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Volume 24 No. 117
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SBD/SBJ's Top Sports Business Stories Of The Year, Part Two

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.