Tuesday, November 29, 2005
As noted by Joanne Jacobs, some student-athletes in Florida are using private high schools to skirt eligibility rules for college football. Joanne calls it simply a diploma mill story, but it's much more rich than that. The NCAA has rules on course eligibility -- which courses count as college prep, and how many you must take to become eligible to play as a freshman in an NCAA-sanctioned intercollegiate event -- and rules for GPA and SAT or ACT score minima. However, it has some real peculiarities, one of which is that the higher one's GPA, the lower the SAT score required for eligibility. (See page 7 of this document fmi.) So what students are doing in Florida is shopping not for a degree per se but a place with enough grade inflation to raise their GPAs to match the SAT or ACT scores they've already earned.
For example, after Morley's junior year at Killian (a public high school --kb), a computer program used to project eligibility showed him graduating with about a 2.1 G.P.A., meaning he would need at least a 960 on the SAT. At University (private), he raised his average to 2.75, so his 720 SAT score was exactly what he needed to qualify.
The NCAA has frequently adjusted the schedule of GPA/SAT/ACT to meet whatever complaints are there, but I don't recall other stories where students were shopping for a GPA/SAT match by changing high schools. It certainly makes sense ... and it's the NCAA's own rules and their willingness to blatantly adjust them to be sure they don't miss any really good athletes that has led to this case.
This is only one of several examples. A colleague who's graduated from Cincinnati told me over lunch last week another weird example where an international student took ESL courses at a Miami high school, and his second and third courses counted but the first did not (I presume because it was not deemed preparatory for college.) And in this Ten for Tuesday article from SportsLine we find student-athletes who get suspended for not pulling out of the NBA draft properly, playing in an unsanctioned summer league, or this one which my friend from Cincy didn't mention:
6. Chadd Moore, Cincinnati: ...Moore, a senior guard who has been plagued by a bad back, quit the team for good last year -- or so he thought. After playing in a 2005 summer league, he felt so good that he decided to return this season. Not so fast. While the summer league was sanctioned -- he played alongside several UC teammates -- Moore hadn't sought the proper medical waiver from last year's medical hardship. Or something like that. Moore is missing the first five games, by which time I hope to understand the rationale behind his suspension.Me too. This is only possible in a world where the NCAA continues to act as a monopolist that tries to sell a mythical vision of student-athletes.
Friday, November 25, 2005
It will be fascinating to see what effect their new brushing technology and studies will have on their game.
The Brits, despite being Olympic champions, are not really top contenders...
Britain's Olympic curlers are using state-of-the art brooms to give themselves an edge as they prepare to defend their Winter Games gold. Loaded with sensors and a memory card, the 'sweep ergometer' allows curlers to measure how well they are performing one of the game's crucial tasks.My prediction is that this new technology will not give the British curling team much of an edge at all. It would not take very many ends for some reasonably bright person (e.g., my co-blogger)(i.e., and probably not someone from the Canadian Curling Association) to figure out what the Brits have learned from their technology and to apply it themselves.
For example, suppose the monitor and feedback say (I doubt this would happen -- it is just an example) that the most efficient brushing for someone who is small and light is to brush at a 42-degree angle to the desired path of the stone with long light strokes, then how long do you think it would be before other curlers and the announcers and sports journalists discovered this? This information is not something that can be kept secret. The response time from rivals is cheap and quick.
In terms of the prisoners' dilemma framework, both the expected detection lag and the expected retaliation lag are short.
While I am delighted that people are doing this type of kinesiological research, and I will surely find the results (or lack thereof) interesting, spending the money and the time on something like this is not likely to give the Brit curlers much of a competitive edge for very long, if at all.
(Crossposted at Market Power)
I was critical of Terrell Owens' public disgracing of teammates and supported the Eagles' decision to suspend him. But because the Eagles are bound by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) hammered out by the players' association, the Eagles must hand out discipline in accordance with the CBA.
An arbitrator, Richard Bloch, has ruled in favor of the Philadelphia Eagles in the case. TO, as you may remember, was suspended for four games for "conduct detrimental to the team:" publicly criticizing his quarterback, Donovan McNabb, among other things. The NFL's CBA describes the maximum discipline teams can carry out. Here is a passage from Article VIII, the section on club discipline, of the NFL CBA:
Conduct detrimental to Club—maximum fine of an amount equal to one week’s salary and/or suspension without pay for a period not to exceed four (4) weeks.
As I understand it, the Eagles suspended Owens without pay for 4 weeks and have said they will neither practice nor play him for the rest of the season, although he will receive his paycheck. In other words, they will deactivate him. Bloch, in his decision, wrote that in this particular case.
"The four-week suspension was for just cause," Bloch wrote in his decision. "Additionally, there was no inherent violation of the labor agreement in the club's decision to pay Owens but not practice or play him due to the nature of the player's conduct and its destructive and continuing threat to the team."
Players' union officials see it differently:
"I think the arbitrator chose to accept not only the Eagles' version of the evidence, but I think he went even further and pieced the evidence together in a way that it really didn't evolve," (NFL Players' Association General Counsel Richard) Berthelsen said in a telephone interview. "He describes all of the events leading up to the suspension, but ignored the fact that Terrell was a model citizen from the week he was gone in training camp until Nov. 3. If you view, as [Bloch] did, the one week [Reid] sent [Owens] home as a form of discipline, that wiped out all prior conduct."
The NFLPA also views the fact that Owens will not be allowed back with the Eagles as additional punishment to the four-game suspension, which violates the league's collective-bargaining agreement.
... Owens is no longer an Eagle "because Andy Reid doesn't want him to be," Berthelsen said, "and the arbitrator saw that as being in the coach's discretion. We see it as discipline."
But in cases that could go either way, the presentation of a case by either side can make a difference:
A source with knowledge of the hearing said Owens' case was weak. One example was his claim that the Eagles showed no class when they failed to honor him for his 100th receiving touchdown in the Oct. 23 game against San Diego. The Eagles showed Bloch a video of the team's Sept. 25 game against Oakland when Owens scored his 100th career touchdown overall. Bloch watched a tribute the Eagles gave Owens that day at Lincoln Financial Field, ending with the receiver tipping his cap to the crowd.
This particular case involved an area in the CBA that was open to some interpretation and, in such cases, the disputants' presentations go a long way in helping the arbitrator decide the case. Owens' case was weak and the Eagles effectively made their case. TO, while possibly the most-talented wide receiver in the league, became a huge distraction.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The Florida Marlins pronounced a Miami stadium deal dead Tuesday and said Major League Baseball has granted the team permission to explore relocation as early as 2008.The raid on local taxpayers continues. If I were a city in search of a team, I might inquire whether more than one team at a time gets such "permission." If the policy is one at a time, can there be any explanation other than wilful and deliberate exploitation of monopoly power?
Monday, November 21, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
But Fulton County Judge Gino Brogdon has just ordered Georgia Tech to reinstate the player, apparently under some form of an equal treatment theory. Tech's handling of the case, according to Brogdon, "was arbitrary and strikingly dissimilar to the school's treatment of other similarly situated athletes who have been accused of breaking the law."
Tech AD Dave Braine is beside himself, and who can blame him: "I don't know how you can read into that because we've never had a felony charge before. How it could be uneven, I don't know."
Even if Tech had made mistakes in handling prior cases, judicial scrutiny of college player suspensions seems a bit over the top, don't you think?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
St. Cloud State (SCSU) is a Division II athletic program except in ice hockey, where there is no Division II and the NCAA allows us to play in Division I. There is a good amount of discussion among administrators and boosters of the athletic program about our move to Division I, particularly since other colleges in the North Central Conference have moved to D-I and left us with scheduling problems in both football and basketball. As I talked about in my lecture notes last May, we have a conflict with football in particular, since the move to D-I is most costly there. D-II football programs may offer a maximum of 36 athletic scholarships; the NCC is a highly competitive conference and many reach the maximum. SCSU, on the other hand, budgets for 24-26 scholarships. Yet you continue to hear around SCSU the rumor that we are considering a move to D-I.
I had assumed all this time that the decision was expensive due to scholarships, but school after school which has a D-I basketball program but had no football has moved to non-scholarship I-AA football programs. A person who worked in the football program at a private midwestern school that was a D-II football program but D-I in basketball when the NCAA changed the rule told me of hearing that his team was going up to D-I. He thought great, they were going to go from 36 scholarship players to 63. No, he was told, they were going non-scholarship -- the 36 scholarships were gone, perhaps to pay for the stadium improvements D-I required.
In a recent article John Lombardi does a good job explaining the economic costs of college sports. (The article is based on this study from the University of Florida.) Lombardi suggestst that a school making the move to I-AA football with scholarships must come up with around $775,000. That would involve about an extra $650,000 therefore. How much would the university have to raise, Lombardi asks, to generate an additional $650,000 per year in contributions? If we assume a 4.5% payout from the endowment as he does the answer would be over $14 million.
From where would this come? The endowment revenue we generate now is unlikely to create more than $2 million per year. It therefore seems most likely that if SCSU is to join a league it would have to abandon the scholarships it would either have to create a whole conference of non-scholarship I-AA programs -- the Patriot League would be an example -- or stay right where it is and deal with the scheduling problems of a declining NCC.
Monday, November 14, 2005
In the AL MVP voting, A-Rod's numbers speak for themselves and put most debates to rest, especially given that he's a solid fielder. The voting farther down the line points out that the Baseball Writers who vote must be a lot like Ken Burns -- their universe revolves around NY and Boston. Complete voting records from 2003 onward appear at Baseball Musings.
- Six of the top 10 vote getters in the AL play in NY or Boston
- Mariano Rivera finished 9th, while no other AL pitcher broke the top 10.
- Derek Jeter finished 10th and ahead of Texas' Mike Young, whose offensive numbers topped Jeter's by a healthy margin.
In looking over recent years, it's clear that Rivera and Jeter have a loyal fan club that occassionally picks up some additional support. Jeter's canonization by much of the press is well-documented (See ESPN "The List" of Most Overrated.) Rivera's is even more stunning. His ERA is very low, but as in all years, he pitches about one-third as many innings as starters such as Santana or Buehrle in the AL, who didn't crack the voting. It doesn't take any sophisticated weighting scheme to figure out Rivera, or any "closer," makes a small contribution to winning relative to starting pitchers or everyday position players.
As a final note, Jeter's position in the voting might be defended in some quarters by the fact that he won the Gold Glove. After all, players and managers vote on this award. An interesting question worth pursuing is just how much are players and managers influenced by media coverage. Baseball Musings "StatsGuru" added these observations that include an interesting note about the voting mechanics of the Gold Glove v. MVP:
Derek Jeter won his second gold glove in a row. I guess the voters prize catching popups more than ground ball up the middle. It's tough for me to believe that a team with a below average DER has a great shortstop.
A big problem with the award is the voting structure. Rather than ranking players, as you do with the MVP and other major awards, the coaches and managers just vote for one. So the winner tends to be the player that gets a small plurality, instead of a consensus second choice.Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera actually had a higher fielding percentage than Jeter (.988 to .979) and made fewer errors (15 to 7), but Jeter recorded over 100 more assists (454 to 347) and that increased workload apparently swayed voters.
Well, Tejada had more assists than Jeter, more assists + putouts than Jeter, and more double plays turned. Does anyone have this year's zone ratings? I hope to calculate proabilistic ranges over the winter.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
The new nickname, spokesman Robert Rosen said, is actually a return to the school's original moniker, which was adopted because of Carthage's sports teams' red uniforms.Riiiiight. So apparently one word nicknames are hostile and abusive but two word nicknames are A-OK. According to the NCAA's press release "... we support the development of a new policy statement that will communicate the school's historical meaning of the ‘Red Men’ nickname..."
"The name was modified to two words to reconnect with that original meaning," Rosen said. "In actual practice, we haven't had any Native American imagery with the name since the 1980s."
I am just an economist, and not a semiotician. On a good day I'm reasonably literate and have decent reading comprehension skills, relative to my peers. I can occasionally discern traces of rational thought behind NCAA activities. But I am stumped by this pronouncement. "Redmen" is hostile and abusive, but "Red Men" is acceptable. Perhaps Carthage College should have gone whole-hog and changed their nickname to "Red Man" angling for the obvious corporate tie-in and product placement opportunities.
The NCAA's attempt to regulate mascots raises a number of interesting economic issues. If people really find these mascots offensive, then there might be negative economic consequences. These consequences could include lower ticket and licensed merchandise sales, lower levels of donations, and smaller appropriations from state legislatures for public institutions. Faculty might find it more difficult to attract outside funding to support research. If the total cost of retaining a hostile and abusive mascot exceeds the total benefit, then a school might change its mascot to something more acceptable without any heavy-handed regulation from the NCAA. This happened at Stanford, Dartmouth, and St. Johns, among other schools in the past twenty years. In this context, the NCAA's ban on hosting post-season events at schools with hostile and abusive mascots could be interpreted as an attempt to increase the total cost of a mascot at an institution, and bring about additional mascot changes. But if changing "Redmen" to "Red Men" satisfies the NCAA, it calls into question the motivation for the hostile and abusive list and the intended goals of the regulation.
Stay tuned - Illinois' appeal is currently under consideration by the NCAA.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Simon Fraser University Economics Professor John Chant says universities using a merit-based salary structure attract better students, obtain more research funding and generate more widely cited research than those that use a seniority-based approach.That's a fair characterization of the paper's results, available here. In this news release, Professor Chant is quoted as saying, "A university's failure to put in place salary structures that provide incentives for productivity represents a breakdown of governance." Hear, hear. This paper is going on my reading list.
These kind of situations crop of with regularity in football. As King's comments imply, coaches usually elect the "safe" option. Sometimes that's appropriate because a coach may view his chances as improved by extending the game. In many cases, however, putting the outcome of the game in an all-or-nothing, single play framework runs against primeval urge for less risk rather than more. Coaches frequently steer away even when it may improve chances of winning (in an average or expected value sense). Vanderbilt's coach appeared ready to make a similar move against Florida on Saturday night until a 15-yard penalty changed the odds.
Five seconds left in the game. Oakland 23, Kansas City 20. Chiefs ball at the Raiders' 1. First down. No timeouts left for the Chiefs. Conventional wisdom says: Take a quick and safe shot throwing it into the end zone, and if it's incomplete, kick the field goal to send it to overtime. But this wasn't a conventional time, Vermeil thought. "The last two times [the Raiders] had the ball, they went down the field and scored,'' Vermeil said later. "I figured if we lost the toss and kicked off, they may win the game right there.'' So Vermeil, leaving himself open to get skewered if the strategy didn't work, decided to go for it. The Chiefs called a Larry Johnson run up the gut.And Johnson scored. "You can't say enough about that final play,''' Trent Green said. Agreed. Great call. And I wouldn't have ripped him if it didn't work. His decision makes all the sense in the world. Would you rather risk it all on a one-yard rush with a running back who's had a good day? Or would you rather risk it all on a coin flip?
Such decisions are even more difficult to make when the opportunity to "win it" is not dangled on a single play. For example, in the playoffs against the Colts last year, Vermeil decided to go for it on a 4th-and-a-few yards late (but not at the very end). The call made perfect sense. The Chiefs had not stopped the Colts all day. One first down by the Colts and the game would be over anyway. Still, Vermeil agonized over the decisions, finally opting to go for it. In a similar situation in an Oregon State game a few years back, the announcers went ape (as King admits he would have) when the Oregon State coach made a similar call and didn't make it. In their (highly risk averse view), why not live to fight another day? In contrast, the philosophy expressed by Peter King makes sense -- why not try to win the game when you have a good chance. The same idea is expressed by some of the better no-limit poker players, "you've gotta be willing to die in order to live." In other words, dying a slow death that gives little, if any, shot at winning is not preferable to dying a quick death that, at least, offers a realistic hope.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Many of the job's core activities -- fielding trade offers, keeping tabs on prospects, negotiating contracts -- haven't changed. But today's general managers work in a baseball landscape that is vastly more complex than even a decade ago.Getting the right mix of energy, innovation, and experience in important decision-making units is not an easy trick. But it is especially important in a dynamic marketplace, as with major league baseball in recent decades. Free agency, the flood of media money, and MLB's response in the form of revenue sharing and the luxury tax all pose significant challenges. Adapt (Atlanta, Boston) or expire (Detroit, KC). In this regard, I found the following bit from the article intriguing:
Consider: When the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988, they had about 15 baseball-operations staff members in the team's main office. This season, the Red Sox had nearly double that, including eight "player development consultants" and the famed statistics guru Bill James. Likewise, as player salaries have soared -- the average payroll on the 30 big-league teams in 2005 was about $70 million -- the deadlines on baseball's year-round business calendar have taken on greater importance.
..."There used to be a press conference held quarterly or someone inquiring two or three times a season," says Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz, who at 65 years old is the dean of big-league GMs. The media crush, he says, "is far more challenging even for the most intellectually competent among us, especially the young among us who have less experience."
Yet the demands and pace of the GM's job often require the energy of a 20-something, a reality that has fueled the rapid rise of junior executives like Mr. Epstein.
The new principal owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Stuart Sternberg, ditched the GM title completely. He installed 28-year-old Andrew Friedman, less than two years removed from Wall Street, as executive vice president of baseball operations and last week hired 55-year-old baseball veteran Gerry Hunsicker to back him up. "It's not a one-person job," Mr. Sternberg says.That's an interesting adaptation - a blend of youth and experience to do the job. I know nothing about Friedman, but Hunsicker's record with the Astros was outstanding. One wonders why he would take the job in Tampa when he was a candidate for jobs that look better on paper. Sternberg's overhaul of the organization may have played a role. I'll be keeping my eye on Tampa.
Update: Tom Kirkendall's post suggests that Tampa might be getting damaged goods. At a minimum, Hunsicker is not getting much love from his former employer.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Perhaps the NFL's best wide receiver, Owens has been a major headache off the field for the Eagles. On Thursday, he created some more angst with another verbal jab at Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb and criticisms of the organization.
In an interview with ESPN.com contributor Graham Bensinger, Owens agreed with ESPN analyst Michael Irvin's assessment that the Eagles (4-3) would be undefeated if Brett Favre was their quarterback.
There's no secret he's upset about his contract:
Owens remains disgruntled over the seven-year contract worth nearly $49 million he signed last year after being acquired from San Francisco. He has a 2005 base salary of $3.25 million, which ranks outside the top 10 among wideouts.
Owens hired agent Drew Rosenhaus in the offseason, a move designed at trying to renegotiate his contract. The Eagles remained steadfast that they would not rework Owens' deal.
So he's acting like a baby, badmouthing his teammates and his organization. Perhaps he's hoping the Eagles will release him so he'll be free to negotiate with other teams and get a salary that he feels would fit the quality of player he is. But if I were the GM of another team, the marginal contribution of TO on the field may not be enough to compensate me for the additional salary I'd have to pay him (over my next best alternative at wideout) plus the extra baggage he'd bring to the team.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Foot Locker, the biggest U.S. athletic-shoe retailer, signed a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers to advertise atop the mops used to dry the court during the team's games.The contract is for two years and is for 5 figures, according to the article. The article notes that the Lakers are scheduled to be on TV 33 times this season. I wonder how visible the mops will be on television. In any event, when something has value to somebody, that somebody tends to find a way to obtain it - even if that something is a mop top.
HT to the Sports Business Daily.
Hold off a minute before tut-tutting about the litigious nature of society today, because this might be a solution to the problem of reducing the use of performance enhancing substances in sport. Would-be regulators of performance enhancing substances like steroids and EPO face a number of problems. One is monitoring. Monitoring athletes for doping is costly. Regulators use random testing to overcome the monitoring problem, but this approach has some limitations, including the small fraction of the sample that is actually tested; random testing also appears to be an ineffective deterrent of performance enhancing drug use. One group that might have an advantage in monitoring athletes for doping are other athletes. Competitors might be better able to tell the difference between improvements attributable to better or harder training and improvements attributable to doping than regulators. And competitors have stronger incentives to detect athletes who are breaking the rules than regulators.
A second problem facing regulators is that many of the benefits of improved athletic performance have public good properties: they are non-rivalrous and non-excludable. Fans clearly derive satisfaction from watching sport played at the highest level. The public good nature of the benefits of improved athletic performance make it difficult to enforce doping regulations because it means that some of the costs associated with doping also have this property.
However, if the parties that were damaged by an athlete's use of performance enhancing drugs could sue the athlete and recover monetary damages, this would privatize some of the costs of doping, and might act as a deterrent. The slap on the wrist that baseball players get for violating the league's rules prohibiting steroid use does not appear to deter steroid use. But what if baseball fans could file a class action suit against a player that breaks these rules and recover monetary damages? The possibility of a $10 million judgment might have a much larger impact on the decision to use performance enhancing drugs than a 10 day suspension
"Notre Dame Football Announces Improvements To Its Storied History"That's just a taste of the piece, classic humor from The Onion. Thanks to Clembob for the link.
SOUTH BEND, IN—With their football renaissance derailed, at least for the moment, by a current 5-2 record that includes losses to rivals USC and unranked Michigan State, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have elected to improve in the one area where they still outclass all other college football teams: their legendary history.
...Director White and Coach Weis said that although the improvement of the 1887-2005 seasons will not be finalized until later this year, they have already begun drawing up plans for the historical revision.
Some of the highlights of Notre Dame's new history:
...1869: The first college football game is played this year, on Nov. 6, between Princeton and Rutgers, with the understanding that the winner will go on to play Notre Dame later in the afternoon for the national championship
...1984: In the last seconds of the national championship at the Orange Bowl, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie's last-second Hail Mary pass is intercepted in the end zone by Notre Dame cornerback Deion Sanders and returned 106 yards for the winning touchdown.