Column: Spring Training BeginsFebruary 22, 2015

If “Play Ball” is the most pleasant sounding phrase in the English language, these four words aren’t far behind: “Pitchers and catchers report.” Last week, pitchers and catchers reported to the 30 Major League spring training complexes in Florida and Arizona. In the midst of one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record, baseball fans have a welcome diversion. Instead of the consistently dreary and monotonous daily weather reports – more snow and cold on the way - we can now focus on cheery and optimistic reports emanating from the Grapefruit (FL) and Cactus (AZ) Leagues.

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Column: Jeff Gordon Announces RetirementFebruary 16, 2015

NASCAR is losing an icon. Jeff Gordon recently announced that 2015 will be his last season racing fulltime in the Sprint Cup Series. Every driver should utter a “Thank you” to the guy who ushered in stock car racing’s current era. Gordon has spent the past 23 seasons wheeling a stock car around tracks that span the country from east to west and north to south. When Gordon burst onto the scene in 1993 NASCAR was still a mostly southern sport – 13 of its 30 races were held in two states, North Carolina or Virginia. Drivers were mostly grizzled “good ‘ole boys,” descendants of moonshiners who ran illegal whiskey during the week and raced each other for bragging rights and odd change on weekends.

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Column: College Athletes Unrealistic About Playing ProFebruary 9, 2015

“You can do anything you want to do.” How many of us have heard those words spoken by parents, teachers, coaches and peers? But as I tell my students, those words should be taken with a healthy dose of reality. And that admonition is especially true for college athletes. Why? According to data compiled by the NCAA, far too many college athletes in every sport have an unrealistic view of their chances to play pro. Every four years, the NCAA conducts what it calls a GOALS Study (Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations and Learning of Students in college). The detailed study is a survey of student-athletes in a variety of sports - men’s and women’s - across all three divisions. Student-athletes are asked a broad range of questions about their college experiences including their future expectations to play sports professionally.

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Column: A Merciful End to The NFL SeasonFebruary 2, 2015

most popular and financially successful sports league. The popularity of the NFL is both a blessing and a curse. The league has experienced unprecedented financial success - approximately $10 billion a year in revenue, on track to the avowed goal of $25 billion a year within a decade. But there’s more to success than the bottom line on a financial statement. Along with that popularity comes the intense scrutiny of every move, including - and perhaps especially - every oversight and misstep. In that regard, Goodell may have had the most difficult and challenging job in sports during the past year. As the commissioner said during his annual Super Bowl confab with the media, "…it has been a tough year. It has been a tough year for me personally. It's been a year of I would say humility and learning…We obviously, as an organization, have gone through adversity. But more importantly, it's been adversity for me.” Boy was he right.

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Column: Deflategate a Tempest in a TeapotJanuary 25, 2015

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a tempest in a teapot is “a great commotion over an unimportant matter.” So far, that’s the best way to describe Deflategate, which is perhaps the worst word ever created. The whole did-they-or-didn’t-they – Coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady, or another member of the New England Patriots – intentionally let air out of the footballs used during the first half of the Patriots’ thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game has already taken up more time and space than it warrants. And unfortunately, we haven’t seen the end of the soap opera yet.

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Column: NCAA Admits Defeat in Restoring Paterno WinsJanuary 19, 2015

The biggest news emanating from the recently concluded NCAA annual convention wasn’t the new rules enacted by the Big-5 Conferences, which further distances themselves from the realm of amateurism. As significant as that news was, it took a back seat to the agreement by the NCAA to restore 112 wins to the Penn State University (PSU) football team, 111 of them by legendary coach Joe Paterno. Paterno’s record reverts to its legitimate total of 409-136-3 and restores him to his rightful place as the winningest coach in major college football history.

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Column: NCAA Drug TestsJanuary 13, 2015

The short-handed Oregon Ducks lost to Ohio State 42-20 in Monday’s first ever College Football Playoff (CFP) national championship game. Two Oregon players, wide receiver Darren Carrington and running back Ayele Forde, were forced to sit out the game after failing drug tests mandated by the NCAA. Carrington tested positive for marijuana although Forde’s specific violation is unknown. The players were tested prior to the Ducks’ victory over Florida State in the CFP semifinal game the previous week. As with most things involving the NCAA, their role in the drug testing process is controversial.

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Column: College Football Like NFLJanuary 5, 2015

With the first ever Division 1 – Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) – playoff currently underway, perhaps it’s appropriate to ask the question: Is college football now just like the NFL? The answer is… yes and no. No doubt there are similarities between the two. Each strives to maximize revenues but overall the NFL has done a much better job of that than college teams. This year the NFL grossed $10 billion in revenue compared to approximately $3.2 billion by the 120 FBS teams according to the website The Business of College Sports. The figure for colleges is decidedly understated as not all schools report financial data and others don’t include revenue from all sources. Service academies and private schools are not bound by disclosure requirements. In addition, revenue used for college athletics may be intertwined with other University revenue – such as student athletic fees - and some athletic revenue, especially for football, is independent of the University.

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Column: Sports Business Stories to Watch in 2015December 29, 2014

It’s the time of year to trespass into the unknown and predict the biggest sports business stories to watch in 2015. Last year I should have played the lottery, hitting on all six predictions: The continuing saga of concussions in football and all of sports; Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s return to relevancy in NASCAR and what it meant to the sport; the O’Bannon Case; the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia; the continued expansion and cost of sports programming; and the growing backlog of worthy candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame and its impact on the Hall’s business. There’s no way I will be as prescient this year…is there?

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Column: MiLB System Under Attack - AgainDecember 22, 2014

Major League Baseball’s Minor League system is under attack - again. In early December four former Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players filed a lawsuit claiming that MLB is in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act for conspiring to suppress MiLB salaries in a variety of ways. The suit, known as the Miranda case, follows on the heels of the Senne case filed last February. In Senne the Plaintiffs claim that MiLB players are paid less than the minimum wage in violation of the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). MLB countered that MiLB players are seasonal workers; they are apprenticing for a job in MLB; some of the hours devoted to training are for the players’ own benefit; and the players should be classified as interns. If any of those scenarios apply, MLB may be exempt from the provisions of the FLSA.

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