Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 25 No. 90
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Live from New York: College sports hits Gotham

IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME IN THE CITY: If it’s early December in New York City, there are some traditions to expect: packed streets, gridlock getting crosstown, the National Football Foundation celebration, Jimmy V Week and the awarding of the Heisman Trophy. It’s with that backdrop that the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, presented by SBJ/SBD, takes place over the next day and a half at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square. Expect the top decision-makers in intercollegiate athletics to convene along with 500 attendees to discuss whether the CFP committee got it right and just where the enterprise is going. 

ON THE AGENDA: The two days will touch virtually every aspect of college sports and feature top speakers from inside and outside the universe. Among the issues we’ll discuss: balancing expenses, the growing chasm between have and have-nots, the student-athlete perspective, crisis management and trends in ticketing, media and the live experience. 

EMMERT’S STATE OF THE NCAA: President Mark Emmert will conduct his customary sitdown with Executive Editor Abe Madkour, a forum Emmert uses each year to begin spreading the seeds of the Association’s upcoming initiatives. Look for the latest on balancing the time demands on student athletes and on addressing player health and safety.

THE FAMILY BUSINESS: The inspiration for one of today’s most anticipated panels came from last night’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden between Duke and Florida. Kevin White is the Blue Devils’ athletic director, while the Gators are coached by Mike White, Kevin’s son. The game marked the first time that Papa White has squared off against his coaching son. He and wife, Jane, planned to sit in a cluster of neutral seats with MSG officials, rather than their usual seats for a road game behind the Duke bench. That matchup got us thinking about a panel featuring the Whites and their family business — intercollegiate athletics. While Mike traveled back to Gainesville with his team late last night, Kevin and two of his sons, Danny and Brian, will convene on stage today. Danny is the AD at UCF; Brian is a senior associate AD at Missouri.

BIG MAN BEHIND THE B10: Commissioner Jim Delany has been in the news this week – first for being booed by Penn State fans on Saturday night and then talking to USA Today about the changing role of today’s commissioners. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Big Ten Network, Delany will discuss the vision and carriage challenges behind it, where it goes from here and why Friday night games are in the future for the conference.

TAGLIABUE’S POINT OF VIEW: You will always learn something from former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Cited consistently as the “smartest person in the room,” Tagliabue will sit with Madkour and discuss some of the key issues around intercollegiate athletics, including the challenges of covering the cost of participation, the importance of Olympic sports and the future role of developmental leagues. The former Georgetown basketball player will also share thoughts from his recent trip to Asia.

UNDER THE HOOD: The day ends with one of the most talked-about executives in sports, as Under Armour Founder Kevin Plank talks to SBJ/SBD’s Terry Lefton.  The company is fresh off the formal announcement of its deal with MLB, and Plank is sure to touch on how the company plans to increase its investment in the college space, which includes more than 50 school apparel deals.

AND THEN, YOUR REWARDS: After a long day that will feature 14 (!) sessions on intercollegiate athletics, we’ll treat you to two opportunities to network and enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Immediately following the Plank interview, we’ll have a networking reception outside the ballroom hosted by SeatGeek. Then, at 9:30 p.m., we’ll have an after-hours reception in the VIP area of the Broadway Lounge on the 8th floor. We hope to see you there!

NOT-SO-QUIET RIOT: Watch the lobby and networking parties for the contingent from Riot Games, publisher of the popular eSports title League of Legends. Their collegiate team is in here in force, including chief Michael Sherman, hoping to see and be seen. The remit for Sherman’s team is simple: Turn LOL into an authentic sport on campuses. That means everything from developing Power 5 conference rivalry showdowns and elite scholarship athletes to dorm room pickup games. "We see ourselves as being a member of the college sports business community,” said Sherman, “and this is an opportunity to build relationships.”

CAREER MOVES: With such a heavy concentration of college talent in town, it’s inevitable that at this time each year a lot of closed-door meetings are being held. Among those that everyone is watching: Oregon AD Rob Mullens trying to decide on his next football coach.

NYC SPORTS SCENE: On the NBA calendar for tonight, the world-champion Cavaliers are in town to face the Knicks, while the Nuggets visit Brooklyn. There’s no local action on the ice tonight, but last night the Devils edged the Canucks and the Islanders beat the Rangers. And, at the Jimmy V Classic, Duke beat Florida while Purdue routed Arizona State. Of course, there’s always plenty to do in New York, especially on Broadway, though good luck getting tickets to the still-hot Hamilton, which has seen premium ticket prices rise into the four figures.

CONFERENCE COORDINATES: All of our sessions will be held on the seventh floor of the Marquis. You can get there via the elevators or zoom up on the escalators from the ground floor. Registration, breakfast and exhibits open at 7:15 a.m. Weather in the city is a little gloomy today, with cloudy skies and a high of 50.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: All the information you need about the conference — agenda, speakers, venue, etc. — can be found in the conference app and the program guide. You can download the app from the iTunes store or the Google Play store, and you can use any device to view our digital program guide.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: If you’re in the room today, we hope you’ll contribute to the conversation. You can send questions to our session moderators by using the IAF app or by texting ‘SBJSBD’ to 22-333 to join our session. If you are posting tweets or photos, be sure to use the conference hashtag: #SBJIAF. We will recognize the most active and engaging users over the next two days.

FOLLOW OUR FEEDS: Follow all of our social media posts throughout the conference using our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram feeds.

DROP CARDS, WIN PRIZES: Be sure to drop off your business card for the chance to win prizes from our sponsors. StubHub will give away $300 in gift cards that can be redeemed with any event ticket purchase at The winners will be announced at lunch today. And Libris by PhotoShelter is giving away a free year of its services. The winner will be announced at the end of the conference.

VOLUNTEERS: We’ve got six student volunteers helping us out this week, and they would love it if you said hello at the registration desk. Joining us from Columbia University: Scott Ferguson, Dan Girard and Francesco Avella. And from UMass Amherst: Anthony Nahill, David Tews and William Melley.