement.” It suggests the potential for “a critical mass of immediate transfer requests … where students refuse to finish out the season” or “a full team boycott.”

“If not effectively managed,” the memo says, “it is conceivable that UAB would not be able to field a competitive team – or any team.”

The memo also suggests the possibility that UAB football players “may react very badly if an announcement is made during the season.”

In other words, don’t do it for the kids.

And this is just as bad.

Sard Verbinnen, the New York PR firm, advised UAB in September to “allow other tough decisions to set the stage” to announce the review’s results. For instance, the university announced last June that UAB Medicine Employees would not receive annual merit raises based on “profound shifts in healthcare.”

Sard Verbinnen advised UAB that “further isolating the athletic department’s results from others announced earlier in the season will also lessen the chances that the UAB lumps all ‘tough decisions’ together and concludes that the university is in financial duress.”

It just goes to show you can never have enough bad news to prime the pump.

So why go to all the trouble to mislead almost everyone with an interest in UAB athletics?  It can’t be political, can it?  Nah… just ask the PR folks.

Also, Sard Verbinnen advised to wait until after the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees meeting in November to help mitigate “unwarranted speculation” that the decision was driven by the board. Many UAB supporters believe several powerful trustees with Crimson Tide ties, including Paul Bryant Jr., got football killed. The board oversees UAB.

“The strategic review required time and careful deliberation by the department and the community’s perception of it should not be compromised by the negative optics that could result if it were communicated in parallel with a Board of Trustee meeting,” Sard Verbinnen wrote.

Good to see that’s been avoided.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, Whoa, oh, Alabama

“We are not where we need to be.”

After a spring game which included seven sacks and five interceptions, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason shows off a firm grasp of the obvious about his offense.

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Filed under SEC Football

From Garner to Rocker

This isn’t one of those get in the weeds recruiting posts – you know me better than that, right? – but I thought it was interesting listening to what’s on the mind of a big defensive tackle in the 2016 recruiting class.

Julian Rochester is one of the top defensive tackle recruits in the country. Out of Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern, Rochester is a five-star recruit on the 247Sports Composite. At 6’6 and 325 pounds, he has great length and holds offers from more than 30 schools.

Rochester was widely perceived as being a strong Auburn lean, but evidently that’s changed recently, as he’s now expressed a big interest in Georgia.

In the video above, Rochester discusses how difficult it is to find Jordans in a size 16 and that he is hoping to get some good gear at The Opening if he eventually gets invited (Rochester was not invited Sunday but could be asked later). He also dishes on his recent visit to see Georgia  — one he didn’t even want to take at first, and what made it so good that the Bulldogs pulled even with Auburn, his former No. 1 school.

He’s really taken with the position coaches at both schools.  Say what you will about Rodney Garner, one of his strengths has always been his ability to connect with kids on the recruiting trail.  If Georgia’s matched that ability with Tracy Rocker, to go along with what I would argue are better coaching skills at the position, that’s not bad.  At all.

Of course, Rochester ought to realize if he comes to Athens, it ain’t all about being cuddly.

(Photo by John Kelley/UGA Sports Communications)

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UPDATE: You’ll get a kick out of this header.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

Still an edge

Playing in a pro-style offense at Georgia, that is.

Having a good pro day may be a double-edged sword for Mason. The workout may have actually moved him into the late rounds of the draft because he is one of the few quarterbacks coming out this year that ran a true pro-style offense.

We hear the same thing every year before the draft.  I expect recruits do, too.

57 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Gentrifying the stadium experience

I’m not offering this as a flat-out prediction of what’s coming on the college football side, but I defy any sports fan of normal means to read this article about the costs of the two new stadiums being built for the Braves and Falcons, partly with public funding, and not feel some unease about where the market is going.

The new Falcons stadium, which will be two million square feet, has a $1.4 billion price tag and features many of the amenities for well-heeled fans that can be found in Texas — including lavish club lounges attached to premium seating and luxury suites.

“The buildings are different today,” said Wayne Wadsworth, principal in charge of Falcons stadium general contractor Holder Hunt Russell Moody. “What we put into these facilities … continues to increase.”

The exclusive areas help teams justify higher ticket prices.

For the right to buy season tickets, Falcons fans will be required to pay license fees, priced at $10,000 to $45,000 for the best 7,700 seats. Season tickets in those areas will cost $325 to $385 per game — increases of as much as $200 compared to similar locations in the Georgia Dome without the attached amenities…

Whoa, Nellie.  But nobody in the NFL got rich… er, richer, by ignoring the obvious math involved.

Newer facilities, designed to rake in more money from deep-pocketed fans, have fundamentally changed the stadium business model, said Robert Boland, a professor of sports management at New York University.

“Luxury boxes should produce twice as much revenue as all regular seats in the stadium,” Boland said. “Club seats should produce revenue about equal to that of all other regular seats in the stadium.”

The results seem inevitable.

“It’s one of the great ironies of these publicly financed stadiums — people are paying for stadiums that some of them can’t afford to enter,” Zimbalist said.

Jim Fuerst isn’t buying seats.

A 45-year-old civil engineer, Fuerst is a Falcons season-ticket holder. But he said that will end in 2017 because comparable seats in the new stadium have a $15,000 license fee attached to them.

“I’m sure the new stadium will be a wonderful experience, but I don’t know who can afford to go to it,” Fuerst said. “I think the Georgia Dome is a nice place. I enjoy watching football games. That’s what I thought I was there for. I’m not there to be wined and dined in any other way.”

There’s also factoring in the cost of making the in-game experience more like the rest of our daily lives.  Like staying in touch every second of the day:

Technology.

The technology allowing 70,000 cell phones to make calls and upload pictures to social media is wildly expensive and advances virtually overnight. It is one of the major drivers behind escalating stadium costs.

Cowboys spokesman Jon Winborn said the team started getting complaints about connectivity inside the stadium after just two years. It responded by replacing the 750 WiFi access points and adding an additional 500 units. Winborn wouldn’t say how much it cost, calling it “an incredible amount,” but said the stadium now also has the equivalent of 17 full-sized cell towers on site, for phone calls and texting.

Greg Beadles, Falcons executive vice president and chief financial officer, said cellular and WiFi technology in Atlanta’s new downtown stadium will cost tens of millions of dollars each.

“When folks come to the stadium, they expect to be able to use their phone just like they can at home or … at Starbucks,” Beadles said.

Technology costs aren’t limited to cell phones. Television broadcasts in high definition require brighter lights and more power. At the Cowboys stadium, the team has built a full television studio to operate the video board.

Aside from cellular and WiFi capability, architect Santee said other technology — video boards, LED lighting, sustainability initiatives — has added 20 percent to stadium costs since the 1990s. He said technology used to be an optional expense.

“Now, it is a fundamental thing, like restrooms and concessions and so on,” Santee said.

Sound familiar, college football fans?

Like I said, I’m not trying to make any absolute predictions here.  But there’s little denying that big time college athletics chases the same money the pros do.  And there are only so many ways to separate us from the contents of our wallets skin that particular cat.  Going after the fatter felines is part of what pitching your product as a national one and leaving your regional roots entails.

Even now, at the local level, there are already companion pieces.  Georgia has had luxury boxes for some time now.  The Falcons’ seat license fees are just a more expensive version of Hartman Fund contributions.  And if you squint a little, can’t you see a special version of the Dawg Walk coming?

Cowboys’ players, for example, walk past fans in one of AT&T Stadium’s field-level clubs on their way to and from the game.

“It’s a pretty unique experience to get a fist-bump from Tony Romo, or catch Dez Bryant’s gloves,” team spokesman Joe Trahan said.

Not yet.

Fear not.  Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, making too much of this.  Anyway, it’s not like there aren’t a few spoils we’re being left to fight over.  Hey, the broadcast delivery market is growing more competitive!  (Even as the content itself grows more expensive to deliver.)  Quite your dichotomy there, eh?

28 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness

SEC defense isn’t quite dead yet.

A couple of fun factoids from the 2014 season:

  • 1 Team in the nation shut out two conference opponents this season — Arkansas, which blanked No. 20 LSU 17-0 and No. 8 Ole Miss 30-0 in back-to-back games in November. Only one other unranked team had shut out two ranked opponents in the same season.
  • 16 Points per game given up by Ole Miss during the 2014 season, the lowest average in the nation. The Rebels became the 22nd SEC team to lead the nation in scoring defense…

Which isn’t to say there wasn’t some sieve-like defensive play in the conference last season, or that there weren’t plenty of offenses that had their way with opponents… just that this data, from somewhat unlikely quarters, indicates all isn’t lost.

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Filed under SEC Football