Athlete Weekly Rundown, 10/3/08

by Tim Ryan 10-03-2008 02:00 AM

This week is focusing on the economic downturn and the effect on collegiate sports and athletes, the growth of Major League Soccer, the softer (and better) side of the PGA, Major League Baseball's expansion into national TV, and the increasing diversity in collegiate athletics.

College Teams Are Feeling the Squeeze From Fuel Costs
College teams are not immune to the economic woes facing the rest of the country. As mentioned in this article, many teams are feeling financial pressure during their seasons when it comes to travel and food for their players. This is a concern to just about everyone that is involved in sports.

First, it is likely that many teams will be forced to cut the number of players they take on road trips. Most likely, these players not allowed on the travel team will be underclassmen and injured players. This has a huge impact on the experience that these players can get before they see actual playing time. Young athletes must be developed and taught the new experiences and looks they will see while on the bench so it's not overwhelming when they get the call. By not being able to have these players on the bench to experience hostile road crowds or know how to prepare for a game after a long plane or bus ride or learn how to handle both sports and school work, both the teams and the players will be at a great disadvantage.

Second, this will likely force many schools to cut their non-revenue sports to help alleviate some of the financial burden their trips have on the balance sheet. The decision to cut programs will not be based on gender, leaving Title IX out of the picture, but nonetheless shutting down programs. This will affect smaller schools whose athletic budgets are smaller and will probably further widen the gap between Division I programs and the other divisions. Because this is a financial issue, the decisions will be made on a financial basis-- making it less likely that football programs will be shutdown, while less popular and lucrative sports such as crew or water polo may see cutbacks. As well, programs that are the face of the school will be kept around.
Third, it will affect the ability for schools to schedule games with teams outside of their state and region. This is a restriction that will force teams to only schedule games with teams close by and not search out better competition in different areas. Most teams play the teams in their area during conference play and look for out of area teams to fill their non-conference games, but these non-conference opponents will have to be teams from lower divisions or lower conferences. This is not in the best interest for teams because obviously they want to face the best competition available and this is in direct opposition to that goal.
Finally, this unfortunate situation will affect the recruiting ability for every team in the country, regardless of budget or division. If teams are struggling to get their current players around the country, they will definitely look to cut down the trips coaches and players make to recruit players. This will now affect every player in the country, short of the players at the top of the list in their respective sports. This will also lead to many players staying closer to home as teams will opt for short car or train rides as opposed to cross-continental flights. Teams will utilize technology more and more as that tends to get cheaper every year, while transportation costs keep rising. Phone calls, emails, video conferencing, and text messaging will see a sharp influx in use to alleviate the void of face-to-face meetings.
So for all you athletes out there, embrace technology and get yourself some exposure. Don't be a victim of athletic department cutbacks.
New Stadium, and Opportunities, for Real Salt Lake
This article presents hope for American soccer players that growth for this sport is in the future. Major League Soccer has tried extremely hard to promote and encourage the world’s game in this country, but with underwhelming progress. The American people are stubborn to embrace a sport that many don’t understand and find even more slow moving than baseball. The American tendency toward excess doesn’t translate into widespread popularity for a sport whose great game is defined by a 1-0 score. Therefore, it has never taken off in this country with the likes of the NFL, NBA, UFC, and the like. Thus, the sport must look outside of this country and it seems that strategy is finally taking root with the help of foreign investment.
Other countries, especially European ones, love the game of soccer with extreme passion and fervor which has allowed foreign leagues and their players to flourish. Well now those teams have taken an interest in the U.S. and are starting to migrate over. The Real Madrid owner started the Real Salt Lake professional soccer team and has since built a brand new stadium to promote a team in a town with only one other professional sports team. As the article states, this will be the ninth stadium dedicated solely to the MLS team who built the stadium. No longer are these nine teams playing on the secondhand fields of universities and football teams when they are on the road. These MLS teams now have a place to call their own and bring in events that will support their own sport. Real Salt Lake has plans to hold exhibitions with teams in other professional leagues around the world. These teams have taken the initiative and instead of waiting for the world and this country to come to them, they are bringing the world to this country. It can only go up for these soccer teams as their owners remain proactive and committed to the sport.
It is also important to recognize that many foreign sports professionals (agents, business reps, etc.) are also joining the movement to advance soccer as a sport here in the United States.  One of them is Max Eppel of Max Eppel Soccer Agency ("MESA"), who made the journey from the UK to set up shop as a sports agent in Newport Beach, California.  Max has already made significant contributions to the progression of athlete representation in professional soccer in the U.S.
Report: Compton can use cart in Q-school after heart transplant
The PGA has taken a step for the better by allowing Erik Compton to use a golf cart while competing in qualifying school. It is not as if Compton participated in the John Daly diet and was under-conditioned; he has a birth defect that rendered his heart useless and forced a transplant. It is not an advantage for someone who underwent a heart transplant 4 months ago to use a cart, while all of the other healthy golfers have to walk. In fact, it pretty much balances it out. He has a new heart, from someone else’s body, that must now learn to function in Compton’s body and a severely deteriorated stamina which impedes on his ability to walk the course. By allowing him the use of the cart during play, it brings him up to par with the other golfers, where Compton will be fatigued the same just from swinging a golf club and standing at address and on the green as the other golfers will be from walking.
This is a humane move by the PGA and is a spark for all those golfers out there that have been kept out of playing competitively because of birth defects. Hopefully this sort of thinking continues and more and more people can be exposed to competitive golf who may never have had the opportunity in the past.
A Network to Satisfy the Appetite of Baseball-Hungry Fans
This should be good news for baseball fans and players alike. In an effort to compete with the other major sports, Major League Baseball is in the process of building their own 24/7 TV network to host MLB content. This will be very similar to the National Football League who has already established the NFL Network. This hopes to work in favor of baseball as a sport to help them win back some fans who are tuning in to other sports and TV options. This will also be an attempt to nationalize baseball, as now it is a very regional sport. Most people can only see the teams that are in their area being televised on local and regional networks. The only chance for national exposure is when an out-of-market team plays on ESPN during one of the couple days a week ESPN hosts such games. As the majority of these games are played by big market teams who will pull the most ratings, many fans are not able to watch their teams.
However, it could also prove to be a flop and money pit. Baseball has been catching criticism over the years for its lack of excitement and the fact that there are games everyday from April to September. By adding a network specifically to host more baseball all day everyday it may either drive fans away even more or not get the attention it needs to remain profitable. Also by having this national network dedicated to baseball, it may cannibalize the sales of MLB.TV.
As I said before, this should be a good venture for the MLB and for baseball in general, but only time and ratings will tell.
Division I sees unprecedented foreign influx
This article exposes another trend in today's collegiate environment, and that is the increasing competition and interest from foreign athletes. The article states that there has been a significant increase in the number of foreign athletes participating in Division I sports. Apart from the increased competition for spots for domestic athletes, this is a good thing for college sports and sports in general. In a global world, it is great for sports to increase their global reach. If the global reach of individual sports continues to grow, the popularity of the sport will also continue to grow. In the end, this is what everyone involved in a particular sport wants. As well, bringing in players from different cultures and styles allows for the evolution of the game to happen much faster.
It is something to keep an eye on and something definitely going to have a positive impact on sports in general.
As always, any questions or comments send them my way,
Enjoy the games this weekend, there's a lot going on.

Published 10-03-2008 © 2024 Access Athletes, LLC


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