Fear and Boring in Las Vegas
Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
I'm still out in Las Vegas for the SBJ Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. This is an important event for my parent company (we'll shoot a lot of interviews for Collegiate Sports Connect while we're out here), a chance to reconnect with important sources in college sports administration and sports business, and a chance to learn.
The timing of the event is a little...unique. Historically, juxtaposed with the National Football Foundation Dinner and awards, this would be a great opportunity for ADs to conduct coaching interviews, since so many coaches and admins were going to be at the same place...away from local media. But the changing recruiting calendar means that most open positions need to be filled by now, so that isn't as much an issue.
Now, between the winter sports season, the transfer portal and myriad other travel obligations, having a massive industry conference in mid-December is tricky timing.
And honestly, that's been my biggest takeaway of the event so far. It feels a bit like we're all sort of hurrying up...to wait.
Sure, all the major conference commissioners and licensing professionals and NIL experts are happy to get up on stage and share their perspectives on major industry questions. And I think just about everybody agrees where the major industry tensions are at the moment, between NIL, media rights, the NCAA Transformation Committee, pending litigation, etc.
What struck me, as well as my colleague and Going For Two host Bryan, is how much of these interviews and statements could mirror what folks were telling us last January, after the NCAA convention. This was not a conference that was heavy on solutions, in my view.
I think a large part of that goes back to timing. The Transformation Committee is slated to give an update to the membership on January 12, where hopefully some measure of clarity will come out. Conference realignment, major department staffing budgets and other priorities are sort of on hold until schools, especially mid-majors, really understand what the new baseline expectations will be for D-I membership.
Massive changes, like potentially spinning the NCAA women's basketball tournament away from the NCAA media deal, almost certainly need to wait until the organization picks a new president, with Mark Emmert stepping down. I'm hearing this could happen before the end of the new year, but some priorities are in a bit of a holding pattern until then.
Will we play College Football Playoff games on campus after the first round? We'll need to wait until 2026. Will the Pac-12 expand? We'll need to wait until their media rights deal is finalized. Will the NCAA finally attempt to meaningfully enforce NIL regulations? Well, the organization was still hoping that Congress would bail them out, but now that Democrats are keeping the Senate, that's even less likely. What is the organization doing to try and advance their legislative causes? Ask the new president. That's...going to have to wait.
You get the idea.
I'm not much of a gambler and am not often in Las Vegas outside of work functions, but the place really does do a number on your sense of time. I don't think I've been outside in like, 40 hours, and if not for the huge window in my hotel room, I'm not even sure I've seen the sky. With no clocks and a maze of a hotel, time sort of bends and warps around until whoops, it is midnight.
Which makes this a fitting venue for these conversations. I don't want to say that the conference was a bust (it wasn't), but boy, so much of the statements and panels reminded me of the same conversations I had over the summer. Or the spring. Or even last winter.
Eventually, the waiting will stop. The NCAA will hire a new president, the committee will release their recommendations, and with their backs against the wall, some decisions will finally be made. In college sports, everything seems impossible until it isn't, after all.
But I reckon we've got a bit more waiting to do until then.
In this week's Going For Two, Bryan and I actually got to record in the same location for once. We share some of the newsy bits we heard about playing Playoff games on campus, and why some leaders are still hesitant, even though the internet is clamoring for more campus games. We talked about the Big East media rights deal, when (or if) individual sports will get peeled off the NCAA media rights deal, what Mark Emmert shared in one of his final addresses, and more.
No video this time, sadly, but you can listen to the show for free wherever you get your podcasts.
Here's what else we published this week:
I spent last weekend in Connecticut, visiting new facilities at Sacred Heart and Fairfield. The two situations are similar in that the campuses are like, seven miles away from each other and both buildings are elite for their campus type, but why they were built, and what each school really hopes to get from the projects, are pretty different.
I also wrote about I'm feeling increasingly conflicted about the confluence of NIL and the Transfer Portal becoming more explicitly about recruiting inducements. I have zero problems with young athletes securing the bag. But I worry this system is replacing one system of exploitation with...another.
I'll have a few video interviews with mid-major conference commissioners, a few final news stories and a 2022 Year in Review coming in the next week or so. You can make sure you get every Extra Points newsletter by subscribing right here:
Thanks for reading, everybody. I fly back to Chicago tonight, and I'll see you in your inboxes next week.
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