SBD/Issue 242/College Football Preview

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  • College Kickoff: THE DAILY Offers A Special Season Preview

    The college football season kicks off tonight, and THE DAILY brings you our season preview issue, offering news and analysis around some of the biggest issues facing the sport. We delve into the SEC's landmark 15-year deal with ESPN, the rising payouts to smaller schools for non-conference games and changes at on-campus facilities. We also look into the crystal ball and see who some experts believe will meet in a little more than four months in the BCS championship game. It's been a long time since Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer celebrated in South Florida, so let's head back to school!

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  • Alabama, Virginia Tech Get At Least $2.3M For Chick-Fil-A Kickoff

    The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Saturday at Georgia Dome "will pay Alabama and Virginia Tech at least" $2.3M, an "increase of more than $200,000 for each school over last season's inaugural game between Alabama and Clemson," according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Both schools "sold their allotment of 31,200 tickets each, and a sellout crowd of 70,000-plus is expected." The increase in per-team payout is the "result of a $5 average increase in ticket prices and a new sponsorship arrangement with the game's title sponsor." StubHub indicated that tickets to the game, "which never were available for public sale because of the demand from Virginia Tech and Alabama, are moving swiftly on the secondary market as well." The game currently is the "highest grossing of the college football season, with tickets selling for an average price of $253." Saturday's Oklahoma-BYU game at Cowboys Stadium is second in demand, with tickets to that game "selling for an average price of $190." The September 12 USC-Ohio State game at Ohio Stadium is the highest price game, with tickets "going for an average of $534" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/31 issue).

    BIG DRAW: In Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote "plunk a big-time college game under the off-white roof" at the Georgia Dome and "see how many empty seats you espy." The SEC championship is an "automatic sellout," along with the Chick-fil-A Bowl and Chick-fil-A Kickoff, which this year "comes on a weekend when the Braves are home and NASCAR is running at Atlanta Motor Speedway." Bradley: "I've been around this nation of ours, and I can tell you there's no other major city ... that behaves as we do on autumn Saturdays. Simply put, we care more about college football than we do about anything else" (AJC.com, 8/31).

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  • SEC's New TV Deals Widen Gap With Other Major Conferences

    Many SEC Schools Using Increased TV
    Revenue To Renovate Sports Facilities
    The SEC's new TV agreements with CBS and ESPN kick off this season, and it is "no wonder this league seems to be separating from the pack among major conferences," according to Brad Wolverton of the CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. Most people thought that the conference would "blaze its own path, following the Big Ten" in creating a new TV network, but ESPN was "hungry to hold on to SEC football." SEC Commissioner Mike Slive "laid out his list of demands," and then was "surprised when the powerful cable network came back with everything he wanted, and more." Many SEC schools are "using the increased television revenue to put some distance between themselves and their competition." The Univ. of Kentucky, for example, is "considering plans to build a new basketball arena, baseball stadium and track," while the Univ. of Georgia and the Univ. of Tennessee (UT) have plans to renovate their respective football stadiums. But even before the new TV deal, the SEC was "virtually minting money." Home to six of the NCAA's 15 largest athletics budgets, and "many of the highest-paid coaches, SEC teams increased their spending on sports" by 36% over a recent four-year period. Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Exec Dir Amy Perko said, "The SEC has been the catalyst for an escalation of spending in a select number of sports that I think ultimately is going to break the current model of Division I athletics." Perko and others fear that the "only way other conferences will be able to keep up" with the SEC is by "ramping up their spending on football and basketball and reducing opportunities in other sports" (CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 8/31 issue).

    SOUTHERN COMFORT: Slive said of the conference's TV deals with CBS and ESPN, which are worth a combined $3B, "We didn't want to be just another property. ... We were able, ultimately, to enter into the historic 15-year agreements and not necessarily have to go through some of the difficulties that the Big 10 and the Mountain West and the NHL Network have had in creating their own channels" (CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 8/31 issue). In Memphis, Ron Higgins wrote the new TV contract "certainly hasn't affected season ticket sales" for SEC football teams; Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU all have already set school records for season-ticket sales. However, some opposing coaches are "shaking their heads" since the new TV arrangement "even stretches the SEC regional telecasts to markets across the nation." Higgins noted the "traditional bottom-feeder SEC schools suddenly have the ability to recruit nationally because they are on TV every game in football and every conference game in men's basketball" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 8/30).

    COMMUNICATIONS 101: Baton Rouge ADVOCATE Exec Editor Carl Redman wrote the SEC's new media policy shows that the conference "clearly wants control over information and news" regarding all league activity, and it is "not difficult to imagine incremental pressure, year by year, by the SEC and its members to get even-greater control over the media." The SEC has "lucrative contracts for coverage with a handful of media giants," while member schools "have their own Web sites that can push the party line." Redman: "Perhaps they hope to end up as the only sources of information and reap a windfall in subscription and ad sales revenue. If the SEC and its members insist on this insane policy and manage to make it stick, media exposure will drop." If the SEC can "get away with this, you can bet other agencies and groups will try the same thing" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 8/30).

    WHISTLE BLOWERS: The CHRONICLE's Wolverton notes of the SEC's 12 head football coaches, eight earn at least $2M annually. Florida's Urban Meyer tops the conference at $4M per year, followed by Alabama's Nick Saban ($3.9M) and LSU's Les Miles ($3.8M). UT's nine assistant coaches will earn a combined $3.3M, while Alabama's football staff will make $2.7M. But athletics officials are "quick to remind disgruntled observers that the majority of coaches' compensation is covered by corporate endorsements, private donations, and other outside money." But Wolverton notes "despite those arguments, it's getting harder to make a case for rising pay, which shows no sign of abating" (CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 8/31 issue).

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  • Big Ten Net Continuing To Yield Positive Results For Conference

     
    The Big Ten Conference and its 11 member institutions are seeing their Big Ten Network (BTN) venture "begin to pay off," as the net "posted its first profitable quarter last year, and the trend has continued into 2009," according to Libby Sander of THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. Market analysts "expect the network to turn a $57[M] profit this year -- giving member universities some $29[M] in addition to what their other TV contracts earn." Penn State Univ. President Graham Spanier: "It's been a success financially." Sander noted the "early profit, and the promise of more to come, has Big Ten officials feeling optimistic." The net has "agreements in 22 of the top 25 television markets," its programming is "available to 73 million homes nationwide, and it will soon begin streaming live football and men's basketball games online for fans abroad." Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany: "It's been everything we hoped it would be, but also more difficult. Our schools believed in what we were doing, and they stayed the course." Meanwhile, Delany and Spanier are "somewhat reluctant to compare their approach with the SEC's." Spanier: "It's not a contest. We have our contract with ESPN, which I think is somewhat comparable to the SEC's contract, but then we've got the whole Big Ten Network, which is very different." And Delany is "more blunt," saying, "We have the deal that makes sense to us" (CHRONICLE.com, 8/31). 

    NEW AND IMPROVED: The BTN will debut several new programs this month, including the "Football Four-Pack," a quartet of new shows that will air at 10:00pm ET Tuesday through Friday. The opening of each of the net's primetime football telecasts this season also will include a special performance by Rascal Flatts interlaced with a montage of Big Ten highlights. The net's football and men's basketball telecasts during the '09-10 season also will be available to viewers outside the U.S. and Canada on www.BigTenTicket.com. The following lists the schedule and hosts for the net's "Football Four-Pack" programs (BTN).

    DAY
    SHOW
    HOSTS
    Tues.
    "Breakdown"
    Dave Revsine, Howard Griffith, Chris Martin
    Wed.
    "Sites and Sounds" Rick Pizzo, Troy Vincent
    Thurs.
    "Behind The Schemes" Revsine, Gerry DiNardo, Glen Mason
    Fri.
    "Big Ten Football and Beyond" Revsine, DiNardo, Griffith, Teddy Greenstein,
    Cory McCartney

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  • Small Colleges See Revenue Perks For Games Against Top Schools

    Charleston Southern Will Earn
    $450,000 For Playing At Florida
    College football games where "lesser programs are paid lots of money in exchange for a presumed loss" are common, and "tight budgets and the faltering economy make these paydays ever more important for a small athletics department," according to a front-page cover story by Jack Carey of USA TODAY. These matchups "typically mean an easy home game" for the larger programs, and the "benefits of such an arrangement can be significant" for smaller schools. Ohio State (OSU) this weekend will pay Navy $1M for their game at Ohio Stadium, while Arkansas State will see identical payouts from Auburn next season and Virginia Tech in '11. OSU AD Gene Smith said, "I think $1[M] is going to be the market price in the coming years." In other games this weekend, Tennessee will pay Western Kentucky $700,000 for their game at Neyland Stadium, Michigan State will pay Montana State $650,000, Charleston Southern will earn $450,000 for playing at Florida and West Virginia will give Liberty a $365,000 payout. Michigan later this season will pay Delaware State $550,000 for their matchup at Michigan Stadium and Delaware State AD Derek Carter said that he plans to use the money to "improve facilities and purchase equipment" for the school's non-revenue producing sports. Carey notes because of a "schedule squeeze, the visiting team often is the one with the leverage. It can negotiate a higher price or break off talks and start dealing with another school." Smith: "It's an issue of supply and demand. ... There's not enough opponents out there, without scheduling the guarantee games" (USA TODAY, 9/3).

    IT DOESN'T MATTER IF YOU WIN OR LOSE? In Orlando, Jeremy Fowler wrote by playing Florida on Saturday, Charleston Southern will receive the "kind of college football exposure only the Gators can provide," including the "recruiting visibility of the talent-rich state of Florida" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/2). The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke said, "It's not just about the money, it's about the perception. They will be on national TV for people to see them as an underdog, as a team that is willing to swing for the fences, as a program that's willing to take a chance, as a program that's willing to embarrass itself to learn about itself. It is what college athletics is about." Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan: "They're going to get a paycheck they never could have gotten that many other schools are going to get. This is the best thing that could happen to them." But FanHouse.com's Jay Mariotti said, "What about these kids? I think you're exploiting them" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/2). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the BCS "should penalize teams that have these games." Wilbon: "I call it pay for slay." But ESPN's Tony Kornheiser argued, "If Charleston Southern is offered a game with Florida for that kind of money, 100 times out of 100 you have to take that game for the exposure" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/2).

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  • Little Caesars Inks Title Sponsorship For Bowl Game In Detroit

    Officials from the former Motor City Bowl yesterday announced that restaurant chain Little Caesars Pizza is the new title sponsor of the game. The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl will match the MAC champion against a Big Ten team. Little Caesars will activate its sponsorship with game-week activities and customer promotions, including a chance to win tickets to bowl games. The promotions will be available through Little Caesars stores and gameday offers (Little Caesars Pizza). In Detroit, Vince Ellis notes former Univ. of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr was named President of the bowl's BOD and "will be counted on to use his in-state and college football contacts to mobilize the game's board of directors." Little Caesars co-Founder and Tigers and Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch said of the game, "I never dreamt beyond my wildest dreams I would be associated with college. I often wondered how nice it would be if I ever got the opportunity to be around young lives that are making their way. ... I love sports so much, and I love football. I've been glued to that TV and got so much enjoyment out of it all" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/3). The AP's Ben Leubsdorf noted the bowl's name change comes after GM and Chrysler ended their sponsorship of the game. Both automakers reorganized under bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Ford "remains a sponsor" of the game (AP, 9/2).

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  • Kansas Proposes Building $34M Tower At Football Stadium

    The Univ. of Kansas (KU) has proposed building a 3,000-seat, $34M tower on the east side of Memorial Stadium that "could pour $40[M] more into campus academics," according to Mara Rose Williams of the K.C. STAR. The $40M total would mark the "largest contribution to the student body, the faculty and research programs that the university's Athletic Department has ever made." KU Associate AD for External Relations Jim Marchiony: "We believe the revenue from sale of seats at a minimum will pay for the construction and our commitment to the university." Marchiony added that the tower "would house a university Gridiron Club and 'complement the existing west-side scholarship suites.'" Williams notes the KU Board of Regents "will consider the construction and the related revenue proposal at its" September 16 and 17 meeting in Topeka (K.C. STAR, 9/3). KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said that it has "not yet been determined how the university would receive the money and over how much time it would be distributed." KU AD Lew Perkins said that the tower "could be ready by the beginning of the next football season." Perkins added that exact details of the structure were "still being worked out," but its seats "could run from end zone to end zone and feature both indoor and outdoor seating" (LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD, 9/3).

    KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: Texas Tech Univ. (TTU) AD Gerald Myers said that the school feels a "constant struggle to compete with the fat cats of the Big 12 Conference -- Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas A&M -- which have much larger football stadiums, and in turn, much deeper pockets." But in Texas, Adam Zuvanich noted TTU has "narrowed the gap somewhat in recent years, which has helped them become more of a player between the lines." TTU Deputy AD & CFO Bobby Gleason said that the athletic department's most recent operating budget of $48M was "about the middle of the road compared to the rest of the Big 12, and it's grown substantially during the last decade." Gleason added that TTU had an athletic budget of "about $12[M] in 1996, the conference's first year, and last year they generated about $10.5[M] in revenue from football alone." Gleason and Myers said that inclusion in the Big 12 has "provided the biggest boost -- Tech receives about $8[M] annually from the conference's bowl payouts and national television contracts for football and basketball -- and they said increased ticket sales have also helped." Zuvanich noted TTU's football attendance has climbed "from an average of 42,215 fans per game in 2000 to an all-time high of 53,625 last year" (LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-JOURNAL, 9/2).

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  • Vanderbilt Stadium Set To Unveil Phase II Of $50M Renovation

    Renovations Feature New Entrance With Brick
    Archway, Large Vanderbilt Stadium Sign
    Phase II of Vanderbilt Univ.'s five-year, $50M renovation of Vanderbilt Stadium will be unveiled Saturday when the school hosts Western Carolina Univ., according to Jeff Lockridge of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. The Phase II "modifications feature: interior paint, larger concession areas with more food options, a new ticket office connected to a merchandise area, a new women's restroom with 22 stalls, improved air and sound systems in suites, images of current and former Vanderbilt athletes hanging in the corridors, and electrical upgrades to accommodate ESPN broadcasts." Fans will now be "greeted at the gate with benches, landscaping and bricks with personal inscriptions that can be purchased for $250." The entrance "showcases a brick archway" with a large Vanderbilt Stadium sign, and once fans are inside, they "can enjoy a more spacious concourse because the TV trucks have relocated across the street." VU Vice Chancellor for Univ. Affairs & Athletics David Williams said that roughly $40M of the $50M project is "being paid for with fundraiser dollars." Lockridge noted Phase III of renovations "should begin with the conclusion of football season," and it will "focus on updates to the McGugin Center, where coaches' offices and academic support are housed." Phase IV is "set to include the addition of a Hall of Fame at McGugin Center" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/2).

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  • Topical Island: Tony Barnhart To Host Show On CBS College Sports

    "The Tony Barnhart Show" Debuts On CBS
    College Sports Network Tuesday At 9:00pm ET
    There is no lack of college football coverage on cable TV with the recent proliferation of new networks and big media deals. However, longtime Atlanta Journal Constitution college football writer Tony Barnhart and CBS Sports Exec VP/Programming Mike Aresco felt there was something missing from the media landscape: a topical, issue-heavy college football show. So when "The Tony Barnhart Show" debuts on CBS College Sports Network Tuesday at 9:00pm ET, viewers might see more similarities to political or business talk shows than other college football franchises. Barnhart says he and Aresco, who serves as the show's Exec Producer, "looked across the spectrum at the genre of talk" for inspiration. Aresco feels Barnhart is a natural choice for this format both because of his "unique ability to relate to fans" and his status as "Mr. College Football" (the name of his blog on AJC.com). Aresco reiterated that this will be a "thinking man's show," but also said that it will not feature "controversy for controversy's sake."

    GIVING FANS WHAT THEY WANT: The Tuesday night time slot, previously occupied by either volleyball or game repeats, comes at a time when Barnhart believes college football fans will be "starved for content." Each hour-long show will begin with opening remarks from Barnhart, followed by interviews with guests, panel discussions, and previews of upcoming games. Guests will include coaches, administrators, college presidents and media members, but also some "unconventional guests" such as U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on the debut show Tuesday and pollster/political consultant Frank Luntz on September 15. Penn State Univ. President Graham Spanier is confirmed for October 13. Barnhart: "We want to sort of step outside the comfort zone of college athletics to bring in some different voices." The format itself will evolve as needed, and Aresco said events like the Army-Navy game or other storied rivalries will give the show a "unique opportunity" to bring more of a central theme to a given episode. The show will be promoted across various CBS platforms, including CBS Sports, CBS College Sports Network and CBSSports.com. Bass Pro Shops has signed on as the show's presenting sponsor.

    SPEAKING OF TOPICS: The SEC's record TV deal with ESPN is typical of the issues that are likely to be discussed on the show. When asked how other leagues might compete, Barnhart said they may turn to "a combination of both" league-run networks and bigger contracts with TV partners. Barnhart said, "I think you're going to see leagues certainly try to close the gap on what the SEC has." He added it is "not beyond the realm of possibility" that conferences could partner with each other to collectively negotiate TV deals. Another hot topic in college football is the dearth of minority head coaches at the FBS level; there are just nine such coaches at the start of the season. Barnhart said college athletics "needs to do a better job when it comes to minority participation. We all know about the head coaching level, but the other great issue that people don't talk about as much is at the administrative level. In theory, a 'Rooney Rule' would be a very good thing. The question I have is the practical application of it, because there is no one single entity that has an umbrella over Division-I college football. The NCAA doesn't really control it. It's done at the conference level by the commissioners."

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  • NCAA Preseason Rankings By Major Sports Publications/Web Sites

    The Rose Bowl will host the '10 BCS National Championship on January 7. Can the Gators repeat? Will Oklahoma or Texas come out of the Big 12 and earn their second BCS title? Or is this the year Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions climb back to the top of the charts? Virtually all major sports publications/Web sites have picked Florida as the preseason favorite, with Texas looking like their most likely opponent based on the projections lists here.

    PUBLICATION
    1
    2
    3
    4
    5
    Athlon
    Florida
    Oklahoma
    Texas
    USC
    Ohio State
    College Football News
    Florida
    USC
    Oklahoma
    Texas
    Georgia
    ESPN The Magazine
    Florida
    Oklahoma
    Texas
    USC
    Ole Miss
    Lindy's
    Florida
    Texas
    Oklahoma
    USC
    Virginia Tech
    Los Angeles Times
    Texas
    Florida
    Oklahoma
    USC
    Penn State
    Sporting News
    Florida
    Texas
    Oklahoma
    USC
    Ole Miss
    Sports Illustrated
    Florida
    Texas
    Oklahoma
    USC
    Virginia Tech
    The Big Lead
    Florida
    Texas
    Oklahoma
    Ole Miss
    Alabama

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