Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.
Going to try something a little different with the format for today's newsletter. Let's get right to it.
Bryan Fischer and I just released the latest episode of Going For Two, the official podcast of Extra Points.
Right after the Pac-12 announced the hire of George Kliavkoff , I riffed a bit on some of the big questions his administration will have to answer. With the benefit of a few days to really think about everything, and ask around the industry, Bryan and I try to unpack not just what this hire means, and the biggest issues the Pac-12 will need to answer, but why you, yes you, ought to care.
Specifically, we discuss
- So is the Pac-12 gonna move to Vegas, or what? And does that actually matter?
- How did the Overton Window with sports gambling change so much, so dang fast?
- What's the significance of "know that football butters your bread", and does a focus on football growth have to mean tradeoffs in Olympic sports coverage and proposals?
- On the importance of being a Pac-12 Nationalist, and why there's promising signs of that already
- Who the heck is gonna buy these TV rights?
You can download this episode, and all episodes of Going For Two, completely free, wherever you get your podcasts. My data shows that most of y'all still listen via Apple Podcasts, and you can access the show's Apple Podcast page right here. Every positive review and share helps!
If you listened to the show, you may have heard me mention Morning Brew. There's a reason Morning Brew is one the most popular newsletters, period, on the whole dang internet. It's a great way to get caught up on the latest news in business and tech, fast, and absolutely free. Plus, it's written in a way that actually makes you WANT to read it! I'm a liberal arts major, not a STEM high financier, and sometimes find financial news intimidating. Morning Brew is as accessible as it gets.
You can join, for free, by clicking right here. Note: This is an advertisement, and if you do subscribe, Extra Points does get a small commission
I've generally been critical when D-I athletic departments cut sports, especially when they claim they need to do so in order to save money. For many institutions, Olympic sports programs may not sell a lot of tickets, but they bring in tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition revenue, mitigating potential savings from coaching salaries. If you're broke, axing the swim team is a bit like trying to remove the splinter in your eye, while ignoring the giant beam.
But two big budget institutions dropped programs last year, and made it clear that they weren't doing this for purely financial reasons. Clemson dropped their men's track team, and Stanford dropped 11 programs, including teams like wrestling and volleyball, where they have been competitive at a national level.
Back in November, I wrote that I understood the rationale behind Clemson's decision, even if I didn't necessarily agree with it. Clemson doesn't need a track team to recruit new students, since their enrollment is growing year over year by itself. The track team wasn't especially well supported (the scholarships weren't even endowed, something many G5 track programs can pull off), and the booster, fan and university community, even if they didn't explicitly put it this way...is really really really committed to football. Without Big Ten TV money or Big Ten alumni money, if Clemson wants to spend Big Ten money on football, well, it has to come from somewhere.
That's not the decision I would have made, but I get it. But in that initial newsletter, I neglected a very important consideration.
Even if Clemson doesn't want to sponsor a broad-based athletic department like a UNC or Virginia, they still have to comply with the law.
Sportico, led here by former Extra Pointer Daniel Libit, showed that well, not everybody felt that Clemson was actually doing that.
On April 22, five months after Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich announced their shuttering, Clemson agreed to reinstate the men’s track and field and cross country teams under pressure from not just 23 male runners, who threatened to file a lawsuit, but also a group of female athletes, who likewise threatened the ACC school with their own lawsuit. The move to eliminate the programs had also prompted a race discrimination complaint late last year with the Department of Education.
Neither the men nor the women ever actually filed suit. Instead, their respective attorneys sent demand letters to Clemson listing Title IX grievances. In the course of settlement negotiations with the school, the athletes’ attorneys put forth a number of potential arguments of disproportionate treatment they were ready to make at trial, which included raising questions about expensive new vehicles that some track athletes said they had witnessed Clemson football players driving around campus
What worked in the Clemson athletes’ favor was the fact that men’s and women’s track teams often share not only facilities but coaches—something that is not the case with most other sports. This was the predicate of the female track athletes’ potential claim: The elimination of the men’s teams would lead to a reduction of the coaching staff and, therefore, harm them under Title IX.
The rub here is that both the men's and women's teams lawyered up and pressured Clemson to relent. The university faced potential exposure here on a number of different fronts, from claims of Title IX non-compliance, to race discrimination (ending the track program would disproportionately impact athletes of color at Clemson), to a potentially embarrassing and public investigation of improper benefits afforded to football players.
Do I care if Clemson football players are driving expensive cars, cars that perhaps they did not come into possession of through complete adherence to the sacred principles of amateurism? Lol. Of course not.
But I do think this case, as well as Stanford's, speak to how athlete solidarity, or at least, solidarity between certain men's and women's teams, can make the legal push to restore dropped sports much more effective. Without the aggressive and consistent support of female track athletes at Clemson, this story might have had a different ending.
Stanford is claiming that they're restoring the dropped sports thanks to improved fundraising, but it seems pretty hard to believe that the two lawsuits filed last week didn't have anything to do with the decision.
At the end of the day, you can appeal to a school's higher mission. You can try to improve fundraising. But if you really want to force a school to reconsider the decision to drop a sport, it seems like securing legal representation is a good first step, followed by building a coalition of other athletes.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again. The only truly undefeated force in college athletics is billable hours.
Most of y'all know I live in Chicago. I've lived in the Windy City, on and off, for about seven years now. My wife is from here, I bought a house here, and I hope to stay here for a long time.
But I'm not FROM here. I'm from Ohio. Which means that I didn't grow up rooting for Chicago's sports teams. In fact, if I'm being honest, I rooted against many of them. I'm a Cavs fan. I hated Michael Jordan.
One newsletter I've enjoyed that helps me get better up to speed on what's happening in my new hometown is Kevin Kaduk's Midway Minute. It's well organized, well written, and keeps me plugged in to the biggest Chicago stories, from the Bears to the Red Stars.
If you care about Chicago sports, I think you'll really enjoy Midway Minute as well. And this isn't a paid ad or anything. I'm sharing this because Kevin is a friend, and I really do think his product is a good one.
Finally, you know what IS an ad? This!
I sell advertising space on Extra Points, and in the Going For Two Podcast. If you want to reach an audience of thousands of educated, engaged college sports fans and thought-leaders, at an affordable price, head over here, and ads like this one could be yours. I've got something for every budget.
Finally, while ads really do help, FAR AND AWAY the number one thing that pays the bills around here are subscriptions. If you want to get every Extra Points newsletter, please subscribe, which you can do right here.
Recently, our paid subscribers got to see
- The angry emails BYU fans sent to Iowa AD Gary Barta over their College Football Playoff rankings, giving us a nickname that still makes me laugh, 'Gary Farta.' You're welcome for that one, Iowa State fans.
- A closer look at the biggest questions the Pac-12 needs to answer over the next year
- A look at how EA Sports decides how much money to give schools for participating in future video game projects
- How low and mid-major athletic departments are raising money by creating their own beers
and more! It's worth the money, in my humble opinion.
Later this week! A conversation with multiple ADs about the challenges, and opportunities, that come from working in a market that is exploding in population...and a conversation with Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman about what constitutes a well-run tournament, and how organizations can plan them for the future.
Thanks for reading. Questions, comments, story ideas, FOIA requests, Invitations to play NBA2K and more can be sent to Matt@ExtraPointsMB.com, or to @MattBrownEP on Twitter dot com.
Note: A previous edition of this newsletter incorrectly stated that Clemson cut their men's soccer team, not their men's track team. I had Brazilian soccer highlights playing in another Youtube tab. I regret the stupid error.