Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
Just in case you've missed this somehow, I'm operating a FOIA Directory, completely for free. This directory aims to be a central landing page for all sorts of university financial reports, apparel contracts, coaching contracts, football game contracts, and other potentially interesting information. There are currently hundreds of pages of contracts and budget breakdowns on the directory.
I'm in the process of uploading dozens more future football game contracts, as well as information on how certain universities have used funding from the CARES act and other federal aid programs. There should be new content every day for the next several days.
This is an ambitious effort, and it's made possible with your support. If you have PDFs that you think would be useful for other journalists, researchers, agents, coaches, administrators or the public, feel free to send them along to Matt@ExtraPointsMB.com.
I'm also able to spend time on this effort thanks to your subscriptions.
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The latest episode of Going For Two, our podcast, just published this morning, and you can listen to it wherever you get your podcasts, or right here on this very newsletter.
In this episode, Bryan Fischer and I chatted with Katie Lever, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas, and the author of Tuesday's newsletter, which covered the history of the concept of amateurism. Katie has published multiple times on Extra Points, and I've found her to be a thoughtful voice, even we don't always agree.
But on this podcast episode, we wanted to talk about Katie's experiences before coming to Texas, and before her academic research on the NCAA and college athletics administration. In addition to being a thoughtful scholar, Katie was a D-I college athlete. She ran at Western Kentucky University.
In this interview, we discuss
- Why she ended up at WKU in the first place, and what coaches emphasized in her recruiting process
- How her experiences as a college athlete shaped her interest in the NCAA and college reform, generally
- What sort of time commitments are really required to be a college athlete, even one for a lower-profile sport at a Conference USA program.
- The mental health challenges that may come from competing in college, and how even well-meaning athletic department efforts to promote mental health might fall short.
- Where she thinks the next battleground in college athletics reform will be, once the dust settles a bit on NIL
Bryan and I also talk for a bit about international soccer, the USMNT's thrilling victory over Mexico, why I'm a lousy excuse for a Brazilian, and what international soccer can tell us about amateurism and the current collegiate model. Whatever that is.
Two other interesting stories I've read recently:
Larry Scott still believes the Pac-12 is due for a huge rights increase in their next TV deal. Do leading industry analysts agree? Should the Pac-12 try to lock down a deal as soon as possible, or wait until the end of their contract length? The Mercury News caught up with several of them, and I think the entire story is worth your click.
A quick executive summary? The analysts quoted appear to be skeptical that Amazon or another FANG company will be a major player for Pac-12 rights (and for what it's worth, I agree), they agree that Pac-12 Tier 1 rights are valuable, and there certainly isn't a consensus that the conference should shut down the Pac-12 network.
I personally don't think the big question is whether the Pac-12 will see a substantial increase in their Tier 1 rights values. I'd be shocked if they didn't, although that might mean the conference has to work with an entity outside of ESPN or Fox. The bigger questions are 1) will any valuation gain be dwarfed by the Big Ten and Big 12 and 2) are conference leaders prepared to win, even in an era where the financial gaps continue to grow?
Speaking of the Pac-12...
The LA Times wonders if the United States is due for an Olympic decline
It's no secret that the current college sports system is a major talent development tool for Olympic sports. Well-funded swimming, track and other programs give athletes the training, development and resources they need to compete at an international caliber level. As the LA Times notes here, that's a very different approach from most other countries:
Countries such as China, Russia and Germany follow a different method, identifying a relatively small number of prospects at an early age and funneling them into specialized training academies.
The U.S. relies instead on its broad network of colleges to serve as a kind of minor leagues. Casting a wide net, this system has a history of identifying and developing talent such as sprinter Carl Lewis and volleyball great Misty May-Treanor. It has given late bloomers such as Johnson, with his awkward, upright style, a few more years to mature.
As a result, the American team can choose from thousands of candidates to restock its roster every four years.
But that pipeline is now in danger of slowing to a trickle, in large part because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its financial impact, with scores of universities cutting costs by downsizing their athletic departments.
I'm actually working on a newsletter on a similar topic for Thursday, where I reached out to several experts to get a better idea if Olympic sports at the D-I level were less likely to be cut in the future, thanks to lawsuit threats, increased fundraising, and improved COVID-related financial projections. Full Extra Points subscribers will get that story in their inbox.
I don't think that a robust, broad-based college athletic system is an absolute requirement for every US Olympic team to be successful. After all, many top tennis players and gymnasts did not compete in college, and it's hard to argue the US men's basketball team is dominant because of college basketball. But in many other sports, that pipeline appears crucial.
I'm not sure if I'm ready to sound the alarm bells yet, at least not for the next Olympics or two, but if Olympic preparedness is a key issue for United States policymakers, they can't let collegiate Olympic sports programs get dropped wholesale in the support of football, without taking steps to offer replacement systems.
There are alternatives to the status quo. But if the US government isn't interested in setting up sort of Department of Sport, or funding more training academies outside the scope of universities, then somebody will need to provide the tools and incentives to supplement the current system.
Today's newsletter is sponsored by the Athletic Giving Handbook
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