Other Sports






  1. Alabama has been selected as the fourth and final seed in the College Football Playoff over Big Ten champion Ohio State. According to ESPN, the Crimson Tide will now face top-seeded Clemson in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, a semifinal rematch of last year’s national championship game. On the other side of the playoff, Big 12 title winner Oklahoma will play Georgia, crowned SEC champions after topping Auburn, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The championship game will be played in Atlanta at brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium – the site that just hosted the SEC Championship. If they advance past Oklahoma in the semifinal, Georgia would be playing an in-state game in front of what is likely to be a home environment with the national title on the line. Ohio State came in at fifth in the rankings, followed by Big 10 runner-up Wisconsin at sixth. Once again, the CFP slotting comes with a side dish of huge national intrigue and debate – catnip to the CFP Selection Committee, broadcast partners, and host cities.


  1. The SEC concluded conference championship weekend with the highest attendance number, outpacing the other Power 5 conferences. According to the Washington Post, 76,534 people were in attendance to see Georgia defeat Auburn 28-7 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, just edging out the 74,372 fans that packed Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina for the ACC Championship between Clemson and Miami. The Big 10 finished in a far third with 65,886 onlookers at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, still more than a thousand more than the 64,104 fans that witnessed Oklahoma’s 41-17 victory over TCU at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Apart from attendance, conference championship games drew great TV ratings across the board. “CBS and FOX were big winners,” as CBS led the way with an 8.4 overnight rating for the SEC Championship, “marking the game’s best figure since the Auburn-Missouri shootout in 2013 drew an 8.7 overnight.” FOX turned out an 8.0 rating for the Big 10 title game, “marking the second-best figure on record since it started in 2011.” It’s officially bowling season – look for my comprehensive breakdown of the numbers behind all of college football’s bowls next week.

  2. The NFL has reached an unprecedented agreement with its players to partner on a plan that will address social justice issues considered important to American communities. According to ESPN.com, the league has agreed to contribute $89 million over the next seven years on select projects dealing with “criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education.” Eagles’ safety Malcolm Jenkins and former wide receiver Anquan Boldin led the Players Coalition in negotiations with the league office. This agreement comes as the “NFL’s largest contribution to a social issue” to date, surpassing its efforts with Salute to Service and Breast Cancer Awareness/Crucial Catch. The new agreement was slightly tainted after news came out of players leaving the coalition due to dissatisfaction with how Jenkins and Boldin had handled the negotiations to date. A source close to the issue noted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “was furious when it was reported that players were breaking off.” A good move by the league on many levels – let’s see how the players respond, or not, during pregame ceremonies in the coming weeks.

  3. Detroit, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Sacramento have been announced as the four finalists to land an MLS expansion team this coming year. According to the Detroit News, two of the four cities will be selected in 2017 to receive a team, while the two unsuccessful finalists will rejoin eight other cities in competing for the 2018 expansion bids. Detroit’s bid presents an interesting twist since the city’s proposal calls for a team to play at Ford Field, home of the NFL Lions, instead of in a soccer-specific stadium. In the other three cities, financing for soccer-specific stadiums has either been approved or is still pending official approval. Despite the lack of a soccer stadium, Detroit’s bid satisfies other criteria that could ultimately make the difference in helping it win. MLS officials have said that they are "seeking owners with comparatively more money than some of the earlier and current owners, as well as experience owning sports franchises." Detroit’s bid is “spearheaded” by Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert and Pistons Owner Tom Gores, and also includes Lions Owner Martha Firestone Ford. Gilbert, Gores, and Ford have also been powerful forces behind downtown Detriot’s gradual renaissance. An MLS franchise would only bolster this effort.

  4. As the holiday season unfolds, Dallas Mavericks point guard Seth Curry continues to partner with online education leader EVERFI on an important local Venture. In September, the 27 year-old Curry, son of NBA alum Dell Curry and younger brother of Golden State Warriors star Stephen, through his foundation launched Venture, EVERFI’s entrepreneurship program, in middle schools throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Curry has taken an active role in engaging and encouraging students "to think entrepreneurially about business and life." The program’s digital course uses case studies, interactive business simulations, and personal development activities to teach important basic business skills. Not only will the students be taught how to think entrepreneurially, they will develop their own personal business plans along with a roadmap for academic and career success. Together, the partners hope to reach hundreds of students in the first year of this initiative. Kudos to Curry, and EVERFI, for challenging kids to dream big about their business futures – the vast majority of which won’t involve multimillion dollar NBA and/or shoe deals.

  5. The NBA is preparing for a trip to Mexico this week, with the Brooklyn Nets set to play the Oklahoma City Thunder there on December 7 and the Miami Heat two days later. According to SportsBusiness Journal, despite the league’s continual push to expand its international presence, playing games across the border mid-season is “tough” due to travel considerations. “We’ve spent so much time on preventing four games out of five nights completely, dramatically limiting the number of back-to-backs,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “If they travel internationally, they need rest when they get there and they need rest when they get back, because we know there’s a correlation between fatigue and injury.” Historically, London and Mexico City have been two popular destinations for hosting regular season NBA games, with other preseason matchups being played in countries as far as China. One of the focal points this offseason was making a schedule to protect players from overbearing travel, so it’s hard to see how this reality matches up to that mindset.

  6. The NFL Experience Times Square opened Thursday, with Pro Football HOFer Michael Strahan, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Giants WR Brandon Marshall ushering through the first groups. NFL Experience President Daniel Boockvar described the 40,000-square-foot, four-floor space to SportsBusiness Journal as a cross between the Pro Football HOF, Disneyland, and Dave & Busters. Admissions fees are $39-$44, with no discounts for children. The space expects to draw 1 million visitors in its first year, which translates to admissions revenue of at least $39 million. The centerpiece of the Experience is an immersive, 180-seat theater that shows a 10-minute NFL Films-produced movie. The 2,000-square-foot, fourth-floor concession and gift shop can morph into an event space, which is already booked for future events. The Experience is a joint venture between the NFL and Cirque du Soleil; AEG and the NFLPA are also partners. The NFL expects that the Times Square location, league-wide promotion, plus the interactive football skills elements, will make the Experience a must-see for NFL fans visiting the Big Apple.

  7. Organizers of the Miami Open tennis tournament have agreed a deal to relocate the event to Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. The agreement, which still requires approval from Miami-Dade County commissioners this week, will see the event moved from its traditional home in Key Biscayne to the recently renovated, 65,000-seat NFL stadium in 2019. Showpiece matches at the tournament, a top-level event on both the men’s and women’s tennis tours, will be held inside Hard Rock Stadium, with other matches taking place on adjacent grounds. The Miami Open has been held in Key Biscayne, near downtown Miami, since 1987. The event’s future had been in doubt since its promoters, International Players Championship, a subsidiary of IMG, had a request to upgrade the site rejected by an appeals court in 2015. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had indicated that he would be interested in developing a new $53 million tennis complex at the Hard Rock Stadium site in order to keep the event in South Florida. Interesting move by Miami Open leadership. Part of the tournament's attraction was the island ambiance of Key Biscayne, which will be hard to match at Hard Rock. 


  1. With the groups for the 2018 World Cup in Russia officially set after the draw at The Kremlin, the countdown to kickoff has officially begun. With that, FIFA Commercial Director Philippe Le Floc’h “insisted the 2018 World Cup will make its income target despite major nations like the U.S. and Italy failing to qualify.” According to the AP, FIFA has an ambitious income target of $5.66 billion for the 2015-2018 sales period. The success of sponsorships deals has varied across regions, with the North American market stalling. FIFA has been tasked with finding four North American sponsors in a new, “and stalled,” regional sales program. Despite FIFA’s confidence in hitting its marker, others outside of the international soccer governing body are not so optimistic. The backdrop to 2018 World Cup sales “has included uncertainty over FIFA’s exposure to prosecution, falling oil prices, sanctions imposed on Russian businessmen, and issues with the next host in line, Qatar.” All of these uncomfortable hurdles make it all the more likely relatively scandal-free (at least for the moment) North America will land hosting rights to the 2026 tournament.


  1. English top-tier soccer side Manchester City is set to put pen to paper on a deal with Germany sportswear brand Puma to replace Nike as their official kit supplier, according to UK media. The Daily Mail has reported that the agreement is worth as much as $67 million per year – a significant increase on the club’s current deal – and will begin in the 2019-20 season. Nike agreed a six-year kit partnership with Manchester City in 2013 worth $109 million, but the American sportswear company’s existing partnership is due to come to an end at the close of the 2017-18 season. The agreement would be the largest commercial deal in the Blues’ portfolio. Puma is the official kit supplier of fellow Premier League side Arsenal, who agreed a five-year deal with the German sports apparel company in 2013 worth $40 million per year. Manchester City is currently at the top of the Premier League in 2017-18, eight points clear of home rivals Manchester United and unbeaten in their opening 13 games. While the deal won’t directly affect World Cup matchups, you can bet that Puma has World Cup marketing opportunities in its sights.


  1. Responding to their increasing global popularity and demand, La Liga President Javier Tebas confirmed that the top-flight Spanish soccer league is looking into the possibility of hosting a match outside of Spain. As reported by Reuters, heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid played an exhibition match against each other in Miami this past July, which was considered a success. The league is currently reviewing options to host one or two of its 380 matches outside of Spain. If pulled off, this would mark the first time that the league has done so. “We are thinking about it,” said Tebas. “The first match abroad would probably be in the United States.” Over the past few summers, some of Europe’s best teams have embarked on tours throughout the U.S. as part of the International Champions Cup, but those were merely exhibitions that infrequently showcased each team’s top players. La Liga is evaluating a two-year target to host a league match abroad. American sports leagues have been the trailblazers in in-season international play. It’s only a matter of time before other international leagues follow.


  1. San Diego State recently unveiled plans for a mixed-use stadium in Mission Valley where the Chargers used to play. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the university is hoping to purchase the 166-acre, city-owned cite at fair market value and develop the land. Included in the plans are a 35,000-seat stadium for SDSU football games, “two hotels, 4,500 housing units for students, faculty and the public, retail space, office buildings to share with SDSU departments and researchers, and about 90 acres of parkland, plazas and walkways.” The stadium would also be designed to accommodate a pro soccer team, since San Diego is in the mix to land an MLS expansion team in the future, while remaining expandable if an NFL team ever returns to San Diego. SDSU students will not be expected to contribute to the funding of the project by way of increased student fees, nor will the university tap into state funds. External consultants value the project at $3 billion, and it would also likely ensure that the Holiday Bowl remains in San Diego after a 39 year run so far.


  1. Telemundo is preparing for its first go-round as the holder of the Spanish-language media rights for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Telemundo has already built a studio on Moscow’s Red Square for all of its pregame, halftime, and postgame shows. The network is also planning on broadcasting some of its World Cup programming from FIFA’s international broadcast center in Moscow and more from its new $250 million headquarters outside Miami. The NBCU-owned network does not expect its viewership numbers to take a hit with the absence of the USMNT, instead focusing on culture and the tournament’s international appeal to keep its ratings up. The main Telemundo broadcast network “will air 56 of the tournament’s 64 games, with the eight others on cable channel Universo.” NBC Olympics President of Production & Programming and Telemundo World Cup Executive Producer Jim Bell said that there will be “well over 500 hours' of live programming.” While the sidelining of the USMNT is not a disaster for Telemundo, it could well be for FOX, which holds U.S. broadcast rights to the tourney after a winning $200 million bid.


  1. “The Game” is moving to Fenway Park next season. According to the Boston Globe, the annual matchup between Harvard and Yale will be leaving the traditional campus sites in exchange for one of the country’s most historic venues. Boston-based Harvard will serve as the home team when the two sides square off for the 135th time. The Harvard-Yale matchup sells out at both schools’ respective campus venues on an annual basis, with attendance for the 2016 matchup listed at 31,662. The Harvard Athletics Department confirmed that the two schools have not played each other at a location other than Harvard Stadium or the Yale Bowl since 1912, so this comes as a significant change in the rivalry. “Fenway is a super fan experience, and I know our student-athletes will be very excited about playing our biggest rival at a sold-out Fenway Park,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. Even though it’s not a Power Five conference matchup, this iconic rivalry definitely deserves an iconic venue, and the bigger capacity for fans that comes with it.


  1. While they might not get as much attention as the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB – the “big four” in America – non-major sports leagues are quietly finding success in the shadows. According to SportsBusiness Journal, owners from teams in the NLL, MLL, and WNBA recently highlighted their individual successes at SBJ/SBD’s inaugural Dealmakers in Sports conference. The NLL recently added two new expansion teams in San Diego and Philadelphia, while New England Black Wolves Co-Owner Mike French noted that a new MLL franchise could cost between $3-5 million. “There’s a lot of markets, a lot of upside, and a lot of potential,” said French. Seattle Storm Co-Owner Ginny Gilder spoke at the conference about the expansion fee for landing a WNBA team in the current business landscape, noting that the league would probably charge a new owner between $8-10 million. These storylines might not be top headlines above those from the Big Four, but teams in non-major leagues are slowing starting to establish themselves more firmly.


Power of Sports 5


  1. New series “Versus” highlights how girls stick together on and off the field. “It really was like being on a team,” actor Maddie McCormick told GOOD. “I’ve been very lucky that I left with some really amazing friendships. I think it was surprising to me, at least as someone who hadn’t played sports, how picking up something like this could be so rewarding. It was more rewarding than I ever thought it would be.” The series is being produced in partnership with Gatorade and launched in tandem with Gatorade’s new campaign, “Sisters in Sweat,” featuring tennis star and new mom Serena Williams, which aims to shed light on the growing problem of girls dropping out of sports. In the moving clip shared on social media earlier this week, Williams is talking to a baby and also to all girls around the world, encouraging them to stay in the game and celebrate the lessons learned beyond sports. “Sports will teach you the strength of your allies, whether your bond is by blood or by ball,” Williams says in the ad. “Whether she shares the color of your skin or the color of your jersey. You’ll find your sisters in sweat.”

  2. The Raptors remade their mind-set, not their roster. It’s working. Masai Ujiri, president of the Toronto Raptors, had seen enough high-powered offenses to recognize that the NBA had turned into the Autobahn. Problem was, his players were still chugging along in a Studebaker. But that was all about to change. The Raptors would finally embrace ball movement and the art of spacing. They would rid themselves of their propensity for one-on-one play, which had constipated their half-court sets. They would launch 3-pointers and run the floor while cleansing themselves of their fanatical devotion to midrange jumpers. And the Raptors would do it with essentially the same roster that had been gassing up the Studebaker. “You have to adapt,” Ujiri said in a recent interview. Toronto is the site of the NBA’s boldest experiment this season. Without shuffling any of their core personnel, the Raptors have sought to reinvent themselves by adopting a free-flowing offense that emphasizes passing, cutting, and 3-point shooting. It might not sound like a novel approach — by now, nearly all of the league’s top teams live by these principles — but the Raptors had been one of the few holdouts. After a string of postseason disappointments, it was time to try something new. It was time to join the modern NBA.

  3. A training camp arms female broadcasters for the world of sports. Fueled by her personal experiences of sexism and ageism in the industry, Laura Okmin saw where she could use her own journey to help others. Since founding Galvanize in 2012, Okmin has built a community of young women eager to make their mark in the sports world. Growing up in Chicago, where everyone is arguably a sports fan, Okmin never saw her love of sports as gendered. She received her journalism degree from the University of Kansas and began working her way up the ranks as a sports reporter in Montgomery, Alabama. Eventually, she landed with FOX Sports, where she has served as a sideline reporter, anchor, and host. As one of the few women in sports journalism at the time, Okmin admitted to feeling as though it was her versus the other women. Then, her boss sat her down and said, “I don’t compare you to the other women sports broadcasters or other men sports broadcasters. You’re terrific on your own.” This conversation transformed how she would move forward in her career. “I don’t want to be considered good for a woman. I just want to be good,” she says.

  4. One MLS player created a transformational website that could save athletes from going broke. Amobi Okugo is an eight-year MLS veteran, and in many ways is the best example of the larger majority of professional athletes around the globe; a steady rank-and-file player who doesn’t consume the spotlight. While he isn’t a superstar, Okugo’s position makes his website all the more powerful. As he says on the site’s welcome page, “My goal is to share insight from athletes on all levels financially and increase financial literacy amongst the audience.” A Frugal Athlete might best be called The Players Tribune for athletes to give advice on wealth management. Where stars may garner enough career salary to retire comfortably, for most, the end of their professional sports career means not having enough to sustain them through the rest of their lives. When sports ends, a second career has to emerge. “I got the idea shortly after watching ESPN’s 30 for 30, ‘Broke,’” said Okugo. “Between that and reading a few articles highlighting athletes who had lost much of their career earnings, I began looking for other athletes that were smart with their money.”

  5. LeBron James and Morgan Spurlock team on “I Promise School” documentary. Morgan Spurlock’s Warrior Poets and LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment are partnering on a documentary series that chronicles James’ launch of a public school for at-risk children in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The series, which will begin shooting soon in Akron, will explore the challenges, triumphs, and impact of the LeBron James Family Foundation’s efforts to open the “I Promise School,” as well as the first-year trials of working within a local public school system aimed at children who are fighting uphill battles every day. The series will also highlight the educators, mentors, and community partners committed to establishing a new approach to education from an early stage. “Being able to create this school to specifically meet the needs of these kids and their families means everything to me,” James said. “There are so many kids and families struggling, and we want this school to be a safe, positive place that helps them stay on the right track to earning their educations. Having Spring Hill Entertainment and an amazing filmmaker like Morgan Spurlock here to document this process is huge.”


Five Top Tech


  1. Look inside the Golden State Warriors' $60 million jersey patch deal with Japanese electronic commerce giant Rakuten. When the NBA's Board of Governors approved the sale of jersey sponsorships in the form of 2.5-inch-by-2.5-inch patches in April 2016, many in the sports world wondered how the move to placing corporate names on uniforms would play out. The WNBA had moved to add sponsors to jerseys in 2009, but this would mark the first time that one of the four major North American leagues had engaged in a sponsor logo (outside the official uniform manufacturers). Each of the 30 clubs would be responsible for inking its own deal, creating unique processes and alignments for each market and brand. “Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement, with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams, and the additional investment will help grow the game in exciting new ways,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the time. “We’re always thinking about innovative ways the NBA can remain competitive in a global marketplace, and we are excited to see the results of this three-year trial.”

  2. Stanford is using Facebook Watch to promote Bryce Love for the Heisman Trophy. Stanford has sent many players to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. In the last eight years, they’ve all come up just short. There was Toby Gerhart in 2009, Andrew Luck in 2010 and 2011, and Christian McCaffrey in 2015; all three finished second in the voting. Gerhart and McCaffrey finished behind Alabama running backs Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry, respectively. Luck lost to scintillating quarterbacks in Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III. Now, Stanford has another player in the Heisman conversation — Bryce Love, who trails only Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield in the latest iteration of ESPN’s Heisman Watch. And Stanford is trying something new, as the Cardinal took to Facebook’s Watch platform to promote the star running back with a new episodic series called “Heisman Love.”

  3. GumGum helps New Orleans Pelicans, Saints sponsors see value. While watching highlights of Anthony Davis, a viewer will see some big blocks, rim-rattling dunks, and heads-up passing. GumGum Sports sees something else: the ads. GumGum Sports sees those ads and calculates a Media Value Percentage (MVP) based on amount of time on screen and clarity of view, among other metrics. Last week, the company announced a partnership with the Pelicans and Saints to help them better quantify the value of in-venue advertisements. “This helps our partners feel confident that they are maximizing their sponsorship dollars and better understand what they are getting in return for their investment,” Mike Stanfield, Saints/Pelicans Senior Vice President of Sales, wrote. GumGum Sports is a division of GumGum Computer Vision and is less than a year old. “It’s tremendous, they want brand sponsors to know they are on the cutting edge of technology,” said Ryan Mosher, GumGum Executive Director of Sponsorship Solutions. “If a team or rights holder is not adapting, they are already behind the eight ball.”

  4. Mercedes-Benz Stadium scores a first with LEED Platinum certification. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home to the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United, has achieved LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Platinum certification, making it the first professional sports stadium in North America to do so. The two-million-square-foot stadium, which opened in August, features unique sustainable solutions for water, lighting, and overall energy conservation. “We set out to build a venue that would not only exceed expectations, but also push the limits of what was possible in terms of stadium design, fan experience and sustainability,” Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United owner and chairman, said in a statement. “We set a goal of achieving the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment. With this achievement, we have a powerful new platform to showcase to the industry and to our fans that building sustainably and responsibly is possible for a venue of any type, size and scale.”

  5. Boston Celtics, GE Foundation launch STEM lab for middle schoolers. The Boston Celtics and GE Foundation are joining forces to launch a new “Brilliant Career Play” mobile STEM Lab focused on enhancing access to STEM experiences and training for Massachusetts public middle school students of diverse backgrounds. The overall goal is to get them more familiar with the field, allowing them to be better prepared for innovative jobs in the future. The mobile lab, which is scheduled to travel to nine different middle schools throughout the state, was launched with the help of Celtics player Aron Baynes. It features tools the students need to become more familiar with STEM careers. “We’re incredibly proud to team up with GE Foundation to develop such an advanced mobile laboratory that will greatly impact many middle school students throughout the Boston area,” Celtics president Rich Gotham said in a statement. “We’ve partnered with GE to make sure we’re as technologically advanced as we can be on the basketball court, and hope initiatives like this can help inspire the next generation of innovators.”




  1. In March Madness’ biggest upset ever, 16-seed University of Maryland-Baltimore County shocked the nation in its lopsided 74-54 win over No. 1 Virginia. UMBC became the first 16-seed to beat a No. 1. In other Cinderella stories, 11th-seeded Loyola upset third-seeded Tennessee 63-62 Saturday night and on Sunday, seventh-seeded Texas A&M stunned No. 2 North Carolina, the tournament's reigning champ. While UMBC lost to Kansas State in Sunday’s Round of 32, UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski was "thrilled about the attention the school is receiving from around the country." Hrabowski told the Baltimore Sun, "People began to Google us and to see the academic achievements… from a potential employer like Amazon to other university presidents to elected officials." UMBC's official athletics Twitter account "had about 5,400 followers" before Friday's game against UVA and now is up to over 92,000. Meanwhile, because a 16-seed knocked off a 1-seed, Little Caesars is offering a free lunch combo to all comers on Monday, April 2, National Championship day. During March Madness, apparently there is such a thing as a free lunch.

  2. If your bracket is busted, you’re in good company. The 21st ESPN Men’s Tournament Challenge collected 17.3 million completed brackets, the second-most ever behind only last year’s explosion of 18.8 million, which surpassed the previous mark set in 2016 by nearly 6 million, according to the network. At the peak period of entries shortly before the start of Thursday’s first round games, fans registered 33,472 brackets per minute. ESPN also set new all-time records for fan sign-ups and completed brackets on a tip-off Thursday. On Wednesday, ESPN set a new all-time record for completed Tournament Challenge brackets in a single day, with more than 5 million. At the end of ESPN’s Tournament Challenge Marathon on Tuesday, ESPN had collected more than 8.2 million brackets, as well as two of the top six sign-up days in the 21-year history of the game. While the network had not announced how many of those eight million brackets were busted as of late Sunday night, with massive upsets over the weekend including Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Michigan State, you can bet it is the majority.


  1. The Pac-12 task force has revealed its recommendations to reshape college basketball, most notably stating that the NCAA should end its one-and-done rule. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the task force was created in the wake of the ongoing FBI scandal that has shaken up college basketball this season. The task force stated that changes should be made to the recruiting process and championed the adoption of college baseball rules, where players either turn pro right out of high school or commit to staying in college for at least three years. These recommendations will only be implemented with the support of the NBA and the NBAPA, but NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has supported the need for change in wake of the scandal. One of the biggest current problems with the notion of paying players is AAU basketball and its impact on recruiting. The task force “recommends to start making recruits, and their families, aware of the rules early in high school” while removing the AAU system entirely. Dispensing with the AAU system also includes the side benefit of giving the shoe companies that fund the tournaments a lot less sway over basketball and its players.


  1. University administrators are beginning to voice their opinions on the current state of college basketball and the NCAA. According to SportsBusiness Journal, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, NCAA President Mark Emmert, and Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir joined NCAA.com’s Andy Katz for an interview regarding the ongoing FBI scandal that has ripped through college basketball. “To hear this type of thing going on in the game itself gives us pause and concern, and we want to, hopefully, eradicate it as quickly as possible,” said Muir after hearing news of the FBI’s involvement. Emmert’s comments were more directed toward player marketing and how student-athletes can make a name for themselves: “If you’re a college basketball player with professional aspirations, whether it’s in basketball or just whatever your profession is going to be, I can’t think of a better marketing device than playing in the NCAA tournament.” The panel agreed unanimously that it would be “pure chaos” if players were allowed to sign individual endorsement deals. With so much support at the top levels of the NCAA and the NBA it is clear – major changes are likely coming to college basketball during the off season.

  2. Tiger Woods is once again showing his value to the PGA Tour and its partners. NBC drew a 5.1 overnight rating for the final round of the Valspar Championship, which saw Woods finish one shot behind winner Paul Casey. That number is up 183% from a 1.8 rating for the final round last year, and marks the best overnight rating for any regular PGA Tour event or major, excluding the Masters, since the 2015 PGA Championship. The 200 brands that aligned themselves with the Valspar telecasts generated 1.3 billion TV impressions in U.S. households – nearly 1 billion more than the 275 brands that advertised during the 2017 event on NBC and Golf Channel, according to data from iSpot.tv. Meanwhile, ticket sales for this weekend’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, in which Woods competed for the first time since 2013, "were up" more than 50% from 2017 according to the Orlando Sentinel. Woods tied for fifth place, eight shots behind winner Rory McIlroy; tournament COO Marci Doyle said was likely "the largest event in the 53-year-history of our tournament." With Tiger ascendant and McIlroy netting his first PGA Tour win since 2016, the countdown to The Masters officially begins.

  3. Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ new deal with the Minnesota Vikings has the potential to revolutionize the way NFL teams negotiate player contracts. According to the Washington Times, the three-year, $84 million deal is fully guaranteed, marking a huge break from the traditional way executives have negotiated contracts with players over the years. Normally, “teams routinely pull the plug early on players and contracts deemed cost-ineffective,” which will not be the case for Cousins in Minnesota. News of the deal sent shockwaves through the league, with many players commenting on the change. “Now we need more players to bet on themselves until fully guaranteed contracts are the norm and not the exception,” tweeted Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin. Critics of the deal say that guaranteeing contracts will “diminish” the game, meaning that players will not have the same incentive to earn their paychecks as they do now.


  1. With the Dallas Cowboys set to host the NFL Draft in April, plans for events at AT&T Stadium have been announced by the team. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the draft will be held from April 26-28 in the NFL Draft Theater, which will be built on the stadium’s field. More than 250,000 fans have already registered for a chance to win free seated tickets inside the space at AT&T Stadium. Last year’s NFL Draft weekend in Philadelphia was considered a massive success, and also marked the first Draft to be held outdoors, but the 250,000 registered fans “represents a 50% increase over last year” at this point. A State Fair-like setting is expected to be set up to complement the Draft itself, with the Cowboys offering “a cornucopia of attractions outside of the stadium that they hope will keep fans occupied throughout the three days.” While “everything is bigger in Texas,” the 2018 Draft also continues the NFL’s ever-growing ambitions to make the sport a year-round appointment event and provide entertainment to everyone in the family.


  1. MLB has created a new two-day FoodFest in New York that will feature food items from all 30 major league ballparks. The first-ever MLB FoodFest will be held April 21-22 near New York’s Bryant Park, with each club selecting one concession item to represent the franchise. The event will also feature interactive exhibits and art celebrating baseball’s ties to popular concession items such as hot dogs, and incorporate MLB sponsors Nathan’s and Coca-Cola. Among the more notable club items featured will be the D-backs’ churro dog -- a churro inside of a donut topped with frozen yogurt, chocolate sauce, caramel and whipped cream -- the Astros’ chicken waffle cone that features popcorn chicken and mashed potatoes inside of a waffle cone, and the Royals’ brisket nachos. Tickets will be priced at $25 for food only, providing samples of all 30 club items, and $40 for food and beer. Development of the MLB FoodFest was led by the league’s internal marketing and social team with logistical assistance from New York-based agency MKG. The FoodFest sold out in just two days, and is already proving so popular that MLB is taking names for a waiting list for future locations.

  2. Acting USOC CEO Susanna Lyons told the IOC that three American cities are interested in hosting the 2030 Winter Olympics. According to SportsBusiness Daily, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Reno/Tahoe, respectively are the three parties that have expressed a desire to be included in talks going forward. While none of the cities was noted to have an interest in hosting the 2026 Winter Games, which has a bid deadline of March 31, the IOC is considering awarding both the 2026 and 2030 Olympics simultaneously – similar to what the international governing body did this past Fall when it awarded the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics to Paris and Los Angeles at the same time. The Salt Lake City bid group did note that the city could be ready in 2026 “if called upon,” but 2030 remains the preferred cycle to host. Meanwhile, the Utah bid leaders “don’t believe Colorado can produce top-flight Olympic facilities for anywhere close to the cost of what Salt Lake City can provide.” Another factor in Salt Lake’s bid may be the recent relocation of Mitt Romney to the state – Romney served as the savior CEO of the 2002 Games held there.


  1. Former NFL COO Tod Leiweke is expected to join the Oak View Group in Seattle as a top executive to help bring an NHL expansion franchise to the Pacific Northwest. According to the Seattle Times, KeyArena is currently being renovated by OVG in Seattle with the hope of landing both an NHL and NBA team in the coming years, though neither has been announced by the respective leagues. An NHL team would likely begin play in October 2020, but a decision is not expected on that until a league Board of Governors meeting in June. Leiweke served as CEO of the Seattle Seahawks from 2003-2010, “doubling their season-ticket base” and advancing them to their first-ever Super Bowl following the 2005 season, so he has prior success in the region with professional sports teams. As noted by a city sportswriter, “He is quite simply the most successful sports executive Seattle has ever known.” If anyone can successfully bring at least one of these pro sports back to Seattle it’s the brothers Leiweke – Tod and his brother and OVG founder Tim, long the AEG CEO.


  1. The Canadian government has officially announced its support for the joint North American World Cup bid for 2026. According to the Toronto Sun, the bid from the United States, Mexico, and Canada faces opposition only from Morocco, yet the North African country’s bid is “making a late charge” to win the elusive bid. Canada’s official support is a last push to “coax the FIFA Congress away from selecting Morocco.” “It’s good for our athletes, it’s good for our communities, our economy, our reputation as an international sport leader,” said Canadian Minister of Sport Kristy Duncan. The competitor’s bid proposes a more compact tournament, with stadiums and venues within driving distance from each other, as opposed to the North American bid that would require flying between almost all potential host cities. The Moroccan bid is also being viewed as more favorable for viewership in the European market due to the time zones it encompasses – the European region clearly drives the majority of TV revenue for FIFA.     


  1. In the wake of some of the NBA’s biggest stars acknowledging personal struggles with mental health, the NBA and NBAPA have decided to create an independent mental wellness program. According to NBA.com, the two entities are on the precipice of naming a Director of Mental Health & Wellness, a new role that will be jointly funded by the league and the union. Most recently, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love have publicly stated that they were dealing with mental health issues while playing this season, prompting the league to take official steps to help. The new program, which is the result of almost a “year of discussions” between the two sides, “will allow players to seek treatment and counseling outside of the framework of their individual teams.” The mental outreach program will extend beyond the NBA, as it will also be part of the Junior NBA World Championships in Orlando in August. Player health and safety is a key tenet of all pro sports leagues, including mental health. It’s great to see the NBA and its players association take this important step.


  1. MLS and Liga MX have officially announced the first stage of a strategic partnership between the two North American soccer leagues. According to Pro Soccer USA, MLS and Liga MX clubs will begin competing in the Campeones Cup, the first competition solely between U.S. and Mexican soccer clubs since SuperLiga ended following the 2010 season. “The Campeones Cup is only the first step,” said Liga MX President Enrique Bonilla. “It’s a big step, as [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] said it’s going to be the Super Bowl of soccer in North America…We’re going to work with minor, we’re going to work with best practices …and we’re sure we’re going to have better football for great fans we have in the U.S. and in Mexico and in Canada.” The new partnership also has the aim of going beyond the sport, with hopes that the cup between the two nations will help ease any cultural divides that have arisen in the current political climate. Once again the healing power of sport should prevail, both on the pitch of the Campeones Cup matches and outside of it.


  1. As MLS continues to grow in size and popularity across North America, some of the league’s longstanding clubs have started to lag behind. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, MLS Commissioner Don Garber is not worried about the viability of Philadelphia as an MLS city going forward, despite lagging attendance numbers over the past years. “It’s a huge market,” said Garber. “It’s an influential market. We continue to have great faith in the club, its ownership and the market.” Since 2010, the Union’s attendance has declined steadily year over year, going from an average of 19,254 in 2010 to only 16,812 in 2017. As part of the club’s Talen Energy Stadium lease, “if after 10 years the team’s attendance is in the bottom 25% of MLS, the team can pay the county $10 million and leave the venue.” The team has insisted that this will not happen, but the club is running out of time to turn around its downward attendance trend. The team’s success in attracting fans now further impacts the city’s bottom line – expect to see the Philly government lending a subtle marketing hand.


  1. The 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer will not be attended by the British royal family or any government ministers from the United Kingdom. According to ESPN.com, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the absence in wake of the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal. Moscow has refused to explain how the domestically-made nerve agent was used on a former Russian spy and his daughter, prompting U.K. politicians to directly address the country and its leadership. If Russian involvement in the poisoning is in fact proven, “it will be very difficult to imagine that U.K. representation at the World Cup will go ahead in the normal way…” The England national team remains a lock for this summer’s tournament, but should tensions escalate between the two countries, it will remain to be seen if further boycott action is taken by the British. This marks the latest example of how politics have had a direct influence on sport, as seen last month with North Korea’s positive inclusion at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea.



Tech Top 5

  1. Turner and Intel deliver March Madness in virtual reality. Through the NCAA March Madness Live VR, Turner Sports this year is selling live virtual reality access to games throughout the NCAA tournament for $2.99 a pop. The app, which was developed in partnership with CBS Sports and the NCAA and built on Intel’s True VR technology, is offering VR games from the first and second rounds as well as the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship – 21 games in all. When accessing the games through the VR system, users can either pick a camera angle to watch a game or opt for “fully produced” coverage that involves multiple cameras and sounds from the arena. During the first and second rounds, audio included game commentary from the telecasts across TBS, CBS, TNT, and truTV. In addition to the VR games, the NCAA March Madness Live VR provides interactive bracket updates, full length game replays, highlights, and video-on-demand. Turner’s offering this year expands on the initial multiyear deal it signed last year with Intel, CBS, and the NCAA.

  2. Arlington to build America’s largest esports stadium. Arlington already has the largest local monopoly on professional sports with Globe Life Park, AT&T Stadium, and the University of Texas at Arlington's Maverick Stadium. Arlington officials last week announced a plan to build the largest esports complex in America, a $10 million, 100,000-square-foot facility called Esports Stadium Arlington that would transform the Arlington Convention Center into a space dedicated to housing competitive gaming bouts. "Being on the forefront of new ideas and setting trends is in our DNA and part of who we are as the American Dream City," Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said in a statement. "Esports Stadium Arlington will further cement our city's status as a national and international tourist destination." The project will be a joint venture of the city, sports architecture firm Populous, and Esports Venues LLC. The entertainment marketing firm NGAGE Esports will manage the new facility once construction is complete. Esports Venues will have a 10-year lease, with a 10-year renewal option, with the city. The city plans to recoup the money it will spend through lease payments, event revenues, and naming rights.

  3. Kevin Durant adds Suzy to tech portfolio. Kevin Durant is increasing his portfolio of tech investments beyond sports and health. In November, The Durant Firm invested in promoting startup Suzy as half of a bigger $5 million funding spherical for Suzy’s parent firm, Crowdtap, led by enterprise capital agency The Foundry Group. Suzy CEO Matt Britton informed The New York Enterprise Journal that the addition of Durant and associate Wealthy Kleiman is part of the company’s efforts to hunt likeminded companions and buyers who provide “a differentiated perspective on the enterprise panorama.” Crowdtap was previously within the enterprise of influencer advertising. At SXSW, the company shifted its focus by rebranding to Suzy. Now, as an alternative to selling its relationship with creators, it is specializing in synthetic intelligence that lets manufacturers construct surveys that may gain tens of millions of shoppers in seconds. Earlier this year, The Durant Firm invested in Yoshi, an app that delivers on-demand fuel and oil modifications for parked automobiles. Durant’s investments come as more Warriors players use their proximity to Silicon Valley to position themselves as tech influencers.

  4. Warriors partner with SyncThink to monitor concussions. The Warriors became the first pro sports team to work with Palo Alto-based SyncThink, producers of a virtual reality headset that uses eye-tracking technology. The SyncThink headset provides real time objective data on how a subject’s brain is functioning. The Warriors and SyncThink will use that data to determine if any of their players have concussion symptoms. Unlike the NFL, NBA teams do not monitor concussions on a near daily basis. But a handful of NBA players have suffered concussions in recent years, including Warriors guard Klay Thompson in the 2015 NBA playoffs. In 2011, the NBA passed a concussion protocol that required players to pass a series of tests symptom-free before returning to the court, including stationary bike, light jogging, running, jumping and agility drills, team drills with limited contact, and returning to the court without limitations. “We have a lot of really great return-to-play protocols and I think the NBA has done a terrific job in being overly safe,” Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said.

  5. New Jersey will implement replay for high school football. New Jersey high school football will experiment with voluntary video replay review in the 2018 season, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Wednesday. Officials will be able to access replays using Hudl Sideline, an application that syncs live game film across devices, such as tablets or smartphones used by players and coaches, to review game tape and potentially reverse calls made on the field. Coaches frequently use the replay software to gain a competitive advantage during games. Replays are available on devices about four seconds after the whistle, quick enough to run a no-huddle offense and still see instant replays. NFL and college teams can use tablets to view still photographs but not live video. Previously, teams printed out photos for in-game scouting. State football officials will determine the policies to govern the review process by the end of the month, said Jack Dubois, the state’s associate athletic director.

Power of Sports 5


  1. Rickie Fowler wears Arnold Palmer tribute shoes. Although he didn’t pull off a win there this year, Rickie Fowler honored the life and legacy of Arnold Palmer at Bay Hill by wearing specially-designed PUMA AP Ignite Hi-Tops and a limited edition Arnie’s Army hat during play. Fowler has always been a huge fan of Palmer, and last year during the API he raised over $25,000 for charity. This year, Rickie is trying out something similar with shoes and hat with Palmer’s famous umbrella logo. "I feel privileged to have known Arnie and be able to call him a friend," Fowler said. "I wanted to do something to celebrate what he did on the course, and more importantly, how he used his platform to benefit others through his Foundation!" The shoes were created for Puma Golf by Dominic Chambrone, known as "The Shoe Surgeon." Puma is also giving one lucky golfer the chance to own the same shoes Fowler has in his possession. Currently up for auction on eBay, the second pair of Palmer-inspired spikes come signed by Fowler, with all proceeds from the auction going to support the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation.

  2. Former MLB manager Tony La Russa hosts “Dinner of Champions” in Phoenix. Founded in 1993 after he saved a stray cat during a game at the Oakland Coliseum, La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) works to keep pets out of harm’s way in public pounds. The organization has also partnered with veterans and people with traumatic brain injuries to come together with service-related issues to create a happy and healthy lifestyle. “We have a great cause, and in this case, it’s bringing our dogs together with veterans who have PTSD,” La Russa said. Steak 44 in Phoenix hosted the gathering, and among the athletes in attendance were Hall of Famers Jim Thome, George Brett, and Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks. A’s relief pitcher Liam Hendriks was also present, and he felt particularly strong about the cause at hand. Hendriks has six pets: three teacup Chihuahuas and three cats, including his “newest acquisition,” a displaced cat from Hurricane Irma. With roots in the Bay Area with the Athletics, La Russa underwrote a 37,700 square foot ARF shelter in Walnut Creek in 2003, and Hendriks has helped him with local events in recent years.

  3. Oklahoma City Thunder help fight hunger. Last week, the entire Oklahoma City Thunder organization spent the afternoon at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma packing meals for the second annual Thunder Day of Service. The full roster from the Thunder and Blue, as well as staff members, packed meals, packaged dry goods, and filled boxes with food to go to Oklahomans facing food insecurity. In total, the Thunder organization packaged 12,144 pounds of food, which will feed approximately 10,120 Oklahomans. The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, a member of the Feeding America network of Food Banks, is the largest hunger-relief charity in the state, providing enough food to feed more than 136,000 hungry Oklahomans every week, 37% of whom are children. In 2017, the Regional Food Bank distributed 52 million pounds of food through a network of 1,300 community-based partner agencies, charitable feeding programs, and schools throughout 53 central and western Oklahoma counties.

  4. MLB stars bartend for charity. Billy Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Dee Gordon were among ballplayers slinging drinks at the eighth annual Celebrity Bartender Night in Scottsdale to benefit Amyloidosis Support Groups and Cruz's Boomstick23 Foundation. They gathered to support Erica Brooks, whose firm Issues Concerning Athletes finds temporary housing for many Major Leaguers who spend February and March in Arizona, and whose father passed away from the rare disease amyloidosis. "It means a lot to me, it means a lot to Erica and her family," said Hamilton, who has been attending since at least 2014. Amyloidosis is an incurable disease in which an abnormal protein builds up in a person's organs. "I do housing for them, but this is where I get rewarded," Brooks said. Cruz added additional weight to this year's event by involving his Boomstick 23 Foundation, which focuses on youth sports and education. "Where we're coming from, we know the importance of giving back," said Cruz. "I learned it from my dad. Any cause that I can help, especially stuff like this, I'm glad to do it."

  5. Former NFL players help nonprofit. On April 7, members of the NFL Alumni group will host a clay shooting fundraiser for Champions for Champions. The Champions for Champions nonprofit offers activities for children and adults with special needs. Former Miami Dolphins Running Back Don Nottingham, Super Bowl VIII Champion in 1973, partnered with local resident Marisa Rodriguez, who has battled the effects of cerebral palsy and epilepsy. “Some people said I would never walk on my own, but I proved them wrong,” said Rodriguez. She has overcome the need to use a walker or a cane, which she had used from age 3 until her early teens. Rodriguez was one of several members of Champions for Champions of Ocala who gathered, along with Nottingham, for the group’s most recent Friday “Dance Like a Champion” session. The nonprofit Champions for Champions aims to “actively enhance the quality of life” for adults and children with “intellectual, physical or developmental disability,” such as autism and Downs syndrome, according to the group’s commitment statement. Champions for Champions formed in 2016 and now includes about 40 members and their families.

U.S. men's hockey pulls out win after entering 3rd period tied

U.S. men's hockey pulls out win after entering 3rd period tied

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Ryan Donato scored two power-play goals and Troy Terry dominated with his speed as college players led the United States to an important 2-1 victory over Slovakia on Friday at the Olympics.

Donato, who plays for his father Ted at Harvard, delivered the kind of offense USA Hockey wanted when it picked four NCAA players for its no-NHL Olympic roster. Donato, Terry and American Hockey League scoring star Chris Bourque were all additions to the U.S. after the pre-Olympic Deutschland Cup in November, during which the U.S. struggled to score, particularly against Slovakia goaltender Jan Laco.

Laco was on top of his game, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced. Only this time, the Americans' young skill that coach Tony Granato hoped would bring energy and spark the team came through.

Goalie Ryan Zapolski made 21 saves for his first Olympic victory, which is crucial considering only the top four of 12 teams avoid the qualification round Monday. With the regulation win, the U.S. vaults to the top of Group B with four points. Slovakia was second with three, followed by Slovenia and Russia.

The U.S. faces Russia in each team's final preliminary-round game Saturday night.

The Americans didn't have a shot on net until six-plus minutes into the game when defenseman Noah Welch finally got the puck to Laco.

All it took to get the U.S. offense going was a Slovakia penalty that gave Terry and Donato some room to operate. Terry sped through the offensive zone and took two Slovakia defenders with him, dropping the puck to a wide-open Donato for his first power-play goal of the game to put the U.S. up 1-0 at 7:10.

Just 25 seconds later, Andrej Kudrna scored on a tip of a Tomas Surovy shot that slipped under Zapolski's right arm for a tying goal the 31-year-old goalie probably wants back.

Bobby Butler had a semi-breakaway late in the first and Laco got his blocker on it. A couple of second-period power plays yielded offensive-zone time but not a goal, and a borderline goalie interference penalty on Boston University's Jordan Greenway made penalty killers work hard to keep it tied.

After a too many men on the ice call on Slovakia, Bourque, another son of a former NHL player, fed Donato, who spun around in front and went five-hole on Laco to score the game-winning goal with 17:09 left.