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Volume 27 No. 29
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SBJ All-Access: Academic Advisors, Presented By NATA

College sports heads into 2020 on an upward trajectory. That was as evident as ever this week at the annual Learfield IMG College Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. With that success and popularity come its share of issues to figure out. Conference commissioners told the audience over the last two days that they’re preparing for a world where student athletes can monetize their name, image and likeness, while working toward federal legislation that will avoid 50 different sets of rules. But that’s not the concern that’s keeping them up at night. More ADs stressed that they’re paying more attention to mental health -- for their players, for their coaches and even themselves. And as we’ve heard for years, the media landscape remains robust for college sports. Recent rights deals have brought conferences big dollars, and upcoming deals look to be even more lucrative.




Larry Scott says Pac-12 fans are excited about a football title game set for Las Vegas
  • Larry Scott's toned-down leadership style as Pac-12 commissioner was a key part of his talk with SBJ's Abe Madkour on Day 2 of IAF. But Scott also put great emphasis on the state of the conference's current and future media rights packages. "We're in the middle of a very changing media landscape and getting ready for the future," he said. "I feel very energized about the future." Scott noted Pac-12 Networks remains a profitable venture despite ongoing carriage issues and pointed to streaming, regional and national TV deals that are all locked in through 2024. "We place a lot of value on the optionality and the flexibility that will give us. So we are not wedded to any particular model going forward. ... We are going to have a chance to re-evaluate everything and figure out what type of packages that we'd like to create for third parties, what we'd like to do ourselves. ... Under the current construct, it's been challenging not having an owner of your network that's a big media company -- a big brother that's got the leverage with the distributors that you don't have as an independent."

  • The Pac-12 notably turned down a long-term extension with ESPN, as that deal would have locked up the conference with ESPN well into the 2030s. But who knows what viewer consumption patterns will look like that far out in the future. "There's a lot of new players, tech players, streaming services that are emerging that could be very strategic and allow us to ... 'skate to where the puck is going.' We realized the old cable system isn't where the puck is going."

  • Cal AD Jim Knowlton on Day 1 of IAF said his school would not be opting in for any 9:00am PT kickoffs, echoing a sentiment given recently by Oregon's Rob Mullens. "It's another example of always being willing to pilot and try new things," he said. "Two years ago the idea of a Fox 'Big Noon Kickoff' didn't exist. ... We've got challenges being on the West Coast time zone. There are a lot of great windows for us where we can maximize revenue and exposure. Our schools are hungry to be in the biggest, widest, most-viewed, TV windows and this new, early window has emerged."

  • Outside of media, Scott also looked at future football competitions. He is very bullish on the conference football title game moving to the new Raiders' venue in Las Vegas next season (Allegiant Stadium). "Our fans will go to a game there that they wouldn't see at other places, because it's going to be a weekend of entertainment and fun regardless of how their team does." Scott was less enthusiastic about CFP expansion. While going to six or eight teams would give the Pac-12 a better chance of making the playoff, Scott is not sure what it would mean for the Rose Bowl. "We've got a hundred years of tradition," he said of the Rose Bowl. "It's highly valued in our conference. And that doesn't mean ... under no circumstances would we evolve to an eight-team playoff. But we've got an asset that's very meaningful to our fan base."


Aresco (l) and ESPN's Nick Dawson are confident in their deal despite UConn's departure
  • AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco continues to be an evangelist, even comparing his conference to JetBlue at IAF yesterday. "We're now a major carrier, a major conference, but we do it differently," he said. Aresco, appearing on stage with ESPN exec Nick Dawson, talked about the new deal between the two sides. Beyond some talk about UConn's departure and any potential impact on the rights fee for the deal, Aresco echoed a sentiment that came up with other panelists at this year's event -- the stigma of streaming games is dissipating. "The Big 12 did some games on the platform," he said of the Big 12 Now section on ESPN+. "That helped the perception that we weren't the only ones. ... Maybe we were the first one that had a very large, ESPN+ presence. But when the Big 12 went on, that that helped us." 

  • Dawson echoed that sentiment. "People are fairly quick to learn and appreciate the platform and the model," he said. "Anything that's new or different, you tend to get some reluctance at the beginning, but once people use it or are exposed to it, they get very comfortable with it and they see how easy it is. My household? I've become a streamer as of this past fall. We do Hulu Live TV as our TV package. But I have an Apple TV hooked up in our living room. There is nothing better on a college football Saturday than the ESPN app on Apple TV. You essentially are in your own control room. You can four-box the screen, three-box a screen. It's frankly a better experience than watching a linear television show."

  • In terms of more added value for the new deal, both execs pointed to the fact that when Notre Dame plays football at Navy going forward, those games will now be on ESPN platforms. Previously, CBS carried those matchups.




Del Conte said connectivity at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will need to be addressed
  • Texas’ fast-talking, high-energy AD Chris Del Conte had the IAF audience entertained yesterday with his captivating storytelling and takes on the proliferation of social-media influencers, the Longhorns’ new basketball arena and the big expectations that come with leading Texas. Here are the greatest hits from his interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe.

    • On steering Texas out of turbulent times:
      • "We've been on shaky ground for the last six, seven years. We've had three chancellors, two presidents, four ADs, three football coaches, two basketball coaches and two baseball coaches. It hasn't really been the land of stability."

    • On high expectations:
      • "Everyone at Texas expects us to win a national championship. There's a sign in the weight room: 'The pride and winning tradition of the University of Texas shall not be entrusted to the weak or the timid.' It is what it is. Every time we go out and compete, that other team wants to beat you so they can say, ‘We beat Texas.’"

    • On growing up in a children’s home in New Mexico:
      • "You'd go to school and you're being teased for how you look, how you dress, the things that you have and don't have. And all of a sudden, you become popular because you're in a sport. We all joined a sport just because we wanted to be accepted."

    • On the short-attention span of today’s youth because of social media:
      • "I don't even know how these fellas date. They just sit there like this (head down, looking at phone). They don't talk. I would kill it today on the dating scene because these fellows don't even know how to talk. ... My wife's going to shoot me about that. Don't tweet that out."

    • On 96-year-old Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium’s need for connectivity:
      • "If you pass out in the upper deck, good luck. Police ain't showing up. We had no way to get to you. Our stadium, I mean, it’s a big old battleship. So we have to address it."

    • On Texas President Greg Fenves wanting a new basketball arena:
      • "He asked me, ‘I want to build an arena, but I don't want to pay for it.’ My man has been living in Colorado way too long, smoking the herb, you know what I mean? Build a $400 million arena and we’re not going to pay a dime? So, we put an RFP out (won by Oak View Group). We will own the building. OVG will manage it. Live Nation will populate it with events. So, whatever my man was smoking, it was magic dust, because we got a new arena."




Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals who specialize in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries, offering a continuum of care that is unparalleled. NATA represents and supports 45,000 members of the athletic training profession.




  • An inflatable of the Clemson tiger mascot was "accidentally" unplugged on Wednesday, making Duke AD Kevin White the first person to take down the Tigers this season.

  • With live content in short supply at times for Longhorn Network, Texas AD Chris Del Conte said this about the cable channel at IAF yesterday: "Sometimes I call it the History Channel, because I can only watch the ’69 [football] team so many times."

  • Audience members yesterday were pulling out their phones to take numerous photos from Tom Cove’s presentation on SFIA data citing sports participation trends, including the fastest growing sports and data around slower growth for the sporting goods industry.

  • This year's conference allowed for a reunion of sorts for former IMG College leadership. Tom Stultz, Kim Ramsay, Anna Slive Harwood, Derek Eiler, Chris Prindiville and Lawton Logan gathered for the picture below.





  • We posted several videos on our official Twitter account during the conference. Below are some of the top ones in terms of views:




  • It was an active Twitter experience at this year's IAF. Here are some tweets from those keeping watch:

    • The American Athletic Conference: "So proud of our @American_SAAC chair, Kiera Dalmass of @UConnWLAX, who is presenting to college athletics industry leaders on The Challenges and Benefits that Come Along With Being a High Performing Student-Athlete at the Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York City. #SBJIAF"

    • Wake Forest AD John Currie: "Great to spend time w one of my favorite mentors - #NFF Hall of Famer Doug Dickey. A true innovator & leader as both a coach & AD. “Coach Dickey always said...” has been heard by our senior staff members countless times during my 10 years as an AD. #ThanksCoach #SBJIAF"

    • Learfield IMG College Exec VP Mike Hamilton: "Honored to moderate a panel discussion today at the Intercollegiate Athletic Forum in NYC on the past & future of college athletics w Debbie Yow, Craig Littlepage, Dave Hart & Steve Pederson #sbjiaf"

    • College Swimming Coaches Association of America Executive Director Greg Earhart: "The number of people who've said, "I've always been in favor of student-athletes being able to monetize their NIL" a year after arguing against it is astounding. It's also why I would not be a good politician. #sbjiaf"

    • Dynamic Pricing Partners Founder & CEO Jonathan Marks: "Very important take on reseating a stadium/arena, and I agree- @UMich AD @WardeManuel saying he “would never reseat a venue given the relationships fans have developed in the same seats over the years. That’s the quickest way to lose fans.” #SBJIAF"

    • DLR Group Sports Business Development Leader Peter Muther: "Buckle up...⁦@_delconte and ⁦@sportsiren about to take over @Sbjsbd...should be fun. #sbjiaf"



  • IAF is our final conference of 2019, and we want to thank everyone that attended our events this year. We're already hard at work on a another slate of fantastic experiences for 2020, starting with the CAA World Congress of Sports from March 25-26 at the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, Calif. We hope everyone has a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!





Athletic trainers are healthcare professionals who specialize in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and sport-related illnesses. They prevent and treat chronic musculoskeletal injuries from sports, physical and occupational activity, and provide immediate care for acute injuries, offering a continuum of care that is unparalleled. NATA represents and supports 45,000 members of the athletic training profession.