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Volume 24 No. 159

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The LPGA and CME Group today announced that they have partnered to create the "Race to the CME Globe," a season-long points competition that will debut during the '14 LPGA season. Players will accumulate points at each official LPGA event before coming to a conclusion at the newly renamed CME Group Tour Championship. The winner of that event will take home a $500,000 first-place prize, while the player who wins the Race for the CME Globe will receive a $1M payout -- the largest in all of women's golf (LPGA).'s Randall Mell notes the LPGA "isn't calling its new points race a playoff, but the season-finale will have a post-season feel with two trophies at stake." The LPGA will "award 500 points to all the winners of its regular events with 625 points going to the winners of its major championships." Points will be "awarded to the top 70 players and ties at every event with a cut." The top 72 players on the points list after the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, the season's penultimate tournament, will "earn the right to play in the CME Group Tour Championship." The top nine players "will go to the season finale with a chance to win" the $1M top prize. Before the start of the CME Group Tour Championship, the points "will be reset, with the season-long leader reset to 5,000 points, second place reset to 4,500 points, third place to 4,000 with fewer points continuing down the line." Only the "top three point earners going into the season finale control their destiny" (, 1/8).

WAY TO MAINTAIN INTEREST: Golfers Brittany Lincicome and Lexi Thompson appeared on this morning's episode of NBC's "Today" to discuss the new endeavor, and Lincicome said, "It's going to be great for fans. It's going to give them something to look forward year. The men have the FedExCup, the points system, and now we're going to have our own little system" ("Today," NBC, 1/8). Golfer Morgan Pressel added, “Some of the other tours have had some success with the Race to Dubai and the FedExCup, and it keeps people interested." She noted the Race to the CME Globe "gives us something to play for." Pressel: "I’d like to play for a million dollars. I’d like to have that chance.” LPGA CMO Jon Podany said, "There’s two components here that are important: One is to have more for our fans to follow throughout the year and really connect our season -- have a strong beginning and a strong end. Probably even more importantly: Having a really climactic finish at the CME Group Tour Championship" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/8).

LATEST SIGN OF GROWTH: USA TODAY's Steve DiMeglio writes the Race to the CME Globe is the "latest good news for a tour that was struggling mightily a few years ago." The LPGA this year "will feature 32 official events as well as the inaugural International Crown event." That is up from 28 events in '13 and 23 in '11. In addition, purses jumped from $48.8M in '13 to $56.3M; and televised tournaments "will go from 27 to 32." More than 350 hours of LPGA tournament golf will air on TV in '14, with 90% of that "going live." Two years ago, 70% of all "televised coverage was tape-delayed." Golfer Katherine Hull-Kirk said, "We're in the best position we've ever been in. We have more exposure in more countries these days. I couldn't be any happier than I am with where the tour is right now and it's only going to get better" (, 1/8). Thompson said it is "amazing how much the tour has come along" since she turned pro in '10. Thompson: "Our fan base is growing and we’re getting more and more coverage." Lincicome added LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan is "doing a fantastic job going out and marketing us really well" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/8).

NETWORK COVERAGE THE NEXT FRONTIER: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Michael Smith notes one of the "most glaring holes" Whan sees is a "lack of broadcast network coverage of the women’s game," and he would "like to get to where the majors and a handful of other events are broadcast on NBC." Golf Channel execs cite the LPGA "as a staple of its live content throughout the year, but they say they’re open to considering opportunities when they arise." Whan said, "We need to continue to grow and network TV is one place to start. If we were playing six or seven weekends a year on network, it would not only benefit the LPGA and our players, but it also would be great for our Golf Channel partner. We would bring back a significant amount of casual fans. That’s the next frontier for us" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/6 issue).

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last night all but ruled out reseeding the playoffs, calling concerns of teams with worse records than their opponents hosting postseason games a media issue. Speaking at 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, Goodell said, "One of the premises we start with every season is you should win your own division." Three of the four Wild Card round games this past weekend featured matchups in which the host team had a worse record than the opponent. Goodell, as he has on many occasions, positively described expanding the playoffs from six teams per conference to seven teams, and said he could see the day when an 8-8 team wins the Super Bowl. Various scenarios are being considered for how an expanded first weekend of games would work, he said, including games on a Friday. Currently they are on Saturday and Sunday. On other issues, Goodell said he could foresee a franchise in London, and sounded more optimistic about the chances there than returning to L.A. He did rule out a London Super Bowl unless a team was already there. Goodell also tamped down any expectations of a wave of outdoor, northern Super Bowls in the wake of the upcoming New Jersey game, saying an analysis would be conducted later. Additionally, he reacted forcefully to a question about the book "League of Denial," which alleged the NFL ignored the warning signs on the issue of concussions. Goodell maintained the NFL, along with the NFLPA, had been a leader on research into concussions and the brain. Meanwhile, asked about the Redskins' name, Goodell cited a poll that said nine out of 10 Native Americans do not view the name as racist. Former White House AP reporter Ben Feller conducted the hour-long interview. Feller currently works for PR firm Mercury, which has worked for the NFL in the past (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).

THIS & THAT: Goodell said of other cold-weather cities possibly hosting a Super Bowl, "I think this is obviously innovative and it's something new, but it's also unique because it's New York" (, 1/7). Goodell responded to the question of whether the NFL is ready for an openly gay player by saying, "Yes. There may be. I don't know" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/8). Goodell said that an expanded Wild Card round of the playoffs "could begin on Friday." But PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote it would "make more sense -- and more money -- to stick with the current structure on Saturday, add a night game on Sunday, and place the second extra game on Monday night, with the winner of the Monday night game guaranteed to play on the following Sunday in the divisional round" (, 1/7).

Attorney Chris Seeger, the lead rep for former NFLers suffering from concussion-related conditions, yesterday "expressed confidence that the vast majority of football retirees will agree" to a proposed $765M settlement with the league, according to Michael O'Keeffe of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Seeger said that the deal reached with the NFL in August is "a boon to ex-players struggling with health issues related to brain trauma because the retirees won't have to prove that their injuries were caused by football or endure risky litigation." Seeger: "In every class action there are opt-outs, so I expect there to be opt-outs. I don't expect the number to be high." He added that if U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody approves the settlement, the former players "could begin receiving benefits by late May" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/8). In N.Y., Ken Belson writes some former players who have "criticized the proposed settlement ... say they will review its fine print and talk with their lawyers about what they can expect from the settlement before deciding whether to opt out." But others have indicated that the settlement is "insufficient and are inclined to turn it down because they say not enough money will be available for players struggling with memory loss, anger management and other problems." There is "no rule for how many players must opt out before a judge will reconsider a settlement, but legal experts said it would have to be at least a substantial minority" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/8).

GETTING BIGGER ALL THE TIME: In DC, Nathan Fenno reported Pro Football HOFer Gale Sayers "sued the NFL over concussions" on Monday, the same day the proposed settlement was filed. Sayers and five other former players sued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The case "ups the number of former players suing the NFL to 4,887 over 307 lawsuits" (, 1/7).

NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France yesterday said that he would "like to see more primetime races, that series officials want to find ways to make winning more valuable and he's looking forward to the No. 3 returning to the Sprint Cup Series this season," according to Dustin Long of France, while appearing on MRN's "NASCAR Live," said that there have been "discussions with the TV networks about start times." France: "If anything, we're trying to go a little bit later. We're, obviously, trying to get more prime-time events and be in the widest possible audience that's available on television, although I certainly understand that creates some hardships as well with people trying to get back." France last month said that he "wanted to find ways to incentivize winning," and he "mentioned that notion again" yesterday. France: "We are not satisfied that we have the exact balance we want with winning, consistency, points, running for a championship." Meanwhile, he said of the late Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 returning to the Sprint Cup Series this year with Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon, "I wondered when it was going to happen, if it was going to happen. I think what Richard has said [is] he wanted to make sure it was the right circumstance and not bring it back because he could but because it was right and it felt right. I think they way they've done it, keeping it in the family, it's a really neat thing." Finally, France addressed Dodge's departure from the sport as a manufacturer and said, "We would love for them to take another look. I think at some point they will. There's some other manufacturers that are always looking" (, 1/7).

Professional rodeo's "most prominent cowboys say they are defecting from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to form their own organization, but they are coy about their views on the future of the National Finals Rodeo or any other major rodeo event in Las Vegas," according to a front-page piece by Alan Snel of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The biggest names in rodeo, led by 11-time world all-around champion Trevor Brazile, "signed a statement posted on Facebook this week saying it's time for the sport's top contestants to be directly involved in the sport's future." Steer Wrestler K.C. Jones, one of the organizers, yesterday "confirmed the efforts to leave the PRCA and start a different rodeo cowboy organization." Jones said that cowboys are "already talking with rodeo committees and venues about events outside of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based PRCA." Team Roper Charly Crawford said that the sport's top cowboys "want a bigger voice in the PRCA's decision-making process." He added that big rodeos such as Calgary and Houston "breaking away from PRCA's governance" is a concern. The Facebook statement "does not address specifically why the cowboys want to leave the PRCA and does not bring up the topic of money." But Crawford said that the cowboys' proposal "asked for adding two more cowboy representatives to the PRCA's governing board, which currently has four cowboy reps out of the nine board members." The PRCA "rejected the cowboys' proposal for two extra seats at the board table" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 1/8).