Posts Tagged ‘College Football’

Social (Media) Butterflies: Fans Taking to Twitter to Lure Penn State Players

It’s open season in State College, Pa. In the fallout from the NCAA’s staggering penalties against Penn State, a new wave of recruiting is occurring in college football as 96 players hit the open market.

When NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the sanctions against Penn State, he also announced that current Nittany Lion players were allowed to transfer without having to sit out a year like most transfers. Considering the school is now banished from postseason play for four years and the talent level is expected to drop off dramatically, it stands to reason many players would seek greener pastures.

On Wednesday, roughly 25 Penn State players showed their commitment to the school they originally signed with and staged an impromptu announcement, declaring they would not transfer.

The players staying have already been praised for their loyalty to the school, and you can bet Penn State will use these players as marketing as it attempts to clean its image.

For other players considering leaving, the scene in State College resembles wild predators stalking their prey. It was reported that coaches from other schools, most notably Illinois, traveled to Penn State to meet with players and try to lure them away. On one instance, the Illinois coaches ran into Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien on campus.

By far the biggest name on the recruiting trail is running back Silas Redd. Last season the sophomore led the Nittany Lions with 1,241 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, and helped drive the offensive attack. Early reports indicated Redd was considering USC as a potential transfer destination.

And that’s when things got ugly. Like most college students, Redd has a Twitter (MomentOfSilas25) that he uses frequently. Awful Announcing did a fantastic job in detailing the Twitter recruitment of Redd.

As you might expect, there were plenty of Penn State fans and alumni pleading him to stay. But there were also quite a few Nittany Lion  fans who didn’t take kindly to the USC rumors, using choice words and labeling him a #sellout.

And then there were the other schools. USC, Tennessee, Oregon, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, LSU, Florida State, Purdue, Louisville, Georgia and Temple were all mentioned by people who tweeted at Redd.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. College football has been known for its shoddy recruiting practices that turn teenage kids into heroes and villains at the same time. But in the wake of all that has happened at Penn State, one would hope people could keep things in perspective and let the players make their own decisions.

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Guilty By Association: Penn State Non-Revenue Sports May Struggle Following NCAA’s Football Punishment

NCAA President Mark Emmert stepped to the podium Monday morning and delivered what many believe to be the strictest punishment in collegiate sports history.

As a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal cover-up and shocking details of the Freeh Report, the NCAA chose to hand out the following penalties against Penn State and its football program:

  • A $60 million sanction — equivalent to one year’s gross revenue of the football program — with funds going to support victims of child sexual abuse and programs intended to prevent such acts from occurring
  • A four-year ban on bowl games and postseason play
  • A reduction in football scholarships ranging from 25 to 15 for four years
  • The removal of all football wins (111) from 1998 to 2011
  • A five year probation period for the entire athletic department

Reaction to the punishment has been mixed. Some call the NCAA’s decision fair, while others find it over the top. What’s clear is that Penn State’s football team will be in rebuilding mode for quite some time.

And so too might the remainder of Penn State’s athletic programs. In 2011 Penn State’s football team made $53 million in profits, by far the biggest moneymaker program at the school. This money is spread around and used to help support non-revenue sports, such as fencing, gymnastics, and swimming & diving among others.

If Penn State football struggles as it is expected to, these sports may be in trouble financially. Though the program has weathered through unremarkable seasons before, it looks as though it will be entirely dependent on donations, especially without the aid of money sharing from the Big Ten or from bowl games. It is not a stretch to say other programs could be cut as an unintended result of the NCAA’s ruling.

The problems extend outside Penn State’s campus. Local businesses in State College, Pa. could suffer an estimated $50 million in losses per year. Much like the school itself, Central Pennsylvania has thrived off Nittany Lion football. That financial vehicle has suddenly been derailed.

Time will tell how long Penn State football suffers. It may be a shorter time before the remainder of Penn State’s teams learn their connected fate.

Playoff Payoff: College Football Playoff System Still Predicated on Cash, Not Competition

College football fans, your long national nightmare is over. At last, there will be a playoff to decide the national champion.

More college football teams will have a chance to claim the championship trophy, and that means more money for the sport’s powers.

On Tuesday evening, a committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team playoff that will begin during the 2014-15 football season. The plan will bring an end to the controversial Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which relied on confusing computer polls and voters to decide who would play in the championship game. The BCS was never very popular among college football fans.

Despite the outcry, college football’s power brokers were reluctant to tweak the system because they were making so much money. With four major BCS bowls (Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl) and a BCS Championship Game driving the revenue train,  schools from power conferences like the SEC and Big-10 were splitting as much as $28.5 million by participating. A school like Indiana, which went 1-11 in 2011, split as much money as Alabama, which went 12-1 and won the national championship. University presidents were understandably hesitant to change.

The only thing that could prompt reform was the promise of more money. The new four-team playoff could be worth roughly $5 billion in TV revenue over a 10-year period, with the power conferences receiving between $360 and $400 million annually.

Of course the logical question for fans is why have only a four-team playoff? Why not push to eight or 16? The answer, again, is money. By having only four teams, it keeps the likelihood that the representatives will come from the power conferences rather than perennial non power conference contenders, such as Boise State and TCU. Why have the little guys get a slice of the pie from the big guys?

For all parties involved, it seems like a win-win. Fans get to see a champion crowned on the field rather than through computer logarithms, more teams now have a chance to play for the title, and universities make more revenue from the playoff. But this change is not without more improvements needed. To be true to the spirit of competition, there needs to be an eight or 16-team playoff.

In the end, however, this was never about improving college football, it was about making more money.

Photo (cc) by Charles Atkeison and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Bracketbusted: CAA and ESPN Part Ways, Future Relations Unknown

Having covered Northeastern athletics for the last five years — mostly basketball — I have seen my share of Colonial Athletic Association action. Last month I was in Richmond, Va. for the 2012 Virginia 529 College Savings Plan CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. VCU defeated Drexel in the title game to earn the league’s berth in the NCAA Tournament.

VCU won the 2012 CAA Tournament on ESPN. Next year the CAA is moving to NBC Sports. (Photo: Patrick McHugh)

With schools like VCU and George Mason making surprise runs to the Final Four recently, the CAA has proved to be one of the top mid-major conferences in college basketball. Just as impressive is the league’s performance on the gridiron. In the last decade, four CAA schools have won the Division 1 Football Championship with three schools finishing as runner-up.

Hoping to capitalize on its popularity and get more national attention, the CAA signed a five-year deal with NBC Sports to have its basketball and football games on the NBC Sports Network.

Since NBC Sports is seen as a competitor by ESPN, the move made by the CAA wasn’t taken too kindly by the folks at the Worldwide Leader. Each year since 2003, ESPN has hosted a BracketBusters weekend in which mid-major schools from opposing conferences play each other on national television so as to improve their tournament resume and gain more exposure prior to the NCAA Tournament. With the CAA abandoning ESPN for NBC Sports, ESPN decided not to include the CAA for next year’s BracketBusters series.

So where does this decision leave each party? There are different arguments on each side. Awful Announcing pointed out the CAA will no longer get positive treatment from ESPN, and the lack of exposure from the most-watched sports network could hurt the league when it comes to Selection Sunday. Unsurprisingly, NBC Sports had a different take, saying without the nation’s premier mid-major conference, BracketBusters will lose its appeal.

To me, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It’s true, without extra exposure from ESPN the CAA won’t have as much mainstream attention simply because NBC Sports doesn’t reach the amount of households that ESPN does. At the same time, BracketBusters now has lost some of its appeal without a top caliber mid-major conference.

Time will tell whether the split is beneficial or detrimental to either side, but if nothing else the war of words between the parties should be entertaining.

Power Struggle: Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. Set to Challenge ESPN

Since its inception in 1979, ESPN has been the undisputed leader in sports coverage. It isn’t called “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” for nothing, with viewership in over 100 million American homes and presence in print, radio, online and multimedia.

If there's one man crazy enough to challenge ESPN, it's Rupert Murdoch

ESPN has dominated the sports market, but media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is hoping to change that. Word spread on Wednesday that Murdoch and his News Corp. are interested in starting a new cable sports network to rival that of ESPN’s. With many sports fans growing tired of ESPN’s programming decisions (read: Tim Tebow), some say the time could be right for a major ESPN competitor.

As other networks have already learned, taking down ESPN is no easy task. NBC Sports, a joint venture between NBC and Comcast, launched on Jan. 2, but has failed to provide much of a challenge. NBC has exclusive rights to broadcast the NHL, Indycar racing, the Tour de France, Notre Dame football and recently also acquired MLS broadcasts. While these are nice pieces in the portfolio, they simply do not drawn the attention of the NFL, NBA and MLB, three sports which ESPN has a strong hold on.

Thus far the only acquisitions by News Corp. include college football games and the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but it will take more than that to topple ESPN. As some have pointed out, the new sports network would need the right personalities. ESPN grew to enormous popularity with hosts such as Chris Berman, Keith Olbermann, Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott and more. Right now the biggest name NBC has is Bob Costas, and he simply doesn’t measure up (and not just because he’s 5-foot-7).

I, like many sports fans I presume, am hoping a serious ESPN contender joins the fray. As much as I like ESPN, I feel it need to re-evaluate its coverage and spend less time on tabloid-style storylines (do we really need to see aerial coverage of Peyton Manning leaving Indianapolis?) and more on stories that actually matter.

Hey News Corp. How about giving Ron Burgundy an audition? After all, he won’t be allowed back at ESPN.

Photo (cc) by David Shankbone and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Breadwinners: How a College Basketball Team Can Make a School Millions in a Week or Less

For the second year in a row I was fortunate enough to attend the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship in Richmond, Va. The CAA Tournament crowns the champion of the Colonial Athletic Association, the conference for which Northeastern is a member of. Since I broadcast Husky basketball games for WRBB radio, I was there for the entire tournament, even after NU was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Players at the CAA Tournament looking to score for their team ... and their school.

The championship game is tonight between Drexel and VCU, with the winner going to the NCAA Tournament. Being at the tournament has only reinforced a belief I already had: athletics is a huge marketing tool for schools. I posted back in January about the “Flutie Effect” a school can go through via a big sports win, which helps attract prospective students.

One aspect of the “Flutie Effect” I failed to mention is the impact it has on alumni donations. I ran into a number of Northeastern alumni over the weekend. I got the sense from all of them that the team’s performance in the tournament would dictate how much money they were willing to donate back to the school.

One Drexel alum told me his school’s 19-game winning streak will equate to major donations this year, many in the five-digit category. VCU made the Final Four last year and raked in the donations. The Rams’ run was good for the rest of the conference, which was rewarded with $1.9 million for getting a team into the Final Four. Of course, this can lead to problems, as UConn found out with its football program.

What’s fascinating to me is this one tournament — with 12 teams playing 11 games over four days — can make or break a school’s financial revenue for the year. Take Towson for example. The Tigers are in turmoil and this season set the Division 1 record for most consecutive losses at 41. Back in December, the New York Times wrote a feature story on Towson’s struggles and the rebuilding work the program has gone through. The Tigers have won exactly one game in the past 15 months, yet if the team somehow pulled off an incredible run in this tournament, you can bet they’d make the school millions.

I will be at tonight’s sold out championship game where at the end of the night players and fans of the winning team will storm the court in celebration. Back at that school’s alumni office, there is sure to be celebration as well.

Robbing the Cradle: The Big, Bad Business of College Recruiting

I was assigned by the Boston Globe to cover a National Signing Day ceremony for four local high school athletes choosing their college destinations. Wednesday was the first day in which prospective college football players could sign a National Letter of Intent to play for a particular school. In recent years the date has become one college football fans circle on their calendars to see how their school fared in signing the best recruits.

Signing day has become an event upon itself

College football is, of course, big business. Kristi Dosh, who started businessofcollegesports.com, reveals just how big this business is. In December she posted a list of the top 50 most profitable college football and basketball programs in 2010-11. The University of Texas, which finished 5-7 and did not qualify for a bowl game, made over $71 million in profit. Imagine what the Longhorns could have pulled in had they won nine or 10 games?

With so much money at stake the race to woo the best high school players in the country has taken an ugly turn. Urban Meyer, the new head coach at Ohio State, was accused by other coaches of illegal recruiting practices that violate NCAA law. Meyer is one of many college coaches who hounds high school athletes in hopes of convincing the 17 or 18-year-old that their school is the best. In-home visits, emails, phone calls, text messages and other gestures are all part of the game.

The University of Notre Dame spent over $2 million on recruiting expenses in 2010-11, $1 million of which went to football alone. With average football recruiting classes numbering between 20 and 30 athletes, that breaks down to $33,000 to $50,000 devoted to each athlete who signs.

Sadly, what this has created is a high-stakes poker game with high school athletes as the chips in the middle of the table. It’s not so much helping the student find the best school for him, it is about finding the athlete who will help the school make money.

As I spoke with the athletes after they signed their letters of intent, one called the recruiting process “an awful thing to go through” that puts “pressure, not only on the player but the family.” It’s sad that what should be an exciting achievement in a young person’s life has to come with such a catch-22, but as they say, “that’s business.”