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Volume 24 No. 112


Vanderbilt's attendance at men’s basketball games this season is off by almost 22% at Memorial Gym from a year ago, "the sharpest drop of the 10 SEC schools that have watched their numbers slide" this season, according to Jeff Lockridge of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Attendance this season has averaged 10,697, which is “down from 13,698 last year, when Memorial Gym reached capacity (14,316) eight times.” There has been “only one sellout this year,” and Vanderbilt can “thank Kentucky fans for assisting with that.” Vanderbilt allots “2,000 free tickets for the conference’s smallest student body.” The student section was “less than half full for a Wednesday game with rival Tennessee on Feb. 13.” Georgia coach Mark Fox said, “I think it’s maybe a generational problem.” He added, “How do we attract these kids that are so technologically savvy and everything is done instantaneously through their phones, on their iPads?” Lockridge notes even “high-profile programs haven’t been immune to student attendance issues.” Kentucky has made its unsold $5 student tickets “available to the public at regular price for a handful of games this season as Rupp Arena crowds have dipped to less than 23,000 per game.” Vanderbilt “coupled the loss of its top six players from the 2012 SEC Tournament championship team with increases of 5 percent and 10 percent in season-ticket prices, depending on the section.” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said, “We raised ticket prices. We did some things that are inherently by nature going to cause less people to come, and we did it in a year when we knew we probably weren’t going to be as good. So it doesn’t surprise me that our attendance is down” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 2/27).

Texas A&M Univ. is "increasing season ticket prices by $25, which will net the athletic department just over $2 million," according to Robert Cessna of the Bryan-College Station EAGLE. A&M AD Eric Hyman said that "'a lot' of the increase for the price of season football tickets will go toward paying for the pending raises for head football coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff." He said, "We made the commitment to Kevin and to his staff. It's one of those sincere commitments that we want to be good." Hyman added, "We don't have a lot of financial maneuverability here in the athletic department right now. But hopefully, when the (SEC) television network comes on in a couple of years we'll have more flexibility." A&M lost about $12.41M "in revenue payouts for leaving the Big 12 Conference, which came on the heels of the A&M athletic department needing to pay back a $16 million loan that former A&M president Bob Gates gave former AD Bill Byrne." The SEC has "extended its brand by adding Missouri and A&M, and Hyman, who came to A&M in July after seven seasons as AD at South Carolina, is excited about the SEC launching its own network." He said, "It's a game-changer, it separates us" (Bryan-College Station EAGLE, 2/26). In San Antonio, Brent Zwerneman noted Sumlin "signed on with the Aggies a little more than a year ago for $2 million annually" under Byrne, and his new contract is "believed to be about $3.5 million annually following the Aggies' 11-2 first season in the SEC" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 2/26).

CUTTING BACK: Univ. of Hawaii AD Ben Jay said that the school "will not raise its football ticket prices this season and might lower some in an effort to win back disaffected followers." In Honolulu, Ferd Lewis notes the decision comes as Jay, "six weeks into the AD job, looks at ways to reverse a 26 percent drop in turnstile attendance since 2010." UH averaged "25,573 per game in 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium in 2012, the lowest turnstile figure since the 0-12 season of 1998." School officials have said that football ticket prices "dropped approximately $1.2 million from 2011" (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 2/27).

New Sacred Heart Univ. AD Bobby Valentine was officially introduced yesterday, and with the press conference "packed with local and national media, just about every Sacred Heart coach and members of all of its 31 Division I teams," it was a "glimpse at how life on the Fairfield campus has changed already," according to Mike Anthony of the HARTFORD COURANT. Valentine currently is "without any experience in collegiate administration," but will continue to "figure out his role" as AD "even after he begins the job July 1." Sacred Heart Senior VP/Student Affairs & Athletics Jim Barquinero said, "We've got to fundraise, so that's going to be a big piece of it. By the way, he's going to be the face of the university, as you can tell. It's going to be a little bit more than athletics." Barquinero "spoke of Valentine's recruiting corporate sponsors, even recruiting players." Barquinero added the university will hire a deputy AD, "a clear No. 2 who will be the fellow or the woman to run the day-to-day with us, take care of those nuts and bolts." Barquinero said that "no other candidates were interviewed" (HARTFORD COURANT, 2/27). Valentine insisted that he is "capable of the job and that it isn't a public relations stunt." In Connecticut, Chip Malafronte reports Valentine "won’t handle many of the traditional duties that come with the job description." Sacred Heart admins at the same time acknowledge that there is "innate value in name recognition and fame." Valentine, when asked if his venture into college athletics means his major league managing career is over, was "non committal." He said, "If some team calls, I always answer the phone. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to rush to judgment and run away from a situation that I think is a very good situation" (New Haven REGISTER, 2/27).

VALENTINE'S DAY: On Long Island, Anthony Rieber writes Valentine was "pure 'Bobby V' during his news conference / pep rally in the campus student center." He was "well-spoken, funny, charming, irascible and boastful." He answered a question about how long he expected to work at the school with "a joke about once having a lifetime contract in Japan that was the lifetime of the owner's dog" (NEWSDAY, 2/27). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes, "Let's face it, Valentine might be the smartest man in the room, but he has so, so much to learn about the NCAA and operating a 31-varsity team program." Jacobs: "This much is sure. Sacred Heart got a lot of bang out of Valentine on this day" (HARTFORD COURANT, 2/27). In Boston, Ron Borges writes Valentine yesterday was a "favorite son coming home to the college down the street to help a school ... grow its brand." The thought is he "knows everyone in Connecticut, a fact he made clear when he gave a shout out to a local clothier he spied in the crowd." He could have "slowed down, but that is not his strong suit." His strong suit is "accepting roles like this, ones that bring new challenges and the discomfort that goes with them" (BOSTON HERALD, 2/27).

BOBBY'S WORLD: Valentine said that he has a "gig as a sports analyst for NBC radio and that he’ll have a show throughout the baseball season." In N.Y., Anthony McCarron reports Valentine "hopes to bring the show to campus and have students work on it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/27). In Connecticut, Dave Ruden writes, "Make no mistake, Valentine is not going to be cutting back." He said that he will "remain active with his baseball academy, his restaurant." He just "started The Bobby Valentine channel on YouTube," and is "on the board of several companies" (STAMFORD ADVOCATE, 2/27).