Category Archives: It’s Just Bidness

“… that initial view of ‘This is so cool’ becomes ‘Whoa — what’s up with this?’ ”

You may think this was the end to something that wasn’t fair…

The monetary value of a college athlete’s name, image and likeness is being hashed out in court, but many universities have already arrived at a figure: zero.

Colleges from the Big Ten to the Mid-American Conference ask or require athletes sign waivers giving up their publicity rights without compensation, even as college sports generate billions of dollars in TV contracts and merchandise sales. The media deal for March Madness alone is worth $771 million a year.

Under pressure from a lawsuit claiming it took financial advantage of players, college sports’ governing body, the NCAA, got rid of a similar waiver last year…

Donald Remy, the organization’s chief legal officer, told the Tribune that the wording had nothing to do with publicity rights and was eliminated “to avoid confusion among student-athletes and their families.”

… but it wasn’t.  The NCAA just outsourced it back to the schools and conferences.

The Big Ten created a waiver in 2007, the year it launched the Big Ten Network. The form states that neither the athlete nor his heirs are entitled to compensation for letting the network and other broadcasters use his name and image. The conference earned $318 million in the 2012-13 tax year, according to its IRS filing.

Bidness is bidness.  Even for the little guys.

Schools that compete on a less lucrative rung of college sports are coming up with waivers, too. In August, just before announcing a new TV rights deal with ESPN, MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher sent an email to his member schools saying an attorney was developing a release in consultation with the Big Ten and the SEC.

The document, obtained from Northern Illinois University, is even more stringent than what the bigger conferences created. It calls for athletes to give up rights to their names and images, forever and without compensation, for any purpose the MAC and its member schools see fit, including broadcasts by ESPN and ABC. Signing the form is mandatory.

MAC spokesman Ken Mather said in an email that the waiver “filled the void” when the NCAA eliminated its version last year. He did not respond to a request for further information.

I guess the MAC doesn’t want to be left out of the litigation fun either.

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Wednesday morning buffet

Dig in, peeps.

  • Jay Rome wants to have fun this season, instead of “It’s always been about going out and trying not to hurt myself anymore.”
  • I got excited seeing the word “wheel” used in the context of Georgia’s offense, but it turns out all Seth meant was that Schottenheimer is tweaking the terminology of the play calls, not the system itself.
  • Dennis Dodd insists that football is a money loser at most schools, but those schools still want football.
  • Steve Spurrier is going to call the plays again this season.  Why did he ever stop? “It wasn’t going very well … You make a bad call and say, ‘Awe, dumbass. Why’d I do that? Maybe someone else can do it better.’”
  • Spurrier’s calling the plays, but he doesn’t know to whom yet.
  • SI.com’s Zac Ellis drops in on Athens to let us know how Georgia’s offense is progressing so far.
  • Corch wants you to know you’ve got nothing to worry about in the player injury department:  “The game is safer now. I can give you 28 years of experience. The game is safer now than it’s ever been.”
  • Nothing says school pride like having your mugshot taken in a logo’d t-shirt:  Parole Tide!!!

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Filed under 'Cock Envy, College Football, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, The Body Is A Temple, The Evil Genius, Whoa, oh, Alabama

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?

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Working for the man every night and day

Auburn’s Jonathan Jones explains why it’s important for college players to bust ass.

“And players have to trust coaches. You’ve got to trust them when they make the call and we’ve got to execute. It’s the same for the coaches. Their livelihood is in our hands, and they have to be able to trust us.”

“Do it for the coaches’ jobs!”  Man, that’s inspiring.  Should make for one helluva halftime speech.

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“You don’t like these set of rules? Go play in that association.”

A lot of this Dennis Dodd post about Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick’s vision of D-1 academic elites and lower brow schools splitting into two collegiate athletic associations is silly – for example, Vanderbilt walking away from the SEC over fulfilling some highfalutin quasi-Ivy League mission would be an expensive one, to say the least – but I will say that Swarbrick has grasped one reality that I predict his peers will eventually have no choice but to embrace if they keep losing antitrust litigation.

… If the NCAA loses the O’Bannon case, players could make up to $20,000 in a trust fund payable after they leave school. Several lawsuits against the NCAA and Power Five conferences are calling for the full-on payment of athletes.

Northwestern is still waiting on a National Labor Relations Board ruling that would allow private-school athletes to unionize.

“The irony of all this is, maybe the only way we can get resolution is to ask our athletes to unionize,” Swarbrick said.

That, at least, would bring some sort of cost certainty instead of spending endless hours in court.

“You could have an enforceable collective bargaining,” Swarbrick said.

Yep, the same thing that keeps kids out of the NBA and NFL until the pros are good and ready to take them could be what allows schools to live with the cost of the consequences.  Ironic, ain’t it?

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label

“We define what pay constitutes.”

Pretty lively debate at the oral arguments for the O’Bannon appeal yesterday.  The panel hearing them seemed pretty up to speed on the issues, and of course it’s impossible to say how their ruling will turn out.  But it sounds like most observers drew two conclusions from the day’s results:

“But an even bigger issue is antitrust injury,” Carrier said. “The panel did not want to rely on the appearance of NIL rights in the contracts to assume that such rights existed. I didn’t think this was a big issue before argument but there now seems to be a chance that the NCAA can win on this issue.

“What the plaintiffs can take solace in is that amateurism as a defense was not resuscitated in argument. Even if it doesn’t form the foundation for a significant remedy in this case, future cases such as Alston and Jenkins would benefit significantly if the NCAA cannot use the defense.”

Should that be the way the appeal goes, that’s a win the battle, lose the war scenario for the NCAA:  no damages, but amateurism as a defensible stance put down.  Hausfield might be unhappy with that result, but Jeffrey Kessler sure wouldn’t be.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, See You In Court, The NCAA

Pay for play isn’t socialism.

But states giving schools money so that they can pay for cost of attendance stipends to aid in recruiting is.  (h/t)

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