Morning Five: 08.28.13 EditionPosted by rtmsf on August 28th, 2013
- With the college football season kicking off Thursday night, the New York Times has used this week to closely examine the power and ubiquity that ESPN has enjoyed as the voice of American sports for the better part of two generations. Part Three of Remote Control: Inside the Power of ESPN was published on Tuesday, and the core theme of the piece is that ESPN has remained on the offensive in an effort to retain its relative hegemony among US sports fans. But with Fox Sports 1 already launched and a growing but powerful minority of people seeking to cut the cord from bundled cable television (and major Internet companies seeking to serve them), the World Wide Leader is facing legitimate assaults on its business model for perhaps the first time in its history. Here’s the most key takeaway from the piece, in our opinion: “Of the network’s nearly 100 million households, an average of just 1.36 million viewers watched in prime time during the second quarter of this year.” A model where 100 percent of subscribers pay $5.54 each for the use and enjoyment of 1.36 percent of the pool does not seem sustainable for perpetuity. It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how Google, Apple and the others spend the next few years working around this problem.
- Mark your calendar. Yesterday was exactly 45 days from the Friday that we traditionally associate with Midnight Madness (October 11), and 73 days from the opening night of the 2013-14 regular season (November 9). Why do these random passages of time matter? Because yesterday was also the day that the first glossy preseason magazine — Lindy’s — released its preseason Top 10 in hopes of building up some drama before its press release on September 10 (guess what, it worked). The magazine’s choice of Michigan State for #1 was reasonable if not a bit contrarian (most publications are likely to go with Kentucky or Louisville), but the odd choice to drop the defending national champion Louisville down as far as #7 in the poll was a real eye-opener. ESPN.com‘s Myron Medcalf called the selection “ridiculous… nonsense,” and we can’t disagree with him on that point; no more of an authority than last season’s team leader, Peyton Siva, went on record with Jeff Goodman on Tuesday and legitimately believes that next year’s Cardinals should be “better” than his title-winning group. You hear that a lot from recently-graduated players who have experienced a lot of their own success, but a top 10 preseason list that left out Arizona (and some say Syracuse) might be setting itself up for substantial criticism. Still, if Lindy’s is right, that Champions Classic this year looks even more dynamite!
- One of the schools in Lindy’s top 10 is Florida, ranked at #8 in their preseason poll. With the amount of talent that Billy Donovan is both retaining and bringing into Gainesville, it’s entirely reasonable to place the Gators in the top 10 for next season. However, it appears that they will need to survive the first semester without one of its most-hyped newcomers, as elite forward Chris Walker has run out of time to finish coursework needed to enroll in school this term. The lanky forward will presumably now have plenty of hours available to get eligible by the time winter break hits, and as The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg writes, he theoretically could still be in Florida’s lineup for its December 17 game against Memphis in the Jimmy V Classic. With so much on the line — both in terms of plain old fun not to mention any professional aspirations — it always amazes us when someone can’t do enough simple school work to earn his eligibility. Still, we don’t mean to try to walk in another man’s shoes, but for his own sake as well as the game of college basketball, we hope he finds his path to Gainesville sometime in the next four months.
- Did you know that the NCAA, a non-profit institution in name only of course, has what it calls a “quasi-endowment?” And were you aware that this quasi-endowment along with an “operating reserve” is worth a reported $527 million after a three-year run where the fund earned a robust 10.8 percent? According to Bloomberg News, the NCAA has in fact been building this “rainy day” fund since 2004, attempting to cover itself in case of a future catastrophic drop in revenue. You might as well call it the Ed O’Bannon Fund at this point, as the credit rating agency Moody’s recently lowered the NCAA’s grade to “negative,” citing the O’Bannon case as well as risk from rules improprieties as primary factors affecting its rating. The NCAA uses all but four percent of its annual revenue by passing it along to its member conferences, schools and operating expenses of its 89 national championships, but it is a little-known fact that the organization has a half-billion in investments sitting in the virtual vault out in Indy.
- Let’s end this one with a strong interview from SI.com‘s Andy Glockner, who spent some time recently conversing with USA Today‘s longtime statistical guru, Jeff Sagarin. In a two-part series called Verbatim, Glockner explores how Sagarin came to develop his incredibly robust system for rating and comparing teams across many different sports. As a reader who grew up studying the Sagarin ratings as printed on the back page of the Sports section of USAT, this interview was fascinating stuff, but fair warning, if you’re not really into the numbers behind sports — and really, we’re talking probabilities here — then it might not be for you. Nevertheless, here’s part one and part two. Enjoy, you might just learn a few things.