Category Archives: Business of College Sports

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.

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A Look at Spelman College’s Decision to Drop its Athletics Program

By:  Kaitlyn Kacsuta, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @KRKacsuta)

During the fall of 2012, while many female athletes were celebrating the 40th anniversary of Title IX legislation, Spelman College announced that it would end all of its NCAA Division III sports programs, effective as of the 2013-14 school year.  Administrators at the historically black women’s college have instead decided to re-allocate the $1 million intercollegiate sports budget to a health and wellness program for all students.  While there are only 80 students participate in its Division III athletic program, this change is aimed at providing life-long assistance to Spelman students – where the school estimated that one out every two students suffers from high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or obesity.

Spelman is currently a member of the Great South Athletic Conference, a women’s-only Division III conference.  Not unlike other Division III programs, Spelman student-athletes are not scholarship athletes, nor are they recruited.  Notably however, Spelman is the first college in years to end its NCAA intercollegiate athletics programs.  While there are undoubtedly benefits to expanding the health and wellness programs available at colleges, do those benefits outweigh the costs of ending intercollegiate athletics at a school?  After all, Title IX was created so that female student-athletes would have an opportunity to compete on an even playing field.  Though Title IX will not be at issue in Spelman’s decision – because schools and university that have historically admitted only members of one sex are exempt from Title IX’s requirements, it is intriguing to consider how ending an athletic program for the benefit of an improved university-wide health and wellness program may impact female student- athletes.

The goal of Title IX is to establish an equal playing field and opportunities for women in education and sports.  Spelman College claims that ending Division III competition will serve a similar purpose by providing greater opportunities for health and wellness to all students, rather than a few athletes.  One of the driving factors behind Spelman’s decision is that its Division III sports teams occupy too many facilities and recourses during practice and games, limiting health and wellness program availability.

Though the hopes for Spelman are to assist its student body in leading a healthy lifestyle and improving the quality of life for black women, athletic competition serves the same purposes.  Reportedly, the graduation rate for black female athletes is approximately 74%, while the overall graduation rate for all students is just 46%.  It was estimated that during the 2010-11 school year, there were 191,131 female student-athletes that competed in NCAA Division I, II, and III programs.  Additionally, according to the 2011-12 NCAA reports, nearly 37% of all female student-athletes in the NCAA compete at the Division III level.

Therefore, with Spelman putting an end to its Division III athletic programs at the close of the semester, it will cause a ripple effect from the athletic department, on campus, throughout the NCAA, and onto young black female athletes.  Before Spelman gives up on black female athletes, they ought to give more effort to allowing both programs to continue and expand.  It is for the betterment of schools and students that health and wellness programs coexist with intercollegiate athletics.

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Trailblazer: The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund

For the last 38 years, a prominent feature on the sideline of University of Tennessee women’s basketball games has been a woman who coached her teams to win basketball games by championing hard work, ethics, respect and responsibility.

During the 1974-75 season, a 22 year-old Pat Summitt was named the head coach of the Lady Vols basketball team.  This was in an age when the NCAA did not sanction women’s basketball, and just two years after Title IX, a piece of legislation which would come to promote gender equality in college sports, was enacted by Congress.

Since her first win with the Lady Vols on January 10, 1975, Summitt has become the all-time winningest NCAA basketball coach (in both men’s and women’s basketball) and has led the Lady Vols to eight NCAA national championships, which is only two short of John Wooden’s record of ten NCAA national championships.

Summitt has not only graced millions of basketball fans’ televisions in her signature UT Orange suits and with her perfectly coiffed hair, but has also ensured that each woman who completes her basketball program graduates from college.  She has instilled her “Definite Dozen” teaching method, which promotes ideals like hard work, respect and responsibility, in the minds of the hundreds of young women who have played for her, and likely even in the mind of her son, Tyler, who grew up alongside Tennessee basketball and now plays for the men’s team.

Pat Summitt and her son, Tyler. Photo courtesy of the University of Tennessee.

For nearly four decades, Summitt has literally scaled summits, proving that women can be successful in any profession they choose, while also being involved parents.  She has served as an inspiration, not only to the women who passed through her program, but for the millions of young women who watched her become the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.

On August 22, 2011, although at the helm of a heart wrenching announcement, Summitt once again sealed her place as a trailblazer for change in the world of college basketball.  On that day, Summitt bravely and boldly announced to the world, that at age 59, she was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.  Rather than shirk away in the face of the diagnosis and keep it secret from the world and her competitors, she graciously shared her personal news with all who were listening.

Summitt’s act of sharing her diagnosis was gracious in the sense that once again, Summitt’s actions will serve as a lesson to the world.  Summitt’s fight against Alzheimer’s is a battle of courage, where the course of the battlefield is paved with opportunities to educate others, encourage future research of the disease and recognize that life goes on, even in the face of adversity.

Months after receiving her diagnosis, Summitt committed herself to the battle against Alzheimer’s by forming The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund.  The foundation exists to make grants to nonprofits which provide education, support and research of Alzheimer’s.

In seeking an administrator for the foundation’s funds, Summitt and her son, Tyler, sought the assistance of a family friend with years of operations experience, Danielle Donehew.  Donehew previously worked alongside Summitt as a coach for the Lady Vols and later as the Executive Vice President of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.  Presently, Donehew is the Associate Commissioner for Women’s Basketball for the Big East Conference.

“I was very honored when Pat and Tyler asked me to help with the foundation.  It was easy for me to accept; I was humbled and honored that they would ask for my help,” said Donehew.

A check for $75,000.00 is presented by The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund to Alzheimer's Tennessee at the Baylor versus Tennessee game on November 27, 2011. From left to right: Danielle Donehew, Alzheimer's Tennessee representatives and Pat Summitt. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

In forming the foundation, Donehew has witnessed Summitt practice what she’s preached to players for nearly four decades:

“One of the things that she always teaches her players, is the importance of having a positive attitude.  You can’t control what necessarily happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.  What keeps going through my head is one of Pat’s Definite Dozen points, which are the twelve principles of her program.  One of those principles is, ‘Make Winning an Attitude.’  She always says, ‘winning is a choice and you need to maintain a positive attitude.’  I think for her, the beautiful thing about what she’s doing now is, instead of feeling sorry for herself, she’s taking action.  She’s said there’s not going to be any pity party.  She wants to help.  Pat’s never been passive; she’s always taken action.  This is a great example of that; she’s certainly not sitting idly by.  She wants to show others that if you receive a diagnosis like this, it doesn’t mean that you should stop living.  You need to continue doing your best,” Donehew remarked.

Donehew has witnessed great support of The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund from the NCAA basketball community.  In fact, the foundation’s first donation came from one of Summitt’s coaching peers when Donehew was seeking the approval of her Big East cohorts to work with The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund.

“I traveled over to UConn and met with Geno Auriemma [the head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team].  I talked with him about the vision of this foundation and Pat’s fight and commitment to fighting Alzheimer’s and hopefully using this foundation to do so.  Before I could get the entire story out of my mouth, Geno was rustling through his briefcase, and opened up his checkbook.  Immediately there, he wrote a check to the foundation.  He said, ‘This should show you that you have my blessing and I support this effort.’  I thought this was a beautiful thing for him to do immediately–he didn’t hesitate.  He was our first contributor of all the coaches in the game,” noted Donehew.

Auriemma’s action in donating to the foundation gave Donehew what she and Summitt sought in creating the foundation:  hope.

“It just gave me hope that this is really going to be an endeavor that the game of women’s basketball, the game of men’s basketball, the sports community, the nation as a whole and the folks who continue to battle Alzheimer’s disease—that hopefully when Pat was going to join this fight, she’d be well received,” said Donehew.

In the coming months, NCAA men’s and women’ basketball teams across the country will lend support to the foundation in various ways.  Presently, the best way for people to support the foundation is to visit the foundation’s website and make a donation.  However, Donehew is quick to note that a monetary donation is not the only way in which individuals can support Summitt’s cause:

“The most important thing, besides donating, is certainly awareness.  It is really important that as a society, that we are aware that there is a large number of folks in our population that are aging, and therefore, there’s a risk for more Americans to be diagnosed with this disease,” noted Donehew.

For the last 38 years, Summitt has coached teams to beat their toughest opponents.

Today, she is leading Americans in the battle to beat the opponent of 5.4 million Americans:  Alzheimer’s.

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BusinessofCollegeSports.com

For those of you who have not heard yet, last Friday, my friend Kristi Dosh announced that she is ESPN’s new sports business reporter.  Previously, Kristi was the founder and author of BusinessofCollegeSports.com.

Kristi has asked that I become the main contributing author of BusinessofCollegeSports.com.  I happily accepted this offer.  Prior to joining ESPN, Kristi did a wonderful job building a strong readership at BusinessofCollegeSports.com and has also worked hard to present great analysis on business issues in the world of college sports.  I am very excited for the opportunity to expand my readership and to have a solid platform whereupon to discuss college sports.

From here on out, all of my writing about college sports (save for “pro bono” pieces) will be found at BusinessofCollegeSports.com.  My writing on the topic of professional sports will continue to be found here at RulingSports.com.  I still maintain my Twitter account for RulingSports.com (@RulingSports) and also maintain an account for BusinessofCollegeSports.com (@BizCollegeSport).

To see my introductory piece on BusinessofCollegeSports.com, click here and be sure to add BusinessofCollegeSports.com to your “favorites” list!

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