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Volume 24 No. 112
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Movers And Shakers In Sports Comment On Major Issues Of The Day

The scandals, suits and scrutiny facing intercollegiate athletics are likely to force changes in the way the system operates, said ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap yesterday during the opening panel of the '12 IMG World Congress of Sports hosted by SBJ/SBD in Dana Point, Calif. “The way that college sports operates is under threat,” he said. “There is a groundswell right now. We’re getting to the tipping point where the model in place now, which is great for the colleges -- give a scholarship to a kid to play football for you, give a scholarship to a kid who plays basketball for you, particularly on the men’s side, and you get to reap all the benefits -- I think that’s coming to an end.” Change is being fomented on multiple fronts, Schaap said. “There’s congressional interest right now, there are state legislatures and there are aggrieved athletes.” Several panelists said the onus of correcting the ills besetting college athletics falls on the university presidents that oversee the system. “It’s really up to the university presidents to take an active role in college athletics instead of just seeing it as a line item, usually on the P side in their P&Ls, and as a way to market the school,” said MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan. University presidents feel that among the important requirements of being a great university is having a major football program or a major basketball program, Brosnan said. "Unless and until the guys or ladies who are in charge of the business look at it as part of their business, they don’t want to know how the sausage is getting made.” 

SPORTS AND THE STATE: The specter of congressional intervention is a fearsome one for college athletics, said Proskauer Rose Chair Joe Leccese. “I always worry about the same people who destroyed the United States sort of getting involved in this. When we talk about legislation, the reaction of a lot of people in the private sector is, ‘Oh my God, everybody stay out.’ … The beauty of college sports is that every congressman roots for a different team or has a different constituency, so the notion of any of them coming to enough consensus to actually pass a piece of legislation seems unlikely to me.” But IMG Sports & Entertainment President George Pyne reminded the audience and fellow panelists that they should not forget the benefits of college athletics. “In fairness, there are 300 Division-I schools, and from time to time you’re going to have things you’re not proud of,” he said. “And, I think, colleges and college athletics provide a great service to a lot of kids, and give people who didn’t have an opportunity an opportunity.”

Guber said with fans it is important to build
relationships, not transactions

THE FAN EXPERIENCE: Warriors co-Owner Peter Guber challenged teams to pay more attention to the fan’s experience. “You have to think of yourself as a steward,” Guber said. "If you recognize that and you think of it in terms of that, which is different than other businesses, you really have to think of it differently. You have to look at these people as guests, and you’ve got to get these guests to come back one time, two times, 10 times, 12 times. You have to build relationships with them, not transactions. Most of these owners aim for people’s wallets instead of their hearts." Brosnan said, “The fans, at the very end of the day, they’re interested in the competition, they’re interested in the makeup of the ball club, they’re interested in April of their chances of going to October.”

THE THING ABOUT TICKETS: Brosnan said ticketing “could be our biggest issue right now because of a confluence of factors. Ticketing, how people get ticketed, is changing dramatically. Secondary market forces coming in and changing the pricing structure has reached a crescendo.” For baseball, the goal is to see who the actual ticket user is, as the buyer and the user are not always the same person. “We as an industry are at a kind of revolution in how we deal with ticketing and how we bring our customers into the ballparks.”

Pyne said of the possible sale of IMG, “At IMG, we don’t worry about the sale of the company. What we focus on is trying to create value and create a great company. There are no plans to sell right now any more or less than when I first took the job.”

Guber, who is part of a group bidding for the Dodgers, said of the progress of the sale: “I can’t really comment too much about that. It’s a process that you know about as much as I do what’s going on there. It’s a storied franchise. If I can be a part of that it would be great.” Guber did not respond to a question on what he thought the sale price would be.

On what the sale of the Dodgers means to baseball, Boras Corp. President Scott Boras: “I think it means a lot to sports in general. I think the Yankees and the Dodgers, being a baseball person, there aren’t too many franchises in sports that can exceed what those franchises mean to the sporting world. I think the location of the Dodgers, the time zone they’re in, the evolution of the Pacific Rim, the true linkage of modern technology in Hollywood, L.A., to baseball, I think it has a chance to be one of the most successful franchises in sports history.”

On whether the fans care about whom the new Dodgers owner will be, Brosnan: “I think the fans care that the person who owns the Dodgers is committed to put a competitive and winning team on the field.”