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Volume 24 No. 155

Colleges

The ’17 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum kicked off this morning with the panel, “What’s Keeping You Up At Night,” featuring notable ADs discussing a variety of issues surrounding collegiate sports at this time. Moderator John Ourand posed an early question on the CFP and whether the selection of Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia and Alabama was the best outcome for this football season. Georgetown AD Lee Reed noted there will always be a disappointed school in the current landscape, as the human element has to play a part in the selection. Penn State’s Sandy Barbour, whose school was left out of the '16 CFP despite winning the Big Ten, called this year’s selections “justifiable.” Barbour: “The question is are we set up to get it right over and over again. … Is it sustainable?” Barbour went on to say if schools had a more specific criteria from the CFP selection committee, it would help across the board. Barbour noted the criteria “changes every year.” Washington AD Jennifer Cohen, whose school did make the '16 CFP, cited the strength of schedule debate as a constant concern, as most schools schedule matchups sometimes as much as 10 years down the line. North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham made a point to stand up for UCF, which is the only undefeated FBS team yet was not given serious consideration for the CFP. Cunningham: “I believe in creating more opportunities. We have more money associated with intercollegiate athletics than we ever have before. When you’re not in a Power 5, having a chance to at least get there is important.”

CLEANING UP COLLEGE HOOPS: The panel was then asked for thoughts on the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption surrounding college basketball, with Reed saying there is currently a “vacuum relative to college players’ market value.” Barbour: “My biggest fear is nothing changes.“ She went on to say the NCAA cannot “waste this crisis.” Reed noted there will always be some negative elements around college basketball due to the high stakes nature of the industry, but it is up to the schools to better advise their student-athletes. Cunningham: “We’re still trying to figure out how the economy of college sports fits into this new world. Outside influences will require us to change.”

LOSE-LOSE SITUATION: Cunningham also addressed his own school’s years-long NCAA investigation. He said, “We didn’t win by any stretch. It wasn’t good for us or our industry. ... We have to earn back people’s trust.” Cunningham said the difficulty of an investigation such as the one he went through is that the eventual outcome is almost “distasteful and dissatisfying for everyone.”

LEARNING FROM ROCKY TOP: As for what has happened at Tennessee over the past couple weeks, Reed said ADs know that adversity will hit their athletic programs at some point or another. Reed: “The true test is what do you do about it.” Barbour acknowledged that stakeholders at all schools probably now feel “empowered” by what happened at UT, and that will only increase the outside pressure on officials making important decisions, including coaching hires. Barbour: “[ADs] have to know that. … It’s changed.” Cunningham cited a mentor early in his career who often told him, “Alumni don’t interrupt our business, alumni are our business.” Cohen: “Fans need to be heard. They deserve a voice, it’s just a matter of how you give that voice action.”

Quick Hits:
• Reed on esports: “What is it? Is it a varsity sport? Is it a student activity? ... Whichever one, it has the attention of the country.”
• Cunningham noted UNC had six concussions this year in volleyball. Reed: “I had six in sailing a couple years ago!”
• Both Cohen and Reed said their children are allowed to play football at this time, though Cohen noted the fact that “some mothers read one article and immediately rule it out” has to be concerning for the future of the sport.

North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham, a member of today’s opening panel at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, visited the SBJ/SBD offices last week and joined Exec Editor Abe Madkour and Staff Writer Michael Smith for a podcast. Among Cunningham’s remarks:

  • On the pressures of the job: "I don’t think there is pressure. I have a great job and work at a great university with incredible coaches and students, and you never even think about the pressure."
  • On the recently concluded NCAA investigation into UNC: "Whether or not we had to forfeit a game or take down a banner isn’t as significant to us as losing the reputation that we had. Now it’s up to us to earn it back."
  • On why he turned down other offers to stay at UNC: "When I got into college athletics, I had no idea … where my career path would take me, but to have the opportunity to be at North Carolina is something I never dreamed of. And I couldn’t be more optimistic about our future."

In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs notes UConn AD David Benedict this week "signed a restructured contract" with the school, which is "more commensurate with his position." His base salary is "being increased from $450,000 to $550,000," while potential bonus compensation was "knocked down from $100,000 to $50,000 a year." If Benedict "remains continuously employed through the end of his contract" in '21, he will "receive total deferred compensation of $500,000, up from $250,000." The length of the deal "remains the same" (HARTFORD COURANT, 12/6).

SETTING UP CAMP: In Arizona, Cody Bashore notes the final cost of former Northern Arizona AD Lisa Campos' departure for the same position at UTSA "came in." Leaving with an "additional $64,887.08 in performance incentives on a contract set to expire June 30, 2019, Campos' final payout included bonuses of $50,000" for FY '17 and $14,887.08 for FY '18. Signed to a five-year contract paying her $375,000 annually at UTSA, Campos has "retention bonuses that will raise her pay to $395,000 in year three, $425,000 in year four and $475,000 in year five" (ARIZONA DAILY SUN, 12/6).

SAFE FOR NOW
: UNC Charlotte Chancelor Phil Dubois said, "I don't think it’s time to make a change in the (athletics director)." In Charlotte, David Scott notes Dubois "praised the job" UNCC AD Judy Rose has done during her 27-year tenure, "despite recent struggles in the football and men’s basketball programs." Dubois said, "If we look at the big picture over 27 years, she has (overseen) a department that has a $29 million budget and hundreds of students going through excellent training and academic support. We have over $100 million in new facilities and not a hint of a (major) NCAA violation and a 93 percent graduation rate. Contrary to the narrative out there, our fundraising is very solid." He added, "We hear the concern about two sports that are struggling. We want them to get better and will take steps at the appropriate time to make them better" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 12/6).

MOVING ON
: In Tucson, Caitlin Schmidt reports former Arizona AD Greg Byrne and track and field coach Fred Harvey have been "dropped from a civil lawsuit filed by a former athlete who says she was abused by former assistant coach Craig Carter." Baillie Gibson is "suing the UA and Carter, saying that the school failed to protect her despite being aware of an inappropriate relationship between the two." While Byrne and Harvey were "initially named as defendants in Gibson’s suit, on Nov. 20, Pima County Superior Court Judge Sarah Simmons dismissed the complaints against them without prejudice" (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 12/6).