Morning Five: 08.15.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2013

morning5

  1. August is without question the slowest month in the college basketball calendar, but a couple of key releases of information on Wednesday allowed for some pizzazz in an otherwise dry landscape. First and foremost, ESPN’s 2013-14 Gameday schedule was announced, and the early returns on the eight-game slate are quite favorable. In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the schedule contains the best (on paper) games in the ACC, AAC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC this year. The “mid-major” game between Memphis and Gonzaga is certainly no slouch, and the second ACC game (depending on which between Syracuse-Duke and UNC-Duke is “the best”) is another great match-up. Even the Pac-12 either/or battle between Arizona-Colorado and UCLA-Stanford has promise. We don’t have the entire history of Gamedays in front of us at the moment, but there’s little doubt that we’ve enjoyed a group of games that (again, on paper) has had the star power and quality of these eight. Absolutely. Cannot. Wait.
  2. The other promising news that came out of Wednesday was also of a scheduling variety, although not related to the upcoming season. The Champions Classic, a fantastic event that pits blue-blooded powerhouses Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State against each other on a round robin three-year basis, is set to extend its contract for another three seasons (2014-16, according to Tom Izzo). As one commenter notes below that revelatory tweet, it would be great if the organizers of the event continued to spread the love around the country so that places other than New York, Atlanta and Chicago would have an opportunity to host the proceedings. Roger Kuznia at TSN believes that the event should open itself up to more schools (such as UNC, UCLA, Indiana, Syracuse, Louisville and Arizona) so that one of the marquee nights of the early season doesn’t begin to lose its luster, and it’s a fair point. We’d like to see a two-night, eight-team event where schools rotate through (avoiding conference foes, of course), with perhaps an opportunity to earn their way into or out of future events based on their performances. Either way, we’re still glad to see the existing format headed to another rendition.
  3. The NCAA also released its attendance figures for the 2012-13 season on Wednesday, and as always, the aggregate numbers only get you so far to a real understanding of the topic. We hope to have more analysis on this later today, but for now, The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg does a pretty good job breaking down some of the key stats. That a school like Creighton outdrew a school like USC by more than four times the number of fans per game is a testament to how whacked the BCS system is when it comes to college basketball. The Mountain West also outdrew the Pac-12 by more than a thousand fans per game, and you have to once again address the chicken/egg argument of what drives what when it comes to on-court success. Do fans who demand success at the best programs foster the overarching pressure to win from their teams; or do the teams that win boil up interest by virtue of people’s willingness and desire to associate with winners? It’s obviously a combination of both factors, but we have to believe there’s a pretty strong correlation between fans actually caring (and showing up regardless) and success on the hardwood. The NCAA should do that analysis.
  4. Asking a group of college coaches to name the best current coach in the sport would no doubt result in a plurality of names ranging from Mike Krzyzewski to Bill Self to Rick Pitino to several others. But asking a group of college coaches (or anyone, really) to name the best current recruiter in the sport leaves no room for debate — we’re honestly surprised that the numbers taken by CBSSports.com‘s crew didn’t approach 100 percent in favor of Kentucky’s John Calipari. In fact, the man who has inked 15 of the last 50 recruits ranked in the RSCI top 10 (think about that for a second…) didn’t even receive a majority of the votes (49 percent). Still, nobody else was close, as Kansas’ Bill Self (8 percent), Duke’s Coach K (6 percent), Florida’s Billy Donovan (5 percent) and Marquette’s Buzz Williams (5 percent) filled in the other blanks. It’s somewhat interesting that North Carolina’s Roy Williams didn’t receive a single vote — it wasn’t all that long ago that he was considered the best in the business in this regard.
  5. It’s called subsequent remedial measures (SRMs) in the legal realm, but what it essentially amounts to are actions made by an entity to mitigate future liability based on an alleged previous wrong (already under litigation). The idea is that SRMs cannot be used to “prove” that the responsible party is guilty of any previous wrongdoing based on those later actions, and it makes sense from an evidentiary sense (the case needs to be proven by intent used at the time of the infraction). But it sure as heck looks bad from a public relations perspective, and that’s exactly what both the NCAA and several of the major BCS conferences are doing now that the Ed O’Bannon/EA Sports case is taking on a life of its own. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 announced this week that it will follow the NCAA’s lead and no longer allow EA to use its trademarks in its college football video game. It’s not all that important with respect to the O’Bannon case, but it’s very important in terms of
Share this story

Morning Five: 08.01.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. See that date up there at the top of the post? Yeah, August 1. Also known as the downswing of the summer, and the corresponding slow, gradual ramp-up to the next college basketball season. It’s not yet time to get excited, but it’s definitely worth a nod to the notion of a season getting here sooner rather than later. With that said, how about some super-duper-early preview materials to get the month started? SI.com‘s Andy Glockner gets things going with a look at the new Big East, featuring three new schools and an interesting existential question on whether a basketball-centric conference can survive and even thrive in major college athletics. And in case you missed it from a few days ago, Glockner also did a review of the remnants of that conference — the AAC — with a heavy emphasis on the defending national champions. 
  2. While on the subject of these two non-BCS leagues, Mike DeCourcy examines how a proposed $2,000 “living expenses” stipend that the top football conferences are hoping to add (especially if they pack up for a Divison 4 entity) would impact the likes of these conferences. It’s not an easy question to tackle, nor is it something that the “high-resource” schools populating the Big East and AAC necessarily want to see happen. That said, as DeCourcy notes, there is no realistic scenario where huge basketball schools like Connecticut, Cincinnati or Georgetown would allow regional and national rivals in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 to offer recruitsan additional and legal financial incentive without also doing so on their own. Those schools would simply have to rework their financial sheets to make it happen, which may require some level of creativity among their accountants and senior management, but let’s not pretend that college athletics isn’t awash in money. The issue at most relevant schools is on the expenditures side, not the revenue one.
  3. And what about those revenues? It’s time for your near-daily Ed O’Bannon lawsuit update, and this one is a good one. In a 2-1 appellate decision involving a different case but one that will be instructive to the O’Bannon group’s decision, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled on Wednesday that video game maker EA must face claims against it for the usage of college players’ likenesses. The video game company had argued that it was protected by artistic license under the First Amendment, but the court rejected that argument. EA, of course, was notorious for using college football and basketball player likenesses to the point of absurdity in its video games, yet still claiming player anonymity because the names were removed from their virtual jerseys. It sounds ridiculous, and it is. As the court stated: the video game likeness had the “same height, weight, skin tone, hair color, hairstyle, handedness, home state, play style (pocket passer), visor preference, facial features, and school year” as the defendant (former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller). What does this mean for O’Bannon? SI.com sports law expert Michael McCann believes that it means EA will settle its case with that group, leaving its co-defendants the NCAA and Collegiate Licensing Corporation to twist in the wind for the major payouts. Either way, this is another signal that big change is on the horizon.
  4. Stipends, Division 4, huge-dollar lawsuits… the NCAA is taking hits on all sides right now. Still, the prevailing wisdom is that no matter what transmogrified shape major college athletics eventually assumes, everyone’s beloved NCAA Tournament will not be messed with. The positive cash flow of over $700 million per year to the NCAA (and eventually parsed out to the schools) is just too valuable to destroy — so goes the thinking, at least. But, as Gary Parrish notes in one of his best columns in a long while, the potential of the monied schools choosing the nuclear option is at least worth our consideration. If there’s a dollar to be made, this cabal has proven that they’ll pursue it, time and time again, and often in the face of public sentiment. If, as we’ve also argued in this very space, the big-time schools decide that they can run their own version of March Madness resulting in a larger piece of the pie than they currently receive, then, as Parrish says, “smarter people [have done] dumber things.” We cannot disagree.
  5. In the meantime, America is stuck with the Texases and Ohio States of the world sharing postseason basketball space with the likes of VCU and Gonzaga. Arizona, as a member of the burgeoning Pac-12, is closer to the former group than the latter. And with Sean Miller at the helm, the Wildcats are poised to dominate west coast basketball and stay as a national powerhouse for the next decade or longer. This SBNation.com report from Scott Coleman notes that only two schools have ripped off top 10 recruiting classes in each of the last three years: Kentucky, obviously, but also Miller’s Wildcats. This year’s recruiting class will join a strong returning group from last season to potentially vault Arizona to the top of the Pac-12 standings, and if the reports about Aaron Gordon’s performances over the summer are any indication, he may just find himself standing as the best prospect in the country not named Andrew Wiggins this time next year.
Share this story

The EA-NCAA Split is Small But Telling News

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 19th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The NCAA is scared. No really, it is. Wouldn’t you feel the same way if, say, a massive class-action lawsuit with the potential to utterly shatter the fundamental method by which you govern and profit off college sports was knocking at the door? There’d be some fear in there, I’m fairly certain. That doomsday scenario is exactly the situation the NCAA could face as soon as this summer, when U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken is expected to grant class certification to a group of plaintiffs accusing the NCAA of not only price-fixing amateur athletes’ free-market oriented, competitive economic entitlements, but withholding the millions of dollars in TV and video game revenue schools, conferences and the organization itself reaps in each and every year. A storm is coming, and the NCAA is beginning to feel the heat. That’s probably an understatement. “Preparing for life without amateurism,” the utter silliness and dubious origin and antiquated nature of which is a different column for a different day, is probably closer to what the NCAA is thinking right now.

The end of EA and the NCAA's lucrative video game partnership is only half of the story.

The end of a lucrative video game partnership is only half of the story.

How do I know the NCAA is scared? Because when it does things like disassociate itself from one of the stickiest points of the massive lawsuit holding its head in the proverbial guillotine, you just know. That is, in essence, is what the NCAA did Wednesday night, when it announced it would no longer sponsor EA Sports’ famous NCAA Football video games. The move makes intuitive sense. Ed O’Bannon’s eponymous legal atom bomb began as a suit against the NCAA and EA Sports challenging the uncompensated use of student-athletes’ likenesses in video games. The case has since evolved to include current and former athletes who want a share of not only the revenue generated by video games, but also – as mentioned above – the conference realignment-driving, bank account-defying, laughably-defended TV contracts negotiated with member schools and conferences. The NCAA can’t afford to cut loose with the meatier part of the suit – the massive media rights revenues to be seized and, depending on your idea of what a new college sports world order could look like, distributed (at least in part) to the student-athletes who make those revenues possible in the first place. That part of the suit is in Wilken’s hands. The dispute over the properly compensated use of likenesses is baked in there, too, but the NCAA – up until Wednesday night – could (and did) at least make the prudent move to divorce itself from its longtime video game partner, lose a few dollars in the exchange and emerge fiscally solvent on the back end provided the other finer points of the lawsuit – namely, the class action dagger threatening to puncture amateurism’s aortic valve – fall short of unraveling the organization’s overarching economic model.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 09.21.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 21st, 2010

  1. In documents obtained as a result of a FOIA request by ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil, Tennessee self-reported several NCAA violations including over a hundred illegal phone calls to recruits over a period of two years.  Again with the phone calls?  Bruce Pearl stated at a coaching clinic on Sunday that he hopes that the violations do not “rise to the level of termination,” and it’s true that his number of calls are nowhere near the telephonic orgy promulgated by Kelvin Sampson and friends, but that’s not his biggest problem.  His biggest problem will be how the NCAA chooses to handle the outright lie Pearl hurled into their faces when queried as to a photo taken in his home of recruit Aaron Craft and himself.  We’re not sure how this will turn out, although fundamentally we think Pearl will keep his job; but these coaches need to reach for something other than the damn phone when they get a hankering to reach out to one of their prized recruits — sheesh.
  2. It was a very tough freshman year for Duke sophomore Andre Dawkins, but after leaving high school a year early to matriculate at Duke and subsequently losing his sister to a fatal car accident in early December 2009, you can understand why.  The understated 19-year old who averaged 4.4 PPG in spot minutes in the backcourt faces even more competition for minutes this season with Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry both on board, but somehow we figure he’ll work his way into the rotation in much the same way that he did last year when it counted against Baylor (two threes in the first half to help keep Duke in contact with the Bears).  We certainly wish him the best.
  3. We’re not gamers around here at the RTC headquarters, but sometimes we kinda wish we were.  That is, until we learned that there actually isn’t a college basketball game that you can buy these days, a lamentable situation if ever we’ve heard one.  Seriously — you can purchase a game called Nintendogs where you take care of your virtual puppy along with the rest of the humanoids (23.3M sold), but you can’t buy a single college basketball game even though there were once two offered (EA’s NCAA Basketball & 2kSports’ College Hoops).  How is this possible?
  4. Gary Parrish recently wrote a story about UNC’s Tyler Zeller and his injury proneness (or lack thereof), but the part of the article that really caught our eye was this statement: …Zeller would later tell me as we sat in an empty Dean Smith Center, those six national championship banners hanging above us. While technically true (there are six national championship banners hanging in the Smith Center), it’s also quite misleading.  We’ve harped for years that Helms Titles (ex post facto national titles given by the Helms Foundation to schools prior to the origin of the NCAA Tournament in 1939 — they still awarded titles after 1939, but they’re redundant and virtually ignored after that point) are nice additions to the historical tapestry of college basketball at places like UNC (1924), Penn (1920, 1921) and even Montana State (1929), but they’re in no way legitimate and have absolutely no place hanging as banners alongside hard-earned championship teams like those at UNC in 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005 and 2009.  To do so is simply marketing — an effort to persuade journos and others to repeat more impressively, “six national titles,” instead of the actual five — and we’re surprised to have seen the usually-reliable Parrish fall into that well-placed trap here.
  5. Blue Ribbon has released its preseason top 25 for the 2010-11 season.  There is simply no better print edition yearbook in existence out there, and it’s great to see our friends over at CCT pairing up with B/R — two class acts, there.  We love the Ohio State pick at #3, by the way.  A lot of folks will shy away from the Buckeyes this year without Evan Turner, but with the addition of Jared Sullinger and a ton of talent returning, the Bucks could end up better.
Share this story

Morning Five: 02.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 11th, 2010

  1. EA Sports… is no longer in the game.  At least the basketball part of the game, as the company announced on Wednesday that they would not longer produce their popular NCAA Basketball game.  According to the company, this decision has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit about the use of player likenesses that indicts that exact game.  Nothing at all.
  2. Jarvis Varnado is 26 blocks from tying the all-time NCAA record for blocks (535), and if you can name the player he’ll probably replace in a few weeks, you’re lying.  Seriously, there’s no way you know this.  At any rate, nice story about the player they call “Swat” down in Starkville.
  3. Pac-10 expansion appears to be a real possibility in the near future, and Ray Ratto has an interesting take as to how the reconfiguration of that league will lead to a cannibalism effect that will consolidate even more of the power in the BCS leagues.
  4. An example of Kentucky Wildcat spelling FAIL (look closely at John Wall’s jersey, below).

FAIL.

  1. Here’s an example of someone who was clearly more interested in currying favor with the audience than getting the question right.  Or was she right all along?  Alex should have given her bonus points for that answer.

    Share this story