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Volume 24 No. 155

2012 Year In Review

THE DAILY continues our look back at the sports business year of '12. Today, we offer the remaining top stories of the year and six more names that were in the headlines. We also present some welcome additions to the sports world and some of the more forgettable moments of the year. Additionally, we conclude our annual review of the best quotes of the year.

The SBD/SBJ editorial staff compiled the top sports business stories of '12, in no particular order. Today, we present six of them. See yesterday’s issue for six other top stories.

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: It began as a shocking development: the Saints had a slush fund to pay teammates to knock opposing players out of games. Suspensions came quickly, but the proceedings have since been dragged before the judiciary, arbitrators and the court of public opinion. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, acting as an arbitrator, threw out the league’s player suspensions and fines, but that likely will not be the last we hear out of this case, which has become a thorn in the side of Commissioner Roger Goodell.

BOWLED OVER: What was once thought impossible is soon going to be a reality: conference commissioners finally OK’d a four-team college football playoff starting with the ‘14 season. All the details are still to be worked out, but a sport that has been dogged by controversy should finally see some clarity in determining a champion. Naturally, conversation has already turned to when the playoff will expand to eight teams, despite the fact Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany noted conference execs were “concerned about slippery slopes.”

MONEY PLAYERS: The market for sports media rights has never been hotter, with the past year marked by several billion-dollar deals. MLB doubled its rights fees with ESPN, Fox and Turner, while NASCAR saw a healthy increase when Fox opted to extend its deal early. ESPN capped things off by agreeing to pay the BCS $500M a year for the new playoff format. However, the Worldwide Leader was outbid for the rights to the EPL, which NBC snagged by agreeing to pay upwards of $85M annually.

Most sponsors hit the road after Armstrong gave
up his defense of the doping allegations

THROWING IN THE TOWEL: Lance Armstrong gave up his years-long defense against doping allegations, a move that erased his seven Tour de France titles and sent most of his sponsors packing. The downfall of cycling’s most decorated athlete sent a shock wave throughout the sport, making it more challenging for other cyclists to land sponsors and for the sport, and in general, to maintain respect.

REGIONAL POWERS: The power of live sports on TV was more evident than ever in ‘12, when 10 sports channels launched. The Pac-12 Conference launched its suite of seven channels in August, followed a little more than a month later by two RSNs in L.A. from Time Warner Cable and Comcast's local sports channel in Houston. It will be interesting to see what comes from the proliferation of RSNs, as the cable and satellite industries continue to speak out about rising costs.

THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD: The year saw two of the top commissioners in sports plan their exit strategies. NBA Commissioner David Stern said he will step down in February ‘14 after serving as commissioner for 30 years. Meanwhile, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said he likely will retire after the ‘14 season, when his current deal expires. Have we heard that one before? While candidates to replace Selig are slow to be determined, Stern has already named Adam Silver as his successor. But regardless of who takes over, both Stern and Selig leave large shoes to fill.

Many brands, execs and ideas caught our eye in ’12. Here are five that, for better or worse, made an impression this year. See yesterday’s issue for six more newsmakers from this year.

NETS OWNER MIKHAIL PROKHOROV, CEO BRETT YORMARK: The pair orchestrated the team’s move from New Jersey into the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The move has revived interest in the rebranded Nets as the team competes with the Knicks for N.Y. basketball supremacy.

BRUINS OWNER JEREMY JACOBS: Jacobs has been at the center of the firestorm between the NHL and NHLPA during the lockout. Jacobs, who also is NHL BOG Chair, is regarded as the top hard-liner among the owners of the league’s 30 franchises.

JAGUARS OWNER SHAHID KHAN: The Jaguars may still struggle on the field, but off the field the club has an international, dynamic new owner. Khan has caught the attention of news magazines and even “60 Minutes,” -- not only for his signature moustache. He has embraced the NFL’s London effort, making a four-year commitment to the league’s International Series.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Without the help of Bill Clinton’s foundation, the PGA Tour event formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic would have dried up in the California desert. Clinton was front and center during the new Humana Challenge in February, leading the discussion about health and wellness issues that gave the tournament a dual purpose.

P&G GLOBAL MARKETING & BRAND BUILDING OFFICER MARC PRITCHARD: Marketing ties for P&G’s portfolio of 26 billion-dollar brands now reach across MLB and the NFL and into the Olympics. The company’s marketing efforts around the London Games, as directed by Pritchard, will generate $500M in incremental sales for P&G. Now that is ROI.

NASCAR TEAM OWNER ROGER PENSKE: After 40 years of competing in NASCAR, Penske won his first Sprint Cup championship with Brad Keselowski. The achievement was celebrated by peers who were happy to see success come to a man who has done so much for the sport, from building a speedway in California to running a full-time race team for 22 years.

This year saw many new additions to the scene, whether it be teams moving to new markets, inaugural events or stars looking for a change of scenery. Here are a few of the new kids on the block that caught our attention.

NETS GAIN: It took more than a half-century, but Brooklyn finally got another big league team when the Nets moved into Barclays Center this fall, culminating years of work by Bruce Ratner and Brett Yormark. The postponement of the planned home opener against the Knicks due to Hurricane Sandy could not dampen local enthusiasm, as writers agreed it was the best thing to happen to sports in the borough since the Dodgers left for L.A. Meanwhile, team merchandise instantly flew off the shelves after the new logo and jerseys were unveiled.

THE ARTFUL DODGERS: The baseball world was rocked when Guggenheim Baseball Management bought the Dodgers for a staggering $2.15B. The team’s new braintrust, which included Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson, wasted no time trying to make the team the "Yankees of the West Coast," trading for 1B Adrian Gonzalez and SS Hanley Ramirez, among others, while signing P Zack Greinke this offseason. With the smog lifting from the franchise, fans can see a new attitude at Chavez Ravine.

AUSTIN CITY LIMITS: The F1 U.S. Grand Prix enjoyed a triumphant debut at Circuit of the Americas, with 117,000 in attendance on the day of the race and over 256,000 for the three-day event in Austin. The success of the F1’s stateside return seemed to catch even Bernie Ecclestone off-guard, as he noted the event was much better than he thought it would be. The London Telegraph’s David Tremayne summed it up when he wrote, "Was the U.S. GP a success? It was a lot more than that."

Augusta National Chair Billy Payne was highly
praised for admitting Condoleezza Rice to the club

BREAKING THE BARRIER: Augusta National finally changed its gender restrictions, inviting former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina-based financier Darla Moore to join the club as its first female members. Club Chair Billy Payne was generally praised for facilitating the action, with one writer calling him the “perfect new-age leader to check 'female members' off his to-do list.”

INDY SPIRIT AWARD: Indianapolis hosted its first Super Bowl to general acclaim, prompting suggestions the city should become part of the regular Super Bowl rotation. The city was praised for everything from its centrally located layout to the Midwestern hospitality heaped on the visitors. Although city and county agencies reported losing about $1.3M from hosting the game (about $450,000 more than projected), officials in July announced a bid for Super Bowl LII in ’18.

WILD ON: The Wild stunned the hockey world when they signed LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter -- the two top free agents this offseason -- to identical 13-year, $98M contracts. The move instantly rejuvenated Wild fans, as the club sold 2,000 season tickets within a week of the announcements. The fervor was something Wild officials were hoping for, as some apathy was starting to set into the fan base. However, the ongoing lockout means it will be at least six months after the signing before the players could actually put on Wild gear.

KICK IT UP A NOTCH: The MLS Dynamo opened BBVA Compass Stadium before a raucous sold-out crowd in May. The club has long sought a soccer-specific facility after playing for years at the Univ. of Houston’s Robertson Stadium. The downtown venue was also a hit during national TV broadcasts, with NBC’s Arlo White saying it could serve as a “template for the future of MLS,” while analyst Kyle Martino said it “nailed the most important aspect of a soccer-specific stadium: Make it intimate.”

JIM DANDY: The Browns have been one of the NFL’s doormats since returning to the league in ’99, but Jimmy Haslam III has his eyes set on changing that perception. After buying the team this fall, Haslam began a front-office change that saw Mike Holmgren depart and Joe Banner and Alec Scheiner come in. Haslam also has spoken about the possibility of a dome for the Dawg Pound and has made concerted efforts to expand the Browns brand throughout Ohio.

Several storylines came and went in '12, whether it was a team's attempt at high spending, the use of replacements or the folding of another women's pro soccer league. Below are some of the notable storylines that came to a close this past year.

FISH OUT OF WATER: The Marlins entered Spring Training as everybody’s glamour team, with a nine-figure payroll and a new $515M ballpark. Nine months later, the roster was in tatters after the team traded away basically anyone making a worthwhile salary. Owner Jeffrey Loria immediately went on the defensive, saying a shake-up was needed after a last-place finish. But many cannot get past the fact the team now has just $19M in financial commitments next year.

THE REPLACEMENTS: One of the lasting images of the year was that of two replacement referees issuing conflicting calls on the final play of the Week 3 Packers-Seahawks “MNF” game. The resulting firestorm toward the “Inaccurate Reception” was a catalyst for the NFL reaching a new CBA with the referee’s union. The exiting of the replacement refs, who came from such corners as high school games and the Lingerie League, resulted in something totally unexpected: standing ovations for the regular refs.

Beckham left the league on a high note, winning
back-to-back MLS Cup titles

A HOLLYWOOD EXIT: David Beckham left MLS on a high note, winning the league championship for the second straight year. The end of his highly-publicized, six-year stay in L.A. may have lacked the media buzz that followed his arrival in ’07, but Beckham’s impact on the league is undeniable. He helped give MLS credibility in global soccer circles and opened the league’s doors to other international icons like Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane. ESPN’s Alexi Lalas put it succinctly, saying Beckham “did not make MLS, but he has certainly made it better.”

ANOTHER HEARTBREAK: Horse racing’s seemingly unending quest to find the next Triple Crown winner continued after I’ll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont Stakes due to tendinitis. The horse carried the burden of an entire industry on his back, but trainer Doug O’Neill decided the cautious route was in the best interest of the animal. A crowd in excess of 85,000 showed up for the race, but the absence of the star attraction left a cloud over the event.

INLAND ISLAND: The Islanders in October announced they were leaving Long Island and moving the franchise to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center beginning in ’15. The move came after Isles Owner Charles Wang finally gave up on his years-long attempt to get a new arena built to replace Nassau Coliseum. The franchise will keep its name and logo, but it will be strange to see the team that once featured Bossy, Potvin and Trottier not playing on the island.

THIS BIRD YOU CANNOT CHANGE: Larry Bird has always operated to his own time clock, so it should not have been that much of a surprise that he would resign as Pacers President of Basketball Operations immediately after being named NBA Exec of the Year. Bird denied the decision to leave had anything to do with friction between him and team Owner Herb Simon, which some were speculating. The Indy Star’s Bob Kravitz gave Bird credit for reversing the perception of the franchise following its involvement in the ’04 Malice at the Palace.

MISSING THE NET: The WPS in May became the second women’s soccer league in America to fold since the turn of the century. The league initially planned to suspend operations this year and return in ’13. However, the financial strain caused by continued legal actions by former magicJack Owner Dan Borislow after the league revoked his franchise rights proved to be too much. The league also was beset by a dearth of lucrative sponsorships and lackluster attendance.

HILL TOPPER: David Hill left his role as Fox Sports Media Group Chair this summer for another position in the News Corp. family. One of the most influential figures in sports media history, Hill launched Fox Sports in ’93 and shook up the media landscape by landing the rights to NFC games later that year. Peter Rice, who took over for Hill, has a big legacy to live up to.

No year is complete without a few scenarios occurring that people would like to have back. Here are a few of the things that made us say, "Really?"

Ralph Lauren came under fire this summer after it was discovered the Opening and Closing Ceremony uniforms the company made for Team USA were actually made in China. This provoked a rash of criticism from Congress, with reps from both sides of the house lashing out at the USOC for the hypocrisy of the situation. The Senate even introduced a bill that would require the Olympic committee to outfit athletes in uniforms “sewn or assembled in the United States.”

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: The Astros had long-planned to unveil their new logo and colors at an official launch party on Nov. 2 at Minute Maid Park, so imagine the team’s surprise when it starting seeing images leaked online prior to the event. Turns out several Houston-area Academy Sports & Outdoors locations had accidentally placed a limited quantity of shirts bearing the new logo on their sales floors. MLBAM also jumped the gun by posting images on the Astros’ official website.

BOAT SICKNESS: Three men's college basketball games were scheduled to be played on aircraft carriers this Veteran’s Day weekend, but weather wreaked havoc with them all. Officials were forced to cancel the Marquette-Ohio State game on the USS Yorktown off the coast of Charleston after condensation accumulated on the court, making it unsafe for players. Condensation also resulted in the Florida-Georgetown game on the USS Bataan being suspended at halftime. Syracuse did play San Diego State on the USS Midway, but after weather concerns pushed the game back two days, blustering winds dominated the action.

SPILLING THE BEANS: NBC caught plenty of flak for its tape-delay coverage of the London Games, but none more than when it spoiled the results of swimmer Missy Franklin’s Gold Medal-win in the 100-meter backstroke before the race aired. After announcer Dan Hicks previewed the race, a promo for the following day’s episode of “Today” then aired with the voiceover, “When you’re 17 years old and win your first Gold Medal, there’s nobody you’d rather share it with. We’re there when Missy Franklin and her parents reunite.” Timing, indeed, is everything.

NBC attempted to blur out M.I.A.'s obscene gesture 
but was too late

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH YOU: Madonna’s Super Bowl XLVI halftime show was extravagant to say the least, but the moment that was most talked about Monday morning was rapper M.I.A. giving a camera the dirty bird. NBC attempted to blur out the middle finger, but did so too late. While the gesture did not generate quite the hubbub Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” did, it did provide a slight headache to the network and the NFL.

WRONG MESSAGE: Warrior Sports was thrust into the spotlight when MLL Charlotte Hounds MF Jovan Miller announced he was boycotting all equipment and apparel made by the company after discovering it was running an ad campaign with the hashtag "#NinjaPlease." Miller, one of only three African-American players in the league, said, "The actual meaning behind 'Ninja Please' is the 'N-word Please.' They put ninja in it to kind of disguise it." The company immediately apologized for the campaign, saying, “If we thought it was going to be offensive, we wouldn't have done it.”

NOT EVERYONE’S UNITED: It was hard for some to fathom the scope of GM’s nearly $600M sponsorship with EPL club Manchester United. Apparently the numbers stunned GM’s top brass as well. Shortly after news of the deal emerged, GM sacked its CMO Joel Ewanick. Sources said the automaker believed that Ewanick failed to disclose the full cost of the deal.

GEOGRAPHY LESSON: The women’s soccer competition at the London Games got off to a rough start when the North Korea team initially refused to play its match against Colombia. The team was upset that the video screen at the stadium mistakenly displayed the South Korea flag when announcing the opening lineups. LOCOG apologized in a statement, but even that contained a gaffe: it failed to refer to the countries by their official Olympic names, causing organizers to reissue the statement using “Republic of Korea” and “Democratic People's Republic of Korea.”

THE DAILY asked some top sports execs, “What is the sports business story you will be watching most closely in '13?” Below are their responses.

NHL SENIOR VP/INTEGRATED MARKETING SUSAN COHIG: The sale of AEG and its impact on the sports and entertainment landscape.

USOC CEO SCOTT BLACKMUN: Who emerges as the buyer(s) of AEG.

: I'm interested in seeing how NCAA conference realignment progresses and what impact all of these institutional movements will ultimately have on athletic department budgetary decisions and on the student-athlete experience, especially in sports other than football and men's basketball.

NBC SPORTS GROUP PRESIDENT OF PROGRAMMING JON MILLER: How the NHL comes back from the lockout. Will the league regain the momentum it built after the Stanley Cup Final? How will fans react? Also, the impact of TV Everywhere on upcoming distribution deals. Digital distribution has been a positive asset to leagues, rights holders and fans.

HEAT EXEC VP & CMO MICHAEL MCCULLOUGH: The continued expansion of digital media and the tactics teams will implement to maximize their digital audience/fan base. Also, how will teams drive revenue associated with their digital-media assets?

DAYTONA INT'L SPEEDWAY PRESIDENT JOIE CHITWOOD III: The impact of the "new" NASCAR racecar from a competition and fan engagement perspective. A Chevy racecar looking like a Chevy production car is good for the sport.

CUBS EXEC VP AND CHIEF SALES & MARKETING OFFICER WALLY HAYWARD: Our effort to move forward with our Wrigley Field restoration project, which will enhance the fan experience and save Wrigley Field for the next generation of fans. Another key story will be the completion of our state-of-the-art Spring Training facility and ballpark in Mesa.

GMR MARKETING LATIN AMERICAN HEAD CELSO SCHVARTZER: The Confederations Cup, being held in June in six cities in Brazil, and the final draw for the FIFA World Cup in December.

"The best thing I can say about this season was at least it was short."
-- Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen, in a letter to fans about the team going 28-38 and missing the playoffs during the '11-12 campaign.

"Don't follow me anymore. Twitter is a stupid thing. I never make money out of that."
-- Former Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, when he quit Twitter.

"We need them to not just see themselves as people who aggregate media rights. That’s not their job."
-- NCAA President Mark Emmert, saying conferences have a “greater responsibility” in their role and support of college athletics.

"Things are bad. It's like dictators, you know. You know, in America, we really don't believe in them."
-- Bears CB D.J. Moore, on the growing divide between NFL players and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"People talk about how we should treat this like sports. You know, we're getting an 18 rating some nights. Do you know what rating we would get if this was not under the banner of the Olympics? We'd be lucky to get a 1 rating for some of these sports."
-- Former NBC Sports Group Chair Dick Ebersol, on the broadcast decisions NBC has made regarding live programming versus tape delay at the Olympics.

"When it launched, people wondered if it was going to be a colossal failure. Now it's basically printing money for the schools. It's been far more profitable than anyone anticipated. "
-- Indiana Univ. Assistant AD/Broadcast Services Jeremy Gray, on the Big Ten Network's five-year anniversary.

"There’s no agreement because neither needs an agreement. It’s not a fight they need to have. They fight because they can. There’s something not quite right about this."
-- Hockey HOFer Ken Dryden, on the labor stalemate between the NHL and the NHLPA on the eve of the CBA expiring.

"He revolutionized pro football without ever suiting up."
-- CBS News' Scott Pelley, on late NFL Films President Steve Sabol.

"You buy what’s available for sale. This isn’t like going on Craigslist and picking up an NFL team."
-- Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan, on why he bought the franchise.

"I think that’s the standard company rule. Every 15 minutes of every program -- regardless of what sport is being aired -- Tim Tebow must be mentioned."
-- ESPN's Bob Wischusen, responding to broadcast partner Dan Dakich wondering during a college basketball game why the Jets were not playing Tebow.

"I want to finish football. There's a lot of people betting on us, and I want to get it done."
-- AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke, on continuing efforts to get Farmers Field built despite the company being put up for sale.

"They're going to be missed, there's no question about that. But they're going to be on a plane going to Madison, Wisconsin, to play men's basketball in the middle of winter. Good luck. I hope the money is really good."
-- N.C. State AD Debbie Yow, on Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. Yow served as AD at the school from '94-'10.

Last season’s NFL Playoffs and the London Games dominated the list of the most-viewed sports telecasts in ’12. A combination of the NFL and Olympics gave NBC 16 of the top 25 spots this year. The top five spots belong to the NFL postseason, with NBC's Giants-Patriots matchup in Super Bowl XLVI topping all TV telecasts with a 47.0 rating and 111.3 million viewers. The Opening Ceremony was the most-viewed night of the London Games with a 21.0 rating and 40.7 million viewers, which ranks No. 6 overall. Only two regular-season games from the '12 season cracked the top 25 -- Fox' Redskins-Cowboys Thanksgiving day game (28.7 million viewers) and NBC's Steelers-Broncos "Sunday Night Football" from Week 1 (27.6 million viewers). The top sports telecast on cable TV this year -- ESPN's Alabama-LSU BCS National Championship -- would not have cracked the top 25 on broadcast TV.

Super Bowl XLVI: Giants-Patriots
AFC Championship: Patriots-Ravens
NFC Championship: Giants-49ers
NFC Divisional Playoff: Giants-Packers
AFC Wild Card: Broncos-Steelers
London Olympics: Opening Ceremony
London Olympics: Night 5
London Olympics: Night 7
London Olympics: Night 3
NFC Divisional Playoff: 49ers-Saints
AFC Divisional Playoff: Patriots-Broncos
NFC Wild Card: Saints-Lions
London Olympics: Night 4
London Olympics: Night 10
London Olympics: Closing Ceremony
AFC Divisional Playoff: Ravens-Texans
London Olympics: Night 6
London Olympics: Night 12
London Olympics: Night 13
London Olympics: Night 2
"NFL on Fox": Redskins-Cowboys (Thanksgiving)
London Olympics: Night 8
London Olympics: Night 9
NFC Wild Card: Giants-Falcons
"Sunday Night Football": Steelers-Broncos