Tate: Meandering through the sports morass

Tate: Meandering through the sports morass

While Michigan and Ohio State reportedly ran athletic surpluses of $6 million and $4 million in the past school year — even as they spent wildly — Illinois was one of three Big Ten members to wallow in red ink.

Not to worry. Athletic director Josh Whitman related earlier that the deficit — reportedly less than $7 million, if that's accurate — was handled by reserves. No borrowing necessary.

Now, Whitman can go forward with his major coaching buyouts settled, with Big Ten media distributions expected to jump over $50 million, with the Simon Cvijanovic case settled and, surely, no further need for attorneys and search firms.

Knock on wood. Something always seems to happen, but, for now, it's clear sailing ahead.

And don't forget, John Groce's reported buyout of $1.7 million was reduced to $1 million, due to his offsetting salary of $350,000 each of the next two years at Akron.

Somewhere along the way, Illinois smartened on these contractual deals. Bruce Weber received all of his $3.9 million buyout from Illinois, in addition to his salary at Kansas State (where he now receives $1.85 million).

Second-guessing

The thought has occurred, in light of the recent discussions of college hockey here, that the UI might have retrofitted State Farm Center with ice as part of its recent renovation. It seemed logical to the uninitiated that clever architects and engineers could have created the space and the cooling system required for the UI to join Notre Dame in an eight-team Big Ten hockey conference.

Not so, I'm told. College hockey would apparently need an extra plate of ice beyond the spectator area.

Would hockey be popular as a varsity sport? Absolutely. The students would go bonkers. But nobody in these parts took the idea seriously until the NHL and Blackhawks hierarchy stepped up.

Chances are, it'll only happen if a sugar daddy — or daddies — can be found to affix naming rights on a major facility. Penn State got it done with an $88 million donation, later upgraded to $102 million, from alumnus and billionaire hockey fan Terrence Pegula. The Nittany Lion arena — named after Pegula — seats 6,000, and brought in more revenue than men's basketball.

Don't ask how men's hockey would impact Title IX. That's another problem. But it's a sport that would jump to No. 3 on this campus overnight. If you doubt me, check attendance at Notre Dame's opener against Ohio State on Nov. 3.

Just wondering

With the TV landscape changing, perhaps drastically, what will be the trickle-down impact in the coming decades from advertising cutbacks? Weren't the firings at ESPN a warning signal?

When the UI athletic department borrows large amounts (through the university), it's usually for a 30-year span of paybacks.

These mortgage requirements sound easy when the UI's media distribution from the Big Ten amounts to roughly half of the department's income.

But this revenue is coming from Fox, ESPN, the major networks and roughly $10 million from the Big Ten Network, so it's fair to ask: If estimated ESPN viewers dropped from 100 million to 88 million in a single year — and still sinking — won't upcoming contract negotiations be harder to close? Or will the competition between ESPN and Fox cause the dollars to keep flowing?

NBA in the spotlight

The NBA is drastically top-heavy, so my attention lapsed until Golden State and Cleveland met again in the finals.

They say these historic rivalries are "good for the game," but it's unclear how this separation in talent helps the other 28 franchises when the two powerhouses were so dominant that they went 24-1 in the playoffs (before meeting). And how much money did the NBA lose in all those abbreviated four-game series?

While the 2017 outcome followed a movie script — we knew the ending — the immediate offseason has been wildly entertaining. The NBA has stolen the show. From Phil Jackson to draft day, from Jimmy Butler to Stephen Curry, from Paul George to Gordon Hayward, the NBA has hogged the sports headlines. Day after day.

The NFL remains king because all the football games matter. But most NFL players aren't recognizable. Compared to the familiar NBA faces, football is like watching masked wrestlers. In the offseason for both, NBA activity is far more interesting.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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Moonpie wrote on July 15, 2017 at 8:07 am

It's not fair!!! It's not fair!!! Ohio State and Michigan spend "wildly!"

Well, yes, Mr. Ancient Legend Tate, the winning programs spend some money--that's why they win.

As far a  buyouts being over--I wouldn't be too sure on that. The jury's out on Lovie Dovie Savior Man.