“Outside Influences”

The months of May and June are supposed to be the quietest of the college football season. Spring practices are done, summer conditioning has yet to begin … even the preseason magazines have yet to hit the shelves in the bookstores.

Still, while CU’s football players are enjoying the longest stretch of unsupervised respite they have all season (from the end of finals to the start of summer school in early June), the news of the past few weeks has been significant, and potentially long-lasting.

Let’s take a look at some of the recent headlines, and how they affect your Buffs.

Pac-12 Title game moves to Levi’s Stadium

True enough, there isn’t much reason for the Buff Nation to pay attention to the when’s and where’s of upcoming Pac-12 title games. Colorado, even by the most generous of predictions, is several years away from participating in a Pac-12 championship game.

Nonetheless, the move of the game from the home field of the best team the league to the “neutral site” home of the San Francisco 49ers has some long term repercussions.

First, of course, is the money. Estimates are that each team in the Pac-12 conference could bring home an extra $1 million each year during the three-year run of the contract. With schools having to ante up an approximated $750,000.00 per year for the new unlimited meal plans for athletes, along with the extra $1 million per year it is estimated the new “stipends” will cost each school (more on that later), an extra million from the revenue generated by the move to Santa Clara will be welcome even for teams like Colorado who have no immediate plans to travel to northern California in December for the foreseeable future.

Second, it is only a three year contract. If some of the feared issues arise – 30,000 empty seats for a Washington/Arizona State final; teams with national championship aspirations have fans staying at home, saving their dollars for semi-final and championship games to come – then the league can alter the model in a few years. As Larry Scott put it, having three years in San Francisco after having three years at the home of a division winner will give the Pac-12 some “apples-to-apples” comparisons.

Ed O’Bannon trial starts on June 9th

The federal judge in the Ed O’Bannon v. the NCAA lawsuit recently threw out the NCAA’s last attempts to delay a trial. The case will now be heard by the judge, starting June 9th.

As a refresher, Ed O’Bannon is the lead plaintiff in an anti-trust suit against the NCAA. The lawsuit challenges the organization’s use of images of former players without compensation to those players. At stake are billions of dollars in revenue for the NCAA and its member schools.

This lawsuit, along with the vote by Northwestern players on the right to unionize, and the class action lawsuit filed in New Jersey to allow current players to also receive compensation for use of their likenesses, will take some time – years – to resolve.

But all of the legal maneuvering does have the NCAA’s attention.

Which leads us to ..

Pac-12 Presidents letter to other Power-5 conference presidents

The Pac-12 presidents recently sent a letter to their peers at the other Power-5 conferences, and there are some significant statements which were made. The full report on the letter can be found here.

How important is the letter? Said Larry Scott: “The letter represents a sense of urgency that our presidents have. But maybe more importantly, our desire to be really, really clear about what we want to see happen … And we want to tell the world now what we want to do.”

Some highlights:

– Permit institutions to make scholarship awards up to the full cost of attendance … Translation: stipends. Schools are looking at $2,000 – $3,000 per athlete as the possible model. This is not just for the 85 football players, of course, but all of the student-athletes at an institution. For a school with 400-500 scholarship athletes, it doesn’t take long for this annual cost to get up to or exceed $1 million per year. How schools will pay for this – and how many schools will participate – will have long term repercussions. Would an athlete rather attend CU – and receive a stipend – or CSU, and not receive a stipend? The gap between the have’s and the have nots in college sports could widen considerably in future years.

– Decrease the demands placed on the athlete in-season, correspondingly increase the time available for studies and campus life, by preventing the abuse of organized “voluntary” practices to circumvent the limit of 20 hours per week and more realistically assess the time away from campus and other commitments during the season. Said Pac-12 commission Larry Scott on the issue: “Our folks feel equally strongly about curbing some of the time demands. There’s a sense that things are out of whack.”

– Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the NBA and its Players Association are unable to agree to raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball. Ideally, the NBA will adopt an age limitation, which will all but force players to stay in school for at least two years (and at least give a nod to an education, having to get good enough grades to remain eligible into their sophomore year. As it is right now, a student can go to class for fall semester of their freshman year, and all but ignore the spring semester, giving these one-and-done “student athletes” all of one semester of six credits on their collegiate resume).

Pac-12 presidents sent with the letter a request that their peer institutions respond to the proposed reforms by June 4th. It was reported that the decision by Pac-12 presidents to send the letter was unanimous and the initial feedback from university presidents has been positive. We’ll see.

If some or all of the proposals are adopted, the landscape of college athletics will be changed significantly … and the Pac-12 will have been at the forefront of much of the discussion.

Pac-12 making more money than the SEC and the Big Ten

According to reports, the Pac-12 conference made more money than the Big Ten and even the mighty SEC last year.

The Pac-12 took in $334 in revenue in 2012-13, while the Big Ten had to get by with $318.4 million and the SEC had to make due with a paltry $314.5 million.

But, before the Pac-12 schools can brag too much, there are some realities.

First, the report is for the 2012-13 fiscal year (the most recent available), which includes the first year of the Pac-12 Network. The Pac-12 had the Big Ten Network model to review when the league was putting together its Network, and the Pac-12 improved upon the model. Whereas the Big Ten schools only take in 51% of the revenue for their Network (Fox gets the other 49%), the Pac-12 decided to go it alone. The conference absorbed all of the costs of the network, but also took in all the revenue. As a result, the gross income amount is skewed because it is looking at gross income (the Pac-12 also had $332 million in expenses).

The report also doesn’t take into account that there was no SEC Network in 2012-13. That Network will debut this fall, and the SEC schools will begin taking in even more money than they can possibly figure out how to spend.

But, at least for this spring, the Pac-12 is the king-of-the-hill.

AT&T buys out DirecTV

For Pac-12 fans who have DirecTV, this headline needs no further explanation.

The Pac-12 and DirecTV have been engaged in a war of words since the inception of the Pac-12 Networks, and some 20 million DirecTV subscribers have had to go without the Pac-12 Networks as a result.

Will the buyout mean that AT&T – which does have a deal with the Pac-12 – will allow DirecTV customers access to the Pac-12? And, just as importantly, expand the Pac-12 brand to 20 million new customers?

Too soon to tell.

But at least there is room for optimism, where there was none before. “I was delighted to see (new about the merger),” said Larry Scott. “It can only be good news for the conference. (AT&T) is our most comprehensive partnership … I feel very good about our relationship.”

Parking garage at Folsom Field

The campus administration will soon propose the construction of a 570- to 600-space garage to be located under the new Athletics indoor practice facility near Folsom Field. Administrators will first present the proposal to the Board of Regents’ Capital Construction Subcommittee on June 5th. If approved, it’s expected the full board will vote on the project in late June.

The parking garage proposal is still in its early stages, but would cost between $20 and $25 million, and would be financed through parking revenues, not through the facilities upgrade budget. It will help replace approximately 300 spaces being lost due to construction projects. Coordination of the campus Master Plan with the athletics facilities upgrade project presented an opportunity to reduce costs for a parking facility by building it in combination with a current project.

Good news for Buff fans, and those who have ever tried to find a parking space on campus. The fact that this will benefit the athletic department, but will not be an added cost to the construction budget, is an added bonus.

(Good news, of course, unless you are a member of the Boulder Daily Camera advisory board. You can read their comments on the money being spent up on the hill here. Fair warning: It’s just as frustrating as you might imagine it might be).

And … oh yes … Construction has begun.

If you haven’t already bookmarked “Construction Cam”, please do so. Here is a link to the camera situated at Folsom Field, where Buff fans can chart the progress of the construction going on in the northeast corner of Folsom Field. There is also time-lapse updates, so that you can see all that has taken place so far.

While the northeast corner construction will be going on all summer, and all there is to see right now is de-struction, it’s just great – amazing, really – that it is finally happening.

So, yes, it’s just another quiet spring in college football.

Lawsuits abound, and conferences are discussing issues which will fundamentally change how we view collegiate athletics.

And there is even facilities upgrades taking place in Boulder. Not just talk, mind you, but actual construction.

Hope you are planning on sticking around for what promises to be a busy summer …


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