Category Archives: It’s Just Bidness

“Great research universities tend to have great athletic programs.”

And mid-major schools with shitty football programs tend to charge their students a lot of money to subsidize them.

The Panthers, now in their sixth season, haven’t given fans much reason to celebrate. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, competing at the highest level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the team recorded just a single victory. Average attendance last year was among the 10 worst in the NCAA’s top level. Yet Georgia State’s 32,000 students are still required to cover much of the cost. Over the past five years, students have paid nearly $90 million in mandatory athletic fees to support football and other intercollegiate athletics — one of the highest contributions in the country…

… At Georgia State, athletic fees totaled $17.6 million in 2014, from a student population in which nearly 60 percent qualify for Pell Grants, the federal aid program for low-income students. The university contributed an additional $3 million in direct support to its sports programs. All told, those subsidies represented about three-fourths of the athletics budget.

Georgia State is far from an outlier. Last year, sports programs at 47 other public colleges reviewed by The Chronicle and HuffPost were even more dependent on fees and other institutional support as a percentage of their athletic budget.

I’m sure this makes sense to somebody.  I’m just happy I’m not someone who’s taken out student loans to pay for athletic fees.


Filed under It's Just Bidness

The slow death of romance

I’ve hesitated about penning a response (okay, not penning, exactly, but you know what I mean) to this Darrell Huckaby piece because I know it’s a well-intentioned cri de coeur.  But I have to admit the first thought that crossed my mind after reading this…

But college football is not so much fun for me anymore. The players seem to care more about the name on the back of the jersey than the school they represent. Too few of them seem to appreciate the opportunity they have been given. The twin gods, television and the almighty dollar, dictate everything that happens, from scheduling to starting time. It takes four hours to play a game that should be over in two. It costs more money to follow a team for a season than my father ever made in any three-year period of his life. Attending a game is an all-day commitment, sometimes a two- or three-day commitment.

… was, what took you so long?

Where we’re at in the here and now has been a long time in coming and the process only seems to be accelerating.  Conference realignment, monster television deals that result in conferences giving up more of their independence to Mickey, a postseason that grows and grows – we’ve been bitching about all that crap for years here.

The reality, as I’ve suggested before, is that there is a certain romance fans have always had about the sport.  Huckaby is no exception to that.  The cynical bastards who run college athletics count on it, even as the Steve Pattersons of the world work on nonsensical rebranding, not as a means to enhancing fan loyalty, but as an end of squeezing every last drop out of our wallets.  Because that’s what really matters these days.

And people like Huckaby give them a pass.  Sure, he’s disillusioned, but notice that he can’t even bring himself to blame the suits.  He goes straight from the selfish players who “care more about the name on the back of the jersey” to television and money without bothering to mention the middlemen who have made it all possible.

Michael Adams never broke his leg playing in Sanford Stadium.  Greg Sankey isn’t currently in rehab at the Shepherd Center (something, if you want to get shitty about it, that might not have happened if Gales’ school wasn’t busy chasing a paycheck to play in Athens).  They’re just part of the group of people who’ve done what they could to make our present day dissatisfaction possible.  The front of the jersey matters to them largely to the extent they can monetize it.

They treat college sports like a business, or at least their vision of a business.  Any perception otherwise on our part is bound to end in disappointment.  If it already hasn’t.


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

Contract shmontract

Mark Richt still hasn’t signed his.  Not that it’ll make any difference if he’s canned.

Georgia football coach Mark Richt, under fire for his team’s performance this season, has yet to sign a new contract drafted more than nine months ago. As a result, he has already foregone $600,000 of the $800,000-a-year raise called for in the deal approved by the athletic association’s board.

Nevertheless, UGA has vowed to honor the terms of the proposed agreement retroactively. That’s particularly beneficial to Richt in the event that he gets fired this year. It means he will be paid $2.5 million more than he would under his existing contract, for a total payout of $4.1 million. According to the current contract on file with the athletic association, he would be owed $1.6 million, or $800,000 per year remaining in the term.

“To me a handshake is an agreement and the board approved it. Everybody approved it,” Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Friday. “Just because somebody hasn’t signed it doesn’t mean we’re not going to honor it, if it ever reached that point.”

$2.5 million?



Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

Hardballing Jacksonville

As someone who’s maintained for a while that it’s money, not tradition, keeping the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, this piece from Gene Frenette doesn’t surprise me.

But an equally big story in the next month — with huge future economic implications for Jacksonville and those committed to preserving the game’s rich history — will take place away from the TV cameras and behind closed doors: renegotiating a Georgia-Florida contract that expires after the 2016 game.

While these negotiations are often viewed as a foregone conclusion — Jacksonville has been the series host since 1933 (except 1994-95 when the stadium was rebuilt to accommodate the NFL expansion Jaguars) — it’s possible things could get a little dicey this time around.

Both universities and the city of Jacksonville aren’t prepared yet to start negotiations because they’re waiting to see the Jaguars’ plans for renovations to the EverBank club seat areas in the east and west stands, a place normally reserved for the wealthiest boosters of each school.

Those renovations are expected to reduce the club seat capacity for Jaguars games in 2016 from 11,000 to about 8,000, which team president Mark Lamping said will improve the game-day experience and be a more appropriate number for the city’s NFL market size.

But as it pertains to the Georgia-Florida game, two possible sticking points for the schools must be ironed out. The first is replacing an estimated 3,000 club seats so that stadium capacity for the SEC showdown is back up to 82,917, as mandated in the contract. Another issue is how those temporary replacement seats, both in terms of comfort and aesthetic feel of the surroundings, will be received by the school’s top-level donors.

The city seems imbued with the belief that everyone wants the game to stay in Jacksonville, with the attendant consideration that there will be give and take from the schools about that, but I’m not so sure in this day and age that’ll be enough.  Take this comment from McGarity:

Mousa hinted that everything is negotiable, that maybe Georgia and Florida would be willing to accept extra compensation — beyond the $3 million each receive for playing the game in Jacksonville — in lieu of losing some club seats.

But McGarity shot down that idea in an email, writing: “Priority number one is number of seats (being 82,917), no doubt about that. If we wanted more revenue, we would simply raise ticket prices.”

Maybe that’s just holding your ground early in negotiations, but if you’re the city, you probably wince seeing stuff like that being made public.

This probably makes you wince, too.

One of those venues is Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will replace the Georgia Dome as the Atlanta Falcons’ home field in 2017. With a seating capacity of 75,000, and the potential to expand to 83,000, the $1.2 billion stadium has already sent a message to the college football world that it intends to be a major player for sporting events.

McGarity said maintaining the Georgia-Florida game tradition in Jacksonville is important, but he acknowledges the new Atlanta venue — along with AT&T Stadium in Dallas and a newly renovated Citrus Bowl in Orlando — cannot be ignored as potential competition down the road for any neutral-site game.

“There are newer and more modern options available now that are in play (to attract neutral-site games),” McGarity said. “They’re business people, too.”

How much is there to squeeze out of the city?  We’re going to find out.


Filed under Gators Gators, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

One thing you’ll never see Butts-Mehre do.

In the wake of George O’Leary’s resignation, Central Florida will pay his coach in waiting $700,000 for not replacing him.

You can add that to the “stupid things athletic departments do because they don’t have to pay for labor” file.  Which is getting kinda thick, now that I notice.


Filed under It's Just Bidness

“The integrity of our collegiate contests are paramount.”

We already know the NCAA doesn’t think much of the daily fantasy stuff.  It’s asked the sites to stop offering fantasy games based on college sports.  It’s barred student-athlete participation, with a year of lost eligibility penalty for anyone who’s caught violating the rule.

That’s the easy stuff.  Where the rubber meets the road, though…

Lewis added, “As we have communicated to you previously, since your games meet the definition of sports wagering within our bylaws, the N.C.A.A. will not allow advertising of your products in connection with N.C.A.A. championships, including television broadcasts.”

Numerous N.C.A.A. championships appear on television, but most prominent are the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with the men’s on CBS and Turner stations and the women’s on ESPN and its affiliates. The men’s tournament deal is worth more than $10 billion for 14 years. ESPN has broadcast deals for a few dozen other N.C.A.A. championships, including the College World Series.

CBS Sports and Turner Sports declined to comment.

Well, publicly, anyway.

In the world of college football, where the NCAA can only watch the deals from the sidelines, the approach is more mixed.

The College Football Playoff is not administered by the N.C.A.A., but rather by the Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame, which is independent. Bill Hancock, executive director of the playoff — which comprises seven bowl and playoff games annually, including the national championship game and the Rose Bowl — said the playoff had not engaged in extensive discussion on the topic yet with ESPN, which signed a 12-year, $7.3 billion contract to broadcast those games.

While several professional sports franchises and media companies are investors, the college sports establishment appeared to have fewer entanglements.

The Southeastern Conference has asked the SEC Network, which ESPN owns, not to air ads for daily fantasy sports, according to SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.

“It certainly doesn’t seem the right tone,” Sankey said, adding, “We are in an academic environment. Candidly, a lot of this advertising reaches out to a lot of young people, and a piece of the concern is about individuals.”

The Pacific-12 Network and Big Ten Network, which are fully or jointly owned by the conferences and their universities, still air daily fantasy ads, although not ones that promote college games.

“As long as the federal government has determined this isn’t gambling, it’s in a different category,” said Larry Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner.

Sankey said the SEC had had discussions with ESPN and CBS, which broadcast conference football games, about barring daily fantasy commercials.

That money thing, she is tough.

I give it a few years and expect the colleges will fold on this, telling themselves that it hasn’t been a problem for the NBA to manage.  Then it’ll be off to the races.  Gotta be flexible with integrity when you’re paying the bills.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Be careful what you wish for, coaches.

My theory about how coaches feel about the issues roiling the NCAA and schools right now – primarily amateurism and unionization – is that the coaches don’t oppose the players’ interests out of a lack of sympathy (Dabo Swinney’s “they’re lucky to be here” attitude notwithstanding), so much as they don’t relish the potential threat to their control resolution of these issues might pose.

So that, plus what’s probably a lack of general understanding or attention to the issues, is probably why you don’t hear coaches dismiss the need for an antitrust exemption for college sports.  Judging from a comment from Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank, maybe they should brush up on the issue.

Blank, chancellor since 2013, has given the issue of coaches’ salaries a good deal of thought — and she offers a radical fix.

“Coaches are being paid, especially in a couple of big sports, increasingly like professional leagues,” she says. “It immediately raises the question of, ‘Why aren’t your athletes being paid similarly?’ If I could redo this, I would try to get some sort of antitrust exemption here and say, ‘We run a college sports program — and college sports programs are different. And we do have the right to cap salaries, given the salary levels that exist elsewhere around the university.’

“And the expectation is that these students are students, as well as athletes, meaning it is not a for-profit program. People who want to make those kinds of salaries need to be in professional sports. I’m a losing voice on that right now. … I don’t think anyone believes it’s going to happen.”

Although she expresses an attitude that’s been expressed before by college administrators, Cheek isn’t exactly a tyro when it comes to economic issues.  She was acting secretary of commerce in the Obama administration and holds a doctorate in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Coaches aren’t the only people who like control, you know.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery