Slow Train Coming
Back in the days before the Big Ten Network, ticket sales and donations were the primary source of income for athletic departments. Television money wasn't insignificant, but it was a few million dollars in a much larger budget. In the last decade, television revenues have become so important that the Big Ten added one of the nation's worst athletic programs just to get the television sets that came along with it. If expectations are accurate, fully vested Big Ten athletic programs will be hauling in upward of $45 million per year, about eight times what they were making ten years earlier.
Frankly, it's becoming increasingly difficult for athletic departments to find things to spend the money on, what with the ongoing amateurism requirements. At Iowa, there is debt service to pay on facility upgrades undertaken in recent years, but as that debt is paid, there will be piles of money just sitting around. The same holds true at other Big Ten schools. Whatever shall we do?
Enter Purdue president (and former Indiana governor) Mitch Daniels, who laid out an interesting proposition in a letter to the Purdue community: Give it to the schools.
It is highly likely that the next few years will bring us markedly increased athletic revenues, regardless of the winning percentage of our men's football and basketball teams. Our Big Ten Conference, led by the extraordinarily skillful commissioner who created the Big Ten Network, is in the process of renewing the conference's national television contracts at much higher rights fees.
If the new contracts eventuate as expected, I will speak in favor of a conference-wide approach that commits a meaningful share of incremental media dollars to the academic missions of our universities. There is great opportunity here, for Purdue and the other Big Ten members, and maybe also to make a statement of value to the rest of American higher ed and to our fellow devotees of excellence in college sports.
Hammer & Rails is borderline apoplectic about this, but their concern arises less from Purdue falling behind than Purdue already being behind. The Boilermakers have the confrence's second-smallest athletics budget and have cut back on non-revenue sports to below even Iowa.
The true case study for this could well be Iowa. It has been effectively admitted by Bruce Rastetter that new president Bruce Herrald was hired by a Board of Regents hell-bent on cutting the UI's dependence on state funding and looking for alternate revenue streams. And if you're looking for outside funding, athletics and UIHC are the obvious sources. Throw in the Regents' and Herrald's ties to Daniels -- the official story from the Regents is that they contacted Daniels for suggestions, and that he recommended Herrald for the job -- and it's not hard to see where subsequent increases in athletic dollars could be heading.
Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine
Five years after the events that led to it, former Iowa defensive back Willie Lowe's case against the University of Iowa for damages related to rhabdomyolysis settled last week for $15,000. Trial in the matter had been set to begin on January 26, and a pretrial conference was to be held the day after the case settled. A quick look at the online docket reveals that there wasn't much in the way of filings in the case, though Lowe had moved to exclude the University's expert witnesses and move the trial to a later date.
Lowe's case -- and the fairly paltry settlement that ended it -- highlights one of the less-examined parts of the Northwestern Union debate from two years ago. If Lowe had been an employee and injured on the job, he would be entitled to workers' compensation to reimburse his damages. As it stands, Lowe had health care during the immediate aftermath of the rhabdo outbreak, but the standard sources of damages in litigation -- medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity -- were likely eliminated or severely limited by his status. That would leave past and future pain and suffering, which (barring any long-term medical issues as a result of rhabdo) aren't much. It's probably a crappy result, but it's the result of 'amateurism' more than anything else.
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
After playing the last three months of the season with a lingering groin injury that coaches said wouldn't heal with rest alone, C.J. Beathard is apparently going to avoid offseason surgery.
"[Beathard] was a little bit limited that way. I think all of us are excited to see what he can do when he's fully healthy. Hopefully, we'll get there and stay there. I know we're going to get there, but the key is staying there."
On the subject of surgery for Beathard, Ferentz is hopeful he won't need it.
"Hoping not," he said. "Medicine isn't black and white, but we're hoping that's not the case."
It's believed that Beathard could miss most or all of spring practice while healing up, but hey, no groin surgery is a good day for everyone. James Daniels and Josh Jackson weren't so lucky:
Surgeries for James Daniels and Josh Jackson. Others up in the air. (CJB surgery not anticipated.)— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) January 7, 2016
Daniels will be expected to replace Austin Blythe at center once he returns, regardless of what happens in spring (but there is another Ferentz kid to play at center, potentially, so who knows).
Iowa women's hoops got rolled 76-56 by Maryland Sunday, ending a 25-game home winning streak. Iowa fell behind early and committed 16 turnovers. It wasn't pretty.
Kirk Ferentz was named Reddit's College Football Coach of the Year, which was presented by the Belk Bowl's Twitter account. When reached for comment, Ferentz said "What the fuck is a Reddit? Or a Belk Bowl?"
Former Iowa teammates Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni played against each other in Germany last week. Olaseni got a picture with Micah White and her proud new parents after the game (and is apparently Micah's godfather).
Drew Tate signed a new contract with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. He's been there for the last seven seasons, and is an off-and-on starter. The CFL is a bit weird with quarterbacks: They don't usually start until five years into their pro careers, and the good ones routinely play into their late 30s, so Tate could still have a long career ahead of him.
It's early, but the introduction of the 30-second shot clock has dramatically increased scoring in conference play, when the pace of play typically slows down. There's something else going on, too: The traditional slow-down operations (Virginia, Wisconsin, Syracuse, Notre Dame) are struggling in conference play. The legacy of Bo Ryan -- reducing college basketball to a turnover-free, low-possession slog -- might have been broken before he'd left.
The Stanford band's cow-tipping performance has led the Rose Bowl to review its policies regarding band performances. Honestly, if you were seriously offended by the Stanford band, you either haven't watched the Stanford band or take marching band way, way too seriously.
Maybe it was just that Alabama is really good this year, or maybe it's that the days of Michigan State's dominant defense are over. I'm going with the former until I know that Sparty is truly dead, though.