Thursday, April 28, 2016

First Hints at Sharapova's Meldonium Concentration

Monday, April 25, 2016

Three Excellent Articles on the Current State of College Sports

Recently I have come across several really excellent articles on the current state of college sports.

First, John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway), who analyzes college basketball for ESPN, writes a thoughtful piece on why college sports are not facing an existential crisis, though the NCAA may be:
Far from being an “unstable situation,” college sports in general, college basketball more especially, and the NCAA tournament in particular instead present a series of successively smaller and progressively more advantageously situated concentric circles characterized by an unusual degree of hardiness solely as media properties. There are variables in play, naturally, and it’s not too much to term the threat of legal exposure “existential” — with regard to the NCAA. I don’t know who or what will be governing the sport in 2032, and I do trust that by then the players will have long since been receiving their fair share of the resulting revenues.

But if we view the essentials of the tournament as nothing more or less than 68 college teams playing 67 games of win-or-go-home basketball over three weeks from mid-March to early April, I’m yet to see anything even remotely persuasive in the way of a Book of Revelation. The essentials are eyeballs and basketballs, and if a tournament that earned record-setting revenues for a decade before, during and after the largest economic calamity since the Great Depression constitutes a bubble, well, put me down as bullish on this particular bubble. 
Second, Andy Schwarz (@andyhre), a sports economist, takes a good hard look at the economic realities of college sports, and makes a similar case backed by ample data. He explains:
Once or twice a year, as predictably as the launch of college football season or March Madness, we’re treated to the “everyone’s broke” meme in college sports. Sometimes it’s pegged to the football season. Sometimes we hear about it in the context of a new TV deal worth billions. And sometimes it’s tied to the release of new numbers, as was the case last week when USA Today released its trove of college sports accounting data as a resource for researchers everywhere. Along with the data they compiled, Erik Brady, Steve Berkowitz and Jodi Upton put out a companion piece addressing the familiar claim that college sports are reaching a crisis point where they will begin to crumble under their own cost. As economics professor Andrew Zimbalist says in the article, “It’s an unstable situation.” . . .

A sober reading of the history of these claims of unsustainable spending leads to a very different conclusion — specifically: NCAA expenses track with revenue and have done so for decades. But rather than hand-wringers learning from the past and ferreting out Occam’s ledger — the accounting isn’t telling the whole story — decade after decade we see similar fretting over schools losing money on college sports yet spending more and more, surely building to a “bubble” that has to burst. “This time it’s real” has been part of this sky-is-falling rhetoric for over a century.
Third, Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel), of Yahoo Sports, looks at the dynamics underlying the flood of revenue that is coming to college sports and the political realities that result. He writes:
On Tuesday, SportsBusinessDaily reported the Big Ten is close to agreeing to a six-year deal with Fox Sports for half its television rights. It would pay about $250 million per year, or $17.9 million per school. And that's just half the deal. CBS and ESPN will pay handsomely to split the rest.

This report comes a little over a week after the NCAA agreed to an eight-year, $8.8 billion extension with CBS and Turner to broadcast the men's basketball tournament. It brings the annual value of the event from $786 million to $1.1 billion, an increase of $314 million per year.

That's new money. That's found money. That's money that has yet to be used or allocated.

It's the same as the college football playoff generating about $470 million in revenue that didn't exist three years ago. Or conference-owned cable television channels hauling in hundreds of millions. The SEC Network, which launched in August 2014, doled out $455.8 million in fiscal 2015, $31.2 million per school. The New York Times predicted last year that Big Ten Network revenue would soon exceed $40 million per school, per year.

All of this money – namely all of this brand-new money that isn't even needed – ratchets up cries to share it with the student-athletes.
 Read all three, in full. You'll be smarter for it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Science and the Upcoming Rehm Ruling

German long jumper Markus Rehm wants to represent Germany in Rio this summer. He is the Paralympic champion and jumps off of a prosthetic leg (pictured above).  IAAF rules allow prosthetics in only if they are judged to provide no additional benefit to the athlete over an athlete who is not using a prosthetic.

Here is the relevant IAAF rule in full (Rule 144.3 at p. 153 in the IAAF Rules):
The German Disabled Sports Association is sponsoring a study to determine whether Rehm does or does not receive a "competitive advantage" through the use the prosthetic. The study is being conducted by the German Sports University Cologne, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology/Human Informatics Research Institute in Tokyo and the University of Colorado-Boulder (where I am a professor). The results are expected to be reported in June.

In parallel the IAAF has created an internal Working Group to clarify Rule 144.3 which is "to bring clarity to what is a complex question of technical eligibility as soon as possible so athletes wishing to compete at the European Championships in Amsterdam and at Olympics in Rio are aware of eligibility." This Working Group is expected to report in June. It is unclear if the Group is to consider the just-commissioned study - they do state that they "will draw upon extensive knowledge from across disability and able-bodied athletics."

As we learned in the case of Oscar Pistorius, science does not always speak with one voice. In fact, the science of competitive advantage using prosthetics is like many other areas of science where a range of legitimate views are possible, based on valid assumptions and methods. Perhaps Rehm's case will be more clear cut than Pistoirus' case was - but maybe not. Rehm has already hinted at legal action if he is not allowed to jump in Rio.

Pistorius case was easier in an important respect because he was not a threat to medal in the Olympics. So his participation was framed as a feel-good story, not a story of epic achievement. Rehm is different. He threatens to medal if he is allowed to participate, and maybe even break the world record. That makes the decision to include or exclude him far more significant.

Sport turns to science to answer difficult questions with some risk, because science doesn't always have a single answer. This one may get interesting, stay tuned.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lots of Items in the News Today

Lots of interesting stuff in the news to start the week. I'm making a list, mainly for my own benefit, but sharing it here. Please feel free to add anything else interesting in the comments.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

University Transfers to Big Time Athletic Departments: Subsidy or Investment?

As promised, here are the NCAA Division 1 schools (from the database of athletics department budgets for 201 schools provided by The Chronicle of Higher Education) with the lowest reported subsidies to athletics.

The table includes all schools with a reported subsidy (defined as the sum of student fees and institutional transfers) of less than 20% of the athletics department's revenues. There are 45 schools that make the cut. Of these, 9 have a reported subsidy of less than $1 million (which translates to less than 1% of total athletics revenues) and 16 others are less than 5%.

Almost all of these schools are part of the so-called Power 5 conferences where there is big time athletics and big time money.

If you want to redefine what The Chronicle calls a "subsidy" intro what might otherwise be called an "investment," then each of these schools show a return of at least 500% ($5 for every $1 invested) on funds invested into athletics. At the top end of schools that receive such "investments" the return is 500 to 1 (Michigan). In any department on campus such ROI numbers would cause administrators to smile.

A decision to call such funds "subsidies" or "investments" is probably based on how one views the overall worth of college athletes beyond just dollars and cents.  Here are the numbers:
institution subsidy as % of athletics spending external revenue subsidy
156 Oregon State University 19.4% $51,016,341 $12,285,453
157 University of Colorado Boulder 19.0% $52,017,285 $12,209,473
158 Washington State University 18.6% $44,322,180 $10,104,638
159 University of Utah 17.5% $46,608,204 $9,862,106
160 University of Virginia-Main Campus 15.8% $70,462,157 $13,235,814
161 Arizona State University-Tempe 13.5% $64,656,064 $10,073,205
162 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 11.1% $64,954,358 $8,110,828
163 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 10.8% $74,693,320 $9,078,593
164 Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus 10.4% $61,361,761 $7,107,777
165 North Carolina State University at Raleigh 9.5% $63,792,160 $6,708,651
166 University of Louisville 8.8% $80,976,749 $7,768,599
167 University of Arizona 7.9% $92,009,900 $7,901,134
168 Florida State University 7.6% $96,794,108 $7,980,366
169 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 6.6% $99,165,090 $7,011,066
170 Oklahoma State University-Main Campus 6.4% $110,281,827 $7,521,475
171 University of Wisconsin-Madison 6.3% $119,837,558 $8,073,360
172 Clemson University 5.9% $70,417,577 $4,375,745
173 University of South Carolina-Columbia 5.7% $92,987,503 $5,631,976
174 University of California-Berkeley 5.5% $85,279,969 $4,982,173
175 Texas Tech University 5.3% $72,636,657 $4,086,756
176 University of Mississippi 5.1% $71,962,577 $3,886,423
177 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 4.9% $76,921,197 $3,927,372
178 Mississippi State University 4.3% $59,625,111 $2,650,000
179 The University of Alabama 3.9% $147,237,173 $5,997,100
180 Auburn University 3.9% $109,331,204 $4,384,800
181 Indiana University-Bloomington 3.6% $81,660,417 $3,008,362
182 University of Washington-Seattle Campus 3.5% $96,725,508 $3,549,679
183 University of Florida 3.5% $120,302,863 $4,308,442
184 University of Georgia 3.2% $100,220,875 $3,274,712
185 University of California-Los Angeles 3.1% $83,715,508 $2,711,272
186 Iowa State University 2.9% $66,212,985 $1,957,396
187 University of Kansas 2.6% $95,116,692 $2,564,374
188 University of Arkansas 2.0% $94,857,567 $1,936,405
189 University of Missouri-Columbia 1.8% $82,203,587 $1,515,000
190 University of Oregon 1.1% $193,875,299 $2,155,099
191 Michigan State University 1.0% $103,582,498 $1,094,958
192 Texas A & M University-College Station 1.0% $118,234,414 $1,241,457
193 University of Kentucky 0.9% $95,823,941 $861,548
194 University of Iowa 0.6% $105,275,037 $683,917
195 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 0.2% $157,643,504 $256,316
196 Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College 0.0% $133,679,256 $0
196 Ohio State University-Main Campus 0.0% $145,232,681 $0
196 Purdue University-Main Campus 0.0% $71,372,206 $0
196 University of Nebraska-Lincoln 0.0% $94,797,692 $0
196 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus 0.0% $129,226,692 $0
196 The University of Texas at Austin 0.0% $161,035,182 $0