SBJ/January 7 - 13, 2002/This Weeks Issue

Sports Business 2001 Timeline

Outside of one day on the calendar, any review of 2001 seems trivial. And placing importance on any event in sports, business or otherwise, seems ludicrous.

But here we are, at the turn of the calendar, leaving behind a year more difficult than most people ever imagined. Do we look back? Do we forget? Do we cry for the sorrow of Sept. 11, or for the pride in everything that happened afterward?

In the end, we chose to simply recognize our place, the diversion that is sports, in the year that was 2001.
 

JANUARY
 
FEBRUARY
 
MARCH
 
APRIL
 
MAY
 
JUNE
 
JULY
 
AUGUST
 
SEPTEMBER
 
OCTOBER
 
NOVEMBER
 

DECEMBER
 

 
JANUARY

Jan. 3 — ABC’s coverage of the Oklahoma-Florida State FedEx Orange Bowl for the national championship earns a 17.8 Nielsen rating, up 1.7 percent from last year’s comparable Virginia Tech-FSU matchup in the Sugar Bowl.

Jan. 4 — The NBA fines Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $250,000 for his outbursts over officiating following a loss to Detroit. Cuban eventually is fined seven times during the season, getting hit in the wallet for a league-record $505,000.

Jan. 4 — The WUSA names Barbara Allen, a former Quaker Oats executive, its first president and CEO.

Jan. 8 — MVP.com, the highly touted Web site that was supposed to be a sure thing because of its affiliation with John Elway, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan, lays off nearly all of its employees in preparation for shutting its doors.n Jan. 11 — FCC approval allows America Online and Time Warner to complete their $106 billion merger, a year and a day after it originally was announced.

Jan. 11 — FCC approval allows America Online and Time Warner to complete their $106 billion merger, a year and a day after it originally was announced.

Jan. 11 — The Ackerley Group announces the sale of the Seattle SuperSonics for $200 million to a local investment group headed by Howard Schultz, founder of the Starbucks coffee chain.

Jan. 17 — NFL owners vote to pool the visiting-team share of gate revenue beginning in 2002. The measure is approved by a 29-1 vote.

Jan. 17 — In a precedent-setting decision, arbitrator Richard Block upholds the Cincinnati Bengals’ “loyalty” clause, which allows the team to take away all or part of a player’s signing bonus if he publicly criticizes team officials, coaches or teammates.

Jan. 27 — Two Oklahoma State University basketball players are killed when their twin-engine airplane crashes outside Denver. The plane is one of three carrying OSU players and coaches back to Stillwater after the team played the University of Colorado.

Jan. 28 — Baltimore defeats the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. The broadcast earns a 40.3 Nielsen rating, down 7 percent from Super Bowl XXXIV’s 43.3. In all, 131.2 million viewers watch all or part of the telecast.

Jan. 29 — Denver’s Metropolitan Football Stadium District Board accepts a $120 million offer from Invesco Funds Group for the naming rights to the Broncos’ new football stadium for 20 years. The $400.8 million facility will be called Invesco Field at Mile High.

Jan. 31 — U.S. businessman George Gillett agrees to pay $183 million to buy an 80.1 percent stake of the Montreal Canadiens from Molson Inc.

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FEBRUARY


Feb. 3 — Wrestling ringmaster Vince McMahon introduces the world to the XFL, a league opener befitting its Las Vegas backdrop — complete with pyrotechnics, “He Hate Me,” stadium lap dances (or close to it) and, oh yeah, a little bit of football. Like a car wreck, we watched. We can admit it now. And, like a car wreck, we moved on, leaving the mess in our rearview mirror.

Within two weeks, the league’s initial 9.5 Nielsen rating had dropped to below 3.0. As fewer and fewer TVs tuned in, more and more sponsors walked away. By the end of the not-so-regular season, NBC had lost an estimated $50 million and suffered some of the most embarrassingly low Saturday night ratings in network history.
So on May 10, with the games finished and the cleavage safely tucked away, the XFL became a footnote in history, the end of the ultimate merger between sports and entertainment.

Feb. 7 — YankeeNets and British soccer giant Manchester United announce a joint marketing agreement.

Feb. 8 — The 55-year-old Continental Basketball Association suspends operations, putting 200 players, coaches and staff members out of work. Two weeks later, the league files for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Feb. 11 — Awash in red ink, the Vancouver Grizzlies get the go-ahead to shop around for a new den.

Feb. 12 — Average attendance for the NBA falls below that of the NHL for the first time in more than a decade.

Feb. 13 — Drawing criticism for excluding sponsor logos from graphics on its NASCAR telecasts, Fox Sports relents and says it will show the logos even if the sponsors do not buy ad time.

Feb. 15 — Months in the making, the $87 million purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes by Steve Ellman and Wayne Gretzky is completed.

Feb. 18 — NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt dies from injuries suffered in a last-lap accident in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Feb. 23 — Multimedia company Broadband Sports shuts down most of its operations and tries to sell what’s left.

Feb. 25 — Reports surface in Boston that agent David Dunn will leave partner Leigh Steinberg and take New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe and possibly as many as 40 other former Steinberg clients with him.

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MARCH


March 2 — Brett Favre becomes the first $100 million player in the NFL, agreeing to a 10-year deal with the Green Bay Packers for an estimated $100 million.

March 13 — The Oakland Raiders kick off a $1 billion legal case against the NFL in a Los Angeles courtroom.

March 13 — Reports start to circulate that Michael Jordan is considering a return to the NBA.

March 16 — Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis calls NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s testimony a “raft of lies.”

March 26 — Enticed by a FedEx naming-rights offer and promise of a new arena, the Vancouver Grizzlies say they want to move to Memphis. Hours later, the Charlotte Hornets, who also are looking for a new arena, say they want to move to Memphis, too; the Hornets eventually withdraw their bid on May 2.

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APRIL


April 1 — Major League Baseball opens its 2001 season with the average player salary north of $2 million for the first time ever.

April 5 — Wang Zhizhi becomes the first China-born player to play in the NBA, scoring six points for the Dallas Mavericks.

April 6 — The Milwaukee Brewers play their first regular-season game in new Miller Park, one year behind schedule.

April 9 — The Pittsburgh Pirates play their first regular-season game in new PNC Park.

April 11 — Having burned through $75 million in investor money, RivalNetworks shuts down, the latest victim of the dot.com crash.

April 14 — Anything you can do, I can do better …
The Women’s United Soccer Association debuts in front of 34,148 fans at RFK Stadium in Washington, capitalizing on the popularity of the ’99 Women’s World Cup and becoming the second “major” women’s professional sports league in the United States.

Unlike the WNBA, though, the WUSA’s season goes head-to-head with its male counterpart, Major League Soccer, targeting the thousands of kids — and their parents — who kick a ball around on weekends.

The grassroots push pays off at the gate as the eight-team league averages 8,295 fans a game in its first season. TV ratings aren’t so positive, falling below the 0.5-1.0 first-year goal — a failure largely attributed to a timeslot when the league’s fans are playing soccer and not watching it on the tube.

April 14 — Nashville Superspeedway opens with the Pepsi 400 NASCAR Busch series race.

April 19 — SFX announces the creation of the SFX Basketball Group, part of a restructuring strategy that puts its athlete representation business into wholly owned but independent companies.

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MAY

May 7 — Sanex WTA Tour CEO Bart McGuire announces he will resign.

May 15 — Madison Square Garden president and CEO Dave Checketts resigns.

May 15 — Callaway Golf founder and chairman Ely Callaway retires.

May 21 — A Swiss court declares ISMM bankrupt. The company’s subsidiary, ISL Worldwide, has multimillion-dollar deals with, among others, CART, the ATP Tour and FIFA.

May 21 — The jury rules in favor of the NFL in a lawsuit brought by Al Davis.

May 22 — The NFL approves its plan for realignment in 2002.

May 29 — In a real-life version of “Jerry Maguire,” Leigh Steinberg sues his longtime protégé, David Dunn, seeking damages and a court order to stop Dunn from taking any of Steinberg’s NFL clients. Dunn left Steinberg’s firm in the spring, taking dozens of clients to his Athletes First firm in one of the nastiest breakups in the sports business.

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JUNE

June 1 — PSINet enters Bankruptcy Court proceedings, raising questions about naming rights of the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium.

June 4 — The International Hockey League, which formed in 1945, goes out of business. Six of its teams join the American Hockey League.

June 5 — Charlotte voters soundly defeat a $342 million public financing package that includes a new $215 million arena for the Hornets and $25 million for a minor league ballpark.

June 5 — The Florida Panthers are sold to an eight-person group, led by majority owner Alan Cohen, that includes Bernie Kosar, pending the OK of the NHL board of governors.

June 5 — The NFL and its players association extend their collective-bargaining agreement for three years, through 2007 — or two years after the current TV contract runs out — giving the league a plum in the next round of TV negotiations.

June 9 — The Colorado Avalanche’s Game 7 victory over the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals earns a 4.2 Nielsen rating.

June 15 — H.J. Heinz Co. announces it will pay $57 million over 20 years for naming rights to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ new stadium, Heinz Field.

June 17 — NBC’s coverage of the 76ers-Lakers NBA Finals averages a 12.1 Nielsen rating over the five-game series, up 5.4 percent from the six-game Finals in 1999-2000.

June 18 — For a minimum opening bid of $1.1 million, title sponsorship for the PGA Tour’s B.C. Open is offered on eBay, becoming the first such package to ever appear on an online auction.

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JULY

July 1 — The NHL’s weekend flurry of last-minute player signings and trades results in five teams spending $260 million on seven players.

July 3 — The NBA board of governors approves the Vancouver Grizzlies’ move to Memphis for the 2001-02 season.

July 5 — Ely Callaway dies following a bout with pancreatic cancer. The founder of Callaway Golf was 82.

July 7 — NBC opens its coverage of the second half of the NASCAR season with the Pepsi 400 from Daytona. It delivers a 6.1 rating, the highest prime-time number ever for a NASCAR event and good enough to dominate the evening on TV.

July 8 — Kansas Speedway holds its first major race, the Ameri-star Casino Indy 200.

July 10 — Host Communications Inc.
announces an 11-year agreement with CBS for NCAA marketing rights. The deal coincides with CBS’ new television agreement with the NCAA, which begins in the 2002-03 school year. Host will pay CBS guaranteed fees of $575 million for NCAA marketing rights.

July 13 — Beijing is selected as host of
the 2008 Summer Olympics. Other
bidders are Toronto; Paris; Istanbul, Turkey; and Osaka, Japan.

July 15 — Chicagoland Speedway holds its inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup race, the Tropicana 400.

July 16 — Jacques Rogge of Belgium is named to succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch as IOC president.

July 16 — The PGA Tour announces new TV contracts with ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, USA and The Golf Channel for 2003-06. With the deals valued at $850 million, the “Tiger effect” helps mark a 45 percent increase over the tour’s existing deals.

July 31 — Houston breaks ground on a new downtown arena, the $175 million SBC Center, for the Rockets and Comets. The arena will be the city’s third major pro sports facility since 2000.

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AUGUST

Aug. 1 — Reebok announces a deal to be the sole supplier of NBA on-court apparel beginning in 2004.

Aug. 7 — Callaway Golf lets about 60 workers go, citing weakness in the golf market.

Aug. 11 — Invesco Field at Mile High opens in Denver with an Eagles concert. The facility’s first Broncos game is a preseason contest Aug. 25.

Aug. 15 — The Boston Red Sox receive six bids of $300 million or more for purchase of 54 percent of the team.

Aug. 21 — NASCAR releases its report on the investigation into Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash six months earlier.

Aug. 22 — Michael Jordan confirms plans to sell his share in the Washington Wizards but says he’s still undecided about a comeback.

Aug. 30 — The WUSA announces several changes after its inaugural season, including the resignation of league CEO Barbara Allen; the naming of Lynn Morgan as Allen’s replacement (Morgan, however, takes a different title — league president); and the relocation of league offices from New York to Atlanta.

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SEPTEMBER

Sept. 8 — CBS airs the U.S. Open women’s final in prime time for the first time ever. The match between the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, draws a 6.8 Nielsen rating, the highest for the women’s final since 1985.

Sept. 9 — The NFL begins its regular season with replacement refs after a labor impasse leads the league to lock out its regular officials. Eight days later, the league and refs reach an agreement on a new contract.

Sept. 10 — YankeeNets announces the formation of The YES Network, a regional network that will televise Yankees games in 2002.

Sept. 11 — The country is stunned when hijacked airliners slam into New York’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon in Washington. Life will never be the same, and amid America’s grief, sport steps aside as never before.

Major League Baseball cancels its games for the next two days, and the NFL announces on Sept. 13 that it will not play games the weekend following the attacks. It is the lead everyone is waiting for. Within hours, MLB, NASCAR, the PGA and the rest of the sports world cancel or postpone events for the week. They stop for reasons of security and logistics, of sensitivity and grief.

Baseball is the first to return, resuming play on Sept. 17. Others follow shortly after, and all go to great lengths to show that they understand their place in society and the relative importance of games compared with true life-and-death issues.
Tributes abound to the men and women in police, fire and other emergency response departments, not just in New York and Washington, but across the country.

For the rest of the year, sports leagues and teams work hard to give to their country and community, both by helping people return to a sense of normalcy, and through countless donations, fund-raisers and visits with people affected by the events of 9/11.

Sept. 19 — American Airlines Center opens in Dallas with an indoor soccer match.

Sept. 25 — Finally … Michael Jordan says he’s making a comeback — again.

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OCTOBER

Oct. 3 — The NFL reaches a deal with the National Automobile Dealers Association, which allows the league to play the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

Oct. 5 — Barry Bonds sets the MLB home run record with his 71st homer of the season. His 73rd comes two nights later.

Oct. 6 — Shaquille O’Neal parts ways with longtime agent Leonard Armato, starting a feeding frenzy for a piece of Shaq. He signs with Perry Rogers on Oct. 22.

Oct. 7 — Lowe’s Motor Speedway President H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler threatens to tow NBC’s satellite trucks after NBC and TNT decide not to properly identify the speedway because Lowe’s hasn’t bought ads on the Winston Cup race telecast. A resolution is reached.

Oct. 18 — Jaromir Jagr signs the richest contract in NHL history, an eight-year, $88 million deal with the Washington Capitals.

Oct. 21 — The USOC goes outside the sporting ranks to name Lloyd Ward its new CEO.

Oct. 26 — The USOC cuts the field of bid cities for the 2012 Summer Games from eight to four: Houston, San Francisco, New York and Baltimore-Washington.

Oct. 30 — Michael Jordan returns to the NBA, playing for the Washington Wizards on opening night.

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NOVEMBER

Nov. 4 — The Arizona Diamondbacks defeat the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. Fox draws the highest rating for a World Series game in 10 years, a 23.5 Nielsen.

Nov. 6 — FedEx re-ups as CART’s title sponsor for the next four years despite a troubling year for the publicly held series.

Nov. 6 — Say it ain’t so … Major League Baseball owners vote to approve contraction.

The move, which gives Commissioner Bud Selig the go-ahead to cut two teams, more than likely the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins, sparks a firestorm of debate about tradition, fans’ rights, antitrust exemptions and legal hurdles. In Minnesota, the municipal stadium owner gets the legal ball rolling when a judge issues a temporary injunction on Nov. 16 that bars MLB from interfering with the Twins’ 2002 schedule.

By Dec. 6, the league finds itself in front of a House Judiciary Committee explaining its financial problems, with Selig saying MLB lost more than $500 million in 2001 alone. The players union disputes the figures, as well as the need for contraction, leaving not only the fate of two teams up in the air but also possibly the start of the ’02 season.

Nov. 12 — Cablevision feels the pinch of Larry Johnson’s retirement, posting a quarterly loss due to contract write-offs, including $25 million for “LJ.”

Nov. 15 — In one of the more unusual naming-rights deals, Atlanta Motor Speedway signs up the National Pork Board to sponsor an ARCA race — rendering the event The Pork The Other White Meat 400.

Nov. 16 — The NBA’s new developmental league, the NBDL, debuts.

Nov. 21 — The AFL quietly shuts down four teams as it continues to hope that more NFL owners will get involved in the indoor game.

Nov. 27 — Baseball owners vote unanimously to extend Commissioner Bud Selig’s contract through 2006.

Nov. 28 — Reebok signs Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson to a lifetime deal.

Nov. 29 — Bids are due for the Boston Red Sox in one of the most closely watched team sales ever.

Nov. 30 — Arizona Diamondbacks managing general partner Jerry Colangelo unveils a plan for a proposed $160 million infusion into the team.

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DECEMBER

Dec. 2 — Home Depot Inc. co-founder Arthur Blank agrees in principle to buy the Atlanta Falcons for $545 million.

Dec. 4 — Joseph Heitzler steps down as CART’s president and CEO.

Dec. 5 — Major League Baseball gives the OK to Florida Marlins owner John Henry to sell his team to the Montreal Expos’ Jeffrey Loria.

Dec. 20 — The Boston Red Sox are sold for a record $700 million. The new ownership group, led by Marlins owner John Henry and former Padres owner Tom Werner, awaits MLB approval.



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