The NCAA Approves Unlimited Meals For Division I Athletes After Shabazz Napier Complains About Going Hungry: The Lesson For Other College Athletes

In a locker room in AT&T Stadium after the University of Connecticut Huskies won the NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship, UConn’s star player, Shabazz Napier, sat in a locker room.  Like many champions before him, he sat with media members’ recorders in front of his face engaging in a post-game interview.  While there was nothing extraordinary about the setting, it was the words that came out of Napier’s mouth that made the interview out of the ordinary:  ”Sometimes, there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities.”

In a period where the NCAA amateurism landscape is facing the greatest threat of extinction, Napier’s words were thunderous.  Napier’s comments turned the talk away from conversations about paying college athletes and instead refocused attention on the plausibility that some college athletes’ most basic needs are not being fully met.

Today the NCAA Division I Legislative Council approved a rule allowing Division I programs to grant all of their athletes unlimited meals and snacks.  The rules change will not be considered final until the NCAA Division I board of directors meets on April 24.  As it currently stands, NCAA Division I programs are allowed to provide scholarship athletes with one training table meal per day.  A cost for the training table meal is deducted from the amount of money those athletes receive to purchase food plans or other food with.  Walk-on and non-scholarship athletes may participate in training table meals, but must pay to eat them.

While NCAA athletes’ appetites were victorious today, what signal was sent to college athletes about how to pursue other desired changes to the NCAA’s bylaws?

Although the timing of the NCAA’s decision coincided nicely with Napier’s comments, the issue of allowing schools to provide athletes unlimited meals has actually been on the NCAA’s table since 2012.  It was in that year that theCollegiate and Professional Sport Dietitians Association provided data to the NCAA demonstrating that some of its athletes were not receiving proper nutrition.  In turn, the Collegiate and Professional Sport Dietitians Association suggested that the NCAA allow its member institutions to grant their athletes unlimited meals.  The proposal has worked its way through the NCAA’s governance system since 2012 to make it to today’s vote.

The learning lesson for college athletes therefore is twofold.  The first lesson is that the backing of a professional organization and its research bolsters the credibility of their requested NCAA bylaw changes.  Would the NCAA have been spurred to action to allow unlimited meals based on Napier’s comments alone?  While the answer to that question is unknown, it’s unlikely.  However, when presented with data that demonstrated a large number of college athletes lack proper nutrition, it became harder for the NCAA to turn away from such requests.  Thus, in asking the NCAA for things beyond what a grant in aid allows, college athletes should seek the assistance of professional organizations whose research lines up with what they’re requesting.

The second lesson from the NCAA’s decision today is that timing and public relations don’t hurt in pushing the NCAA to make changes that college athletes desire.  Again, it is unknown whether the Division I Legislative Council would have voted the way it did today had Napier not made his comments about nights spent hungry.  Yet, it is arguable that by focusing attention on his hunger nearly immediately after winning a national championship Napier put the NCAA in a corner where it had no option but to allow for unlimited meals.  Yes, the legislation on unlimited meals had been working its way through the NCAA since 2012.  However, if Napier did not make his comments, would the NCAA have faced the public relations nightmare it would have if the Legislative Council voted against the proposal?  Thus, today’s decision show that there is power behind some college athletes’ voices.  However, it is the platform and manner in which they choose to use those voices that dictates whether they will be heard.

Leave a comment

Filed under NCAA

Why Baylor’s Men’s Basketball Team Won’t Be Wearing “Sic ‘Em Bears” Jerseys This Postseason

Last week adidas made waves when it unveiled its “Made in March” line of NCAA men’s basketball postseason uniforms.  Continuing the trend seen throughout the NBA this season, it announced that a handful of team’s postseason jerseys are sleeved.  Arguably, though, the biggest wave made by adidas’ announcement was the revealing of Baylor’s jersey, which featured the phrase “Sic ‘Em Bears,” which is the school’s yell.  While basketball players have voiced their distaste for sleeved jersey this season, the NCAA similarly voiced its distaste of adidas’ decision to put “Sic ‘Em Bears” on a basketball jersey when it ruled that Baylor cannot wear the uniforms.

The basis for the NCAA’s decision is crouched away in its Men’s Basketball Rule Book.  Amongst other things, that document provides guidelines as to what can and cannot be displayed on a team’s jerseys.  For instance, the rules state that the “neutral zone” of a men’s basketball player’s jersey may only contain a player’s name or an institutional name mascot.  More importantly, though, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rule Book states that no more than two identifying names or abbreviations may be placed on the front or back of a game jersey.  The identifying names must identify the school, the school’s nickname or mascot, or the player’s name.

The limitations placed on the identifying names that may be put on a basketball player’s jersey are the reason why Baylor’s men’s basketball team cannot wear jerseys featuring the phrase “Sic ‘Em Bears.”  That is because although the phrase is deep rooted in Baylor history, it arguably does not directly identify Baylor nor contain the school’s nickname.  While adidas could have argued that the jerseys identify Baylor’s mascot since the phrase contains the word “Bears,” the NCAA’s decision today demonstrates that such an argument does not meet its standards.

When it comes to developing jerseys featuring “Sick ‘Em Bears,” adidas may not be out of luck.  That is because when it comes to football uniforms, the NCAA’s rules are different.  The 2013 and 2014 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations manual provides that along with a player’s number, a football jersey may only contain the player’s name; school name; NCAA Football logo; sleeve stripes; insignia for the school, conference, mascot, postseason game, memorial or the military; or an American or state flag.  Given the presence of the broad category of “insignia” in the rule, it is likely that a Baylor football uniform could feature the phrase.  The question, though, is whether adidas is willing to take another design risk and place the phrase on a football uniform?  Regardless of what adidas decides to do moving forward with Baylor’s uniforms, one thing is certain: The company generated significant conversation over a basketball uniform design that wasn’t worn for a single quarter of basketball.

Leave a comment

Filed under NCAA

Does A Federal Lawsuit Pave The Best Path For Alex Rodriguez To Get Back Onto The Baseball Diamond?

After an arbitration panel upheld 162 games of a 211-game suspension previously levied by MLB, Alex Rodriguez sued MLB, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and MLBPA.  In the lawsuit brought in federal court, Rodriguez raises three claims:  breach of the duty of fair representation by MLBPA, breach of the collective bargaining agreements by MLB and vacatur of the arbitration award.  Overall, Rodriguez seeks the court to overturn the arbitration decision and award whatever other relief is just and equitable.

In the wake of MLB’s investigation into him for alleged illegal performance enhancing substance use, Rodriguez has levied most of his disfavor of the process against MLB.  Rodriguez and his legal team have publicly challenged MLB’s suspension of Rodriguez and its subsequent legal maneuvering during the arbitration process.  Surprisingly, though, in his lawsuit, Rodriguez takes a bigger swipe at a different entity: MLBPA.

The bulk of the 77-page complaint filed by Rodriguez takes aim at what he alleges to have been the union’s breach of its duty of fair representation during the grievance process.  According to Rodriguez, MLBPA refused to act upon his request that it object to MLB’s alleged breaches of the Joint Drug Agreement and Basic Agreement.  Additionally, Rodriguez requested MLBPA to intervene in and seek dismissal of MLB’s state court proceeding in Florida against Tony Bosch, the founder of Biogenesis.  According to the lawsuit, MLBPA refused to do this.  Furthermore, Rodriguez alleges that MLBPA made derogatory public statements about him and points to comments made publicly by former MLBPA executive director, Michael Weiner, in this regard.  Due to these issues, Rodriguez sought to select the arbitrator of his choosing to hear his grievance.  MLBPA denied him this request and instead selected an arbitrator of its choosing–as is normal procedure–for the three-member panel.  In his lawsuit, Rodriguez objects to this.

Under federal law, a labor union–like MLBPA–owes its members certain duties.  One of those duties is the duty of fair representation.  Under the duty of fair representation, MLBPA is required to represent the interests of all of its members without discrimination.  To show that a union acted discriminatorily, more than negligence or ineptitude in its representation of a member must be shown.  Rather, the totality of the circumstances must show that MLBPA violated its duty of fair representation by arbitrarily or in bad faith discriminating against Rodriguez in the representation of him throughout the grievance process.

In his lawsuit, Rodriguez raises allegations in an attempt to argue that MLBPA acted discriminatorily in its representation of him throughout the grievance process.  Overall, Rodriguez’s argument is that MLBPA did not want to risk its reputation and good favor with MLB and the arbitration panel in fighting Rodriguez’s case.  Rodriguez points to alleged incidences of this conduct as behavior which amounted to the requisite discriminatory conduct to be violative of the duty of fair representation.

Given the claims Rodriguez’s lawsuit brings and the goals of the lawsuit, the question becomes, did Rodriguez bring his claims in the right forum?  While Rodriguez names as defendants MLB, MLBPA and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, a review and understanding of applicable precedent demonstrates that the party against whom he has the strongest claim is MLBPA.  This is due to the fact that in labor disputes, courts rarely intervene and/or find in the favor of a plaintiff unless an employer (here, MLB and the Officer of the Commissioner of Baseball) act arbitrarily or capriciously or in disregard of their own rules or the law.  Although Rodriguez has asserted that MLB and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball have acted in disregard of the Joint Drug Agreement and Basic Agreement, given the flexibilities present in those documents, his arguments against these parties are arguably his weakest.  Negating the argument that MLB and the Officer of the Commissioner of Baseball acted arbitrarily or capriciously is MLB’s allegedly uncovering of significant evidence that Rodriguez allegedly used performance enhancing substances.  The evidence MLB allegedly holds and legal precedent make it unlikely that a court will find against MLB and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.

That then, leaves the MLBPA.  Given the duty of fair representation, it appears that the strongest claims in Rodriguez’s lawsuit are those raised against MLBPA.  As such, was a federal lawsuit the best route for Rodriguez to bring these claims?  It turns out that another avenue may have presented a more timely disposition of Rodriguez’s claims.  That avenue is an unfair labor practice filing alleging that MLBPA breached its duty of fair representation by discriminating against Rodriguez throughout his grievance against MLB.

Due to Rodriguez’s main goal in bringing his lawsuit appearing to be returning to the baseball diamond, time is arguably of the essence when it comes to the resolution of his claims.  Given the motions and discovery processes in federal court, it could easily be over a year before Rodriguez’s lawsuit is resolved.  An unfair labor practice, however, could see disposition in a more timely manner.  The issue with this route, though, is the remedies available to Rodriguez.  The filing an unfair labor practice charge against MLBPA would unlikely bring about the result Rodriguez is seeking of having his MLB suspension shorted so that he can return to play this year.

While the legal minutiae is tough to sort through in this case, one thing is certain:  The road for Rodriguez back to the baseball diamond is one that will span over a year.  Whether serving a suspension or battling in court, this matter is not one that will disappear soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Civil Lawsuits, MLB, MLBPA

David Stern’s Last Christmas Gift As NBA Commissioner Comes In The Form Of Sleeved Jerseys

By:  Kris Colley, Ruling Sports Contributor (Twitter:  @KCMasterpiece52)

Christmas time is the season of giving, and the NBA has given us something to talk about for years and years to come. Many believe Christmas day is the day in which the sport begins to emerge from the shadow of the NFL and college football into the national spotlight.

Commissioner David Stern has made Christmas Day a super spectacle for his league. The biggest names across the league will clash on Christmas making for an excellent day of entertainment and basketball.

Since Christmas Day is so special, the teams often unveil unique and innovative alternate jerseys. This Christmas day it will be no different.  The Bulls, Nets, Thunder, Knicks, Rockets, Spurs, Clippers, Warriors, Lakers, and Heat will all be wearing new sleeved jerseys.

This fashion trend started in the NBA last season when the Golden State Warriors wore their pin stripped sleeved alternates. Although it is something new and increasingly more common for teams to wear the sleeved shirt, they are unsightly, odd, and veer from the traditional look. The traditional “no sleeves” look has been a hallmark of the league since its inception. 

These alternates make the players look like they are in a track meet rather than an NBA game. The elastic polyester fabric is tight fitting and the look of the league will definitely be modified, for at least one day.

 Website Ballislife voted the Golden State Warriors alternates the 6th ugliest uniform in league history.  So far this season the Warriors are 2-1 in the uniforms, but performance is not the issue; the sleeved shirt is just a startling eyesore. 

This will be David Stern’s last Christmas as NBA commissioner.  His 30 years as commissioner were possibly the best ever by a commissioner in any sport.  He took the sport to great new heights and opened the game to international markets like no other league.  But, he will have the final laugh, leaving the NBA World with this terrifically tacky “shirt-jersey”.

Commissioner Stern will leave putting on his jolly ole St. Nicholas suit and checking his list twice. With the unveiling of these new uniforms it is obvious that the NBA was naughty, and not nice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

New Jersey Hits The Flop, But Will It Hit The River?

By:  Jonathan Gordon, Ruling Sports contributor (Twitter: @JonathanCGordon)

New Jersey took a monumental stride last week in its attempts to bolster the state’s gambling and betting scene. After five days of testing online gambling to ensure such a system can be effective and regulated, the state announced that residents are officially able to gamble online for traditional casino games such as poker, blackjack, and the like.

While New Jersey has drastically stimulated its gambling industry, it remains in the dark with regards to its sports betting industry. Looking back at the last few years shows just how far the state has come with online gambling – and just how far it still needs to go with sports betting.

ONLINE GAMBLING

January 2011: New Jersey legislature passes a bill that allows online gambling to take place as long as the computer servers which operate the gambling websites are located at licensed casinos in Atlantic City.

March 2011: New Jersey governor Chris Christie vetoes the January bill over various concerns.

February 2013: New Jersey (both the legislature and Christie) approves of a restructured bill allowing Internet gambling.

November 21, 2013: New Jersey implements a 5-day testing program to ensure online gambling systems are effective and efficient. All seven of the casinos that were granted Internet gambling permits are tested.

November 25, 2013: New Jersey gives all the tested casinos except for the Golden Nugget permission to immediately begin providing statewide online gambling services.

SPORTS BETTING

November 2011: New Jersey voters approve of a referendum allowing sports betting.

January 2012: Governor Christie signs referendum into law, legalizing sports betting.

August 2012: The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA file a federal lawsuit against New Jersey in an attempt to prevent the state from allowing sports betting.

February 2013: Federal court rules in favor of the leagues. New Jersey is not allowed to issue sports betting licenses.

September 2013: Three judge panel from the federal 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upholds the February ruling. New Jersey is still not allowed to issues sports betting licenses.

November 15, 2013: New Jersey asks the full court to hear its appeal. Its request is denied.

November 22, 2013: The state confirms that Governor Christie will take his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Colin Reed, a spokesman for Christie: “Gov. Christie has said all along this issue should be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, and that’s what he hopes will happen next. He has asked the attorneys representing the state to file the necessary paperwork. The people of New Jersey voted overwhelmingly to bring sports betting to New Jersey, and the Governor agrees with his constituents and will not give up this fight.”

What does this mean going forward? Will sports betting become legal in New Jersey? Interestingly, New Jersey sports betting and online gambling share a similar history. Both received a sense of approval at first, with the online gambling bill being passed by legislation and the referendum on sports betting being approved. Both, then, experienced setbacks as Governor Christie vetoed the online gambling bill and the NCAA and professional leagues sued the state over sports betting. While these similarities provide interesting context, they are by no means applicable in court. They do, however, give comfort to the state of New Jersey. Legal setbacks are common and the legal process can be a lengthy and arduous one. Will sports betting end up with the same fortunate fate online gambling did?

The issue is certainly an interesting one. When the professional leagues and the NCAA filed a federal lawsuit against New Jersey, they won on the claim that sports betting in New Jersey would directly violate the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Essentially, PASPA (a federal law enacted in 1992) makes sports betting illegal – except in the four states of Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon because these states legalized sports betting before the enactment of PASPA.

Though it was seemingly upheld in the original lawsuit, the main point of contention lies in the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

New Jersey claims that PASPA violates this amendment. As sports betting is not an issue addressed by the Constitution, New Jersey believes the right to legalize sports betting should be determined by the State.

This seems to be a fairly valid argument for the state of New Jersey. However, New Jersey argued this same claim in the original lawsuit and lost in District Court. Will the Supreme Court reverse the decision?

Having already lost once, it would not be surprising to see New Jersey lose in its appeal. However, it would be no less surprising to see the state emerge victorious. Frankly, this would be the best decision for all parties involved.

For one, legalizing sports betting in New Jersey would provide a major boost to the state’s economy with hundreds of millions of additional revenue. Should other states follow and pursue sports betting as well, the national economy as a whole would be substantially better off. The government would be opening up an industry that is currently monopolized by Las Vegas.

Whether the government or the NCAA or the professional leagues wish to accept it or not, sports betting will still happen regardless of the final verdict. It happens today with offshore betting accounts and the like. By formally addressing its legality, the government can better regulate the industry.

Though the following is a bit outdated, it presents a similar situation to the one today. In 2000, the NCAA proposed to ban all sports wagering on non-professional (collegiate) events. Then-President of University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), Carol Harter addressed the issue:

“Outlawing legal betting on collegiate sports would neither eliminate nor significantly reduce betting on those sports. Rather, it would drive sports wagering further underground, on campuses and elsewhere…

At present, legal sports books assist the NCAA and law enforcement agencies by monitoring betting activities and alerting authorities (and each other) to anomalies, such as huge bets on underdogs, that may indicate illegal activity. Professor Shannon Bybee, director of the UNLV International Gaming Institute and a former member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, points out that it was Las Vegas sports books who tipped authorities to probable illegal activity involving an Arizona State basketball game in 1993.”

While this situation solely focused on collegiate sports, the same principles can be applied to include professional sports. Legalizing sports betting would reduce the presence of illegal sports books. Rightfully so, the NCAA and professional sports leagues are concerned about maintaining fair games. However, as Harter addresses, legalizing sports betting would actually help in this endeavor.

Legalizing sports betting would be best for all the parties involved. You can bet on that.  New Jersey may have flopped a winner with online gambling, but it remains to be seen what the river holds. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope it’s another winner.

Born and raised in Las Vegas with casinos in his backyard, Jonathan Gordon is a junior at the University of Notre Dame and the founder of Sports Analytics Blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports Gambling

WVU Sees Financial Gains In Its Move To The Big 12 Conference

In late 2011, the roller coaster that was NCAA conference realignment picked up another rider:  West Virginia University.  In October 2011, WVU accepted a bid from the Big 12 to join the conference.  WVU’s acceptance of the Big 12′s invitation was made with both the university’s current needs and future goals in mind.  ”Our goal really as an institution was to find what I would call a ‘big time, power conference.’  Folks at the university and in the state believed that the Big East was crumbling.  We believed that with the state of demise the Big East was in during 2011, that we had to find a big time power conference where we could continue to maintain a high level of competition on a national level,” said WVU’s athletics director, Oliver Luck.

After a lawsuit was filed by WVU to escape the Big East without complying with the conference’s 27-months notice provision and a countersuit was filed by the Big East, a settlement in early 2012 paved the way for WVU’s move to the Big 12.  In the fall of 2012, WVU began competition in the Big 12.  Since that time, WVU has enjoyed gains from competing in the conference.

One of the biggest areas in which WVU has seen growth, is in conference revenue.  In the first fiscal year that WVU was a member of the Big 12, WVU earned $10,354,499 in conference revenue.  This number was up four-percent from the conference share it earned during its last fiscal year as a member of the Big East.  What’s notable about this increase, is that WVU is not receiving a full share of Big 12 conference revenue.  It will not receive a full share of Big 12 conference revenue until 2016-17.  That WVU is able to bring in more conference revenue in the Big 12 without receiving a full conference share, signals the value of its move from the Big East to the Big 12.  ”With the move to the Big 12, we have seen all of our financial metrics move forward,” Luck noted.

Another area in which WVU has seen revenue growth since moving to the Big 12, is contributions.  In its first fiscal year as a member of the Big 12, WVU brought in $1,164,503.00 more contributions than it did in its last year as a member of the Big East.  According to Luck, WVU set a school record for fundraising donations last year during its first year as a member of the Big 12.

While the move to the Big 12 has generated increased revenue for WVU, another move WVU made in 2011 is paying off financially.  That decision–to sell beer at home football games–has brought WVU significant revenue since 2011.  For the 2011 football season, WVU had a 50-50 split with its concessionaire for revenue generated from beer sales.  That year, WVU earned $516,551.41 from beer sales, with the top-selling game being the Mountaineers’ game against LSU.  WVU’s home game against LSU, which was attended by 62,056 people, generated $120,469.81 worth of beer sales revenue for WVU.

In moving to the Big 12 in 2012, WVU saw its beer sales revenue increase.  Still sharing a 50-50 split with its concessionaire for beer sales revenue, WVU earned $632,694.58 from beer sales in 2012.  What’s notable about this, is that WVU’s football attendance in 2012 was actually lower than in 2011, by an average of just under 8,000 fans per game.  Yet, fans were spending more on beer in 2012 than they were in 2011.

WVU appears to be set to set another record for beer sales revenue in 2013.  This year, WVU’s new contract with concessionaire Sodexo allows WVU to keep 52-percent of the revenue from beer sales.  Ahead of the Iowa State game, WVU had brought in $482,377.02 in beer sales this season.  In home games against Texas and Oklahoma State, WVU brought in over $100,000 in revenue from beer sales this year.

While WVU has seen areas of revenue increase since moving to the Big 12, certain expenditures have grown.  One major expense in particular has increased in the move to the Big 12:  Travel expenses.  Travel expenses in the last year that WVU was a member of the Big East to its first year in the Big 12 increased by 36-percent, from $5,095,132.00 to $6,920,683.  The increase in travel expenses for WVU is the result of competing against teams that are located further away than the school’s former Big East competitors.  ”While we’ve increased our travel budget, it is not because we are flying more often, but rather, because we are flying longer,” Luck explained.

In WVU’s first two years as members of the Big 12, Luck has identified several hurdles that the athletics department must overcome.  ”The biggest hurdles are two things.  First, everything is new.  Coaches are creatures of habit.  They know the routine.  Going into a new venue is interesting, but also a challenge.  The second hurdle, is that by and large, the level of competition is higher in the Big 12.  We need to figure out how to compete better, recruit better, coach our student-athletes better, improve their facilities and increase our coaches’ salaries, to ensure they are on par,” Luck said.

What, then, is Luck’s plan to address these issues?  It is a plan that will likely be supported by WVU fans:  ”My theory is we have to address all of the hurdles at once,” he said.  To do that, WVU is increasing coaches’ salaries, recruiting in more areas across the nation and spending to build and improve facilities for its teams.

While WVU continues to make changes to improve its athletics programs, one thing is certain for now:  The Big 12 is its home.  ”I’m a believer that our university is a lot like the other public schools in the Big 12.  We are a land grant institution that is a landmark school in its state.  As I look at Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, I see schools that are very much like ours. . . . I think that in this conference, we find ourselves at home,” Luck remarked.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business of College Sports, NCAA

Jerry Jones’ 1995 Risk Allows The Dallas Cowboys To Become Leaders In The Growing Women’s Sports Apparel Market

Risk taking is necessary for a business to grow.  For Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a risk that he took in 1995 has had a significant payoff in his team’s ability to enter into the growing business of women’s sports apparel.

Seven years before Jones became the Cowboys’ owner, NFL owners voted to create the NFL Trust.  This resulted in each team transferring the exclusive right to use its club marks for commercial purposes to the NFL Trust.  The NFL Trust then entered into license agreements with NFL Properties to provide NFL Properties the exclusive right to license the trust’s property.  The motivation behind creating the NFL Trust was the thought that when placed into the market together, the value of all NFL team marks would be higher than if teams attempted to negotiate licensing deals on their own.

In 1993, NFL owners began capitalizing upon their decision to create the NFL Trust.  That year, Coca-Cola signed a five-year contract worth a reported $250 million to become the official soft-drink of the NFL.  In 1995, Visa USA would sign the then second-largest partnership agreement with the NFL, a five-year deal worth $50 million, to become the NFL’s exclusive payment card sponsor.

In the background of these deals, though, was Jones.  Not a team owner when NFL owners voted to create the NFL Trust, Jones realized that he and the Cowboys were in a situation unique from most other NFL teams:  The Cowboys didn’t need a stable of teams to secure lucrative endorsement deals.

With the business savvy cured from his education, which includes a Master’s degree in business, and successfully running his own Jones Oil and Land Lease, Jones set out to capitalize upon the brand recognized as “America’s Team.”  The owner of not only the Dallas Cowboys, but also their stadium, Texas Stadium Corporation, Jones entered into multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements with American Express, Pepsi and Nike through Texas Stadium Corporation.

While arguably not directly contravening the terms of the NFL Trust, since only teams and not stadiums were part of the trust, Jones nonetheless secured the ire of the NFL.  At an owners meeting in Atlanta in 1995, Jones was served with a $300 million lawsuit filed by NFL Properties.  The lawsuit raised claims including violations of the Lanham Act, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith, unjust enrichment and tortious interference with contractual rights.

In response to the lawsuit, Jones and the Cowboys filed a motion to dismiss.  This motion was granted in part.  Then, Jones took a big risk:  He filed a $750 million antitrust lawsuit against the league.  It was this legal maneuver that put the Cowboys on the ground to becoming the most valuable NFL franchise.  In 2013, Forbes valued the team at a league-wide high of $2,300 million.

With portions of its lawsuit dismissed, Jones’ antitrust lawsuit motivated the NFL to do one thing:  Settle.  The settlement agreement Jones reached with the NFL allowed Texas Stadium Corporation to maintain its contracts with American Express, Pepsi and Nike.  It also provided every other NFL team the opportunity to sign their own stadium sponsorship agreements.  Arguably, though, Jones was the big winner of the settlement agreement, as he also retained the right for the Cowboys to enter into their own licensing agreements.  It is this right that allows the Cowboys to create merchandise apart from the NFL’s licensing agreements.

Today, the Dallas Cowboys are using the footing they gained through the contentious litigation to further build the value of their brand.  With the NFL identifying 44-percent of its fans as being female, in recent years, the league has taken a proactive approach to providing women with apparel choices that better suit their fashion sense.  Leading the league in this effort, are the Dallas Cowboys.

In recent years, the Cowboys have utilized their licensing capabilities to enter into team-exclusive partnership agreements with women’s apparel designers, including PINK by Victoria’s Secret and Peace Love World.  The partnership with PINK was born six years ago. According to Cowboys executive vice president and chief brand officer, Charlotte Jones Anderson, “Sales of PINK merchandise in our pro shops was so successful, that PINK wanted to create a stand-alone store in our stadium.  We are the only team to have our own stand-alone store and the first team to enter into a licensing agreement with PINK to produce Cowboys-only apparel.”

Seeing how female fans flocked to the team’s PINK merchandise, Jones Anderson set out to find other licensees to partner with to create Cowboys women’s apparel lines.  ”Seeing how successful our PINK line was really inspired us to go out again and find another partner to do something similar,” Jones Anderson said.  Earlier this year, the Cowboys partnered with Peace Love World to create a line of women’s apparel featuring tops, tanks, hoodies and pants with phrases including, “I Love Sundays” and “I am Dallas.”

For Peace Love World founder Alina Villasante, the growing trend of teams and leagues investing in women’s apparel opportunities has been good for business.  Launched in 2007, Peace Love World was born as a brand focused upon “spreading peace and love all over the world,” according to Villasante.  In wasn’t until 2013 when that the spreading of that message reached the sports space.

During the Miami Heat’s 2013 NBA Finals run, Villasante, a Miami resident, was contacted by Heat executives to begin producing women’s apparel for fans.  Through promotion solely on social media streams, Villasante’s creations, featuring phrases like, “I am Champion” and “I am Miami,” sold out in seven minutes.  ”The clothes got to the AmericanAirlines Arena and within seven minutes, they were sold out.  The team called me and told me to take the pictures of the items off of Instagram, because they had already sold out.  It was a great introduction for what I was going to be facing in the future in partnering with sports teams,” Villasante recalled.

The taste of success in the sports marketplace that Peace Love World experienced during the NBA Finals allowed Villasante to recognize that sports could provide a unique opportunity for her company to grow.  ”Women have been hungry to show up to games looking like we are ready to go out with our friends and to be very fashionable.  I wanted to provide women with clothing that gives them the feelings of femininity and loyalty, while also looking like a sports fan,” Villasante said.

Seeing the success that Villasante and Peace Love World achieved in their partnership with the Miami Heat, the Cowboys contacted her to build a line for the team.  Throughout the season, Peace Love World merchandise has been promoted not only in the Cowboys’ team store and online storefront, but in pop-up shops and at an NFL style lounge event.  For someone whose business plan did not initially include entering the sports marketplace, Villasante calls her sports partnerships with the Heat and Cowboys “the best thing that’s happened to me in the four-and-a-half years since I’ve launched Peace Love World.”

Jones Anderson credits the Cowboys’ capabilities to license their own merchandise for providing the team with an opportunity to take risks in the women’s apparel arena.  ”We are the only team that can produce, license and sell our own merchandise as a complete business,” Jones Anderson noted.  This ability has allowed the Cowboys to test the marketplace in ways that other teams are unable to.  ”For the longest time, people in retail believed that jerseys, hats and plain t-shirts were driving sales in the industry.  Taking a step into a market that is more luxury-oriented, like women’s apparel, was thought to have more risk behind it.  People didn’t have the cojones to jump in and try something if it wasn’t going to work,” Jones Anderson said.

With their own merchandising entity, Dallas Cowboys Merchandising, Ltd., the Cowboys had the flexibility to take risks when entering the women’s apparel marketplace.  ”For us, since we are able to do it just for us, we can run a test to see if there’s real traction in the brand.  It’s been incredible.  Our fans have been very receptive and they love that we are thinking of them differently,” Jones Anderson said.

Like business, success in fashion involves taking risks.  With the NFL finding that its women’s apparel sales have tripled in recent years, taking risks to meet the wants of fashion-forward female sports fans is likely to pay off for teams like the Cowboys and women’s sports apparel creators like Peace Love World.

1 Comment

Filed under Civil Lawsuits, NFL, Sports Business, Trademark Law

A Look At NASCAR’s Unique Approach To Increasing Official Partners’ Return On Investment

On the Thursday before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, decision makers from a who’s who list of Fortune 500 companies gathered in a meeting space at the trendy Fontainebleau Miami Beach.  Sipping Coca-Cola around tables as salsa music beat over the room’s speakers, the Fortune 500 movers and shakers brokering deals were in the room for one reason:  NASCAR brought them.

When it comes to sports properties, NASCAR boasts one of the most extensive lists of corporate sponsors.  This racing season, the number of official NASCAR partners neared 60.  The value a corporation reaps in partnering with NASCAR is vast in the sense that every Sunday, their logo travels around a race track in front of millions of eyes.  Yet, in an economic age where corporations have limited budgets to spend on sports marketing, NASCAR recognized that it must provide a greater return on investment for its official partners.  “So many partners are looking for return on investment,” said NASCAR’s vice president of partnership marketing, Norris Scott.

Wanting to provide its corporate sponsors with more return on their investment, NASCAR created its Fuel For Business Council.  The council provides NASCAR’s official partners the opportunity to engage in quarterly business-to-business meetings where they can buy and sell goods, forge marketing partnerships and network.  “Nine years ago, NASCAR had a group of partners get together to talk about more ways they could drive value out of their sponsorship.  Naturally, one of the options was to create a platform for our partners to get business back from their sponsorship investment,” Scott said.

Today, the NASCAR Fuel For Business Council allows NASCAR’s official partners to meet quarterly at NASCAR-hosted events to buy and sell products from one another.  In the business-to-business environment facilitated by NASCAR, official partners not only buy and sell products, but also learn from one another how to best benefit from their partnership with NASCAR.  “It makes good business sense to give our partners a platform to grow their businesses.  Nobody is immune to the economy.  That fact plays an even more important role, because marketers are scrutinizing their overall budgets.  Sports marketing isn’t immune to that scrutiny.  The opportunities the NASCAR Fuel For Business Council provides allows our official partners more of a measure of the return on their investment,” Scott explained.

Ford Motor Company is one official NASCAR partner that has benefited from the opportunities that the NASCAR Fuel For Business Council provides.  A participant in the council since its creation, Ford Motor Company has utilized the council to drive its “Partner Recognition Program.”  Through this program, Ford Motor Company offers other official NASCAR partners’ employees the opportunity to purchase its vehicles at discounted costs, and also works with official partners to supply their fleet vehicle needs.

The return on investment Ford Motor Company has seen in taking its business to NASCAR’s Fuel For Business Council meetings is vast.  In 2012, Ford Motor Company sold over 5,500 vehicles to NASCAR official partners.  One of its largest vehicle sales resulting from the partnership in 2012 was worth over $5 million.

For Ford Motor Company, the value garnered through the NASCAR Fuel For Business council’s business-to-business meetings brings an extra layer of worth to its NASCAR investment.  “It’s a real big win-win for us, because it allows us to measure some of our investment into the sport.  With what Ford and the auto industry have been through, it’s been a challenge from an investment standpoint to decide where to use marketing dollars.  You want to be able to measure a return on any of your expenditures when you are reaching out to customers in an advertising marketing way.  For the dollars we spend in the sport, we want to calculate a return on investment.  One of the best ways to do that in NASCAR, is to not only calculate it based upon what’s going on on the track and the impressions made through the media, but also behind the scenes from a business-to-business standpoint,” said Ford Racing’s motorsports marketing manager, Tim Duerr.

While the opportunity to engage with other official partners in a business-to-business environment is valuable, perhaps the best thing NASCAR provides to support its Fuel For Business council is a layer of accountability.  Each NASCAR official partner is assigned to a NASCAR account manager.  That account manager ensures that official partners meet with the corporations they want to engage with at council meetings.  Furthermore, after the meetings, the account manager follows up with all parties to help facilitate the conclusion of transactions.  “With the way NASCAR has structured the program and how they bring people together to build relationships and follow up to hold you accountable, it really gives you a second level of coverage to make sure that the thoroughness is there,” Duerr commented.

The commitment to the council’s success is one not only held by Duerr and NASCAR, but shared by all official partners who participate.  “A couple of things make the council special.  For one, it’s all about exclusivity in the room.  Even though the partners in the room may be competitors in the sport, they know that when they enter the room to do business, they have the advantage of their competitors not being in the room.  The other piece that makes this successful is the commitment the partners have.  They are all trying to find that return on investment,” NASCAR’s Scott noted.

Going into its tenth year of existence, NASCAR’s Fuel For Business council is only getting fired up.  When it comes to future plans of how the council can benefit NASCAR’s official partners, Scott notes, “We want to continue to be innovative.”  For a sports entity that provides its sponsors with a business-to-business opportunity unlike that of any other sports entity, innovation should not be hard to find moving forward.

Leave a comment

Filed under NASCAR, Sports Business

What’s Leading More Offensive Coaches Than Defensive Coaches To BCS Head Coaching Positions

In recent years, all of the talk in college football has centered around defense.  The three BCS national championships Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have managed to win under a defense-oriented play system have led the battle cry of college football enthusiasts declaring that a strong defense is the most certain way to win games.  While few offenses have been able to manage Alabama’s defense since 2009, one thing is certain:  The tides are changing.

Like anything else, college football is cyclical.  A good defense can only survive until a better offense arises to beat it.  If head coaching hirings at the BCS level are any indication, that day is approaching.

16 new head coaches took the helms of BCS teams this season.  Of those 16, only six have no experience coaching offensive positions (Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen, Syracuse’s Scott Shafer, North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema).

With 62.5-percent of BCS head coaching hires this year holding extensive offensive experience, one must question what’s motivating these hires.  Texas A&M’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Jake Spavital, has an idea of what’s leading the trend.  ”If you look back through the 1990s and 2000s, a lot of the head coaches who were getting jobs were defensive minded guys.  Now, you’re finding these offenses that are high-scoring, explosive and fun to watch.  In turn, what you’re seeing, is a lot more offensive coaches becoming head coaches,” Spavital said.

Spavital, who in his young career has coached three NFL starting quarterbacks (Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden and Geno Smith) and now serves as Johnny Manziel’s quarterback coach at Texas A&M, is quick to point out the role that the cyclical nature of college football plays in hiring decisions.  ”Everything in college football comes full-circle.  College football is in a time right now where offenses are very hard to stop.  It’s going to get to a point where defenses start learning to defend against those offenses, and those coaches will start having success on the hiring scene,” Spavital explained.

What’s notable about this year’s offensive-minded head coach hirings, is the coaches’ ties to the quarterback position.  Four of this year’s new BCS head coaches previously served as a quarterbacks coach.  Additionally, while never holding the title of quarterbacks coach, new Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and new Boston College head coach Steve Addazio, as offensive coordinators at Auburn and Florida, respectively, led Cam Newton and Tim Tebow to Heisman Trophy winning seasons.  Along with providing keys to beat solid defenses, the lure of the Heisman Trophy may be one factor drawing athletics directors to hire offensive minded coaches.

College football fans know that offensive players are more likely to win the Heisman Trophy than defensive players.  In fact, only one true defensive player has ever been named a Heisman Trophy winner, Michigan’s Charles Woodson.  While offensive players have a clearer path to the podium at the Heisman Trophy announcement ceremony, quarterbacks seem to navigate the route most frequently.  Since 2000, only one non-quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy.  This streak by quarterbacks has not only led the winners to NFL careers, but has generated significant streams of revenue for their universities.  For instance, Baylor University pegged the economic impact of Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy in 2011 at $250 million.

Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks not only bring value to their institutions, but to the coaches who prepare them for competition on the field.  Along with Malzahn and Addazio, new Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury coached a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback (Manziel) prior to being named head coach this season.  In these men, athletics directors not only see the possibility of being able to outsmart defenses like Alabama’s, but also possibly cultivating a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who can create an indirect economic impact for the athletics department and university.

The tide of college football is changing and the change is being driven by offensive minded head coaches.  So long as college football exists, the trend-setting cycle of hiring either offensive minded or defensive minded coaches will remain, because as Spavital says, “You’re still putting eleven guys on the field, and at the end of the day, there’s only so much you can do.”  For now, though, offensive minded coaches will be the winners of the cycle.  That is, until college football’s next coaching generation maps out the defenses to stop the explosive offenses being built.

Leave a comment

Filed under NCAA

The NBA Rule That May Make Dwyane Wade’s Free Agency More Interesting Than LeBron’s

LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.

With the 2013-14 NBA season in its infancy, it seems as though the biggest topic of conversation is whether LeBron James is going to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat two years prior to its expiration and sign a new mega deal.  As pundits weigh in and teams’ salary cap experts scramble to figure out how they might be able to get their hands on the greatest player of this basketball generation, Dwyane Wade’s potential free agency looms quietly in the background.

In 2010, Wade signed a six-year, $110.1 million contract with the Miami Heat.  The contract provides Wade with the option to opt out in 2014 and 2015.  The purpose of opting out for any player is to secure a more lucrative deal than the one he currently has.  However, for Wade, his decision to opt out should be guided largely by his age.  Similarly, teams seeking to sign Wade must also be cognizant of his age as his free agency approaches.

When it comes to Wade’s age, on the surface, the biggest question is how many playing years he has left.  However, below the surface and crouched in the 2011 NBA collective bargaining agreement lies another issue:  the Over 36 Rule.

The NBA’s Over 36 Rule exists to recognize the reality that even though NBA players may be signing contracts that will not expire until after they are 36-years-old, the likelihood of them playing until that age is slim.  The Over 36 Rule applies when a player signs, extends or renegotiates a contract that is four-years or more in length, and the player will be 36-years-old or older when at least one of those seasons begins.  If the Over 36 Rule applies to a player’s contract, a portion of his salary may be reallocated towards the calculation of the salary cap in other years.

When it comes to Wade, who turns 32-years-old in January 2014, the Over 36 Rule and its operation is something his representatives and teams alike must be aware of.  In a perfect negotiation setting, Wade’s agent will secure him a five-year contract taking him into the twilight of his career.  If Wade’s representation seeks a five-year contract, the point at which Wade opts out of his current contract plays a considerable role in how the Over 36 Rule impacts the salary cap of the team signing him.

The Over 36 Rule is concerned with the age of a player as of the date of the start of the NBA season, which the collective bargaining agreement defines as October 1.  If Wade opts out of his contract in 2014 and signs a five-year contract that summer, he will be the following ages at the start of the proceeding five NBA seasons:

NBA Season Dwyane Wade’s Age
2014-15 32
2015-16 33
2016-17 34
2017-18 35
2018-19 36

When it comes to the Over 36 Rule, for teams wanting to sign Wade to a five-year contract, it may be in their best interest if he opts out in 2014.  The reason for this, is that it is in this time frame that the Over 36 Rule arguably has the least impact on a team’s salary cap.  With respect to a five-year contract signed by Wade in 2014-15, the Over 36 Rule would operate in one of two ways.

First, assume that Wade unexpectedly retires before this new five-year contract expires.  If that is the case, the portion of his salary he is due for 2018-19, when he is 36-years-old, would be distributed in a pro rata basis and added to his team’s salary cap for the 2014-15 through 2017-18 seasons.  For teams like the Miami Heat who are expected to face salary cap crunches as they attempt to re-sign James, this could pose a problem.

 

In contrast, assume that Wade clears waivers and plays all five years under the new contract.  In that case, the Over 36 Rule would not impact his team’s salary cap until 2016-17.  Under the Over 36 Rule, at that point, the salaries remaining on his contract will be aggregated and attributed to the three years remaining on his contract.  In simpler terms, what this means is that if Wade is still playing in 2016-17, his salary in that year will be higher than what is negotiated because of the Over 36 Rule.  This again has salary cap implications for the team who signs him.  However, these implications aren’t as large as those discussed in the hypothetical above where Wade is no longer playing in the fifth year of his contract.

For the Miami Heat, it would arguably be in the team’s best interest salary cap wise if Wade does not opt out of his contract either in 2014 or 2015.  First, there is the obvious point that the team may be able to secure Wade for less money in 2016 when he is 34-years-old than they will be able to in 2014 when he is 32-years-old.  However, the less discussed issue is that it is in 2016 that the Over 36 Rule has the least impact on the Miami Heat’s salary cap.  One provision of the Over 36 Rule provides that if a 33-or-34-year-old enters into a five-year contract with his prior team that triggers the Over 36 Rule, only his fifth year salary is distributed pro rata.

Why is this a benefit to the Heat?  First, it’s important to understand Wade’s age at each point of a five-year contract entered into in 2016:

NBA Season Dwyane Wade’s Age
2016-17 34
2017-18 35
2018-19 36
2019-20 37
2020-21 38

Teams looking to sign Wade to a five-year contract in 2016 other than the Heat will be subject to the Over 36 Rule beginning in the fourth year of the contract.  This means that those teams would have to distribute the salary he is owed in years four and five of the contract on a pro rata basis in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19.  The Heat, however, since they are Wade’s prior team, wouldn’t be subject to the Over 36 Rule until the fifth year of the contract.  This means that the Heat would feel less of a burden on their salary cap, as they would only have to reallocate one year’s salary over the course of four years, as opposed to two year’s worth of salaries over three years.

The big take-away here, is that just as in 2010, if Wade wants to remain with the Heat or move to another competitive team, he will likely have to compromise.  And while most pundits pinpoint that compromise being about salary or years on a contract, perhaps the biggest compromise Wade will make is what year he will opt out of his current contract.

Leave a comment

Filed under NBA