Category Archives: NCAA

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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Texas Christian University’s Move To The Big 12 Brings More Money And Applicants To The University

The biggest story in college athletics over the last three years didn’t take place on the field, nor was it an NCAA investigation into a sensationalized scandal.  Rather, the biggest story in college athletics from 2010-13 revolved around the business of college sports.  Over the last three years, conference realignment not only reshaped the playing landscape of college athletics, but brought home the point that college sports is about more than winning.  Today, while winning serves its purpose, alignment with the right conference provides the added bonus of access to greater revenue streams and increased exposure.

One athletics program that traveled a tenuous route during conference realignment was Texas Christian University.  The story of how TCU ultimately landed in its current conference resting spot, the Big 12, is one punctuated by the athletics department seeking to achieve two goals through realignment:  Access to bowl game revenue and generation of more exposure.

Initially an independent athletics program, TCU joined the Southwest Conference in 1923.  There, it developed in-state rivalries with competitors including Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor.  Those rivalries would come to an end, however, in 1995-96, when the four schools departed the Southwest Conference to join what would become the Big 12.  As the Southwest Conference met its fate, TCU found itself conference hopping for nearly twenty years, making stops in the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Mountain West Conference.

While each of those conferences provided TCU with a home, beginning in 1998, none provided TCU with one thing that matters the most monetarily in college football:  The opportunity to become an automatic qualifier for a BCS bowl game.  The BCS set-up provided six conferences with automatic bids to one of five BCS bowl games:  ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC.  Automatic qualification, in turn, guaranteed teams in those conferences the opportunity to compete for the big revenues distributed to participants, ranging most recently between $17-$18 million.

Teams who were not members of the automatic qualifier conferences ultimately succumbed to a free-for-all to gain a spot in a BCS bowl game.  In turn, that free-for-all oftentimes left many said teams on the sidelines when it came to BCS bowl game participation.  As such, these schools were not getting their hands on as much BCS revenue as their automatic qualifier conference member counterparts.  Thus, it’s no surprise that when the Big East came knocking with an invitation to join the conference in 2010, TCU jumped at the opportunity.

Under the offer from the Big East, it was expected that TCU would join the conference in all sports beginning in 2012.  However, one thing that TCU likely did not foresee when it entered into its agreement with the Big East, was that many of the conference’s members would be poached during the course of conference realignment.  With a strong roster of member institutions, the Big East arguably fell victim to the conference realignment carousel due to the fact that it was the only BCS automatic qualifier conference that did not have an exclusive contract with any BCS bowl.  Ultimately, the poaching of the Big East would leave the landscape of the conference looking much different–and less competitive–in 2012 than in 2010.

As the Big East continued to lose members, late in 2011 TCU received an offer it had been waiting for since 1995:  The opportunity to become a member of the Big 12.  TCU informed the Big East of its decision to not enter the conference, was hit with a lawsuit by the conference and ultimately joined the Big 12 in 2012.  “Joining the Big East was an access move for BCS purposes.  Getting into the Big 12 is where we always wanted to be.  We wanted to be playing regionally, but in 2010, that opportunity wasn’t there, because the Big 12 wasn’t pursuing new members.  When the second shift of conference realignment happened, though, the Big East was no longer the same–with schools like Syracuse and Pittsburgh announcing their departures.  Then, Missouri and Texas A&M announced their departures from the Big 12, and that opened up the opportunity for us to join,” said TCU’s athletics director, Chris Del Conte.

Since joining the Big 12, TCU has seen success beyond the football field.  Increased fan interest in the athletics department was sparked as a result of rivalries between former Southwest Conference members being renewed.  This spark in fan interest has caused season ticket sales for TCU’s football program to increase by 275-percent over the last five years.  This year, TCU sold nearly 33,000 season tickets for its football games.  In 2010, when TCU announced its move to the Big East, that number was 19,000.  In 2011 when it announced it would join the Big 12, the number jumped to 24,000.  In 2012, its first year of Big 12 membership, TCU sold 32,000 season tickets for its football program.

Del Conte argues that access to BCS bowl games is not only important from a revenue generation standpoint, but also because of the national exposure teams receive from competing in BCS bowls.  A Navigate Marketing study found that Stanford received $11 million worth of television exposure value from playing in last year’s Rose Bowl.  The exposure TCU received from participation in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and 2011 Rose Bowl generated interest from two important groups:  alumni and potential TCU students.

From an alumni standpoint, TCU used its appearance in back-to-back BCS bowl games to fund-raise for a $164 million renovation of Amon G. Carter Stadium, where TCU’s football team plays.  Funding for the stadium renovation was driven by 140 donors, six of whom donated $15 million.  Del Conte says that the donor’s gifts were not motivated by conference affiliation, but by the overall success of the university, which he largely attributes to the university’s chancellor, Dr. Victor J. Boschini, Jr.  “People were motivated to give, because they saw how successful TCU was becoming–not just in football, but also academically,” Del Conte noted.  Similarly, that motivation was likely the reason for TCU seeing its most successful fund-raising effort in the school’s history, which raised $434.1 million over the seven years leading up to May 31, 2012.

When it comes to potential TCU students, the exposure TCU has gleaned from its football program’s success is helping drive applications to the university.  Since 2009, freshman applications to TCU have increased by 155-percent.  The greatest number of applicants in the last five years came in 2012, the year TCU joined the Big 12.

While TCU’s applicant numbers are notable, perhaps what is more interesting is the number of out-of-state undergraduate students attending the institution.  In 2009, Texas residents made up 74.2-percent of TCU’s student body.  This year, that number has decreased by 16.2-percent, as Texas residents currently account for 58-percent of TCU’s student body.  Arizona, where TCU played the Fiesta Bowl in 2010, is sending 215-percent more students to the school in 2013 than it was in 2009.  California, where TCU played the Rose Bowl in 2011, is sending 358-percent more students to the school in 2013 than it was in 2009.

When it comes to the future of TCU, Del Conte is hopeful for continued success both on the field and in the classroom.  “Ten years ago, we were a really good institution.  Today, we are ranked 82nd in the country.  This has happened because our board of trustees and chancellor have transformed the university to be great both academically and athletically,” Del Conte remarked.

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Paying College Athletes Fairly By Not Paying Them At All

By:  Todd Burach, Ruling Sports Contributor (Twitter:  @ToddBurach)

News flash (if you’ve been in hibernation), college sports are changing. The ongoing lawsuit headlined by former UCLA All-American Ed O’Bannon has progressed further in court than any similar case against the NCAA has in history. “Although the court case is likely to drag on for at least another year, it has already prompted the Association to scrap a licensing deal with EA Sports.”[1] Clearly, things are happening.

The elephant in the NCAA’s boardroom is the impending compensation of college athletes, and what that near eventuality will look like. NCAA sports are big business, with billion dollar television contracts ($10.8 billion over 14 years with CBS and Turner), video game deals and merchandising, among other lucrative revenue streams. On the surface, one can easily argue ‘pay the players’. It’s their blood, sweat and tears. It’s their image on TV (as the courts may soon agree). It’s their signature (Right, Johnny Football?). Pay them and let’s all move on to something else. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple.

The compensation of college athletes can be thought of as a twofold issue. First, how do you distribute profit that is affiliated with the NCAA at a general level (e.g. the economics from a TV deal with the likes of Turner and CBS)? And second, how do you distribute/allow-for economics that can be directly attributed to a unique individual’s likeness or marketability (e.g. Kevin Ware T-Shirts during last year’s Final Four)?

When considering the former, the distribution of general NCAA economics not directly attributable to any one individual, the obvious concern is who do you pay and how much do you pay them? The impacts of the star quarterback are greater than the third string quarterback, or the lacrosse player, or the softball pitcher. Implementing a ‘meritocratic’ compensation system would quickly lead to a slippery slope, impacting legal institutions such as Title IX and anti-trust that would completely alter the landscape of collegiate athletics. The truth is, for 99% of NCAA athletes, those that ‘go pro in something other than sports’, things aren’t so bad.  They might even be quite good. The cost of a college education is now north of $40,000 per year. Factor in room and board, training, clothing, networking, experience, etc., the vast majority of college athletes are reasonably close to getting a fair deal. And, if we are able to dip into the NCAA coffers and distribute some additional economic gains via “increasing the cost of attendance”[2] (i.e. additional stipends), an idea the Big Ten’s Jim Delaney has entertained and Shaquille O’Neal endorsed on CNBC, we would be one step closer.  An increase in stipends could either be paid equally across all college athletes, or distributed using a financial need based assessment (similar to what’s already in place for all students receiving financial aid).

The second issue with compensating college athletes is the idea that certain revenue is directly attributable to or can be generated by a unique individual, whether it is the use of Ed O’Bannon’s likeness in a video game, or Johnny Manziel being offered $7,500 to sign autographs. In essence, this is the Olympic Model, the idea that athletes maintain their amateur status by not being compensated directly for their on-field participation, yet allowing them to (within set guidelines) profit off of their individual marketability.  If Johnny Manziel can capitalize on ‘Johnny Football’, why not let him? The revenue he generates from marketing deals can be put in a trust until he is five years removed from his time as an amateur athlete. The issue here becomes the ancillary impacts of the Olympic Model: namely the destruction of fair play and competition in college sports. Think about what would happen to an already suspect recruiting process  – boosters would just guarantee payments, err ‘marketing deals’, to star recruits and the schools with the deepest pockets would sign all of the superstar talent. The balance of competition in amateur athletics would be destroyed. If you can somehow create a system, a process, around the application of the Olympic Model for college athletes, maybe, just maybe, this would work. Unfortunately, as I brainstorm the concept in my head, too many problems arise. I’m just not convinced the model can be applied without destroying balance on the playing field.

The good news is there are two things the NCAA can do, in my opinion, to greatly improve the compensation and benefits for 100% of college athletes, neither of which requires additional compensation. First, the NCAA should improve and act upon outstanding quality of life issues that impact all college athletes. Topics like modernization (and humanization) of the NCAA compliance rule book, transfer rules and national letter of intent issues can all be made more athlete friendly. And while these “increases” should (along with an additional stipend) satisfy the 99%, this still undervalues the 1%, the select few athletes whose individual value is in excess of the current benefits of being a college athlete, yet are forced to go to college by NFL and NBA rules for three or one years, respectively, before turning pro.  What about Andrew Wiggins, the would-have-been number 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft? What about Johnny Football or Jadeveon Clowney? How do you compensate them fairly, when their value today to a school, to the NCAA, to themselves, is clearly in excess of the existing package of benefits an NCAA athlete receives (or will receive in the new world)? The answer is you can’t and you don’t.  You don’t even attempt to ‘compensate’ them at the college level. In my eyes the answer is pretty clear. You let them go pro. Not after one year or three years. You let them go pro when they are ready.

The argument in favor of forcing kids to go to college for a specified number of years before an NBA or NFL career is selfish. Making prep phenoms go to college for a minimum number of years allows the product that the NCAA is selling (and we fans are buying) to be better while paying these superstars way below their worth and inhibiting their ability to make money off of their marketability. Age minimums also allow pro general managers an opportunity to get a better look at high school superstars while not paying them rookie deals to come into their prime. By forcing Andrew Wiggins to college, he is one year closer to his peak when he starts on an NBA team’s payroll. That benefits everyone except Andrew Wiggins. While you may say most high school players fail in the NBA, the overwhelming majority of kids who went from preps to pros on ‘sound advice’ made millions over the course of their careers.  I’m pretty sure if your kid, at high school graduation, could step into his or her dream job, with millions of dollars guaranteed, we’d encourage them to go for ‘it’. And, if ‘it’ does not work out after five, six, eight years, your child would have more than enough cash in the bank to pay their way through college free and clear. The Entrepreneurial Association of America did not tell Mark Zuckerberg that he could not drop out of Harvard and start Facebook because he hadn’t put in his minimum two year requirement before pursuing his dream.

I’m all for opening the NCAA’s coffers and increasing the ”cost of attendance” for the 99%, but for obvious reasons these payments must be distributed equitably across all athletes and all sports (either across the board or on a financial need basis). Leveraging the Olympic model, which in my opinion can be the right thing to do, is tricky. It opens up the potential for the big money schools to attract the big time talent. An Olympic model would have to be policed stringently in order to maintain competitive balance and I’m not sure both can be accomplished. The most important changes that need to happen regarding athlete compensation have nothing to do with compensation at all. The NCAA needs to improve quality of life issues for all athletes and not try to compensate those athletes who can make what they are truly worth on the next level right now. For those athletes, it needs to let them go pro.


[1] “Basket Cases”. The Economist July 27, 2013

[2] “Big Ten’s Jim Delany on athlete pay, likenesses”. USA Today. Bob Kravits.

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Women’s College Sports Apparel Sees Triple-Digit Growth

To say that the business of college sports is huge, would be an understatement.  From television contracts to ticket sales, the amount of money that funnels through the economy as a result of college sports is astronomical.  One of the greatest segments of the college sports economy is the licensed products retail market, where fans can buy anything from t-shirts and hats to cowboy boots and aprons bearing their favorite team’s logo.  That licensed college sports products retail market accounts for $4.6 billion in sales annually.

While licensed products have been a source of revenue generation for universities for some time, one area that has seen significant growth recently is women’s apparel sales.  According to IMG College, the women’s apparel retail category has grown by 148 percent over the last five years and by 53 percent in the last three years.  This growth has made women’s apparel the second-largest apparel category in IMG College’s licensing business, second only to men’s/unisex t-shirts.  Given that IMG College’s licensing affiliate, Collegiate Licensing Company, represents nearly 80-percent of the collegiate sports retail market, it is likely that these numbers are consistent across the collegiate sports retail landscape.

What then, is driving this growth of college sports women’s apparel sales?  As it turns out, it is a number of factors.

For starters, the number of women identifying themselves as college sports fans has surged.  According to an ESPN Sports Poll, 89 million females self-identify as college sports fans.  This number is the highest of all sports, topping even the NFL, of which 84.3 million females self-identify as fans.  Add to the number of females identifying themselves as college sports fans the fact that tied with football, college sports has the most fans earning over $100,000 annually, and you realize the power of college sports when it comes to female consumers’ spending dollars.  Collegiate Licensing Company estimates that women’s apparel retail sales for the schools and institutions it partners with exceed $350 million during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

While the number of women identifying themselves as college sports fans has impacted apparel sales growth, the biggest factor has been the industry’s own renaissance.  In recent years, apparel providers have overhauled their women’s apparel lines to create designs that fit women’s bodies and appeal to their tastes.  Gone are the days of the “shrink it and pink it” mentality of women’s sports apparel.  “We have always known that women like to shop; that is nothing new.  What we are trying to do, though, and where our focus lies, is that the right products haven’t been available to women.  If you go back years ago, a men’s size small t-shirt is what was available to women in sports licensed products.  We realized that wasn’t going to cut it, and that we needed to seek out companies that had the proper styles, fits and everything else a woman looks for to create products,” Collegiate Licensing Company’s senior vice president and managing director, Cory Moss, explained.

One tool that has driven growth of women’s college sports apparel is niche products.  Take for instance, western boots company Nocona Boots.  Founded in 1925 in the home of one of college sports’ greatest rivalries–the Red River Valley along the Texas-Oklahoma border–the company entered the collegiate sports licensing realm in 2009 with its College Boots line.  The line, which began with three schools, has since grown to represent over fifty university’s logos.  With the growth in schools represented, has come growth in sales.  According to Monte Nelson, Nocona Boots’ brand manager, the company has quadrupled its sales figures for its College Boots line since 2009.

Like the rest of the collegiate sports apparel landscape, Nocona Boots has noticed that much of its growth is spurred by female consumers.  Nocona Boots estimates that women’s purchases account for 55-percent of sales for its College Boots line.  “The female category has been a large part of our sales,” Nelson noted.

While Collegiate Licensing Company says that the growth of women’s college apparel sales is outpacing men’s, the fact of the matter is that men’s apparel sales still make up the greatest percentage of the company’s overall apparel business.  As such, retailers continue to develop innovative apparel lines related to men’s favorite college teams.  Take for instance this fall, when Dockers launched its new Game Day Program line, with two khaki variations in ten different school’s colors.  Similarly, Carhartt recently signed its first co-branded licensing deal with Collegiate Licensing Company to begin selling outerwear with 14 different schools’ colors and logos.

With women’s licensed college apparel sales surging and men’s licensed college apparel sales continuing to grow, one thing is certain:  College sports fans can continue to expect to see innovative and stylish apparel products enter the market.

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A Different Take On Johnny Manziel’s Half-Game Suspension

The Heisman Trophy winner will be benched for the first half of the Aggies’ first game.  Generally, when a Heisman Trophy winner misses out on the first half of his college team’s first game, it is because he jumped ship for the NFL.  Yet, as with many other things in his life, things are different with Johnny Manziel.  Manziel will miss the first half of the Aggies’ first game of the season because the NCAA determined that he signed some memorabilia for some autograph brokers who could profit off of the items.

While this story has nearly been beaten like a dead horse, there is one angle that no other entity seems to be taking:  What is the real reason why the NCAA agreed to such a light penalty against Manziel?

Everyone thus far has been quick to argue that the NCAA and Texas A&M have much to lose financially if Manziel doesn’t play in the Aggies’ first game against Rice.  Furthermore, both parties would arguably be damaged more detrimentally if Manziel was suspended further into the season.  While this is a plausible argument, it isn’t the best argument for why such a light penalty was imposed against Manziel.

The reason why this argument doesn’t make sense entirely, is that even though Manziel is an intriguing character who brings many eyeballs towards televisions to watch him play on Saturday’s, he is not the only drawing force in college football.  In actuality, there are far more intriguing games this weekend, namely Georgia versus Clemson, and as interesting of players taking the field elsewhere.

To sum it up, Manziel doesn’t run the NCAA.

What then, is the more likely rationale for the slight penalty against Manziel?

Sure, you could point to the NCAA’s argument that no credible evidence was found that Manziel accepted money for his autograph.  And while I’m someone who believes in the goodness of people and roots for Manziel, I have a hard time believing that a 20-year-old on a trip to South Beach was gratuitous enough to sign thousands of pieces of memorabilia for nothing.  Assuming that he did, though, Texas A&M must enroll Manziel in an economics course immediately so he can learn of the values of capitalism.

The NCAA will only continue to point to the lack of credible evidence as its reason for lightly slapping Manziel’s wrists because it doesn’t want to address the elephant in the room.  That elephant in the room is a case by the name of O’Bannon v. NCAA.  In short, that case centers around whether student-athletes should be compensated for the use of their likenesses in video games and game broadcasts.  It is a case, the decision of which, could greatly restructure and/or decimate the current economic landscape of collegiate athletics.

While the O’Bannon case relates to video games and broadcast rights, the NCAA has to believe that if the foundation is broken there, the walls will come crumbling down.  The potential areas for which student-athletes may seek back-compensation, if a jury finds in favor of the O’Bannon plaintiffs, is arguably limitless.  Jersey sales.  Cap sales.  T-shirt sales.  Picture sales.  Mini helmet sales.  And so on and so forth.

This point was only exacerbated last week when ESPN host and lawyer and frequent critic of the NCAA’s amateurism model Jay Bilas demonstrated how a quick search on the NCAA’s website for various players’ names, including Manziel’s, returned items for sale related to the player.  For instance, a search for Manziel retrieved a Texas A&M shirt with his number on the back.  In response to Bilas’ lengthy demonstration of his findings via Twitter, fans and supporters of college athletes raged.  The hypocrisy that has loomed over the NCAA and its amateurism model was brought into full light.

Given this, one has to question whether the light penalty imposed against Manziel–who reportedly accepted no money to pen his name on thousands of pieces of merchandise to be sold by others–was an NCAA maneuver to pad itself against future personality rights lawsuits.  While this isn’t a perfect argument, it is an argument that makes far more sense than a young man taking time out of a South Beach vacation to sign thousands of pieces of merchandise for free.

 

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Johnny Manziel’s Role In The Unprecedented Growth of Texas A&M Merchandise Sales

Will he play or won’t he play?  As questions linger ahead of Texas A&M’s first football game of the 2013 season over whether Johnny Manziel will take the field for the Aggies, other things appear more clear.  In particular, when it comes to Texas A&M, one thing is certain:  The school is in the midst of a licensing renaissance, where its royalties earned from licensed products have surged in recent years.  The question, though, is what is driving this increase in sales of Texas A&M’s licensed products?  Is it Johhny Manziel’s performance last season as quarterback which led him to the history books as the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy?  Is it the school’s recent move to the SEC?  Or, is there an unspoken factor in the mix?

In the fiscal year before Texas A&M announced that it was leaving the Big 12 Conference for the SEC, the school brought in $2,626,925 in gross royalty revenues for its licensed products.  The following fiscal year, that number jumped to $3,229,811, which marked a 23 percent increase.  What notable event took place during that time period that could have caused such a jump?  Simply, an announcement that the school was moving to the SEC.

In terms of factors that have played a role in the increased sales of Texas A&M licensed merchandise, it is clear that the school’s move to the SEC has played the most monumental role.  The nature of this role is shown in several anecdotes.  Shane Hinckley, Texas A&M’s interim vice president of marketing and communications notes that last season, Texas A&M brought in $102,000 in SEC royalties.  Those royalties were obtained from co-branded Texas A&M and SEC merchandise (for instance, a t-shirt bearing both Texas A&M and SEC logos).  The royalty rate that Texas A&M receives for such merchandise is ten percent, which demonstrates just how much Texas A&M gear the SEC was able to sell in the Aggies’ first year as a conference member.  In fact, Hinckley estimates that the royalties Texas A&M received from SEC co-branded merchandise equates to the SEC selling over $2 million worth of Texas A&M/SEC co-branded goods at retail.

While the SEC has dominated the gridiron in recent years, it also dominates the licensed merchandise game.  “If you look at the biggest number of co-branded royalties we brought in as a member of the Big 12 over the prior five years, that amount was $4,500 in royalties,” Hinckley said.  Thus, in its first year as an SEC member, Texas A&M was able to bring in conference royalties nearly twenty-three-times as great as what it brought in as a Big 12 member.

So, then, what factor does Manziel play in the merchandise sales growth Texas A&M has seen?  The Heisman winner clearly plays a role, but some would be surprised to learn how much of one it is.

In the last fiscal  year, Texas A&M’s licensed merchandise royalties were $3,939,374.  This marked a 22 percent increase over the 2011-12 fiscal year.  Although this number is the highest amount of royalties Texas A&M has pulled in over the last five years, the amount of growth the school saw was less this year than last year.  Thus, an argument can be made that Manziel’s Heisman Trophy winning season and the football team’s unprecedented success were not as big of a role in the increased royalties as the school’s transition to the SEC was.

 

“If you go back to the 2011-12 fiscal year when licensing revenue was up by 23 percent and we had a record year, nobody had ever heard of Johnny Manziel.  Our football team went 6-7 that year.  We had announced our move to the SEC in September 2011.  If you fast forward to the 2012-13 fiscal year, our rate of growth is coming down.  The growth of our program is much more associated with the move to the SEC than it is necessarily with one individual or team,” Hinckley said.

Finally, there is a third–albeit less known–factor at play.  That factor is a campus-wide approach to branding that the university instituted five years ago, when it hired Hinckley and the school’s former vice president of marketing and communications, Jason Cook, developed a concept of “One Brand.”  That concept allowed the school to become one of the only universities in the United States that utilizes the same logo for its athletics and academic departments.  “By using our licensing program to create another touch point for the Texas A&M brand, we have successfully elevated our brand onto the national stage.  We coordinate everything we do on multiple levels to increases our leverage,” Hinckley said.

This leverage has led to interesting licensing endeavors for the Aggies.  Notably, Mattel MAT +1.05% recently released a line of Ken dolls modeled after the Aggies’ yell leaders.  Hinckley notes of the eight universities that Ken dolls were designed for, the Aggies were the only line to sell out.  Other notable items include FTD roses in Texas A&M colors and a new line of perfume and cologne.

The Aggies have also seen their gear enter into more stores over the last five years.  Most notable, perhaps, is the number of Walmart stores that the brand’s products can be found in.  Five years ago, Texas A&M products could only be found in 32 Walmart stores across the state of Texas.  Today that number is up to 90.  “We have a lot of competition from professional teams and other colleges.  We are seeing a lot of growth in the number of stores we are in statewide which fuels the number of touch points people have with our brand.  We still have a lot of room to grow, though,” Hinckley said.

While there is still room to grow, the Aggies have achieved tremendous success in growing their national brand in the last five years.  Five years ago, Collegiate Licensing Company, who Texas A&M partners with, ranked Texas A&M 24th in royalties received amongst all college programs.  Most recently, Texas A&M was ranked 12th.  “We had a five-year plan to break into the top-15.  We have a ten-year play to break into the top-10.  We think we will break into it next year and accomplish that goal early,” Hinckley noted.

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How The SEC Can Stop The Problem Of Recreational Drug Use In College Football

Drug testing of student-athletes may be taking a new turn.  Earlier this spring, SEC school chancellors and presidents discussed a number of topics during the conference’s annual spring meetings.  One idea that was reportedly been floated, is a conference-wide substance abuse policy.  Currently, no conference has a conference-wide substance abuse policy in place to address recreational drug use by student-athletes.

Previously, it was thought that SEC presidents and chancellors could vote on the issue as early as May 31.  However, a vote did not come to fruition by the end of the conference’s spring meetings.  However, programs and coaches, including Georgia’s Mark Richt, have continued to voice support for a conference-wide drug policy.  The voicing support for a conference-wide drug policy comes as reports continue to circulate regarding the wide discrepancies as to how drug use is punished amongst SEC programs.

Recently, University of Georgia athletics director, Greg McGarity, noted, “At the SEC meeting in Destin, we proposed consistent penalties across the board, but our proposal gained no traction.  Therefore, the issue is moot unless it is brought up in the future.”

The question, then, is this an issue that the SEC as a conference should bring up in the near future?

Adoption of an SEC-wide recreational drug testing policy would be notable and likely well-received by college football fans and the general public alike.  As for college football fans and how they would receive such a policy, it is important to note that reports indicate that the sanctions imposed by SEC schools for recreational drug use by their student-athletes vary widely.  As such, adoption of a conference-wide substance abuse policy may remove some competitive advantages that certain SEC programs have.  An ESPN reportfound that four SEC schools—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and LSU—release student-athletes upon testing positive for drugs four times.  The rest of the SEC schools reportedly release student-athletes upon their third positive test.  The question, then, is what competitive advantage is gained by the schools who grant players an extra positive drug test?  Additionally, reports indicate that SEC schools differ largely in how many games a player is suspended for upon testing positive for recreational drugs a first time.  Some schools reportedly do not issue a suspension upon the first positive test, whereas others suspend players for ten-percent of a season.

It is notable, that at this time, it does not appear that a policy would consider performance enhancing drugs.  This is because the NCAA’s bylaws govern that issue.  Therefore, it is arguable that it would not impact a program’s competitive advantage.  However, an argument can be made that if one team’s star players are using recreational drugs and being punished less harshly than another team’s star players who are using recreational drugs, that a competitive advantage is gained.  It is this argument that SEC programs favoring the proposal may point to.

Notably, the winner of the last two SEC football championship games has been a school that reportedly allows its student-athletes to test positive for drugs four times prior to being released:  LSU and Alabama.  Additionally, in the last decade, the four schools allowing a higher number of positive drug tests before release have won the BCS National Championship Game seven times.  It is important to note, though, that it is unclear when the respective drug policy was adopted by those four schools.

In recent years, several SEC players have been suspended for recreational drug use.  The most notable, perhaps, was 2011 Heisman Trophy Finalist, Tyrann Mathieu, who was suspended for the 2012 LSU football season as a result of positive drug tests.  Yet, recent investigations into the recreational drug policies of SEC athletic departments revealed inconsistent sanctioningmeasures being executed across the conference.  Those inconsistencies not only exist in the SEC, but across college football, with conference’s members widely diverging in how they impose sanctions against student-athletes testing positive for recreational drugs.

Given this divergence, it is likely that the landscape of college athletics with respect to recreational drug use by student-athletes may soon shift.  In many regards, the SEC is seen as a leader in college sports, not only for its ability to win championships, but its ability to operate as a conference.  In this instance, its leaders have a chance to continue to be a leader by enacting a conference-wide drug testing and sanctioning policy which reasonably addresses the widespread issue of recreational drug use on college campuses.  Such a policy would not only quash SEC-wide criticism of various program’s policies, but would address the growing issue of recreational drug use by student-athletes.  One thing is certain:  If the SEC adopts such a policy, other conferences will follow suit.

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