Saturday, January 31, 2009



By Evan Weiner

February 1, 2009

12:30 AM EST

(New York, N. Y.) -- No matter what happens in Super Bowl XLIII, Card-Pitt will finally win a game. Card-Pitt? Isn’t that what covers a floor? A carpet covers a floor, but in 1944, the National Football League (the NFL of 1944 was a rag tag collection of family run franchises that operated less than six months a year and the only thing the NFL of 1944 has in common with the NFL of 2009 is the initials, NFL), the NFL did have a team called Card-Pitt because of World War II. There just weren’t enough players to fill NFL rosters in 1943 and 1944. The Cleveland Rams suspended operations in 1943 and the Philadelphia Eagles merged operations with the Pittsburgh Steelers to form the “Steagles” although the NFL refers to the team officially as Phil-Pitt. The Chicago Cardinals played in 1943 despite not having many qualified players.

The NFL decided to play in 1943 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a statement that the American and National Leagues in baseball should continue playing because the country needed entertainment. FDR did not mention anything about football, but the NFL owners decided to follow baseball’s league. The NFL was missing hundreds of players.

“The Steagles, which was a great name, they had a very good team,” said present day Steelers owner Dan Rooney. “They started to win, the had a quarterback named (Roy) Zimmerman who was really good and they won the first number of games. They won like half the season and really were in first place and then they got a lot of injuries and in those days you could not replace them. Then the Cardinals the next year, that was a disaster, we had four coaches, none of whom was named the head coach.

“So it is the old story, who is the head coach. They were 0-10. But the reason for it (the two merged teams in 1943 and 1944) was the war and not only was it difficult because guys were gone, but where you could have a good team was where there was a military operation and in both Chicago and Philadelphia, they had a lot of navy people because of being on water, that was the reason they were able to get the players and that is the reason we combined with them.”

Philadelphia had enough players in 1944 after the U. S. Army felt it had enough men and decided not to draft men over the age of 26. The NFL was scheduled to have 11 teams in 1944 with the return of the Cleveland Rams and the addition of the expansion Boston Yanks. NFL Commissioner Elmer Layden did not want 11 teams because of scheduling problems and asked Art Rooney and Bert Bell if they would merge the Steelers with someone either the returning Rams or the Brooklyn Tigers. Rooney eventually teamed up with Charles Bidwill’s Chicago Cardinals.

Ironically both teams in Super Bowl XLIII are still owned by the families involved in the 1944 merger with Dan Rooney in charge of the Steelers and Bill Bidwill signing the checks for the Arizona Cardinals.

Arguably the 1944 Card-Pitt team was the worst team ever to play in the NFL. The returning Rams eked out a 30-28 victory in the opening game of the season. It was the closest the merged team came to a win.

The previous season, the “Steagles” finished at 5-4-1. It was a better atmosphere according to Rooney.

“Yeah they all had fun,” said Rooney, who was 11 years old and hanging around the “Steagles” in 1943. “It was one of those things, it was a tough time. We had a receiver by the name of Tony Bova who was 4-F because he couldn’t see but he was our leading receiver.”

The Rooney-Bidwill partnership was dissolved the day after the 1944 season ended. The Chicago Cardinals did not win a football game in either 1943 or 1944 and has a 29 game losing streak between 1942 and 1945.

Germany and Adolph Hitler fell by May 1945 and that allowed more men to be freed up and play football although the Boston Yanks and the Brooklyn Tigers combined forces for the season.

“Actually in 1945, it looked like things were ending so we all split and went on our own. We did start to get players like Bill Dudley who was one of our great players. He came back in the middle of the season and played the end of the season,” said Rooney.

By 1947, Pittsburgh had a good football team and finished in a tie for the top spot in the Eastern Division with the Eagles both finished at 8-4. The Eagles defeated the Steelers in a tie-breaking playoff game. Ironically enough, the Chicago Cardinals beat the Eagles to win the 1947 NFL Championship. It would be the last hurrahs for both the Rooney and Bidwill families for decades. During the 1950s, the Bidwill family started looking for a new home city and played games in Buffalo and Minneapolis. The team moved to St. Louis in 1960 with the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) chipping in to buy a Comiskey Park football grandstand and moving it with the franchise to St. Louis.

It was a great investment for CBS because it finally could broadcast Chicago Bears road games into the Windy City as virtually every one of the Bears and Cardinals home-road games overlapped and the NFL’s blackout policy did not allow a home team to broadcast a game within 75 miles of its stadium. With the Bidwill family’s team in St. Louis, CBS in Chicago could show six Bears games. Pittsburgh would not win a Super Bowl until 1975. Bill Bidwill’s Cardinals moved to Tempe, Arizona in 1988.

Pittsburgh and Chicago-St. Louis-Phoenix/Arizona have played a lot of football against one another throughout NFL history but never played in a “big game.” Whatever Card-Pitt fans remain from 1944 and there were only about 70,000 people who should up at the five “home” games at Comiskey Park in Chicago and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh can’t lose. Card-Pitt is going to win Super Bowl XLIII.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Should Sports Leagues Bailout Newspapers Sports Sections?

Should Sports Leagues Bailout Newspapers Sports Sections?

By Evan Weiner

12:00 PM

January 30, 2009

(New York, NY) – A few weeks ago, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested that perhaps it was time for sports leagues like the National Basketball Association and sports teams to serious think about forming what he called a “beatwriter co-operative.” Cuban laid out a premise that “pro sports, every single league from the NFL to NBA to MLB to MLS to NHL need newspapers” because local coverage of teams on the Internet is not as extensive as it would be in a hometown newspaper.

Newspapers in the United States, Spain and France to name three countries are becoming an endangered species. The New York Times is in major financial trouble. The Chicago Tribune newspapers, which include the flagship Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun among others is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U. S. The Minneapolis Tribune is suffering the same financial fate. The Rocky Mountain News is still in business in the Denver, Colorado area but it may join the New York Sun and the Cincinnati Post as recent additions to newspaper heaven. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is on death row and will be put to bed permanently in less than two months unless a buyer emerges. The Tucson Citizen will give up the fight in March. The Baltimore Examiner will vanish in two weeks.

Gannett is ordering workers to take a one-week leave without pay. In Spain, the Metro newspapers have been put out of business. In France, the government is giving 18-year-olds a free newspaper subscription to whatever paper that 18-year-old wants in an effort to get young people interested in reading a newspaper and the country plans to double France’s advertising commitment to county newspapers.

America’s radio and TV industry are also in awful financial shape. Even the World Wide Sports Leader, ESPN, is lopping off workers.

There are numerous reasons for the state of the media industry in the U. S.. Radio was severely hampered by the 1996 Tele Communications Act which allowed companies like Clear Channel and Infinity to became behemoths and own hundreds and thousands of radio stations and the industry consolidated as by 2005 there were six major media companies controlling radio. The model proved unworkable. Clear Channel wants to exit the industry and Infinity would like to follow.

There is too much TV product now with hundreds of cable TV stations competing with the traditional American TV networks, ABC, CBS and NBC along with what really is a syndicator of product, not a network FOX. But the radio and TV discussion should be left for another day. Mark Cuban wants to talk about newspapers.

In Cuban’s Dallas market, the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram plan to share content. Sam Zell’s Chicago Tribune Company’s Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post will be sharing stories. Paradoxically, with the Internet, sports talk radio, cable TV, cell phones and radio there is more information available to the consumer but in sports, the local newspaper and the beat writer are the lifeblood between the fans and the teams.

The dirty secret that is well known in the media industry but not to fans is that sports talk radio could not exist without the beat writer. The beat writer generates the story, which the sports talk radio hosts read and then put his or hers spin on what the beat writer reported. The same holds true with TV sports readers on local news, but that might be a dying business as well as local TV news executives look at the bottom line and look to cut out costly segments of newscasts.

Cuban’s suggestion, made on December 24, 2008, would have been unworkable in the past. Newspapers do accept advertising money from teams and there are stories from the early 1960s about certain baseball writers who would pocket airline fares that were supposed to be given back to teams for flying on charters in exchange for favorable articles. But there was supposed to be a wall between a journalist and a subject that journalist was covering.

But newspapers are looking at various funding methods, including accepting donations and turning themselves into a not for profit venture. Accepting a government bailout like France is offering would have been unthinkable but the United States government has propped up ESPN, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, a plethora of regional sports networks, Comedy Central and other cable TV networks through the 1984 Cable TV Act which allowed cable systems operators to take The Weather Channel, CNN, ESPN and bundle them into a basic expanded tier and deny cable subscribers to buy those channels on an a la carte basis. CNN, MSNBC and FOX are taking money from subscribers whether those subscribers want that programming or not. Those are bona fide news organizations that exist because of the way the government allows them to be funded.

CNN, MSNBC, FOX, the New York’s area News1, News 12, the DC area’s NewsChannel 8 and other cable TV news covers the people who help fund them---the US Government.

Newspapers should not be slammed if Cuban’s idea gains traction. After all, CNN has lived that way for 25 years; they have been funded by people who are buying a basic expanded tier. Without that law, CNN, MSNBC and FOX would be scrambling to make ends meet. It is so funny that people on FOX like Sean Hannity scream about government involvement in too many programs and how a gadfly like Grover Norquist goes on cable TV shows screaming about the need for smaller government in the U. S. without acknowledging that cable TV funding method that was mandated by Congress and President Ronald Reagan, a small government advocate and someone who was for media deregulation. Hannity would not be making a living without government assistance both on Cable TV and radio.

So there is a precedent for Cuban’s newspaper bailout plan.

For what it is worth, here is the Cuban “beatwriters co-operative.” Cuban wrote, “we need to create a company that funds, depending on the size of the market and the number of teams, 2 or more writers per market, to cover our teams in depth. The writers would cover multiple teams and multiple sports. They will report to the newspapers where the articles will be placed, who will have complete editorial control. In exchange, the newspapers will provide a minimum of a full page on a daily basis in season, and some lesser amount out of season. That the coverage will include game reporting that is of far more depth than is currently in place, along with a minimum number of feature articles each week in and out of season. And most importantly, these articles will be exclusive to print subscribers”

Cuban even is suggesting a pay scale for those writers, $65,000 annually with $10,000 worth of health benefits and that big markets pay more into the “beatwriter co-operative” than small markets for the 100 writers that are needed.

Cuban did not include golf, tennis, boxing writers in his plan nor did he discuss Olympics coverage. His plan is as he pointed out, a starting point.

Whether the leagues and teams will say yes is another story. The NBA and NFL have laid off employees, individual teams have cut back employees including the Washington Redskins. Even Cuban realizes that having leagues pay for sportswriters is a “violation of editorial church and state.” But Cuban rationalized his idea by writing “watching papers going out of business and not even being able to give themselves away means its time to start a new branch of that church.”

Newspapers owners arrogance is a big part of the newspaper problem. Newspapers were slow to react to the changing world. Newspapers did survive radio, which delivered news faster than a paper in the 1920s, 30s and 40s and in World War II. They survived TV, which televised events, but newspapers didn’t know how to use new technology and have failed to become multi-media properties. Craig Newmark’s Craig’s List destroyed the help wanted, things for sale sections of newspapers and deprived papers of a major source of income. The newspapers didn’t see that coming. Nor did they see a recession coming and the tightening of credit lines.

Cuban’s suggestion might not prevent the continued erosion of sports coverage in newspapers. Cuban’s plan does not factor in the cost of putting a writer on the road which includes travel, hotel-motel, car rentals and eating bills which is a huge expense as two papers in New England have found out.

The Red Sox Nation around New England will not get stories from Boston Red Sox spring training from a beat writer for the Hartford Courant or from the Portland (Maine) Press Herald, but there will be enough coverage to go around New England. Newspapers need to get very local anyway, they need to cover school board meetings and little league baseball and if they do that people will buy the product.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Islanders Moving? Read the Local Newspaper for the Answer

Islanders Moving? Read the Local Newspaper for the Answer

By Evan Weiner

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

12:30 EST

(New York, NY) -- New York Islanders owner Charles Wang wants Nassau County, New York, Hempstead, New York and all others who are required to give approval to his planned renovation of the Nassau Coliseum and something called the Lighthouse Project to give him the okay to move ahead with the rather ambitious development project. The problem is that no one has green lighted the Lighthouse Project and it is annoying Wang.

Owners are accustomed to politicians bowing to their whims and wants and when it becomes public knowledge, sportswriters quickly begin playing the role of being the owners stooges. Sportswriters start to wail about what a raw deal an owner is getting when that owner doesn’t get his way and that politicians better understand that or the community will lose the team to another city that is so desperate to get a team, that they will give a new building’s revenues away. And they could, because under the United States tax law, only eight percent of monies generated inside a publicly funded building can go off to pay the facility’s debt.

In the past week, the Pavlov Dog response in sportswriters has come out in Nassau County, particularly in Newsday, a paper that happens to be owned by a National Hockey League owner, the New York Rangers Charles Dolan, who also happens to be the owner of most of the cable TV franchises awarded to municipalities (Cablevision) in Nassau County and also the Madison Square Garden Network, the company that will be paying the Islanders multimillions of dollars for cable TV rights through 2031. Wang has a deal to develop 150 acres of prime property in Nassau County, the land around the Nassau Coliseum but he is waiting for various approvals and the approvals are moving too slowly.

Wang has not made any public threats to move the team.

Newsday is reporting that the Islanders will play the Los Angeles Kings in a pre-season game next September in Kansas City in what has to be a prelude to the Islanders eventual move to Kansas City. There is a relatively new arena in Kansas City that is controlled by Phil Anschutz’s AEG and AEG has promised Kansas City an NHL or NBA team. So fat that hasn’t transpired and with good reason.

Kansas City can barely support the NFL Chiefs and Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals. Most of the corporate sports support in the area goes to the Chiefs and whatever is leftover is spent on the Royals and NASCAR. David Glass, the Royals owner, is always the recipient of MLB revenue sharing. That is not a good sign even when AEG has guaranteed an NHL the lions share of whatever revenue is generated inside the relatively new Kansas City building.

Kansas City cannot compete with Dolan’s cable TV money. So far in all of Newsday’s accounts, there is no mention of that. Could Dolan, whose Cablevision company is not in the most robust shape, be looking to dump the lucrative Islanders TV deal? It is a question worth examining.

The Newsday theory is not limited to an exhibition game. Wang’s Islanders franchise will be conducting training camp in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan next September. Saskatoon is north of Middle America, so the Islanders are establishing a middle Canada presence in order to solidify a fan base in Kansas City. Makes a lot of sense. Newsday has done a feature on AEG’s CEO Tim Leiweke in an article called “The man who wants to steal the Islanders.” Another article is admonishing local politicians by claiming if the Islanders move, Long Island will never get another professional team and another piece dredged up an old Kansas City Scouts player named Guy Charron who thinks Kansas City would be a great NHL market. Charron didn’t provide any proof that Kansas City would welcome an NHL team.

Charron played in Kansas City back in the mid 1970s for the NHL Scouts, a franchise that was moved to Denver in 1976 after just two seasons in the then new city arena. Kansas City could not support an NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL combination then, and not much has changed in over three decades except sports depends far more on corporate spending than the average fan and Kansas City doesn’t have very many Fortune 500 companies or a good cable TV market. But Charron’s thoughts fit the Newsday narrative.

Newsday has done Wang’s work. The threat to move the franchise is on the table and now Nassau and New York politicians have to respond. Wang wants to get his projects started by July.

That is how it works in sports. Sportswriters, who generally are ignorant of government’s role in the sports superstructure, just keep throwing things out there. The Newsday pieces don’t talk much about the fact that Wang has a lease through 2015, the huge cable TV contract that he has and the fact that Kansas City probably is not a good fit for the Islanders. But Kansas City has become a destination city for owners like Rich DeVos of the NBA’s Orlando Magic and the Ron Burkle/Mario Lemieux Pittsburgh Penguins to use as Plan B if they didn’t get new arenas in their cities. It worked in those cases. Orlando and Pittsburgh will have new arenas.

The question of just how Wang’s project will be funded is another question that Newsday has not bothered to explore in the last week either.

Wang is also letting NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman do some of his work as well, Bettman has been pounding on Nassau County officials to get moving because the Islanders building is old and does not produce enough revenues.

The script is old but generally effective. Very few city business and political leaders want to lose a sports franchise. The newspapers raise the threat level forcing the owners and politicians to discuss building new facilities. Most of the time it works, on rare occasions it doesn’t. Seattle, King County and Washington state officials decided not to knuckle under to the NBA or owner Clayton Bennett’s threat to move the franchise to Oklahoma City and let him move last summer after reaching an out of court settlement which allowed Bennett to go and pay off the city which had two years left on a lease between the basketball team and the city.

Wang has five years left on his lease, 22 years left on that lucrative cable TV deal. According to Nassau County officials, no one from the Wang group has told them that the franchise could be moved. The Islanders franchise has been a real estate-TV business for years. The Howard Milstein- Steven Gluckstern group spend $195 million to but the franchise and the cable TV deal from John O. Pickett in 1998 with the hopes of developing the land around the Nassau Coliseum. Pickett, himself, used to pocket most of the team’s cable TV money for himself.

Wang bought the team in 2000. In 2003, Wang and Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi first talked about developing the land around the Coliseum and in November 2007, Wang came up with a detailed plan for the Coliseum project.

Will Wang move the Islanders? He can’t until 2015 and needs the team if he wants to develop the property. The New York Islanders hockey franchise came into being because the NHL wanted to keep the World Hockey Association out of the New York market, it became a solely cable TV show by 1983 and helped Dolan keep all of those franchises on Long Island as he could walk into municipalities and say here is our local programming, the Islanders and News 12 Long Island. Now the team is part of a real estate deal. It isn’t about hockey but business and Newsday is just a tool that is part of a business plan.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What if MLB Said Yes to Edward L. Gaylord Instead of George W. Bush?/Evan at

What if MLB Said Yes to Edward L. Gaylord Instead of George W. Bush?

By Evan Weiner

Sunday, January 18, 2009

5:30 PM EST

What if, history is filled with that simple question. What if? As George W. Bush's tenure as the United States 43rd President comes to an end at noon, eastern standard time on Tuesday, there are two what if questions that need to be pondered although there is no answer to either of them. The first what if came in September 1986 when the American League baseball owners rejected the transfer of the ownership of the Texas Rangers from majority owner Eddie Chiles to minority owner, the Gaylord Broadcasting Company.

Until the 1990s, Major League Baseball owners, whether they were in the American or National League made some really stupid decisions when it came to technology. The baseball barons feared radio back in the 1920s and 1930s because they felt it would cut into attendance instead of realizing that it could be a revenue producer for them along with a two and a hour long commercial selling the product. The same thinking took place in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s when it came to embracing TV. They knew it could make money sure, but they were afraid the showing of games on TV would cut into attendance.

In the 1970s, cable TV came along and it was made with suspicion but there was no stopping Ted Turner from owning the Atlanta Braves or the cable TV network TBS. In 1981, the Chicago Tribune Company purchased the Chicago Cubs. The Tribune Company also owned WGN-TV, which was a superstation and broadcast Cubs games. A company called Eastern Microwave signed agreements with WSBK in Boston, which televised Boston Red Sox games and WOR in New York, a station that had the rights to New York Mets games. All of a sudden Braves, Cubs, Red Sox and Mets games were available to a good number of subscribers throughout the United States. Baseball owners began to worry that the national cable channels would start cannibalizing local home teams (not those with the national cable deals) cable and over-the-air TV ratings and needed to put a stop to any media company that had national cable TV aspirations that wanted to buy a baseball team

Gaylord was already a one-third owner of the Rangers and had KVTV-TV in Dallas, Channel 11 and beginning in 1985, Gaylord's station added Texas Rangers baseball to the station's lineup. Gaylord had been able to distribute Channel 11's programming onto about 400 cable companies and was well on the way to becoming a superstation like TBS, WGN, WSBK and WOR. That didn't make American League owners very happy and in September 1986, they voted against Edward L. Gaylord's bid to take over controlling interest of the Texas Rangers. After the bottom fell out of the oil industry in 1987, Chiles needed money in a hurry and once again sold the team to Gaylord and once again the American League owners said no.

In 1986, American League owners also went a step further by adopting a rule which said that no television company could purchase a major league baseball team in the future, a rule that was obviously ignored in 1997 when Rupert Murdoch and his FOX Group, purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers from Peter O'Malley. In 1997, under Commissioner Bud Selig and his associates, baseball owners finally understood what technology could produce and was producing. In September 1986, that wasn't the case nor was it the case two years later.

The biggest what if here is what if Gaylord was successful in getting the team. Would that have denied George W. Bush a platform that pushed him into the role as the face of the Texas Rangers and eventually give him the recognition which helped him in his gubernatorial battle against incumbent Ann Richards in 1994?

Bush, who was the son of the sitting American President in 1989, jumped at the opportunity to buy into the Texas Rangers baseball team ownership with a push from William DeWitt, whose father had owned the Cincinnati Reds. His initial attempt to buy the Rangers was turned down by the soon to be outgoing Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth because Bush's partners were not from Texas. After a series of moves orchestrated by Ueberroth, Bush was able to put together a group from Texas that was able to buy the Rangers from Chiles in April 1989.

The next biggest what if here is Ueberroth's role. After rejecting Bush's bid, he put together a deal that ultimately married Bush with Rusty Rose, the Dallas businessman who was the real power of the franchise, not Bush who was just a two percent owner although he was the general managing partner.

What if Rose and others rejected Bush? What would have happened? Bush was not the typical owner; he was the guy who sat behind home plate and shook hands with fans, joked with the sports media and knew ballpark personnel by their first names. One of the Rangers partners told me in 1992 after watching Bush shake hands with fans at the team's Port Charlotte, Florida spring training home to look at George, "he thinks he is really important but all he does is shake hands."

That was Bush's perceived perception among fellow baseball owners, including the baseball ownership powerhouses in Chicago, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf , Chicago Cubs chairman Stanton Cook, Minnesota owner Carl Pohlad, Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley and Brewers owner Bud Selig.

In his 2002 book, Fay Vincent who was dumped by the Reinsdorf-Selig faction as Major League Baseball Commissioner in 1992, "The Last Commissioner, A Baseball Valentine, wrote, "What do you think about me becoming commissioner? and Do you think I'd be a good commissioner? He added, I've been thinking about it. Selig tells me that he would love to have me be commissioner and he tells me that he can deliver it."

What if Bush impressed Reinsdorf and his associates? Would George W. Bush have put off a political career to be the Commissioner of Major League Baseball after Vincent was fired? It apparently never got that far as Selig wanted the job and got it with a little help from his friends in the Great Lakes and LA. Bush was never in the running although he thought he was. The power base was less than impressed with the Rangers managing general partner and his business acumen.

Bush decided to get into the family business after striking out in baseball, politics. His last act as a baseball owner was being found guilty along with his fellow owners of bad faith bargaining in the 1994-95 baseball strike.

Bush was out of baseball by 1998. He leaves the Oval Office on Tuesday, a place that he might never have occupied if baseball owners had embraced cable TV back in 1986 or 1988 or embraced him in 1992 when he was interested in becoming the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

What if. Historians can review documents and actions, but what if isn't the real world. Had baseball said yes to Edward L. Gaylord, somebody else might have been the 43rd President but baseball said no more than once to Gaylord and once to Bush. History has recorded all of those decisions.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Big Game Isn't Always on the Field

The Big Game Isn't Always on the Field

By Evan Weiner

9:30 PM EST

January 7, 2009

(New York, NY) -- It is time to crown a new US college football champion or is it time to crown a new US college football champion? Oklahoma is playing Florida for the Bowl Championship Series title but there are a whole lot of people including President-elect Barack Obama and the Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff who believe that the college football champion needs to be decided in a different way. President-elect Obama would like to see a college football playoff while Shurtleff plans to take his gripes to court.

The BCS is college football's championship caretaker. How teams get to the championship game may be construed as convoluted. The BCS uses a complicated formula based on polls and computer rankings to determine who plays in that game. The winner of the game is college football's champion but that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone recognizes that team as college football's best. The Associated Press also hands out a championship based on a poll of sportswriters. Sportswriters probably are not qualified to pick college football's best team for a variety of reasons including that fact they can't watch a lot of games, also sportswriters should be disqualified from voting on any awards because it is a conflict of interest, you simply can not vote on something you cover professionally. It is unethical.

Shurtleff plans to take a closer look at the BCS to determine whether the Bowl Championship Series is violating American antitrust laws after the undefeated Utah Utes football team failed to qualify for national title game for the second time in five years.

Utah is a member of the Mountain West Conference and that grouping does not get an automatic bid to the "big" bowl games and that could put Utah and many other schools at a competitive and financial disadvantage.

Obama has not signaled to Congress that he would like a House or Senate hearing on the BCS and with the US economy in shambles, with the US fighting two wars and other problems like the Israeli-Hamas fighting, Obama cannot afford to use any political capital to look into what is really at best a trivial issue, the college football championship.

However, as trivial as the game might seem to most Americans who will not bother watching the contest, the US government is deeply involved in the BCS and as recently as last April, House members Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Georgia) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) introduced a resolution claiming that the BCS was an illegal restriction on trade because only the largest football playing universities compete in most of the major bowl games. The bill went nowhere, after Obama's comments that he would like to see a college football playoff, Abercrombie decided that perhaps the new Congress should take up his bill.

College football may be a game to some, but to a lot of people connected to the industry, it is a big money maker. Six conferences, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Big 10, the Big 12, the Pacific Athletic Conference and the South East Conference all get automatic bids to the big bowl games and about $18 million that is split among the conference schools and if there is a second team from any of those conferences that ends up in a bowl game, more money flows into those conferences.

Non BCS conference members from Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conferences get about $9.5 million. If a school from one of those conferences gets a BCS invite for a bowl game, they get a certain percent of revenues.

People like the three Congressman and the Utah Attorney General look at how the money is distributed to the big time schools and how the big time schools can pay big sums of money to schools thanks to the BCS but what they aren’t addressing is how boosters, marketing partners, TV networks and others also contribute to the coffers through tax loop holes. The BCS dollars, while substantial, are just a piece of the money pie.

In 2005, the US House of Representatives held a hearing on the BCS but nothing came of it.

The American government gives tax exempt status to big time college sports programs. In 2006, Rep. Bill Thomas, a California Republican, brought up the question of whether the NCAA should retain its tax-exempt status given the amount of money it receives from TV contracts and championship events. He also wondered whether the federal government should subsidize college athletics when money helps pay for escalating coaching salaries. Thomas, who was the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, decided not to run for re-election in 2006 and the tax exempt status has not been questioned since.

Believe it or not, the BCS and college sports can bring in money and not have to worry about paying taxes because of a tax loophole as it qualifies for a 501(c)3 charities exemption, people buying luxury boxes for bowl games are giving to education, and it is tax deductible.

The college football system for deciding a championship will not be changed by the bully pulpit of the President although Barack Obama could lean on college presidents and chancellors and athletic directors, boosters, cable and over the air TV networks to accept a college football playoff after Congress takes a serious look at college football. But Congress has shown absolutely no inclination to address college sports issues and there are a whole range of issues that can be addressed from the 501(c)3 charities exemption to the rights of college athletes including the "voluntary" practices to outside work to whether or not an athlete is really pursuing an education. They could also look into a college basketball problem that Bobby Knight has brought up in the past. Are talented freshman players attending second semester classes knowing that they are leaving for the NBA? There is also a question of compensation for playing in big time college football or basketball games and also whether a big time athlete whose jersey is being sold to fans is entitled to get some of those dollars.

If Congress was serious, they could address those issues because of the tax breaks given to big time football/basketball schools. A college football playoff pales in comparison to the economic woes and growing unemployment, two wars, a standoff in the Middle East and far more serious issues but college sports leaders can be summoned to appear before Congress and if they want to change the way a football champion is crowned, they could.

Shurtleff is reviewing the Sherman Antitrust Act. The Utah Attorney General can also cause some major problems for the college establishment if he decides to go ahead with a lawsuit. Oklahoma and Florida are playing for a championship but there is far more to this football game that meets the eye.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens Civil Rights Advocate (

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens: Civil Rights Advocate?

By Evan Weiner

January 4, 2009

1:00 PM EST

(New York, NY) -- On January 6, Democrat Mark Begich will be sworn in as Alaska's new Senator replacing Ted Stevens. Begich defeated the United State's Senate's longest-serving Republican, Ted Stevens, in November eight days after a jury convicted Stevens on corruption charges for lying about gifts he received from a wealthy oil contractor. Both a jury and the Alaska voters have had their say on Stevens, but how will history treat one-time Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens?

Years from now, Stevens will be celebrated as a civil rights advocate for his work decades ago.

Is Ted Stevens one of the most important men in the history of Women's Sports in the United States? He answer is yes. The Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments changed women's sports and opportunities for women in colleges. Stevens has been called one of the fathers of the Title IX legislation which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon and oddly enough it was not a law aimed at equaling the playing field in high school and college sports and giving women more opportunities to play big time college sports.

Officially the Title IX legislation is now known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. Patsy Mink was a Congresswoman from Hawaii. A Democrat, Congresswoman Mink wrote the House version of the bill after she ran into obstacles in getting an education at the University of Hawaii, University of Nebraska and the University of Chicago. Mink was aided by Oregon Democrat Edith Green in the House and Indiana Democrat Birch Bayh in the Senate along with the Republican Stevens.

Title IX which was signed into law on June 23, 1972 stated: "No person in the United States shall on the basis of sex, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Title IX was supposed to get rid of the quota system which certain colleges developed over the decades. College accepted a small amount of women students into law and medical programs which affected shut women out of the law and medical professions.

The law officially went into effect in 1973, but it wasn't until 1974 when the Health, Education, and Welfare Department finally proposed regulations to enforce it and another six years for the rules to take effect. In 1997, the United States Department of Education put out a report which stated: "Substantial progress has been made, for example, in overcoming the education gap that existed between men and women in completing four years of college. In 1971, 18 percent of female high school graduates were completing at least four years of college compared to 26 percent of their male peers. Today, that education gap no longer exists. Women now make up the majority of students in America's colleges and universities in addition to making up the majority of those receiving master's degrees. Women are also entering business and law schools in record numbers. Indeed, the United States stands alone and is a world leader in opening the doors of higher education to women."

Title IX has worked as the statistical comes in over the years. Men and women have equal opportunities in colleges, the workplace and even in sports.
Title IX has never been about sports, at least initially. Over the years it became a sports issue when colleges began dropping not revenue producing male sports, like wrestling, and coaches and athletic directors said they need to drop those sports because they were being forced to pay for women's programs to stay in compliance with Title IX regulations.

That argument is bogus but Title IX became a convenient excuse for decision makers when it came to justify cuts in programs. There is nothing in Title IX that requires that any men's sports be dropped or reduced to make way for women's programs and for nearly 37 years there has been the battle of money which funds sports, when the athletic department money dips and men sports are dropped, the blame game starts with women teams being the culprit.

Over the decades, Washington politicians and Title IX opponents in court suits have taken dead aim at Title IX and try to weaken the legislation, the last attempt was in 2005 when the U.S. Department of Education announced it was watering down its enforcement. There was a series of hearings around the United States, but Title IX survived intact. In 2007, Stevens and Washington Democrat Patty Murray sponsored a Senate Resolution that commemorates the 35th Anniversary of Title IX which passed.

Stevens and Murray issued a news release to celebrate the 35th anniversary.

“This Resolution reaffirms the Senate’s commitment to gender equality in collegiate athletics and education. Title IX has been a great success. It was a privilege to help craft this legislation 35 years ago, and as the father of three daughters, I am proud to continue supporting it today,” said Stevens. "This resolution recognizes 35 years of access and opportunity for millions of young women across our country," said Senator Murray. "By breaking down gender barriers in athletics, Title IX has allowed women to get a college education, reap the benefits of sports participation, and inspire new generations to strive for athletic success.

Stevens also was involved in the Olympic movement. The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act in 1998 granted monopoly status to the United States Olympic Committee and included Paralympics athletes for the first time, providing National Governing Bodies of each of the Olympic sport the opportunity to integrate their Paralympics and Olympic efforts.

Stevens left his mark on sports. It might have been inadvertent as Title IX was an educational rather than a sports bill. Regardless, Stevens was a game changer and without Stevens, Bayh, Mink and Green, there might not be a Women's National Basketball Association, women soccer leagues and other opportunities for women who wanted a career in sports. Because of Stevens and others including Richard Nixon, those opportunities now exist not only in sports but in law, medicine, academics and other fields.