SBJ: Lundquist: Best Calls and Top Dogs SBJ: Fox Sports execs like trends at FS1 SBD: Chipotle To Sponsor MLS, 12 Teams SBJ: Tweets lead to Cheesecake Factory deal SBJ: Social media index devoted to sports SBD: Verizon, IndyCar Nearing 10-Year Title Deal SBJ: Kings’ new sales tool: Gaming headset SBG: Nike To Make Sterling English Poster Boy SBD: Michael Yormark Joining Roc Nation Sports SBJ: Verne Lundquist: “How DO you do?”
December 16, 2013 02:48 PM
CBS’ Bill Cowher said of issues surrounding the Redskins organization, “When you look at the bottom line, it starts at the top. ... There is a problem, in my opinion, down there somehow in how that building functions.” Cowher added, “It seems like they walk out of a room and everybody heads their own separate ways” (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 12/15).
LONE-STAR LOSING: ESPN’s Mike Ditka said the Cowboys “ought to fire the general manager, that’s what I think, because he’s picking the players. That is the worst defense in the history of the Cowboys organization.” ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson added, “I know you know this Coach, but the owner isn’t going to fire himself” (“Sunday NFL Countdown,” ESPN, 12/15).
MIAMI VICE: NFL Network’s Michael Silver said, “One NFL owner on (Dolphins GM) Jeff Ireland’s continued employment: ‘The craziest thing I’ve seen in the NFL, more absurd than (former Lions GM) Matt Millen’” (“NFL GameDay Morning,” NFL Network, 12/15).
PLACING BLAME: NESN’s Dale Arnold, when asked if the NHL is in a better spot as far as player safety in light of all the recent suspensions throughout the league, said, “Absolutely not and it’s the players’ fault. I think the players have a lack of respect for their fellow players. It bugs the heck out of me" (“The Instigators,” NESN, 12/13).
December 16, 2013 02:31 PM
December 13, 2013 10:47 AM
CBS Sports' Tracy Wolfson opened up on being a sideline reporter, from the increased scrutiny those in her profession face to the unique opportunities she is presented with by being so close to the action. Wolfson, during a one-on-one interview at the '13 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, said, "I've always said from the first time I joined my crew, my job is to get what Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson can't get from the booth. Verne is the best storyteller in the business; I don't have to do that. My job is to get what they can't get -- whether it's an injury report, whether it's something being talked about in the huddle, the interviews on the field, the interviews postgame, something as small or funny or bizarre as a sewing machine being on the sideline during that Auburn game. So that's my role, and I respect that. Whether you're on two times a game or 10 times a game, it doesn't matter. I think we saw the role of the sideline reporter and how it's so important and how it's used this year specifically, starting with the Super Bowl and the lights go out -- that's when the sideline reporter earns their money; that's when they really need to be on."
CONTINUITY OF COVERAGE: Wolfson has been part of CBS' SEC broadcast crew for the better part of a decade, and she said the continuity has helped her. "It's huge," she said. "Having covered one conference for 10 years -- same coaches basically, same SIDs, the players stick around, you know the venues, how they work, you know the trainers, doctors. ... There's a trust and respect factor there." Wolfson also spoke about her idols in the industry, saying, "Lesley Visser has actually helped me the most; she's an icon in this industry. I didn't grow up, really, with any female role models. I grew up watching ‘NBA Inside Stuff,’ I had no cable and that was the first show I remember watching -- I remember watching Willow Bay and I said, 'I want to be Willow Bay; I want to be on ‘NBA Inside Stuff,’ and that was it. That's when I decided being a sideline reporter was what I want to do."
SOCIAL MEDIA'S DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD: Wolfson said that while social media is enlightening and refreshing, it can be difficult to deal with when it comes to some of the vitriol spewed her way. She said, "Tweeting during games, it's something that CBS came up with this year, which I think is great. It's a way for us to get involved with social media a little bit more and show a view from the sidelines on Twitter that we might not get into a broadcast. It's worked well this year. I enjoy it and I try to interact with the fans as much as possible, because they want to feel like they know you. They ask you questions and I try to respond back as much as I can.” But she said she has rules that she tries to follow regarding social media: “Never Google yourself or search yourself on Twitter; those are two rules for anyone in this business."
* Wolfson's favorite venue to cover games: "Alabama. I love the tradition; I love the history; I love the stadium, the noise factor. But my favorite campus is Athens."
* Favorite fan base: (With a laugh) “Not LSU at night. But, actually, everybody's really great; the fans down in the South, you can't beat them."
* Sport she has not done that she wishes to do: "I want to do the Olympics; I think that would be a really fun thing to do. I worked at Nagano -- I researched ice skating -- but I think to be involved in the Olympics one time would be a big one on my bucket list.”
* On work/life balance: "It's difficult. I have an amazing husband ... who I would not be able to do it without. I have three kids under the age of seven and a babysitter that helps us out as well, but without all that support, I wouldn't be able to do my job right now. So it's difficult but when you love what you do, it does make it easier."
December 13, 2013 09:54 AM
A look at the past week in the NHL and a glimpse at what’s ahead:
• The Numbers
“24/7”: HBO’s four-part documentary series leading up to the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic debuts tomorrow on HBO. Since this season’s Winter Classic features a Canadian team for the first time, this “24/7” effort also will be making its debut on a Canadian network, premiering on Sportsnet on Sunday. Now in its third season, the series “has been a game-changer for us,” said NHL COO John Collins.
Less than 24 hours: That’s the time it took earlier this week for the Coors Light Stadium Series game on March 1 between the Blackhawks and Penguins at Soldier Field to sell all 61,000 seats available.
$50: The value of a gift card the NHL began offering this week for customers who purchase a pair of tickets to the Stadium Series games featuring the Kings and Ducks at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25 and the Rangers and Islanders at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 29.99 days: That’s all it took before first-year Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke decided he needed to make major changes, firing GM Jay Feaster and assistant GM Jon Weisbrod on Thursday. Burke’s first interview for the GM position is expected to be with former Dallas GM (and former Flames draft pick) Joe Nieuwendyk.
6.9 percent: The league-leading percentage increase in per-game attendance seen this year for the Colorado Avalanche, after 15 home games. Improved on-ice performance has been a key factor in Colorado averaging 16,505 fans per game, up about 1,000 fans per game from last season. The team has won 21 of its first 30 games after finishing last in the Western Conference last season.
$71 million: That’s the projected NHL salary cap for the 2014-15 season, as shared by the league to the Board of Governors at a meeting earlier this week in Pebble Beach, Calif. The projection equals an increase of more than 10 percent from the current cap, which is $64.3 million. The bump is in large part a result of the significant revenue boost that will come from the new 12-year, C$5.2 billion deal signed with Rogers Communications for Canadian television rights, effective next season.
$52 million: Next year’s expected salary floor, which is the minimum a team can spend. This year’s floor is $44 million.
• Thursday: The NHL’s annual holiday roster freeze begins, continuing through Dec. 27.
December 12, 2013 01:12 PM
Realities of Conference Realignment
Chris Del Conte, TCU
Daryl Gross, Syracuse
Eric Hyman, Texas A&M
Oliver Luck, West Virginia
THE REAL EFFECTS OF REALIGNMENT: Each of the schools reported big business jumps from their realignment. Texas A&M’s Eric Hyman said student applications at the school jumped five-fold after the move to the SEC. "The SEC has created a lot of enthusiasm and pride in A&M," Hyman said. “It's boosted university donations, not just athletic donations. It's not all about athletics." Travel expenses for the realigned schools in most instances have jumped noticeably. In West Virginia's case, for example, the school's athletic department spends an additional $2 million per year in team travel competing in the Big 12. But those expenses have been more than compensated by increased media rights fees. "All of us have benefited financially," Luck said. "Our TV rights went up 2 to 3 times. Travel costs increased, sure, but that was way overtaken by media. All the metrics are better, in some cases significantly."
QUICK HIT: Several of the panelists described their search for a new conference fit as an epic quest. "When the Southwest Conference broke up, we were like the Israelites, looking for a major conference," Del Conte said. "The culture of TCU was that we needed to be in a major conference. We were sort of were on a conference odyssey." When asked what the next big conference shakeup would be, Del Conte flipped the question around, "The bigger question is when the [new] football playoff goes from four teams to eight."
December 12, 2013 12:52 PM
Fan Experience: Venues
Jason Cook, Texas A&M
Don Dethlefs, Sink Combs Dethlefs
Chip Lydum, Washington
Steve Terrill, AECOM
Justin Wood, Dimensional Innovations
SLOW TO CHANGE: AECOM project director Steve Terrill, who has spent 14 years dedicated to the design of athletic facilities, and is working with Clemson on its football stadium, pointed out the challenges. "Today, students live in nice apartments and can eat at food courts serving healthy meals, but their experience going to football games has not changed in decades," said Terrill. "They wait on long lines for tickets. The food isn't good. The bathrooms are far away. All of that must be improved." Jason Cook, senior associate athletic director of external affairs at Texas A&M University, shared a pointed insight. "If you want to increase revenue at the football stadium, improve the quality of the women's bathrooms," said Cook.
MAKING CONNECTIONS: Connectivity is also key. "Get people closer to the game, and make sure they are connected to their team and their mobile devices," said Chip Lydum, associate athletic director of capital projects and operations at the University of Washington. Lydum was the school's point person for the recent $281 million renovation of 90-year-old Husky Stadium. "Don't lose sight of the fact that you're fighting the giant TV in people's houses and the comforts of home,” he said. Don Dethlefs, CEO of Sink Combs Dethlefs, the half-century old sports architecture firm based in Denver, has been responsible for the design of more than 75 arenas and collegiate facilities. He pointed out how Michigan used to have concourses that were narrow and dark, but now its facilities have kid zones. "The nicer the environment, the more they'll come and the more they'll stay," said Dethlefs. "And, hopefully, they'll spend more money."
December 12, 2013 10:46 AM
Fan Experience: Ticketing
Dave Butler, Paciolan
Matt DiFebo, IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions
Chris Ferris, University of Pittsburgh
Sam Gerace, Veritix
Ashwin Puri, University of CaliforniaVeritix CEO Sam Gerace added, "Fans are forgiving of the fact that stadiums are mass venues, and there are going to be lines and things that are not optimal, but what they are asking is to enhance their experience. And so if you if you give them enough information to do that -- 'The lines at this concession are long, this is short, here's the pizza vs. the barbecue' -- they have an enhanced experience even if they have to do the work."
HOW MUCH DOES WINNING HELP? Univ. of Pittsburgh Associate AD/External Relations Chris Ferris talked about the Steelers’ record can affect ticket sales: “People will often suggest to us, 'If the Steelers had a down year, that's an opportunity for the university.’ The reality is, that couldn't be further from the truth. The culture of Pittsburgh is, if they're having a troubling year, people are cranky - it's a cranky atmosphere. And when they're doing great, it's more open to sports and participation. ... The key for us is to make sure we modernize our processes. At institutions, we're very traditional in our approach ... but we are becoming more modern, and we are addressing the need, not only from a customer service standpoint but from a product standpoint to the customer. One of our biggest focuses in Pittsburgh when you have professional sports and a thriving cultural district is people's time. You're not only selling them a product, but they have to allocate their time to you and your activity, and so we have to deliver that product efficiently and timely."
HOW TECHNOLOGY AND DATA CAN HELP: Cal Associate AD/Revenue & Business Development Ashwin Puri talked about using technology to improve customer service: “The scary part is a lot of organizations are just reactive right now. It's incumbent upon all of us to [change]. We went from just taking an inbound call and reacting to a complaint to being proactive, building relationships and learning about people — what they want, like and dislike. Through technology — whatever ticketing platform you want to implement -- [you can create] a system to track all that stuff so you can learn and then make analytical decisions rather than just create products or solutions that you think will work. You're making decisions based on data.” IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions VP Matt DiFebo added, “One area we need to grow and grow quickly in college athletics is the data. So many schools have these large alumni databases … but a lot of these times these databases aren't as quality as these schools may think they are. That's an area where we can all tie it together. Increase the quality of the database and use that information to implement sales strategy and marketing campaigns that are going to generate more revenue and a better fan experience.”
December 12, 2013 09:17 AM
Here are some of the people we saw in the exhibit area at the 2013 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. You can see more photos from the forum by downloading the event app.
December 12, 2013 09:06 AM
AD Challenges, Opportunities
Bill Battle, Alabama
Greg Byrne, Arizona
John Currie, Kansas State
Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame
Kevin White, DukeByrne said that while the Pac-12 Networks have been “a very positive thing” for the conference, “We're seeing the same things others are seeing across the country from an attendance standpoint, because now we have no control over kickoff times … [and] it is having an impact on our attendance. That is a long-term concern for our industry and our enterprise. We need the television. But we also have to make sure we have some balance in decisions that are made that are impacting student athletes' welfare, that are impacting the fan experience and their desire to continue to go to games."
PAY FOR PLAY? With the potential for a pay-for-play model being such a hot topic, Currie said of student athletes, "They may be sitting next to a student (in class) who worked till 2 a.m. last night delivering pizzas, is working two to three jobs to put themselves through school and is still carrying debt on the way out. We have an optical issue where we have this myth of ‘they don't get anything’ perpetuated, and it's just not true, and frankly it's insulting to the other students on our campus and to the athletes themselves." Battle added, "If you put dollar values to that, you're talking about several hundred thousand dollars in the collegiate experience, and that's where the money goes. It's going back to the student athletes - although not necessarily in the form of spending money." White said of the current state of the industry, "There's a lot of competing interests, a lot of politics to manage, and in my opinion that's the most significant challenge we have ... We can talk governance, and we can talk pay-to-play. A lot of bright people have their heads around this stuff. But at the end of the day, managing the politics is the most significant challenge."
Currie, on using social media: "My president, Kirk Schulz … is on Twitter constantly, and he has built an incredible rapport with our students. We have 25,000 students at Kansas State, and they all feel like they know him because of the way he has used that device. I write letters [for our fans]. I send letters once or twice every couple weeks, and I am consistently amazed at the people who come up to me at ballgames, of all generations, and say, 'We love your letters.' We did one a couple weeks ago about a scheduling process and what we were spending, and I think putting that information out there … has been very beneficial in demystifying some of the processes that we go through."
White, on possibly launching an ACC Network: "With the addition of Syracuse, Pitt and certainly Notre Dame and Louisville, we represent about 55 percent of the national television audience in terms of household, so we're now the largest geographically-based conference. We're a pretty attractive part of the country in terms of footprint and as we work with ESPN we're just exploring what's possible and what would it look like and how would it financially operate. …It’s probably close to 2016, but it could do a lot of great things for us."
Battle, on dealing with demanding donors: “That's what the arms race is all about. At the end of the day, we all have to look at our business and there are segments of our business that are important that are required, like salaries, if you want to be successful. If you go to medical school, you have doctors that made a lot of money. If you go to law schools, you've got some attorneys that make a lot of money. Alabama football, we pay market prices for our football coach." He jokingly added, "But we don't pay our athletic director that much!"
December 11, 2013 07:07 PM
Members of the College Football Playoff Selection committee defended former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s position on the committee, saying it’s not necessary to populate the entire committee with former coaches and players. Rice had faced some backlash earlier this fall from people questioning the depth of her football knowledge. During a panel discussion at the 2013 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said Rice has a place on the committee, which he described as “a pretty good blend of people who have coached and are active in the game, people who are decision makers, people who obviously can understand the process. “She is the daughter of a coach,” he said. “She has been a provost in charge of athletics at Stanford. Obviously, she¹s a big football fan, and she certainly has been in heated battle. We certainly respect her intelligence.”
LOOKING FOR BALANCE: Addressing the criticism that Rice doesn’t know some of the intricacies of college football, Osborne said that while “it will be important to have some people who know a little bit about the difference between a cover-2 and man-to-man defense,” that type of information can be readily explained, if necessary. Big East senior adviser Tom Jernstedt agreed, saying that such in-depth knowledge is not necessary to being on the committee. “Having a balance of individuals involved in a variety of areas makes the group stronger,” Jernstedt said.