Category Archives: It’s Just Bidness

Knowledge is power. It’s also profitable.

For those of you having trouble grokking the challenges widespread sports betting will bring to collegiate sports, take a look at this opening Pandora’s Box piece.  There’s plenty to unpack there, but I want to hone in on a subject I touched on yesterday, the looming conflict between coaches’ mindset to control information about their rosters and the desire in the market place to access that information.

Clearly coaches and athletes are recognizable figures and they have access to information which can aid gamblers. But, they are not the only ones who might be vulnerable and have access to the same information. We certainly live in a society where individuals are not afraid to leak sensitive pieces of information, at any level of our democracy, and for whatever benefit the leaker hopes to achieve.

Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, wrote in a piece on May 14, immediately after the SCOTUS announcement, “the same piece of information can serve different information needs for different people.” In other words, the news that a freshman running back is getting reps with the first team at practice could mean very different things for the team’s fanbase and a bookie.

Citing Anthony Downs’ 1957 An Economic Theory of Democracy, Benton discussed how the ruling moves sports reporting from entertainment information, which is consumed for enjoyment, to production information, which is used to make sound business decisions. But he omits the fact that sports organizations have long been the owners of both entertainment and production information.

Benton asks the question, “Is there a way you can get the folks willing to pay top dollar — the ones for whom the information has real, tangible value — to subsidize information gathering that also benefits a wider audience?” Before addressing his question, we must ask “who are the folks willing to pay top dollar for information?” The easy answer is bookies and gamblers. A more nuanced answer might include fans, boosters and alumni.

For sport organizations, and college athletic departments in particular, providing entertainment information to those groups has long been in their domain. Now, production information grows in importance and, as such, the job of the college athletics communications professional (or media relations professional or sports information director, or whatever they are called) probably just got a lot harder.

As the gatekeepers for all news and information which comes from a football or basketball practice, athletics communications staffers should prepare to be besieged with phone calls from bookies and Tweets from gamblers, all seeking that production information necessary for a sound business decision. For beginners, communications staff might wish to remove their cell phone numbers from media guides. At a minimum, training student workers and staff who might answer the office phone is a first step in preparing for a potential influx of calls…  [Emphasis added.]

Digest that paragraph I bolded for a second.  If you’re going to be inundated with requests about information that benefits the gambling public, why wouldn’t it make complete sense to monetize access to it, if it’s something that’s also of keen interest to your fan base?  And if that information has significant value, won’t that motivate an athletic department to control the flow of that information as tightly as it can?

The SCOTUS ruling guarantees that all information – entertainment and production – will become an even more valuable commodity in the gambling economy. Depending on how conferences and universities are able to monetize the Court’s decision, there may be little incentive for university athletic departments and their communications staff to be forthcoming with any information.

A byproduct of this could be acceleration of reduced access for traditional journalists, something we witnessed last fall at Notre Dame, Tennessee, as well as LSU and Texas. I doubt many coaches would mind if fewer media attended practice, and the threat of information being used for gambling purposes might be the perfect excuse to travel down that road. This does not mean the information does not exist and odds are (pun intended) that it will surface one way or another.

You see the irony there, right?  What starts out looking like a threat to coaches’ control turns into an opportunity to try to restrict access even further.

I say “try” there because I think there are forces out there wanting access that have enough clout to force schools’ hands in a way they ordinarily might not prefer.

The speculation is consumer demand for information will alter how broadcasters approach their content. Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz suggested five ways broadcasting will adapt, including the creation of specialized sports betting-focused shows on networks such as ESPN and increased spreads on ticker scrolls.

You think the SEC is going to tell its broadcast partner to butt out when Mickey puts together its first regular show on betting lines?  Surely you jest.  Greg Sankey will posture… and then deposit the new check for his troubles.  Information may want to be free, but the SEC wants to be paid.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness

Today, in mo’ (and less) money

Jere Morehead speaks truth to power.

There also is a new line-item buried within. It’s $1.8 million, which is the new federal excise tax that is being assessed on nonprofits that pay employees more than $1 million in salary. So Georgia is now being assessed a 21 percent tax rate on anything over that amount that it pays coaches. Currently that is on three individuals: Smart, basketball coach Tom Crean ($3.2 million) and football defensive coordinator Mel Tucker ($1.5 million).

The federal excise tax was part of a legislative package passed last year that also will eliminate donations to athletic departments to buy tickets.

“I understand the theory behind passing the legislation [to discourage excessive salaries] but I’m not sure in the current marketplace that it’s going to achieve its goal,” UGA President Jere Morehead said. “So far it has not.”

That’s an understatement if I ever heard one.  Jimmy Sexton ain’t got time for your silly excise tax games, Congress.  And he’ll probably laugh out loud when he hears about this feeble attempt at the state level to rein in coaching salaries.

According to an article by the Daily Bruin, California state legislators have announced a proposed amendment that would restrict the salaries of non-faculty members at schools under the University of California’s umbrella.

The proposal would cap non-faculty salaries at $200,000 per year as well as a number of other terms in it not related to coaches, and will require a vote of two-thirds in the Assembly and state senate as well as a majority vote on public ballot.

Of course, non-faculty members include football coaches, and on its face, this could have a direct impact on the California state schools that play football and their coaches including Chip Kelly at UCLA, Justin Wilcox at Cal, and Dan Hawkins at UC Davis.

Gaming this, of course, would be so easy that Nick Saban wouldn’t even break a sweat.

… when it comes to coaches, common sense leads one to think that boosters and universities would just get creative to pay their coaches what they feel they’re worth. We may see the “base salary” of coaches capped at $200,000, but there’s no limit on the creativity athletic directors and boosters could ultimately use to make up the difference.

A far less likely (but infinitely more fun) possibility is to imagine Kelly or Wilcox teaching a single Football 101 class so they could be considered “faculty.”

Might as well try to legislate our passion for sports.

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

“There’s apparently a lot of money to be made.”

Honestly, just shoot me.  Now.

The overarching question to Wednesday’s esports panel hosted by the Big 12 is one that one day could potentially result in millions of dollars for athletic programs.

During the 90-minute discussion including Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and knowledgeable people on the fast-growing industry, the panel wondered if a university’s esports program made sense to be governed by the NCAA. Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who sat two seats to Bowlsby’s right inside a ballroom at The Statler hotel in Dallas, didn’t think so.

And while Bowlsby believes esports do not align with traditional athletics, he’s aware of a potential payoff. For schools who are always looking to find ways to increase revenue, the topic is certainly worth exploring as esports continue to gain steam.

The last paragraph is college athletics these days.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

In APR-land, children do it for you.

What a country!

The recent classroom performance of Arizona State athletes will look good for the university — and even better for athletics director Ray Anderson. He will get nearly $350,000 in bonuses based on how well Sun Devils teams did in the NCAA’s annual Academic Progress Rate figures it released Wednesday…

Among those also getting APR bonuses are:

North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams: $75,000 for a perfect 1000 APR that comes in the aftermath of an academic scandal at the university that included allegations of improprieties by men’s basketball players but resulted in no NCAA sanctions.

Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari: $50,000 that is only bonus he can received under the terms of his contract.

Auburn men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl: $150,000.

Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn: $75,000.

Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson: $100,000.

Florida State AD Stan Wilcox: $17,000 — a total based on him getting $1,000 for each team that had an APR above 950. 17 of FSU’s 18 teams were at 964 or greater. The football team was at 941.

Last fall, Louisville’s athletics department confirmed that football coach Bobby Petrino would be getting the $500,000 bonus called for under his contract if his team’s APR is at least 935 (the final figure, announced Wednesday, was 977). Petrino’s APR bonus, if he achieves it, increases the bonus he gets if the Cardinals go on to play in a bowl game.

If there was ever a time for a Steve Spurrier quip about Auburn academics, this would be it.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., It's Just Bidness

Today, in Econ 101

I’m not trolling here; this is a serious question for those of you who think that college athletics are a glorified internship for players like Sony Michel, who don’t merit cashing in on their name because their value at that level is solely derived from the institution which jersey they wear.

Michel’s been out of school for less than half a year.  He hasn’t played a down in the NFL yet.  As such, isn’t it logical to argue that most, if not all, of his economic value is derived from his time spent at Georgia?  And if so, shouldn’t some of that Old Spice endorsement money be sent back to Athens?

Point here being that almost nothing has changed between January 1 and today, other than the threat of ineligibility being lifted.  His name has value all along that time line, so what benefit is there to him waiting to cash in?

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

The next wrinkle in conference expansion?

There may be gold in them ‘thar sports books, pardnah.

The NBA and Major League Baseball are already pursuing the so-called integrity fee, a percentage of the amount bet that’s cloaked as payments to maintain integrity and oversight of their sport in each state.

“Neither the NCAA or any conferences have joined them,” Rodenberg said, “but perhaps they will.”

Of course they will. There’s too much money at stake, not to mention too much existing debt and too many escalating costs.

And because the Power Five control college football, not the NCAA — thank you, SCOTUS — they could be free to pursue their own integrity fees just as they cut their own TV deals.

Imagine each conference collecting one percent of the total handle (i.e., amount wagered) on football games in states throughout its footprint.

(Also think about the potential impact on realignment: Smaller schools in big-handle states could become more desirable. By 2030, Buffalo just might be a member of the SEC.)

Dunno about Buffalo, but I’d keep an eye on what the Big Ten may reap from Rutgers and a potential New Jersey integrity fee over the next few years.  If that pans out favorably, I can’t imagine Greg Sankey’s willing to leave that kind of money on the table for too long, even if the SEC gets to dip its wick in Mississippi’s doing something similar.  If not, there’s no telling where the SEC goes.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

“I’m fairly critical of the Pac-12 organization.”

This is one helluva story.

The beginning of one of the biggest Pac-12 football games of last season was preempted by a NASCAR truck race. When it became apparent the Lucas Oil 150 was going to run long, FS1 delayed the Stanford-Washington game by 15 minutes to 10:45 p.m. ET.

It wasn’t enough of a delay. Even though the game was shifted to little-seen FS2 and the Fox Sports app, thanks to the trucks — and Fox’s commitment to them — most viewers missed the entire first quarter.

“That was unfortunate,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said recently. “I was not happy about that. … There were definitely [people] upset about that.”

Scott is proud to say such an occurrence will no longer happen. The Pac-12 was assured by Fox officials a couple of weeks ago that, were there to be a future conflict, conference games will be shifted to … Fox Business Channel.

Man’s a genius.

The header quote, by the way, is from the chancellor of the University of California, one of (presumably) Scott’s bosses.  Last time I checked, Larry Scott is still the highest paid conference boss, which means the chancellor is as big a talker as Scott is.  Everyone out there deserves each other.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Pac-12 Football