SBJ/May 20-26, 2013/Colleges

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  • New bid format for NCAA sites

    The NCAA has completed an overhaul of the bid process for 84 of its championships across all three divisions, including the Final Four, and will award close to 500 sites this year.

    It’s easily the largest bid process in the history of college sports’ governing body, and the selections will lock in sites from 2014-15 through 2017-18, plus the 2019 men’s Final Four. That includes all preliminary rounds and final sites.

    Its many championships have kept the NCAA in “a perpetual bid state.”
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    Previously, the NCAA selected championship sites for different sports year by year, as they became available, as opposed to the new streamlined format. The new bidding process will make the NCAA’s championship events available for four-year cycles, which is designed to give host sites more time to plan.

    It is expected to be most beneficial and efficient for sports commissions in cities that typically host more than one championship event. Philadelphia, for example, hosts NCAA championship events in basketball, hockey and lacrosse, but in the past bid on those events
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    separately whenever they were available.

    The new bid process also could lead to a third tier of sponsorship sales for the NCAA’s media and sales partners, Turner and CBS. They currently sell corporate champions at the highest level and corporate partnerships at the second level.

    A third tier of sponsorships could be sold for events at the local level, not unlike how Olympic host cities sell sponsorships at the local level in addition to worldwide sponsorships sold by the International Olympic Committee.

    Mark Lewis, entering his second year as the NCAA’s executive vice president of championships and alliances, formerly worked on the 1996 Atlanta Games and 2002 Salt Lake City Games in a marketing capacity, and those experiences helped shape the NCAA’s new approach to bidding under his leadership.

    “We’ve never put all of the championships together like this,” Lewis said. “This will give the bid process more clarity and greater scale across the different sports.”

    The NCAA also will do more to market the bid process in an effort to generate bids from a greater number and variety of potential hosts.

    “With all of the championships we organize, there’s a huge need for facilities from campuses and cities,” Lewis said. “We need to do a better job of creating awareness of these events. The Final Four is an obvious one, but we need to do more to create an awareness for all of our events. You don’t have to be a metro area to host an NCAA championship. We have several championships that a smaller city would be perfectly suited for.”

    The NCAA’s outreach to potential hosts began this spring with distribution of a glossy 42-page booklet and the creation of a new website (NCAA.org/bids), both of which outline the bid process, responsibilities, timeline and championships available.

    Jeff Jarnecke, associate director of championships, has been the point person for the NCAA as it revamps the bid process. He led the establishment of a timeline that kicks off in June at the NACDA meetings in Orlando with several presentations to explain the new format. The NCAA will follow up with a seminar and a series of webinars later in June for members of the National Association of Sports Commissions.

    An online bid portal will open on July 15 on NCAA.org and bids will be due by Sept. 16 for all available championships, except the Final Four, which will roll into 2014.

    “I haven’t seen a downside to it at all,” said Gary Alexander, senior vice president and COO of the Nashville Sports Commission, and chairman of the NASC for 2012-13. “This allows all of the entities bidding to look at a long-range plan for events they’d like to host. You want to spread out your bigger events so that there’s not as much of a financial burden on the community all at once.”

    All of the bidding will be done electronically. Video, audio, graphics and photos are all permitted to be a part of the bid. It does not cost anything to bid on an NCAA championship.

    “This way, we won’t drown in a sea of binders,” Jarnecke said.

    Bids are evaluated by the committees for each championship. Committees are typically made up of athletic directors and commissioners.

    The only championships not available are baseball, softball, FCS football, and men’s and women’s golf. Those sports are locked into unique or long-term deals, like the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

    Previously, when championships went out to bid at different times, the NCAA was in “a perpetual bid state,” Jarnecke said. There was a need for a more centralized approach.

    “This is more streamlined, more structured, and it gives us a chance to market ourselves,” Jarnecke said. “We used to make an announcement on the website when there was a bidding process, and now we’re going to actually promote our events, and hopefully identify some new cities that have not been in the mix.”

    Jarnecke and Lewis also believe the comprehensive approach to selecting championship sites will lead to greater efficiencies for the host organizations. The hosts typically are local sports commissions that establish a budget and enlist a local NCAA school or conference to work with.

    The NCAA pays each local organizing group what it calls an honorarium, or an amount that is the basis for a working budget. The amount is usually in the tens of thousands of dollars.

    For example, when the University of Georgia hosted tennis championships, the NCAA granted the school $10,000, but “there’s no question Georgia spent more than that in resources and personnel,” Lewis said. “They had people working the whole year to plan that event. … People often misunderstand our championships and think that the NCAA runs them. We organize them, but the members are the arms, legs and souls of these championships. They’re the ones lining the field and running concessions.”

    The centralized bidding process also allows for sports commissions to better chart out their calendars and look for ways to cut costs. If a city knows that it has, for example, a Frozen Four one year and the wrestling championships another year, it will be better able to negotiate hotel rates.

    That’s where an additional level of sponsorship — a third tier, as Lewis called it — could come into play. A sponsor in the hotel category could create advantages in terms of rates, amenities, meals, anything that greater purchasing power might afford.

    Sheraton was a sponsor in the past, and the NCAA used it when available, but it wasn’t a true business-to-business play, Jarnecke said.

    “We need to aggregate our negotiating power,” Jarnecke said.

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