SBD/December 7, 2012/CollegesPrint All
The '13-14 college basketball season could begin on Veterans Day weekend with "four games taking place simultaneously at Cowboys Stadium, site of the 2014 Final Four," according to Seth Davis of SI.com. Details are not finalized, but the games would "begin 15 minutes apart and be held side by side (by side by side) in the giant facility." The purpose is to "simulate the madness that takes place during the first week of the NCAA tournament." Michigan State AD Mark Hollis, who created the concept, said, "We're going to squeeze everything into a three-hour time period. We're talking with eight institutions right now that have a very high interest and have that weekend open, and we're going to partner with the 12 (military) bases that are around Dallas, so we can make it a celebration for the guys at Fort Hood and others." Davis noted Hollis did not "get into which schools would be playing, except to confirm that Michigan State would be one of them." Having "developed a deep passion for athletic events that honor and include the military, Hollis, who also arranged for Michigan State to play UConn at Ramstein Air Base in Germany last month, said that he's hoping to continue setting up these games 'at some other unique locations down the line'" (SI.com, 12/6).
DREAMING BIG: Hollis said that the project "revolved around three primary goals: Doing something positive in North Texas to launch the season that will end there, doing something positive for NCAA basketball and doing something to recognize and honor members of the armed forces." He added that he is "evaluating the financial feasibility and TV potential, including looking at the difficulties related to broadcasting four games at once at the same venue" (USA TODAY, 12/7). In Detroit, Joe Rexrode notes the "hope is for a crowd of about 60,000 -- 30,000 troops and 30,000 paid customers" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/7). Hollis: "I just had a vision after looking down on the venue ... everything is big in Texas. But by no means is it a done deal. Is it possible? Yes" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/7).
NOT SO FAST: NBCSPORTS.com's Rob Dauster wrote the idea "is a bit too much." Nevermind the "fact that whistles on court one will make players stop on court two," and "forget that a substitution buzzer on court three could confuse a player on court four who thought he still had five seconds left on the shot clock." Dauster: "We don’t need to dilute the product on the floor just to get some publicity when there is already plenty of attention being paid to the good, quality basketball being played at the beginning of the year" (NBCSPORTS.com, 12/6). The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, “This is nothing more than glorified AAU summer basketball! ... I can’t wait until the first ball bounces from one court to the other and (they) have to stop the game to pick it up and throw it back.” The Miami Herald’s Israel Gutierrez said, “I don’t know how pleasant it’s going to be for the fans trying to watch everything at once.” ESPN’s J.A. Adande said, “I’m not concerned about four balls bouncing at once. I’m concerned about four whistles going off at once. That could be the issue, but I’m never going to vote against more basketball” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 12/6).
A Stanford fan base that "didn't get too excited about a Pac-12 championship football game on its own campus a week ago now has snapped up 35,000 tickets and counting" for the Rose Bowl, according to David Pollak of the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS. Stanford Dir of Ticket Sales & Services Rich Muschell said that the fact Stanford has not been to the Rose Bowl "since 2000 has created pent-up demand for the $150 and $185 tickets." Having "12,000 alumni in Los Angeles and 20,000 in Southern California overall have helped sales." Muschell noted that more than "twice as many Cardinal fans are already committed to the Rose Bowl than the 16,000 who were in Glendale, Ariz., for the 2012 Fiesta Bowl or the 13,000 in Miami for the 2011 Orange Bowl." Muschell anticipated that the "Stanford delegation could reach 37,000." The school "earned its Rose Bowl berth ... before a sparse crowd of 31,622" at the Pac-12 Championship game against UCLA, and the 50,000-seat Stanford Stadium "looked half full." However, for the Stanford athletic department, the "struggle to sell seats that night has been replaced by the frenzy to try and line up more for the Rose Bowl" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/7).
SELLING FAST: In Oklahoma City, Jason Kersey notes Oklahoma's "entire, 13,000-plus ticket allotment was sold out 16 hours after announcing its matchup with No. 9 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl." OU's athletic department the next day announced it "would make $50 'Standing Room Only' (SRO) tickets available to season-ticket holders." Oklahomatickets.com Owner Scooter Proctor on Thursday said that his "SRO tickets are going for $192 and tickets with a seat are in the $320 range." Proctor said that some of the Cowboys Stadium suites "are going from $25,000 to $45,000" (OKLAHOMAN, 12/7). Charlotte Collegiate Football Exec Dir Will Webb said that he is "optimistic" that the Belk Bowl can "meet or exceed the game's 10-year average attendance of 60,000 fans." Webb said, "We’re at 46 to 48,000 now, and we have seen continued buying by Duke fans. It hasn’t dropped off. The Cincinnati people are telling us they’re confident they will sell their 12,500 tickets" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 12/7). Valero Alamo Bowl officials "reported a strong first day of ticket sales Monday after Texas and Oregon State were announced for the Dec. 29 game at the Alamodome" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 12/4).
ORANGE YOU EXCITED? In West Palm Beach, Tom D'Angelo noted Northern Illinois already has "sold out two charters planes to South Florida and is working on a third" for the matchup with Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl. The university announced that it is "giving away tickets to its students." Each school must "purchase an allotment of 17,500 tickets" and NIU expects it "will have enough to cover fans who want to purchase tickets and the students who request a free ticket." NIU’s enrollment is "just more than 25,000" (PALM BEACH POST, 12/6). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits reported FSU is "selling half-off tickets" for the game to team boosters, season-ticket holders and students. The prices range from "$75 for the upper bowl of Sun Life Stadium to $250 [for] the top-end club seats" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 12/5).
The topic of BCS conferences breaking away from the NCAA inspired a lot of conversation among conference commissioners at the opening panel of Day Two of the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. When asked why the 65-70 schools in the five power conferences -- ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC -- need to stay in the NCAA, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said, “There certainly needs to be an umbrella organization and we certainly have one. The issues that need to be thought about are ‘what should the NCAA be doing?’ and ‘what should the NCAA not be doing?’” He added, “It certainly needs the value of championships, the value of umbrella legislation, the value of infractions and compliance. Whatever organization exists is going to have to do those kinds of things. I think that the issue at least from my seat is whether or not in certain areas we can be accurately accommodated for those issues that we believe are good for us, and often times good for student-athletes. … At some point it’s going to be very important that Dr. (Mark) Emmert to be able to continue to find a way to accommodate us in those areas. Whether changing an organization is the answer, I think the answer more is accommodation.” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said, “I think the NCAA can survive; it’s always been a little bit of a lightning rod for schools and conferences who really have a hard time governing themselves.” He added, “I’ve spoke on the cost-of-education issue for a number of years now. We’re supportive of that, at the same time I can’t tell you that everybody from a high-resource institution wants to see that. There’s not unanimous (thought). I applaud Mark Emmert for addressing this head-on both with both presidents and conference commissioners. He’ll ask us whatever issues we need to have addressed, and sometimes we find out you say things one day, come back to vote six months later and we’ve got changing minds.”
PLENTY OF THINGS IN COMMON: Slive said there is a “tendency because of revenue and television to talk about separation,” but the reality is that “all of us at the NCAA have more commonality than we do separation.” Slive: “This is about higher education, we come here and we talk about television and about all the glitz and the glamour of the national championship game, but in the final analysis, what we all have in common in the NCAA is that we are competing athletically as part of higher education. That we have in common. We don’t need another organization for that purpose. Now the question is how do we just manifest through various ways some of the differences that we have. But the NCAA and us, even though we don’t get a lot of credit for it, we are involved in an enterprise that is part of higher education and part of the culture, so we have that in common and that shouldn’t change." Delany said, “I want to be in the same large tent with the Ivy group. I want to be in the same large tent with Ohio Valley and the Southern Conference, the MEAC and the SWAC. I want them to have an opportunity to play major college sports. They may play a little bit differently; their goals may be a little bit different. I just want to be able to do certain things, to have certain flexibility and not be restricted." Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said, “We need the NCAA for a lot of reasons.” He added, “The conferences can’t look to the NCAA to solve certain problems. The NCAA can be an enforcement mechanism, but the conferences have to figure out governance, the conferences have to figure out the best way to proceed when it comes to how we recruit, how you deal with student-athlete life and other issues."
Aresco notes the NCAA has to adapt to different
needs of the various conferences
GROWTH SPURT: Delany discussed the conference’s recent addition of Maryland and Rutgers, saying, “The paradigm has shifted and all five major conferences are outside their footprint. … We saw continuing changes and we thought there were more risks embracing the status quo.” Delany acknowledged that realignment at times is not popular with the conference fan base, and “we have lost some things that are very valuable.” Delany: “There may be some ambivalence (about new markets), but I think over time that can be overcome if the institutional connections and the competition (are able to grow.)” When asked how much Fox and Big Ten Network influenced the decision to add the two schools, Delany replied that they were not consulted and surprised many in the room. “We made the move we made because we thought the Big Ten as a conference, not for the Big Ten Network, but as a conference (the Big Ten) would be in a great position for the next decade.” Meanwhile, Slive said in regards to realignment, he prioritizes geographical identity over media possibilities and has to ask himself before adding a new school, “Will the SEC be the kind of preeminent conference 20 years from now that it is today?”
The proliferation of college-dedicated TV networks over the last few years has changed the landscape of college athletics and was discussed at the '12 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. Big Ten Network, and the revenues it generates, has been cited as a large catalyst for Maryland and Rutgers moving to the Big Ten. BTN President Mark Silverman said, “I really believe the network has been massively overstated as the reason that the conference, which is a minority owner in the network, would really look to do this.” He said he would not speculate so soon about availability in the new markets, “I’m sure we’ll have productive conversations with all our distribution partners.” The different models used to launch these first college networks was discussed prominently in the conversation. When Longhorn Network VP/Programming & Acquisition Dave Brown was asked if he would have done anything differently when the net launched, he replied, “No, I don’t think so. We started out as a long-term proposition, we were lucky enough to do a 20-year deal with the school and we’re a year and a half into it. Certainly we have some work to do but I wouldn’t have done anything differently.” Pac-12 Networks Exec VP & GM Lydia Murphy-Stephans commented on the constant need for live football. She said, “The question is will advertisers support all the games that continue to get regional and national exposure and to what extent? Are we fragmenting the audience or are we able to aggregate the audience. I think it’s endless for how many games the audience wants to see.” The rising cost of RSNs has been noted by several industry leaders recently, but Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures co-Founder Chris Bevilacqua said there are larger problems than sports in the average cable bill. “Distributors are paying too much for channels that nobody watches," he said. "With sports, at least people watch.”
GOING GLOBAL: IMG Media Senior VP/Programming & Distribution Hillary Mandel believes that the international market is an untapped resource for future revenue streams. She said, “It’s an opportunity for all these brands to educate the rest of the world because there’s lack of a relatability on the first level. ... When the growth ceiling gets hit, there’s no question international is another area to tap and it’s going to take more than distribution to make it happen."