Daily Archives: February 9, 2018

“You had this feeling that at any minute it could turn into something that wasn’t pretty.”

MARTA was a nightmare to use after the national championship game.  Management guessed there would be a problem, but check out how they tried to deal with it:

Deputy General Manager Rob Troup told the board there weren’t enough employees available to handle the crowd. The agency asked for volunteers to work extra hours, but the employee turnout was 30 percent less than expected, he said.

Can you imagine the sales pitch for that?  “Guys, we know the weather sucks out there, and you’ll be dealing with a bunch of drunk college football fans, half of whom will be pissed off because their team lost, so how would you like to come in and help manage that situation into the wee small hours of the morning without getting paid?”

Hell, I’m surprised the turnout was only 30 percent less.  Maybe the rest figured that since the players weren’t getting paid, they shouldn’t, either.

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Filed under General Idiocy, It's Just Bidness

Allow her to retort.

So, let’s recap the most recent follies of Butts-Mehre’s Men of Genius, otherwise known as the selling of the season ticket price increase.  It started, as usual, with a little misdirection from our esteemed athletic director.

With the success we have experienced, we will incur increases in compensation to maintain that level of success.  We plan to make substantial adjustments to the compensation of our coaching staff, which will necessitate these ticket increases.

As it turned out, that was a relatively mild effort.  Had he stopped there, well… you’ll see.

Round two saw a new excuse trotted out (“Football’s really our only source of revenue, significant revenue,” McGarity told the media afterward. “In order to maintain your other 20 sports at the level [now]; it’s not my intent to go to the other programs and have cuts. It’s not fair. It’s not the Georgia model. Because we treat all sports equitably. So, this was the way to fully fund those other sports at the same level we have.”), together with the revelation that the proposal was presented in haste to the Athletic Board.  That was combined with a fact sheet prepared by the athletic department and presented to the Board intended to sell the case that the underlying purpose of the increase was to redress a pricing structure at Georgia that was sadly out of line with its conference peers (“UGA athletic officials also were at pains to point out that the football program’s average ticket price of $50 last year ranked 12th out of 14 schools in the SEC.”)  It’s not hard to understand what McGarity was thinking there; it’s just hard to understand why he felt the need to elaborate so.

That all of this was presented in a rush should perhaps have been a tell that all was not as it appeared to be on the surface, but nobody raised any questions.  Nobody except a Georgia alumna with a background in statistics, that is.

Rebecca Phillips, aka StatDawg82, made her introduction at the blog with this substantial dive into the pricing data that should have accompanied McGarity’s fact sheet but didn’t.  As I wrote then, ultimately what she demonstrated with her work was this:

It’s hard to say if the misinformation we’ve received is the result of sloppiness, ignorance or a deliberate fudging of the facts.  What’s not hard to say is that Butts-Mehre didn’t much care either way about accuracy.  Which really translates into not caring about being straight with the bulk of the fan base.

That’s what chaps my derrière here.  Had they merely come out with some variation of “we’re doing this because we can” as justification, I’d  have grumbled some, but in the end, recognized it’s a sign of the times we live in, stroked the check to ‘da Man and moved on.  Instead, we’re fed this “it’s not us, it’s you” garbage.  McGarity can’t bring himself to own fully what he’s doing here.  (Not that accountability has ever been Butts-Mehre’s strong suit.)  This isn’t how an athletic administration should treat a devoted fan base.

That post got a fair amount of attention, culminating in a Seth Emerson piece that contained two items of significance.  First of all, his own research backed up the accuracy of hers.  Second, Greg McGarity chose to respond to her work on the record, publicly.  That proved to be less than convincing:

McGarity, in a phone interview Tuesday, said it wasn’t discussed at the board meeting “because we don’t have the information” on what funding levels are at every school.

“Misleading?” McGarity said. “We never presented that this was an all-in. Because the data is so hard. There are 13 different ways to do that, and it’s very difficult to gather that information.”

In other words, because he didn’t make a complete effort, nobody should have taken his presentation literally.  I’m guessing the Board would have preferred to know that before they voted.  As I posted in response to Seth’s article, there was more to unpack from McGarity’s interview, but the gist of it all was that he’d managed once again to violate the First Rule of Holes.  What should have been defended sparsely  — some variation of “we raised ticket prices because we could” might not have given us the warm and fuzzies, but at least it would have had the virtue of being accurate — became messy because the athletic director wound up misleading the Board and the fan base and lamely trying to defend that in the press.

We’re not done here yet, though.

While I might have been a little surprised that McGarity reacted publicly to a fan’s argument, I wasn’t at all surprised by Phillips’ reaction to McGarity’s comments about her work.

She went back and did more research.  Then she asked that I post it here at the blog.

After Mr. McGarity and UGA responded to my research in the recent Seth Emerson article, I took another look at the data and dug further to see if their facts checked out.  In many cases, they didn’t.

Mr. McGarity’s response to my original email said:

“We were presenting the only real data that was consistent across the board, which was the actual lowest ticket price.”  And so, the data in my original analysis used the lowest ticket price (plus lowest donation) to get the final “in-the-gate price”.

Mr. McGarity’s rebuttal to my original analysis included this:

“Our intent was not to adhere to the lowest ticket price at each stadium, but rather one that best represented the majority of the seats in their respective venues and was the most comparable to our seating options.”  This was a direct contradiction to the previous statement about using “the actual lowest ticket price.”  They went on to say that in some cases the lowest priced sections did not include very many seats.

And so, to allow Mr. McGarity all benefit of the doubt, I completed an additional analysis, this time trying to adhere to the UGAAA’s “rules” for selecting price values (though it’s hard to hit a moving target).  I used the same ticket prices that UGA has chosen as a “fair assessment”.  Looking to their chart, all of the ticket price values now match what I used. Then, I also included the required donation that corresponds to the ticket price (that the UGAAA used) in order to calculate the final “in-the-gate price” for each school.

Again, I’m giving Mr. McGarity every benefit of the doubt by including more donation tiers beyond the minimum so as to include more seats in the analysis.  Even in giving that much ground, the narrative they are spinning STILL doesn’t hold up.  In no academically honest report can you claim that Georgia is 12th out of 14 SEC schools in ticket prices.

A large portion of the UGAAA’s response included naming reasons why the ticket values that they chose to use were most closely aligned with what is available at Georgia.  And so, I reran all calculations using the UGAAA’s chosen ticket price.  And then added the corresponding donation.

Results are shown below, with detail on how each value was calculated.

School Season ticket price Donation amount Per ticket price Notes on how values were selected
Auburn $475 $290.00 $109.29 The UGAAA noted that ‘Auburn has a minimum contribution level of $100, but it is open for a limited amount of seats.’  To combat this complaint, I chose to include the next two donation tiers, up to $290, in order to include even more seats.
Georgia $300 $300.00 $100.00 Because I moved up in donation level for most other schools, I used the $300 donation, which gets into the lower bowl.  I elected not to use the $375 level. Using $300 instead of $375 would put Georgia at #2 rather than #1, but I did not want to have any chance of falsely inflating this value.
Tennessee $420 $250.00 $95.71 Many seats fall in the $0 donation sections, but I chose to include the next two donation tiers, up to $250, in order to include even more seats.
LSU $425 $125.00 $91.67 Within the $425 sections, the lowest donation is $125.
Florida $380 $250.00 $90.00 The $150 donation area is in the lower bowl and includes a large number of seats.  But, since UGAAA says that donation level only covers “portions of 10 sections” of the stadium, I chose to include the next two donation tiers, up to $250, in order to include even more seats.
Alabama $445 $160.00 $86.43 In case the UGAAA feels that the $60 or $110 sections don’t include enough seats, I used the next highest donation tier of $160.
Arkansas $360 $150.00 $85.00 The UGAAA mentioned that they used the $360 ticket price because it covers more seats in the lower bowl.  I chose to include the next two donation tiers that apply in the lower bowl, up to $150, in order to include even more seats.
Texas A&M $490 $30.00 $74.29 The lowest donation price, $30, applies to a large number of seats, and corresponds to the $490 price used by UGAAA.
South Carolina $365 $137.50 $71.79 The $50 donation area includes a large number of seats.  In addition to the $50 per seat, there is a “club” fee of $175 to order 2 tickets, or $87.50 per seat.
Ole Miss $400 $50.00 $64.29 Even though there are a large number of lower bowl tickets available without a donation, I used the next highest level of $50.
Missouri $379 $65.00 $63.43 Even though, there are many seats (including lower bowl options) at a $50 donation level, I used the next highest level of $65.
Mississippi St $375 $55.00 $61.43 The UGA Athletic Association felt there were not enough $200 tickets, so I used their selected ticket price of $375.  The lowest donation amount needed for the $375 seats is $55, and that gets into the lower bowl.
Kentucky $310 $100.00 $58.57 Within the $310 ticket price level that the UGAAA selected, there are many seats at a $0 donation level.  I chose to include the next donation tier of $100, in order to include even more seats, and get into the lower bowl.
Vanderbilt $300 $0.00 $42.86 Although seats are available in the lower bowl for $170, I will go with the UGAAA reported price of $300, which can be purchased with a $0 donation.

 

I am very aware that it is complex to fairly compare prices across 14 stadiums.  Bottom line.  Until a seat-by-seat analysis is conducted across 14 stadiums, stop publishing that Georgia is #12 of 14 in SEC ticket prices.

And, give the Board accurate, complete information before asking them to vote on a major decision.

In addition to the faulty narrative being presented by Mr. McGarity, my new analysis proved some ADDITIONAL errors in their “facts”.

1) They stated: “For instance, the lowest-priced season ticket at LSU was $360. However, that price is only available in two sections in the upper decks at Tiger Stadium. The rest of the stadium offers season tickets at $425, which was the number cited in our research. It did not make sense to make two upper-deck sections in a stadium that seats more than 102,000 fans as the benchmark for our research.”

Today, I contacted the LSU ticket office.  There are actually 21 sections where the $360 price with $0 donation is available.  Nevertheless, I used the $425 amount for my new calculation to match the value they used.

2) They stated:  “Auburn has a minimum contribution level of $100, but it is open for a limited amount of seats.’”

But, the UGAAA has repeatedly challenged my assertion that mandatory donations should be counted as part of season ticket prices.  How then can they then use this minimum contribution as part of their argument?

And some things worth noting:

– The UGAAA reported that Florida has already approved donation increases for next year.  True.  Though they neglected to mention that Florida has simultaneously announced some donation decreases.  Florida states that “Approximately 37 percent of the seat contributions are going down or staying at the same contribution level.” (It is painful to think I might trust information put out by Florida more than Georgia.)

– I would like to note that my original chart listed USC’s ticket price at $415 while UGA’s chart showed the price at $365.  I learned today that this is because the $415 quoted price includes the $50 per seat donation!  In addition to the $50 per seat donation, there is another $87.50 per seat donation.  Hence a difference from how it was listed before, but the per-ticket price remains the same.

– My original analysis did not use the Pocket Pass at Kentucky, as I too felt like it was not a comparable ticket option.

Yes, there is a lot to unpack there.  Just so you don’t lose sight of what this discussion is really about, let me repeat the money part of her response:

I am very aware that it is complex to fairly compare prices across 14 stadiums.  Bottom line.  Until a seat-by-seat analysis is conducted across 14 stadiums, stop publishing that Georgia is #12 of 14 in SEC ticket prices.

And, give the Board accurate, complete information before asking them to vote on a major decision.

In other words, Greg, if you’re not going to put in the work to show otherwise, don’t make assertions you can’t back up.  Don’t make the Athletic Board an accomplice to the consequences of a shoddy sales pitch, either.

Math is hard.  Being straight with the Board and the fan base shouldn’t be harder.  That’s the way Butts-Mehre rolls, unfortunately.

I was tempted to title this post The Last Word, for obviously snarky reasons, but there’s a part of me that wonders if Greg McGarity is sensitive enough to fashion yet another response to her.  You’d think not, as Rebecca Phillips has shown she’s got some Erk Russell in her, but some people can’t help but rise to take the bait when their commitment to transparency is questioned.  Stay tuned for further developments.

97 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

King Midas in reverse

Could there be any development somehow both more appropriate and more ironic to the federal criminal investigation of college basketball recruiting than this?

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday morning that an FBI agent involved in the case in an undercover capacity is under criminal investigation for misappropriating money for drinking, gambling and eating. Ultimately, the Journal reported, it could compromise the FBI agent’s ability to serve as a witness for the prosecution.

And the “No shit, Sherlock” Award today goes to this genius.

“This is a bad development for the prosecution,” said a person with direct knowledge of the case. “The general public and sports fans were promised a bill of goods by the prosecutors. It’s pretty clear early on in this case, they’re not the white knights they said they were.”

‘Ya think?

This is what happens when you try to give criminal enforcement cover for a corrupt organization.  It rubs off.  And since we’re talking about the NCAA here, surely there’s more to come.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, See You In Court, The NCAA

Kids, freedom ain’t free.

In case you were wondering, Randy Edsall is still a dick.  His insight about proposed changes to the NCAA’s transfer rules is everything you might expect:

“They always said when you sign the national letter you are signing with that school, you’re not signing with the coach,” Edsall said. “We all understand that’s really not the case. What will happen if [too much transfer free agency] goes into effect, the Power Five schools and some other schools will create a college department.

“They’ll just watch film of all the other colleges. See if there are guys they like and then they’ll go back through a high school coach or somebody and say, hey, we’d like to have him. Word would get back and that kid would want to transfer.”

“It upsets me a little bit to hear people say coaches can leave anytime they want, too,” Edsall said. “Yeah they can, but they have contractual obligations. They have to pay a buyout or somebody does. The kid signs a contract with the NCAA, they’re getting their scholarship for free. If there’s no penalty to sit out a year, what good is the national letter of intent?

“The problem with the NCAA is they get scared anytime anybody says ‘Sue.’ That’s the problem. Everybody in this society does. Then sign [athletes] to a four-year contract. If they break it, then they have to sit out a year.”

“… they’re getting their scholarship for free.”  Wut?  That quote isn’t far off from Edsall sitting in a recliner, drinking a beer, watching Fox News and bitching about all those lazy bastards on welfare.   This is the mindset of a guy who will spend his golden years yelling at kids to get off his lawn.

The reason he’s upset about it?  Hell, he’s probably worried about kids who play for him for a couple of seasons realizing what they’ve gotten themselves into.

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Filed under Randy Edsall Is A Dick

“Teens pick brands, pros pick contracts.”

This post is one of the more fascinating things I’ve read lately.  It’s an examination of what leads recruits to the schools they choose.

College athletics provide a unique, albeit contentious, dynamic in which players base their college decisions on a radically different criteria than professional players, who often opt to play for whichever franchise will pay the most.  Stadium size, uniforms (read our article Fashion Wars on the influences of uniforms and apparel companies in recruiting), program prestige, coach prestige, coach persona, location, media exposure, fan sentiment, playing style, and academics are only a handful of the endless factors that play a role in an athlete’s decision.  The net sum of all these influences becomes the program’s brand, which is then evaluated by millions of high school athletes.  Each athlete is sure to perceive each school uniquely, but the masses will come to a general sentiment on which school is better than the next.  It is absolutely critical for a college football program’s brand to be perceived ahead of its competition by the majority of high school athletesor at the very least, the majority of high school athletes in a desired segment of the high school athlete population.  Jeremy Darlow spoke to us about this dynamic, and shared: “Few brands reach omnipresent levels in which they can be all things to all people, which plays into a team’s favor. If you can identify the brand space that is genuinely unique to your program, you are instantly #1 in the country for that idea.”

Two huge points there.  One, what you or I may perceive as being critical to a program’s brand ain’t the same thing as what a recruit perceives.  And since you or I aren’t the ones suiting up, it perhaps behooves us to keep our mouths shut about things like Oregon’s revolving wardrobe, which appears to resonate with high schoolers.  The second point is that it’s a big deal for schools to find a unique aspect about themselves they in turn can market successfully to these kids.

The authors of the piece surveyed more than 200 recruits to get a picture of D-1 schools’ marketing success.  Here’s what the top 85  results look like:

And here’s how that tracked with this year’s recruiting.

How do these brand rankings get translated to signing day results?  Since the beginning of the recruiting service era (1999-2000), every national champion has had at least one recruiting class on its roster with multiple five star recruits.  On average, there are only 7.7 teams—never less than five or more than nine—each year with multiple five star players.  Only Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia, USC, Alabama, and Texas landed multiple five stars in this year’s 2018 class. The first five schools all reside in the top 5 of the brand rankings while Alabama and Texas still have two of the most notable brands in the country.  Why is this significant?  Because most of our respondents have never been recruited by these top-tier colleges.  Yet, despite all the phone calls, letters, text messages, unofficial visits, or any other obscure recruiting tactics that coaches deploy to attract elite talent, the final recruiting rankings align precisely with the high school demographic’s perceived brand rankings.  The actual act of recruiting, apparently, is one giant charade.  Is it necessary?  Sure.  Will marginally better recruiting execution lead to better results?  No.

This distribution leads us to identify different tiers of brands within the rankings.  Each year, the top 7.7 teams are therefore the teams that recruit at the highest level and give their team a statistical chance to win the national championship over the next four years while that recruiting class is in college.  We will call this ‘Tier One’, which is comprised of the brands that are capable of winning recruiting battles against any other brand in the country since five star recruits, more often than not, have offers from virtually every school.  [Emphasis added.]

You can argue that there’s some overstatement there, as evidenced by some individual jockeying over key recruits, but the post isn’t about micro-level recruiting.  I read all that and thought about the job Kirby’s done selling Georgia as a destination to kids and their parents, enhanced by the team’s recent meteoric rise to the CFP finals, and how that played into the class he just signed.

Read the whole thing and tell me what you think.

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Filed under Recruiting

If you pay it, they will come.

Evidently, Phil Fulmer’s of a mind that Tennessee can buy its way back to championship level.

Tennessee’s salary pool for assistant coaches in 2017 ranked 10th in the country and sixth in the Southeastern Conference. The $1 million bump for the 2018 staff would vault Tennessee to fourth in the nation and third in the SEC when compared to last year’s numbers, which USA Today compiled in a database. USA Today has not released a database for 2018 salaries.

The highest-paid assistant under Pruitt will be offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, who is set to make $1.2 million, according to his contract. The contracts were obtained by the Times Free Press through an open records request.

Including Pruitt’s $3.81 million salary, the annual cost for Tennessee’s new staff will be $10.1 million. That figure also includes the $625,000 salary of strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald. In all of college football, only Iowa’s Chris Doyle made more as a strength coach last year, according to USA Today.

The salaries of the Tennessee football staff totaled $9.1 million in 2017.

At a time when Tennessee owes Jones a $2.5 million annual buyout, the high salary pool for the new staff indicates Fulmer’s desire to see the Vols return to the glory they enjoyed during his tenure as coach in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Make sure you check out the bump Kevin Sherrer got to swap red and black for orange.

9 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, It's Just Bidness

“Georgia is your new recruiting overlord…”

Trust me, you’ll enjoy reading Bill Connelly’s new multi-year recruiting rankings.  Once you get past basking in the glow of Georgia’s numbers, though, I’d like to return to a theme I’ve hit on earlier this week.

Here’s the trend line for the fourteen SEC schools, comparing their five-year rankings against their current two-year rankings, in order of how they stand now:

  • Georgia +3
  • Alabama -3
  • Auburn -2
  • LSU -1
  • Florida -5
  • Texas A&M -1
  • South Carolina +2
  • Tennessee -7
  • Mississippi State +5
  • Ole Miss -10
  • Kentucky +1
  • Missouri +5
  • Vanderbilt +5
  • Arkansas -14

Again, Georgia is getting some separation in the East; the question is how long that trend will last.

The other interesting thing to note is that from a talent standpoint, the bottom of the West is heading towards being as bad as the bottom of the East has been, and rather quickly at that.

8 Comments

Filed under Recruiting, SEC Football, Stats Geek!