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Arkansas AD Hunter Yurachek pens an op-ed for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “While college athletes benefiting from their name, image, and likeness has been widely accepted as a net positive for the athletes, what is on the horizon, thanks to California, puts the entire system at risk and threatens the viability of every non-revenue collegiate sport. This means women's and Olympic sports are facing an existential threat, and the athletes competing in these sports might lose the opportunity to compete and pursue their dreams. [...] Without congressional action to help create a nationwide standard that can be applied to all schools and conferences, the result will be more states like California taking legislative action, each one seeking to go one step further than the last. As we're seeing with the proposed legislation in California, this is wholly unsustainable for the future of college athletics as we know it. [...] Absent Congress stepping in, it is only a matter of time before we see opportunities for female and Olympic sports athletes wash away. If there is any chance of maintaining the collegiate athletic ecosystem that has become synonymous with the college experience not only for the athletes, but for students, fans, staff, and communities nationwide, a national framework provided through congressional action is our best hope.” (link)
Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel reports the tentative resolution between Michigan and the NCAA regarding alleged Level II violations within the Wolverines football program is now off. The plan was for HC Jim Harbaugh to serve a four-game suspension to start the 2023 season and multiple former assistants were sanctioned. The deal still needed approval from the COI but “hurdles arose and the deal is now off.” Instead, the case will move further through the NCAA disciplinary system and Harbaugh is expected to be on the sidelines for all UM games this year. (link); Notable lawyer Tom Mars notes how “unreal” it is that everyone on Michigan’s side is prohibited from talking about the ongoing case, but that NCAA VP of Hearing Operations Derrick Crawford issued this statement: “The Michigan infractions case is related to impermissible on and off-campus recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible coaching activities — not a cheeseburger. It is not uncommon for the [Committee on Infractions] to seek clarification on key facts prior to accepting. ... If the involved parties cannot resolve a case through the negotiated resolution process, it may proceed to a hearing, but the committee believes cooperation is the best avenue to quickly resolve issues.” (link)
The Mercury News’ Jon Wilner answers a mailbag question on how a move to the Mountain West may be an interesting option for Oregon State & Washington State: “We cannot guarantee the CFP selection formula in the next contract cycle (starting with the 2026 season) will have five automatic bids, but it’s a reasonable assumption at this point. If they block access for the other leagues, a lawsuit could result. In no way, shape or form is the Hotline attempting to minimize the impact of the Pac-12’s collapse on the WSU and OSU athletic departments, their athletes or their fans. It’s nothing short of devastating. But the path into the playoff from a revamped Mountain West seemingly is more reasonable than it would be through an intact Pac-12, which likely would be in line for a single berth.” (link)
Oklahoma Executive Assoc. AD for External Engagement Leah Beasley caught up with AthleticDirectorU’s Steph Garcia Cichosz at the 2023 NACDA Convention as the pair dove into OU’s championship mindset, creating authentic relationships with head coaches, momentum for women’s sports in Norman & more. Beasley: “For our head coaches, it’s feedback. It’s conversations with them. Fortunately at Oklahoma, our head coaches aren’t shy to speak up. [...] It’s intentionally laying out to them, here’s your contact for this, here’s your contact for that. We have support for them to go to with every turn. We may not always have the best answers at the flip of a switch, but what we can do is let them know they have support and the support is going to be very present around their teams. That’s really important.” Lots more. (link)
SBJ’s Bret McCormick takes a look at how teams continue to adapt their marketing strategies for ticketing as the space continues to evolve, and Fevo CRO Joshua Reese points out: “We no longer live in a world where I have the time to attend 20, 30, 40 games. I’d rather pay a premium to go to my one or two favorite games, the best games. I think this is going to drive additional urgency and status around going to the best games, which leaves the Tier 2 and Tier 3 games a little more vulnerable.” Logitix CEO Stu Halberg adds: “Even before the pandemic, the gap was widening between high-demand and low-demand events. It has only been exacerbated.” McCormick notes the “growing gulf doesn’t seem to be influenced by pricing,” as fans know the event will “likely not be cheap, so it’s a flat yes-or-no decision that’s not as influenced by price as it might have been in the past.” That said, the “low-demand events phenomenon isn’t connected to a decrease in total attendance,” as the NBA just eclipsed the 22M total attendance mark for the second time ever and the NFL and MLB continue to post strong numbers. Theme nights are one strategy the St. Louis Cardinals have implemented to sell more tickets on low-demand nights, and Cardinals Director of Marketing and Brand Execution Martin Coco says: “Not just additional tickets sold on a night when you might have some distressed inventory — that’s the obvious business goal — but the secondary long-term benefit is getting a person or group of fans in the ballpark who might not otherwise be coming to a Cardinals game.” More from McCormick. (link)
The NFL is turning to Congress to ask for help on sports gambling, Front Office Sports’ Eric Fisher reports, noting the league is pushing lawmakers to focus on illegal gambling. NFL VP of Public Policy and Government Affairs Jonathan Nabavi: “We believe that additional attention and resources are needed from lawmakers and law enforcement to address the illicit sports betting market, which still has the power of incumbency.” However, U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV), who co-chairs the Congressional Gaming Caucus, is among some legislators who are frustrated with the NFL’s lack of candor in answering questions from Congress and says “It’s very disappointing that the NFL has declined to answer our questions and instead pivoted to illegal sports betting generally in their response. It makes one wonder what they are trying to hide.” (link)
The Inside Zone’s Matt Fortuna writes on the Tuesday deadline for any ACC member (read: Florida State) to notify the rest of the league of an intended departure for the 2024-25 competition season. Fortuna gets this from a Power 5 administrator: “Someone really needs to talk about FSU. They incorporated outside the university in 2019 and are now looking for outside capital. That’s going to require a new board that will be 100 percent financially focused and expecting significant returns. It’s huge and nobody is realizing it.” Lots more behind a paywall. (link)
The Toledo Blade’s David Briggs pens an appreciation piece for the MAC. “It is the port in the storm, the last island of sanity in the looniest of waters. Behold the Mid-American Conference. In an era when no TV buck has proven too quick to blow up college athletics as we know it, let us raise a glass. Remember the quaint old days when conferences featured like-minded universities concentrated in less-than-Shaq-sized footprints? The MAC is officially the last league of its kind.” Pointing out the travel distances now imposed on many schools in the future formations of the Power 5 conferences, Briggs adds: “The MAC carries on as something of a time capsule, bystanders to the madness around it. Its dozen full members have all been together since 1998 and its “Original” Six — Ohio (joined in 1946), Miami[OH] (1947), Western Michigan (1947), Toledo (1950), Kent State (1951), and Bowling Green (1952) — are well into their eighth decade of matrimony. Better yet, they all live in the same neighborhood, the league more compact than a Ford Fiesta. Consider: UT and BG are the only two schools in the 10 FBS conferences within 300 miles of every city in their league — no small luxury when you remember that, believe it or not, schools sponsor a lot of sports beyond football. All told, the MAC spans just 593 miles from DeKalb, Ill., to Buffalo. In no other conference is the longest trip less than 1,000 miles. The league makes too much sense.” Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher adds that the membership has done a “remarkable job” of being true to who they are. Lots more. (link)
Georgia Football HC Kirby Smart traveled by helicopter on recruiting trips in eight states on eight days between January 13-27, 2023. Those jaunts, coupled with trips made on December 8, 2022, drove the “Kirby Copter” bill to $146,193, which is more than double the previous recruiting cycle’s spend of $60,364. The Athens Banner-Herald’s Marc Weiszer: “The helicopter use this time was just a small percentage of the $1.902 million Georgia spent on recruiting flights between Nov. 25, 2022-Jan. 27, 2023. That is more than the $1.63 million Georgia spent for all recruiting travel from July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022.” Also of note, the chopper rides were done through Helicopter Express, while $1.1M in chartered flights for the Bulldogs was spent with Wheels Up. (link)
Louisville football season ticket sales are nearing the 36K mark, an increase of about 20% YOY. Cardinals brass believe they could add as many as 10K new season ticket holders as the overall sales tally could be closer to 38K once we hit opening kick. (link)
Oklahoma will host Maine in 2024 in a football game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. (link)
In case you missed Saturday's email...
Clemson, Florida State, North Carolina & NC State are the four reported ACC members who are pushing back on the addition of Stanford & Cal. Twelve of fifteen members must approve the expansion. More from Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde & Richard Johnson: “Sources described ACC members Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Louisville as among the most vocal in advocating for the Cardinal and Golden Bears to join the league.” Interestingly, the pair go on to say that the AAC could be an attractive landing spot for the Cardinal & Bears due to “the lack of a grant-of-rights tether. [...] If nothing else, the AAC could be a way station for Cal and Stanford while waiting to see whether the Big Ten reconsiders and expands to 20.” (link)
Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy releases a statement that includes: “We continue to believe that preserving the Pac-12 is in the best interests of OSU student-athletes and the remaining universities, and so we are doing everything in our control to stabilize and rebuild the conference.” More. (link)
The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s David Teel shares his thoughts on why Clemson has remained “strong yet quiet” while Florida State has not recently and notes first that Clemson is a charter member of the ACC, which started in 1953 while FSU didn’t join the conference until 1991 “and has no institutional affection for the league. Moreover, the Tigers boast all the components an elite football program needs. Conversely, second-year Seminoles athletic director Michael Alford has said his predecessors did not invest enough in football, an indictment not of the ACC but of FSU’s money management. That’s what makes the Seminoles loud demands for a greater share of conference revenue ring somewhat hollow. None of this means Clemson is content. But the Tigers can afford to be more subtle as they explore options beyond, and perhaps before, the ACC’s grant of media rights expires in tandem with the ESPN deal in 2036.” (link)
ESPN Senior Director of Programming Jeramy Michiaels sits down with Connect/MB Sports’ Matt Banker to talk all things ACC Network, including what goes into some of the programming, the logistics of taking a live show on the road and how matchups are selected to be featured parts of fall broadcasts. On how the network handles game inventory and the selection process, Michiaels explains: “We start the year and we have a grid that we're working off of. We have an idea of the season is going to play out – the way we think it will, which it never does. We have a pretty good idea of which games will be where, and then we have probably two or three meetings a week with our counterparts in Bristol who handle programming across ABC and all the ESPN nets, and we're moving things around as much as we can. So, it's a lot of mixing and matching. We try to put the best matchups in the best windows, but like I mentioned, there's so much depth in this league that it's really hard to go wrong with the game selections.” Lots more from Michiaels on Connect. (link)
Incoming Long Beach State AD Bobby Smitheran held his introductory presser yesterday: “This is personal for me. The Smitheran family has been at Long Beach since 1917. … As a leader, it starts with the people. What has been accomplished at SDSU is about the people, the culture and that’s got to be paramount to who we are. It’s how you pull all the people together. It seems contrived, and it’s easier to say and hard to do. But in speaking to the (LBSU staff) all of those pieces are there for success, and great success. It’s going to take the community as well. That’s philanthropy, facility improvement. In this world we live in with Name Image Likeness, the transfer portal, This is not your grandfather’s college athletics anymore. We have to think forward about how we’re going to do this in a way that attracts student athletes to Long Beach State University. And then create an environment to help them strive for excellence.” (link)
Delaware State unveils a brand refresh, including a new academic logo that connects the school’s “rich history, remarkable present and promising future” and an updated athletics logo about which AD Alecia Shields-Gadson notes: “This new Hornet athletics logo ushers in a new era for all of Delaware State University’s sports teams. It is a work of branding art that reflects all that our intercollegiate teams are striving for – consistent bold and strong performances on the field of play that are packed with an unrelenting sting.” (link)
The Kentucky MBB team has been selected as a Mamba Program ahead of the upcoming season. Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late Kobe Bryant, hand-picked the Wildcats as the first Mamba school in the partnership with Nike. The Cats will wear exclusive Kentucky-themed Kobe sneakers and apparel this year and “special uniforms featuring the Mamba logo are also possible in the future,” per Kentucky Sports Radio. UK HC John Calipari already has his own pair of Mambacitas, check them out. (link)
+ The Tigers have announced a sharp reduction in concession prices at Memorial Stadium for the upcoming football season. Cheeseburgers from $8 down to $5, hot dogs from $5 to $3, popcorn from $5 to $2, bottled water from $5 to $2 & bottled soda from $6 to $2. Also notable: “A 16% increase in points of sale designed to provide reduced concession wait times.” (link)
+ Missouri’s new NIL law allows for a high school athlete to start earning NIL dollars once he or she has inked a “written agreement” to attend a university within the state. On3’s Keegan Pope gets this from a source within the recruiting ecosystem: “For some of the top guys on their board they’re right in the conversation or maybe even above some of the big-hitter programs that they’re competing with when it comes to the NIL opportunities if a recruit signs there.” (link)
People & Places…
+CollegeAD reports Fordham AD Ed Kull has hired former REVELxp Sales Manager Jason Luksis as his new Assoc. AD for Corporate Sponsorship & Revenue Generation. Luksis’ personal profile reflects the move. (link)
+ CollegeAD also has Samford adding Wayne State (DII) Coordinator of Athletic Facilities & Operations Nate Gurich as its new Assoc. AD with oversight of facilities, game operations & equipment. (link)
+Texas Tech Director of Track & Field Wes Kittley agrees to a seven-year extension. His new contract is valued at just over $3.8M, not including potential performance bonuses. (link)
Iowa Football HC Kirk Ferentz comments on the latest reports out of Iowa City regarding FB student-athletes & sports gambling: “I think the key point there is betting on our games, and that is, to me, it's a deal breaker if that is, in fact, proven to be true. So, we'll deal with that when we get there. But, I think as we move forward, I think, at least in my opinion, it's been a learning process. [...] I would also suggest, based on the number I'm aware of, it's probably a pretty small number in terms of the big scheme of things, but it doesn't make it right and there's no way you can condone that.” (link)
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is the latest state leader to send a letter to NCAA Governor Charlie Baker on behalf of North Carolina WR Devontez Walker, whose waiver for immediate eligibility after transferring from Kent State was denied by the NCAA. Cooper writes: “During your service as Governor of Massachusetts, I admired your dogged pursuit of commonsense solutions to our thorniest problems. In your current service leading the NCAA, I have great hope that you will be able to bring the same thoughtful and balanced approach to the rapidly evolving world of college sports. I realize this is one of hundreds of decisions you need to make, but nothing could be more important to Tez than this opportunity to get one of the finest university educations in the country at UNC and to compete in front of his family in Carolina Blue.” Cooper adds: “This is the first time I have taken such an action, but this is an unusual and compelling case amidst the backdrop of all the major changes happening in the NCAA.” (link)
The Wall Street Journal’s Melissa Korn, Andrea Fuller and Jennifer Forsyth pen a lengthy exploration of higher ed expenditures and argue that “the nation’s best-known public universities have been on an unfettered spending spree. Over the past two decades, they erected new skylines comprising snazzy academic buildings and dorms. They poured money into big-time sports programs and hired layers of administrators. Then they passed the bill along to students. The University of Kentucky upgraded its campus to the tune of $805K a day for more than a decade. Its freshmen, who come from one of America’s poorest states, paid an average $18,693 to attend in 2021-22. [Penn State] spent so much money that it now has a budget crisis – even though it’s among the most expensive public universities in the U.S. The University of Oklahoma hit students with some of the biggest tuition increases, while spending millions on projects including acquiring and renovating a 32K-square-foot Italian monastery for its study-abroad program.” They go on to note that median enrollment among the 50 state flagship universities increased by 21% from 2002-22 while spending increased by 38% and that “for every $1 lost in state support at those universities over the two decades, the median school increased tuition and fee revenue by nearly $2.40, more than covering the cuts.” Lots more. (link)
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