October 1, 2014

College Football Business

During August-September of 2012, Springer will publish College Sports Inc.: How Commercialism Influences Intercollegiate Athletics. Produced and distributed as a ‘SpringerBrief,’ it contains seven chapters and includes a Foreword and Acknowledgements, and an Appendix, Bibliography, and Index. Besides the Introduction in Chapter 1 and Conclusion in Chapter 7, the other chapters have contents that focus on Intercollegiate Athletics, Sports Finance, Department of Athletics, Student Athletes Environment, and Sports Events and Facilities. In addition, tables with business, economic, and sports-specific data reveal periods and types of athletic programs in schools of higher education.[1]

Regarding football, College Sports Inc. shows how financial support from local, regional, and national businesses and such groups as corporate foundations, cultural and social enterprises, and alumni make a difference in the quality and quantity of schools’ football programs as a member of Division I, II or III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Furthermore, it examines cost and revenue streams of these programs and denotes why trends in commercialization will continue to change and impact the operation, popularity, and future of college/university sports. The following is an overview of topics primarily in football as discussed in Chapters 2–6.

 

Intercollegiate Athletics

Although difficult, expensive, and risky to operate as a sport, football is usually the most lucrative, popular, and publicized athletic program on campuses of U.S. colleges and universities who sponsor a team that participates in a division of the NCAA. Across three NCAA divisions, the number of schools with football teams increased by approximately 31 percent, or from 497 in the 1981–82 college sports season to 650 in 2011–12. Between these periods, the change in numbers of sponsors represents a decline from 4.2 to 3.5 percent as a proportion of total sports teams. This occurred, in part, because of Title IX legislation and thus the growth of women—and perhaps other men—sports.

Although criticized by several well-known professors, prominent university presidents, and some sports reporters, commercialism has become an important trend since the early 1980s among athletic conferences and their schools especially in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS or former Division I-A) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS or former Division I-AA). In response to the proposals of critics, the NCAA wrote, adopted, and implemented various reforms that have marginally improved ethics of athletic directors and operations of their programs but not necessarily the conduct of football coaches and academic performances of student athletes. Based on my research of intercollegiate athletics, school officials need to truly enforce NCAA rules and aggressively penalize anyone who violates them but also accept and control the expansion of commercialism in football.

 

Sports Finance               

During Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, FBS teams had almost four times the median amount of generated revenue than those in men’s basketball. Meanwhile in net revenue (or profit), football’s median amount exceeded basketball’s by more than 300 percent while amounts of other NCAA team sports were actually a negative net revenue or a net loss. For schools in conferences of the FCS and in Division II, however, their football programs ranked last with the most negative net revenue of all team sports. In other words, a relatively small number of universities with big-time football programs earned enough income from gate receipts and television broadcasts of their games, and in distributions from their conferences, to offset total expenses.

Other interesting aspects of sports finance are schools’ and/or conferences’ media and television rights deals, and their revenue from football’s bowl games. Recent variations in these amounts ranged, respectively, from $74.5 million for Louisiana State to $112.5 million for Nebraska in media rights; from $37 million for Conference USA (multisport) to $4 billion for the Big Ten (basketball/football) in television rights, and in bowl game payouts, from a total of $3.3 million for the FCS Conferences, Notre Dame, Army, and Navy combined to $115.2 million for the Big Six Conferences. These distributions, In part, reflect how games and tournaments in regular seasons and postseasons have contributed to college and university sports programs and groups of them from a financial perspective.

 

Department of Athletics

In most American colleges and universities, the Department of Athletics (DOAs) consists of an Athletic Director (AD) who prepares budgets and supervises other administrators, and sports coaches and their staffs. Since the late 1990s, former business executives and managers with financial experience have gradually replaced men and women with college degrees in physical education to become ADs at major schools.

During 2010 to 2011, for example, the three most popular positions in DOAs among men were assistant and associate directors of athletics, and then sports information directors. Among women, the positions were administrative assistants, academic advisors/counselors, and senor women administrators. Of total departmental personnel in schools that period, men ADs were five percent of the group and women one percent. Consequently, men tended to rank higher than did women in the hierarchy of DOAs.  

Other data provided specific financial information about DOAs of schools and/or athletic conferences. For the 2010–11 Academic Year, the University of Texas’ DOA ranked first with totals of $150 million in revenue and $125 in expenses while the University of Alabama and Penn State each earned $31 million in net income. In total compensation the median salaries and benefits of football coaches in the FBS was highest at $3.5 million followed by $1.4 million for coaches of men’s basketball programs. Moreover, from FY 2010 to 2012, the average budgets of DOAs were largest at Big Ten schools and then at those in the Southeastern Conference and Big 12. In short, ADs have become more business oriented as leaders while DOAs are increasingly valuable to colleges and universities based on the growth of their assets, financial investments, and resources.

 

Student Athletes Environment

According to NCAA reports for selected sports seasons, the number of Student Athletes (SAs) playing football on schools’ teams increased by 5,000–7,000 in each division between 1990 and 2010. In fact, there were more football players than the total number of athletes who competed in baseball, basketball, and several minor sports. Because football generates thousands or millions in revenue for schools, the sport has the most SAs in it. Besides that data, the Appendix in College Sports Inc. contains tables that list the number of SAs by race and gender in football and other team sports in NCAA Divisions I, II and III.

In different ways, commercialism influences SAs who participate on football teams of schools particularly those in the FBS and FCS conferences. Indeed, these players receive athletic scholarships, financial aid, and perhaps stipends and other benefits from their schools. As discussed in Chapter 5 of College Sports Inc., some SAs struggle academically and unfortunately never graduate with an undergraduate degree. As a result, a number of college and university officials including faculty, ADs, and coaches suggest methods to compensate football players based on their contribution to the sport. Therefore, the chapter evaluates models that analyze the economic benefits and costs of this issue since pay-for-play involves commercialization of SAs.

 

Sports Events and Facilities

Besides baseball’s College World Series and basketball’s March Madness in postseasons, football’s series of bowl games each December to January are popular events among sports fans but also exist as commercial activities. That is, they determine a national champion and final rankings of teams, and generate revenue for the NCAA and its conferences and their schools, specific television networks, and any companies that market products and/or services during them.

Although 70 or 64 percent of Division I-A football teams played in bowl games to conclude the 2010–11 college football season, the NCAA and groups of conference commissioners and school presidents jointly agreed to establish a four-team playoff following the 2014 college football season. If commercially successful, the playoff will appeal to the media, receive support from sports fans and communities, and generate revenue for schools due to ticket sales and expenditures for merchandise and memorabilia at the games.

The primary facilities in football are private or public stadiums for college/university regular season games. These venues are increasingly costly to build, operate, and renovate. In Chapter 6 of College Sports Inc., there is information about the naming rights of stadiums and amounts of money needed to finance their construction and/or renovation. During future years, schools will further commercialize their facilities and thereby increase the revenue from them because of inflows from advertisements, contracts with vendors, gate receipts at home games, naming rights, and parking fees.

 


1. For the website with ISBN of College Sports Inc., see www.springer.com/economics/labor/book/978-1-4614-4968-3.

 

Frank P. Jozsa Jr. was a professor of economics and business administration at Pfeiffer University from 1991 to 2007. He is the author of ten books on professional team sports.              

 

Book Review: Madden: A Biography

Don’t put John Madden in a video game box, in a coach’s box or a broadcast booth. When you think you have him figured out, a surprise awaits you.

“John Madden is totally different in person from what you see on the air,” a close friend said. “A very private person, in many ways a lonely person with no habits other than football” (xvi, Madden).

Read “Madden: A Biography” by Bryan Burwell because:

1. Madden will always be a coach.

In 10 seasons, Coach Madden’s Raiders captured seven Western Division titles, five straight from 1972 to 1976. At a time when an NFL schedule spanned 14 games, Madden’s teams won 10 or more games six times. His .759 regular-season winning percentage is the best-ever among coaches with 100 wins. Only George Halas and Curly Lambeau secured 100 wins more quickly.

After a knee injury ended his pro football career, Madden found himself coaching junior highers. By the time he was 32, he was coaching pros. Of course that came with Al Davis attached. When Davis questioned Madden’s age, Madden responded, “What’s age got to do with it?  If I can be the head coach, I can be the head coach now. I either have it in me or I don’t. And I said I have it in me, so it doesn’t make any difference if we do it now or three or four years from now or five years from now.” Davis asked what qualified Madden. “Well, what were your credentials to get to be [the Raiders boss] at such a young age?” Madden said (71.)

As head coach, Madden had three rules: Be on time, pay attention and play like hell when I tell you to. That was it. Madden never liked rules anyway. Why should he enforce a long list on his players?

No wonder he was beloved by players. He loved his family and his family loved him, but after 10 seasons leading the Raiders, Madden had to play catch up with his family. “It’s sad but true. I didn’t have any idea how old my kids were,” he said (179.) That’s when he knew it was time to retire from coaching.

2. Broadcasting is another aspect of Madden.

The coach had not given much thought to broadcasting. Matter of fact, he says he was so focused on coaching, he didn’t have time to watch broadcasts. He appeared in a few beer commercials. (Who wouldn’t want to have a brew with the big guy?) Could everybody’s favorite pitch man transition from 30 seconds to three hours? No one was sure.

TV crews soon found out Madden was not merely a funny man. As a player he learned to study film. Wasn’t that what you did in broadcasting? When he started in TV, the answer was no, but Madden changed that.

Madden’s first broadcast rehearsal was with Bob Costas. Costas had been in the business a few years, but he was starting out as well. Years later, the two broadcasting icons recalled one another’s commitment to the craft. Pat Summerall and John Madden first worked together in 1979 and would go to share a partnership in the booth for more than 20 years, forming what many fans call the best football duo ever.

3. Yes, there is a little truth to those preconceived ideas you have, but Madden knows that. What you don’t know is there is so much more to him.

You know you love turducken. You love the Madden cruiser. Can you imagine his bus pulling up to your favorite burger joint? He just might, because the guy loves to eat just like you thought. He loves chatting with perfect strangers too.

Those plays he gets all excited about on your TV? He became enamored of game film study with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Norm Van Brocklin. These days Madden has a hard time resisting the urge to get keyed up at his grandson’s football game.

It’s tough to know in which category to put John Madden. In 2006, folks put him in the right place, if ever there was one – the Pro Football Hall of Fame – fans can say what they want, but Madden’s record speaks for itself.

Pick up “Madden: A Biography” by Bryan Burwell.

Sam Miller is the founder of Sam’s Dream Blog.  A graduate of the University of Illinois, he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Pulling Back the Veil at the Big House

The so-called offseason is upon us, presenting an opportunity presents to catch up on some reading. I  just completed a book by University of Michigan alum John U. Bacon about his alma mater, Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011).

As a Big East football fan, I am likewise a fan of Rich Rodriguez. I enjoyed his success at West Virginia, his alma mater, and was disappointed when he left in 2008 for the opening at Michigan. His no-huddle, spread option offense had literally “spread” throughout the realm of college and high school football, providing an exciting, high-scoring style of play. His taking the spread to the Big 10 Conference was a shock.

First and foremost, RichRod’s presence in the Big East had raised the both the reputation and level of play of the entire conference. Secondly, the Big 10 – particularly Michigan – was not and never had been about the spread offense. The pro-style offense was as entrenched there as anywhere in college football:  power rushing and stretching the field in the passing game – combined with hard-hitting, unrelenting defense. How was his scheme going to fare in that conference?

Though Bacon did not set out to write a full-length book on RichRod’s entire tenure in Ann Arbor, that was, fortunately, the outcome.

Rodriguez, his staff and the school administration allowed Bacon, a Michigan faculty member, to be embedded with team for all of his three seasons there. Bacon took part in the games, practices, workouts, film sessions and even the most privileged occasions with Rodriguez among his closest staff and family members. The outcome is a chronology of a three-year struggle to build a program and overcome the stigma of an outsider in one of the most tradition-steeped settings in America.

Bacon relates a story of Rodriguez’s perpetual hope for football team that made progress too slowly to satisfy Michigan standards. The development was set back by a combination of factors, including lingering entanglements in Morgantown, a largely unsupportive AD, weak public relations efforts, and a lack of support from the previous establishment. Though Rodriguez was not without mistakes and poor judgments, the margin for error and opportunity for recovery were both razor thin.

A sad truth of our era is that there are no problems or obstacles so large that the news media cannot make them larger. Journalists are paid to report the news and, occasionally, to comment on the news. It’s not uncommon that they create the news as well, as was the case during Rodriguez’s second year on the job. Though it was not the cause of his demise, it was clearly an impediment to his success.

In the end, RichRod’s termination was due not to issues off the field; wins typically diminish if not erase such matters. Rodriguez simply did not rack up enough victories. The Wolverines typically had little trouble scoring in the spread offense. Their problem was defensive failures in containing their opponents. His sub .500 winning percentage was punctuated by an unforgivable 2-7 record against archrivals Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame. Michigan qualified for a postseason appearance just once under his leadership, losing by 38 points to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl Jan. 1, 2011. He was fired three days later.

The Wolverines’ new head coach, Brady Hoke, a former Michigan assistant, took the players Rodriguez recruited to an 11-2 record last year, including regular season wins against Ohio State, Notre Dame and a Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

RichRod took a year off coaching in 2011. He spent the season providing studio and game analysis for CBS Sports. He was hired in November to replace Mike Stoops as head coach the Arizona Wildcats.

He has since reassembled much his old coaching staff, most notably defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel who stayed in Morgantown when many others moved with him to Michigan. Ridriguez’s new circumstances in Tucson should be much to his liking and favor. The PAC 12 is a much more offensive-centered conference and his scheme has brought much success to Oregon there already.

Three and Out does not exonerate Rodriguez for his shortcomings at Michigan, but it sheds light on others’ previously unknown contributions to the problems there. It shows a steady commitment and respect for the program among the coach, staff and players, despite repeated frustrations. It’s not a legacy that will place RichRod in the lore of the storied program, but one that will not follow him in shame.

 

Pete Sonski hosts “Three Point Stance: The Leatherheads College Football Hour” each Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern on Blog Talk Radio. He’s is a regular contributor to this and other football blogs. Follow him on Twitter: @29sonski.

Book Review: Find a Way: Three Words that Changed My Life

It’s surprising what kids will tell you. Sometimes they’re even right! Merril Hoge didn’t know what to say and was unsure what lay ahead after telling his children he had cancer. “Daddy, you’re just gonna have to find a way,” his daughter Kori told him. In a flash, Hoge recalled his own youth and knew she was right (6, Find.)

Read “Find a Way: Three Words that Changed My Life” by Merril Hoge with Brent Cole because:

1. “Find a Way” became Hoge’s philosophy at a young age. It continues to guide him.

By age 12, he had heard it all before: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, Merril; a lot of kids have that dream, Merril. But you have to be realistic, too; do you know how hard that is, Merril?” Hoge didn’t have all the answers, but he knew one thing. He would play in the NFL. He tacked that declaration to his dream board to visualize day and night. Above that phrase presided the words “FIND A WAY” (11). Hoge proved doubters wrong again and again, from his difficult upbringing, to an obscure but accomplished college career, to the pros and the broadcast booth. Cancer was another adversary to crush. “Finding a way is about tapping into those core spiritual motives inside of you and taking fierce, resourceful and consistent action until victory is yours,” Hoge writes. (15)

2. Hoge is a prime example of doing what you can and trusting for good results.

Focus on what you want to happen, not what you fear, Hoge writes. “Goals change from pipe dreams to possibilities.” (18) If you take responsibility, you will be surprised to see all the resources you have around you for a given situation. Opportunities in disguise are waiting. For Hoge, working on the farm became a chance to get stronger for football. Schoolwork allowed him to sharpen his football mind. Years later, Hoge recognized his NFL Draft freefall to be a blessing. He slipped to 261st in the 1987 draft but became one of the few players privileged to play for one of the best franchises and coaches.

3. Hoge learned from a legend.

In his rookie training camp, Hoge ran the wrong play. “I thought you said he was smart,” Hoge overheard coach Chuck Noll telling his assistant. How would Hoge take it? Showing up early was Hoge’s calling card. At practice, Noll singled out the rookie on film. The player was sure he was about to be shamed. Instead, Noll asked everyone in the room why teammates would not keep up with Hoge. Noll stressed continually being around the ball on the field, whether or not you had already completed your assignment. That’s how Franco Harris “happened” to haul in the Immaculate Reception.

Ron Jaworski says Hoge has taught him more than scores of great players. “He simply found a way to succeed, to overcome adversity, and to continually improve time and time again (xiii).” No doubt Hoge will have found a way to excel in plenty more situations long after his book’s first printing.

Sam Miller is the founder of Sam’s Dream Blog.  A graduate of the University of Illinois, he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Book Review: Dan Marino: My Life in Football

Although Drew Brees and Tom Brady surpassed Dan Marino’s record for most pass yards in a single season this year, there are a couple big records where neither man comes close. Marino holds a 13-8 advantage over Peyton Manning for tops all-time when it comes to 400-yard passing games. Marino also shares the record for 300-yard passing games (63) with Manning and is right behind Brett Favre in a number of other categories.

“But let’s be serious,” Don Shula said. “Every defensive coach in the NFL would’ve liked me to establish a running game. Or at least try. It would have made their job easier. But Dan’s passing was the kind of strength you didn’t strategically stray from. You couldn’t. At least, not if you wanted to win” (10, Dan).

 

Pick up “Dan Marino: My Life in Football” because:

1.While Shula and others might have felt jumpy during Marino’s games, the man under center did not waver.

Asked to describe coaching Marino for 13 of the player’s 17 seasons, Shula summed it up with one word – “excitement.”

From childhood through retirement from the Dolphins, Marino wore No. 13. The quarterback can’t remember a time when he did not have his super arm.

 

“When I arrived in the league, writers wondered about the pressure of playing quarterback, before a full stadium, on national TV, with big stakes riding on each play,” Marino said. “That cracked me up. Pressure? That’s where I belonged. It’s what I loved to do. It’s what I grew up dreaming about, too, from the moment my dad took me aside as a kid and said, ‘I think if you work hard, set your mind to it, and are lucky enough to stay healthy, you can become a pretty good athlete’” (14).

2. Even when football didn’t go his way, which was rare, Marino made the best of it.

Marino excelled at the University of Pittsburgh. He led the nation with 37 TD passes as a junior. Then came a miserable senior season. The slide continued when he became the sixth quarterback taken in the famed 1983 NFL Draft.

“Strange how the lowest moments turn into the biggest blessings,” Marino said (24.) Miami was coming off a Super Bowl appearance. They had a stocked offensive line and defense. Furthermore, Shula told Marino to practice like he was starting from the first snap of training camp. It was not the norm, but Shula expected Marino to call his own plays. He would learn quickly and go on to start 145 brutal games in a row.

3. The book is packed with picture after picture of No. 13.

The man who retired with 25 passing records is captured in a multitude of photographs. The shots remind me of Michael Jordan’s “Rare Air.” Make sure to take a look at the life of another legend in this beautiful book.

Sam Miller is the founder of Sam’s Dream Blog.  A graduate of the University of Illinois, he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Book Review: The Catch

The play shouldn’t have worked. Every time Joe Montana and Dwight Clark ran the Sprint Wide Option  in practice, they could not convert. But it only needed to work one time. That one time became one of the most famous plays in NFL history. In an instant, the 49ers changed their fortunes forever. The Cowboys had to wait a decade to rediscover theirs.

Read “The Catch” by Gary Myers because:

1. Not too long before Montana threw the ball up in the sky, nobody believed he or Clark would make any sort of impact on the football field. Today “The Catch” is one of the first football highlights that comes to mind.

Dallas could have had Joe Montana in 1979. Months before the draft, Montana toppled Houston by leading a 22-point, 4th quarter comeback in the Cotton Bowl. Tom Landry liked him, but he didn’t really like him. “If we take him, I’ll probably cut him in training camp,” the Hall of Fame coach said. Nevermind that Montana was the highest player on the ‘Boys board, and since when did Dallas not take the best available? (10, Catch)

The phone call Dwight Clark got wasn’t even for him. Bill Walsh called to see Clark’s roommate work out. It just so happened that Steve Fuller wasn’t ready, and Walsh did not want to be kept waiting. He watched Clark work out instead. Leading up to the draft, Walsh kept hearing that Clark would go undrafted. Selecting him would be a waste. Walsh listened for a while, but he eventually went against his advisors. Montana and Clark, the two afterthoughts, were destined to be forever remembered together.

2. You might as well be in the backfield during the fateful drive, thanks to Myers’ narration.

Montana’s end zone heave to Clark was exactly what every boy thinks about before he goes to bed. In San Francisco’s version, the Niners found themselves trailing by one point on the six-yard line with 58 seconds on the clock. “[Montana] was the calmest in the huddle when he should have been the most nervous,” Clark said. “The moment was not too big for him.” (216)

The Sprint Wide Option play call from Walsh never worked in practice. Heck, Clark wasn’t even Montana’s first choice. The ball was supposed to go to Freddie Solomon. That’s how it was supposed to go in the 1982 NFC Championship Game too. Instead, as the make-or-break play unfolded, Solomon slipped. Montana was well aware of Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Larry Bethea and D.D. Lewis coming fast and furious toward him. Clark couldn’t see Montana, but the QB kept his eye on the receiver the whole time. All he could do was throw it up, wait for the beating and leave it to the crowd to tell him whether Clark made the grab.

3. Bill Walsh and Tom Landry are two legends in their own right and central to this story.

Bill Walsh was 47 when Eddie DeBartolo Jr. hired him. Walsh looked like he was 57, so he was all-too aware that the pressure was on. He didn’t start well (8-24 first two seasons.) Initially Walsh didn’t know whether to yell, bully or plead. Apparently he learned, as he’s been likened to Vince Lombardi.

Walsh became a players’ favorite. Landry didn’t allow himself to have those sorts of relationships, though the Cowboys head man made sure to let his players know he cared about them. Landry was stoic and didn’t need words to get his point across. He was old-school, Myers wrote. That, and “The Catch” were two significant reasons why Landry was relieved of his duties. Landry went from feared to misunderstood by new-school players.

Sadly, both Landry and Walsh died of leukemia. What a legacy they left, forever linked by “The Catch.”

Sam Miller is the founder of Sam’s Dream Blog.  A graduate of the University of Illinois, he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Book Review: Sayers: My Life and Times

Gale Sayers tied an NFL record with six touchdowns against San Francisco. But that’s not where his autobiography begins. “Sayers: My Life and Times” by Gale Sayers with Fred Mitchell starts with the most devastating play of the Hall of Fame halfback’s career. While Sayers is most-remembered for his six-touchdown game or as Brian Piccolo roommate, it’s also true that he played a mere 68 games.

Read “Sayers: My Life and Times” because:

1. “The Kansas Comet” learned how to savor the good times.

Sayers frowns on the scripted end zone celebrations we see today, but even he had to do a little dance after his sixth touchdown in the Bears’ 61-20 romp over the 49ers on Dec. 12, 1965. Don’t worry, coach George Halas kept him humble. ‘“You had a great game,”’ Halas said and left it at that. (31, Sayers) Halas had more to say when he presented Sayers at his Hall of Fame induction in 1977. Sayers was 34, the youngest player ever inducted at the time. Personally, Sayers is more proud of the computer supplies company he co-founded in 1982. Since its inception, Sayers Computer Source boasts revenues surpassing $150 million.

2. Sayers chose to move forward.

To become a successful businessman and family man, Sayers realized he couldn’t dwell on his football career that was cut short. At 25 years old, Sayers was at the peak of his game. In 1968, a direct blow to his knee put him on a path to early retirement three years later. Following a second knee injury, Sayers admits that he looked forward to pain killers. But he also had a healthy fear of them. He couldn’t remain on them, he decided, nor would he feel sorry for himself. Instead, following football, he returned to the stockbroker job he occupied part-time during his playing days. He also took Dale Carnegie classes to overcome a stammer.

3. Honesty reigns in this autobiography. Sayers shares freely about his coach, to his teammates, to his struggles after football.

Sayers acknowledges that Halas had a reputation for racial discrimination and being cheap. However, the 1965 Rookie of the Year refuses to say anything but positive remarks about the father figure in his life. Those who criticize Halas’ spending might not realize “Papa Bear” paid for all of Brian Piccolo’s hospital bills (more than five hundred thousand dollars) in addition to college educations for Piccolo’s three daughters.

Speaking of his former roommate, Sayers recalls how reporters would ask the pair about the black and white dynamic. “If you’re asking me what white Italian fullback from Wake Forest [I’d want as a roommate] I’d say Pick.” (42)

Similar to how Sayers used to move effortlessly, this book flows smoothly. Grab your chance to read about a Chicago Bears legend.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Book Review: Badasses

Decades before Mark Cuban maneuvered his Dallas Mavericks into the spotlight, Al Davis brought the Oakland Raiders to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness.

 

 

 

 

 

Read “Badasses” by Peter Richmond because:

1. Al Davis was a master architect.

Leading up to Super Bowl XI, Davis made himself scarce. His job was done. While the silver and black cult following had itself in a fervor with the nation watching, Davis was rumored to be scouting the Senior Bowl. Time magazine declared that the “Bad Boys of pro football,” were “led by Al Davis – master schemer.” John Madden was integral as the coach, but for the first time, an owner presided from a loftier post in the media. (310, Badasses)

“In order to run an efficient organization, there has to be a dictator,” Davis said. Davis studied military battles and football was not that far removed in his mind. For more than two decades, Davis’ teams did not post a losing record. The Raiders were the best in the world. Everyone else, take a number.

Davis was beloved by players on his good side. They knew him as “Al.” In Oakland the idea was, “pull up a chair. You’re family here.” Win or lose, the booze was on Davis after the game. No wonder Davis raised the Super Bowl XI trophy like a father lifts up his child. “People who knew him loved him, and he was a guy who’d absolutely go out of his way for his friends,” a friend said. (31-32)

2. In the 1970s, John Madden was a whole different animal.

Younger fans may think of John Madden as a peppy TV pitchman or as a commentator. Madden won 103 games in 10 seasons. His .763 winning percentage surpasses Vince Lombardi’s .738. Madden entered the NFL in an unparalleled era of coaching talent and didn’t flinch.

At practice, Madden sported polyester pants and chomped on a towel. During his tenure, Madden saw players ride on horses to practice and invite streakers on to the field. “The thing is you have a person, and he’s made up of a total package. You don’t just cherry-pick what you get,” Madden said. (76) Not all of the freedoms under Madden were fun and games, however. Madden was also free to explode in bursts of rage. Just another facet of the complex and captivating Raiders.

3. It takes exploits and star personalities to be “badasses,” and Davis’ teams from the seventies had plenty.

The book opens with the Raiders’ Bob Moore in a confrontation with police. Right away you know the Raiders aren’t your typical team. The suspicions you’ve had about them are probably true. In fact, the team exceeds your expectations. “There was no recession in Santa Rosa during Raider training camp,” Pete Banaszak said. “We were single-handedly boosting their economy. We’d show up two days early.”

Added Ken Stabler: It was just kids having fun and life being good. We couldn’t wait to get to training camp, to get away from wives and girlfriends, play some football, have a few drinks at night. (84-85)

That was only the beginning of the year and the tales to follow.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Book Review: The ’85 Bears: We Were the Greatest

When word broke last week about a new book that cast Walter Payton unfavorably, Mike Ditka didn’t mince words about the author. “I’d spit on him. I have no respect for him. Pathetic. Despicable. It serves no purpose,” the former Chicago Bears coach said.

No wonder. Ditka called Payton the best ever. “He was a complete football player. He knew everything… You could do things with him that you couldn’t with other backs,” Ditka said in “The ’85 Bears: We Were the Greatest.” Ditka has plenty more to say with Rick Telander, starting with the Bears’ Super Bowl celebration. Then he takes you back to training camp where the journey began. It’s Ditka, so you know it can’t be dull.

Read this book because:

1. Whether the game was a romp or seized from the jaws of defeat, you’ll feel like you are re-living the ’85 season from preseason through the big game.

Two weeks after a close call in the season opener against Tampa Bay, the Bears again were desperate for help against Minnesota. Jim McMahon had just spent two nights in traction and was fighting a leg infection, but he would not let up on the sideline. “He was driving me crazy!” Ditka said. “Get away from me! I’m thinking. But he’s right there like a mosquito, just pestering me to death,” Ditka said. (82, ’85) McMahon got in and threw three touchdowns to rally the Bears and win an important game against a division rival.

Week 6 was what the Bears had been waiting for. San Francisco humiliated Chicago 23-0 in the 1984 NFC Championship Game. We’ll be back, they said. Sure enough, they returned to sack Joe Montana seven times, and the Fridge went on the offensive for the first of several times that season. In fact, it was the Fridge and not Payton who scored in the Super Bowl. Payton’s scoreless game was one of the coach’s few regrets.

2. Players share their memories of the championship campaign.

“It amazes me that we didn’t win four [Super Bowls.] We lost 11 games in four years and only won one Super Bowl,” McMahon said. (24)

Steve McMichael was a Texan with a lot of heart, Ditka said. The future wrestler hunted rattlesnakes and said of the team’s ’85 season, “Listen, baby, we were vicious.” (156)

Kevin Butler’s future wife worried he was vicious in more than one way. Butler recalled, “The first mini-camp, I go up there after I’m drafted. I’m engaged to be married January 25. I walk out of that meeting, I get on the phone to Cathy, and I say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to change our wedding.’ She’s like, ‘My God, you’ve been up there four hours and you’ve already met somebody.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m going to make the team and we’re going to the Super Bowl.’” (236)

You can’t forget the Fridge: I let them talk about [my weight]. I was happy then. I’m happy now. (100)

3. And then there’s ‘Da Coach to keep you reading from cover to cover.

“I was in a coat and tie and shades, and it was colder than frozen snot,” Ditka recalled about the championship parade. “All those people, and it was really, really cold. It would have been impressive if it was 80 degrees out, but 25 below? It showed what our team meant to the city of Chicago. To all the Grabowskis.

“See, Grabowski is the name I came up with for the players on our team, and it fit Chicago. It just symbolized that we were hard-hat guys. The other guys ride in limos. We ride in trucks.” (18)

By the end of the book, you’ll be doing the “Super Bowl Shuffle!”

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Book Review: The Big Scrum

These days it’s pretty tough to get a job without an edge.

Back when Teddy Roosevelt recruited men for his Rough Riders, one word set you apart. Football.

In the midst of an escalating conflict with Spain in 1898, letters pledging support in arms poured in. Roosevelt could afford to be selective. Among the men he chose was Dudley Dean, “perhaps the best quarterback who ever played on a Harvard Eleven” as well as men who rivaled Dean in pigskin prowess. This week, take the handoff of “The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football” by John J. Miller.

Read this book because:

1. Football and TR grew up together.

Roosevelt suffered from asthma and other ailments as a youth. That’s when he first read about a primal game some say was founded in 1823. The game was football. Tom Brown’s Schooldays reads “It’s no joke playing up in a match, I can tell you. Why, there’s been two collar-bones broken this half, and a dozen fellows lamed.” (28, Big)  Where’s the training table when you need it? Everyone, it seemed, played his own version of the game.

Harvard’s game was called “Bloody Monday.” The Crimson’s objective was to “kick the other and bark their shins as much as possible.” (58)  Roosevelt was a Harvard freshman in 1876 when he saw the first-ever contest with 11 players on each side.

2. Talk about blood sport! That was football before Roosevelt and his friends grabbed hold of the game.

Sometimes the rewards outweigh the risks. There is the potential for serious accidents with cars, but efficiency supersedes the minimal risk. Football offered spectators enjoyment and participants gained physical fitness, but without any sort of protective equipment in the middle of a free-for-all, public outcry continued to rise. Surely there had to be better entertainment options. Newspapers blared “They saw real fighting, savage blows that drew blood, and falls that seemed like they must crack all the bones and drive the life from those who sustained them.” (107)  Roosevelt again and again championed football as part of his “strenuous life,” but cries of greed and eligibility issues would not subside on college campuses.

At the White House, Roosevelt told a group of Ivy Leaguers that “Football is on trial. Because I believe in the game, I want to do all I can to save it.” (187-88)  The six guests left the two-hour meeting with the basis of what would ultimately become the NCAA.

3. At the height of politics, the pigskin was never far from the leader’s mind.

After the football committee meeting, The New York Times wrote, “Having ended the war in the Far East [and] grappled with the railroad rate question, President Roosevelt today took up another question of vital interest to the American people. He started a campaign for reform in football.” (191)

Following an ugly fight between Harvard and Penn players, Roosevelt invited Crimson coach Bill Reid to the White House for lunch. Nevermind that the luncheon also included German ambassador Baron Speck von Sternberg and others. When they were finished dining, Roosevelt said to the others, “Will you please go out on the porch for a few minutes? I want to have a talk with Mr. Reid.” (195)

Pick up “The Big Scrum” and you won’t stop short of the end zone.

 

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.