NYT on NCAA cartel

1/1/2012: Joe Nocera, the NYT columnist better known for stories on corruption in the financial sector, finds plenty of dirt in college athletics, and lays out a workable plan for cutting the burdens on the academic side, and shifting some of the benefits from overpaid athletic directors and coaches to the athletes:

Recently, Mark Emmert, the president of the N.C.A.A., tried to make the rules a tad less onerous. He got the N.C.A.A. board of directors to approve an optional $2,000 stipend as well as a four-year scholarship instead of the current one-year deal for players.
And how did the cartel react to these modest changes? It rose up in revolt. Enough universities signed an override petition to temporarily ice the new stipend. The same thing happened with the four-year scholarship.

A lawyer in Fort Worth, Christian Dennie, who specializes in sports law, got ahold of an internal N.C.A.A. document outlining some of the objections. One is especially worth repeating: “The new coach may have a completely different style of offense/defense that the student athlete no longer fits into,” wrote Indiana State. Four-year scholarships might mean that the school would be stuck with “someone that is of no ‘athletic’ usefulness to the program.” Thus does at least one school show how it truly views its “student athletes.” (Andy Staples at Sports Illustrated first reported on this document.)

At the N.C.A.A. convention in mid-January, both of these rules will be reviewed. In all likelihood, the N.C.A.A. will roll them back. However benignly it characterizes this action, it will be as clear-cut an example of collusion as anything that goes on at an OPEC meeting.

How can it be that the N.C.A.A. can define amateurism in one moment as allowing a $2,000 stipend and in the next moment as forbidding such a stipend? How can it justify rolling back a change that would truly help student athletes, such as the four-year scholarship, simply because coaches want to continue to have life-or-death power over their charges? How can the labor force that generates so much money for everyone else be kept in shackles by the N.C.A.A.?

Which side of this debate are UO athletics director Rob Mullens and our Faculty Athletics Representative Jim O’Fallon on? The side that preserves their salaries and perks.

AD Mullens blows $500,000 on 60 second FOX puff-piece

12/24/2011: Rob, please stop maxing out our Visa card on presents like this – you’re bankrupting us.

We’re still trying to get him to show us the contract, but basically athletic director Rob Mullens agreed to accept 60 seconds of air-time during the UO-UCLA broadcast for this FOX produced ad, instead of taking the $500,000 that the time would have brought on the open market. Mullens thinks we should be happy, because the spot promotes UO’s academic side. I must have blinked during that part. Hilariously, the script for the UCLA ad is almost exactly the same: “We are UCLA” instead of “We are Oregon”. UCLA does say “We are professors” instead of “We are instructors”. At least Fox is clear on the difference.

Athletic Director apologizes to Professor

Progress of sorts, but Rob Mullens is still laughing all the way to Jamie Moffitt’s bank, using the academic side’s money to pay the athletic department’s bills.

From: Rob Mullens
Subject: iac2011-12: Apology
Date: December 23, 2011 10:49:50 AM PST
@uoregon.edu>

Glen,

Good morning.

The Athletic Department understands the critical role that teaching and research play in the academic mission of the University.  And we applaud the success of your research as well as the many successes of your colleagues.  The collective accomplishments of students, faculty and staff enhance the University of Oregon and elevate the campus profile.  In fact, Athletics often relies on the expertise of our faculty and students to conduct research to assist our department in data analysis and problem solving.  We are grateful and fortunate to have such high-quality leaders at the University.

To your specific questions, I was not aware of any call from the NYT regarding your research.  Thus, I did not instruct anyone to take a call or on how to “play it”.  As his title indicates, Dave Williford directs Athletics Media Relations and thus journalists contact him given his role.  In his role, Dave is often a spokesperson for Athletics although as he indicated in his quote that he was providing his personal opinion in this instance for which he has appropriately apologized.

Congratulations on the national recognition for your research.

Rob

Dave Williford’s statistical critique of UO economists in the NY Times

12/22/2011: Now it’s in Time too:

Oregon parents, beware: the Ducks are 11-2 this season, and playing in the Jan. 2 Rose Bowl against the University of Wisconsin, the sixth-best party school in the nation according to Playboy (in 2010, the Badgers ranked third). For transcripts, this game might be an F-ing disaster. “Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education,” the researchers  — Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen and Glen R. Waddell wrote.

12/21/2011: Getting your research talked about in the NY Times is a good thing for professors. Part of our job is to do research that interests people. Great publicity for UO’s academic side. The NYT matters in a way that a 60 second $500,000 athletic department puff piece never will. Only a few UO research papers get featured each year. Here’s the latest, from three UO economists:

In examining the grade-point averages of the Oregon student body and the performance of the Ducks’ football team, the researchers found a relationship between declining grades and success on the field.

“Our results support the concern that big-time sports are a threat to American higher education,” the paper’s authors — Jason M. Lindo, Isaac D. Swensen and Glen R. Waddell — wrote. They said their work was among the first to take a look at the “nonmonetary costs” of college sports.

Male students were more likely than females to increase their alcohol consumption and celebrating and decrease studying when a team fared well, resulting in lower grade-point averages, according to the study….

Some 24 percent of male students said that the success of Oregon’s football team definitely or probably decreased the amount of time they spent studying for classes, compared with 9 percent for women. Both men and women reported that they were more likely to consume alcohol, skip class or party in the wake of a win compared with a loss.

Relative to females, “we observe a decrease in male academic time investment and an increase in distracting or risky behaviors in response to increased athletic success,” the researchers wrote.

Anyone who has ever been to a university – or just to a football game – knows this is true. But here’s the response from official Duck spokesperson and Executive Assistant Athletics Director Dave Williford, who presumably has spent a fair amount of time tailgating, if not studying, and who therefore really should get it:

David Williford, a University of Oregon spokesman, said about the study: “I would like to try and understand the factors involved to coming to that conclusion. Statistics can prove anything. But that’s my personal opinion and not necessarily the university’s.”

Followed by “Wait, will you please not print that?” Too bad they couldn’t get our NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative Jim O’Fallon to comment too. I’m guessing AD Rob Mullens hid under his desk as soon as he heard what the reporter wanted to ask him about. Williford – the $85K a year spokesperson and the low guy on the totem pole, got stuck taking the call.

We blogged about this earlier, with links to another paper showing links to football upsets and increases in spouse abuse. The OC – back on the job now that the game parties are over – discusses the former. But there’s more:

Rees and Scnepel (2009) on crime, http://jse.sagepub.com/content/10/1/68.short:

Our results suggest that the host community registers sharp increases in assaults, vandalism, arrests for disorderly conduct, and arrests for alcohol-related offenses on game
days. Upsets are associated with the largest increases in the number of expected offenses.

and Card and Dahl (2011) on family violence, which finds

Controlling for the pregame point spread and the size of the local viewing audience, we find that upset losses (defeats when the home team was predicted to win by four or more points) lead to a 10% increase in the rate of at-home violence by men against their wives
and girlfriends. … The rise in violence after an upset loss is concentrated in a narrow time window near the end of the game and is larger for more important games.

Of course on the pecuniary side we’ve got Stinson and Howard (2004) http://business.nmsu.edu/%7Emhyman/M454_Articles/%28Collegiate%29%20Stinson_SMQ_2004.pdf showing another effect of big-time sports programs:

Both alumni and non-alumni show an increasing preference toward directing their gifts to the intercollegiate athletics department-at the expense of the donations to academic programs. Sperber’s (2000) assertion that giving to athletics undermines academic giving is strongly supported.

And the official NCAA reports on this http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/97483e804e0dabfa9f32ff1ad6fc8b25/empirical_effects_of_collegiate_athletics_update.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=97483e804e0dabfa9f32ff1ad6fc8b25

Hypothesis #8: Increased operating expenditures on sports affect measurable academic quality in the medium term.

• Our statistical analysis of the updated data suggests no relationship – either positive or negative – between changes in operating expenditures on football or basketball among Division I-A schools and incoming SAT scores or the percentage of applicants accepted.
• The academic literature is divided on whether athletic programs affect academic quality. While our results suggest no statistical relationship one way or the other, our data are limited to ten years and such a relationship may exist over longer periods of time. In addition, the relationship between athletics and academic quality may manifest itself in ways other than the effect on SAT scores or other directly measurable indicators.
•  We continue to conclude that the hypothesis that changes in operating expenditures on big-time sports affect measurable academic quality in the medium term is not proven.

Hypothesis #9: Increased operating expenditures on sports affect other measurable indicators, including alumni giving.

• Econometric analysis using our updated database shows little or no robust relationship between changes in operating expenditures on football or basketball among Division I-A schools and alumni giving (either to the sports program or the university itself).
• The academic literature is again inconclusive on this issue. As with the previous hypothesis, our results suggest little or no statistical relationship – but our data are limited to ten years and such a relationship may exist over longer periods of time.
• We continue to conclude that the hypothesis that increased operating expenditures on sports affect other measurable indicators, including alumni giving, is not proven.

On the other side of the argument, of course, there’s Duck spokesperson Dave Williford, and this $500,000 video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_csyVJEzMFw&feature=player_embedded

Comments here.

Update: Dave Williford writes a nice apology – though it should come from his boss. But Rob Mullens still won’t meet with the IAC, Jim O’Fallon still won’t explain why the IAC can’t have a voice in who will pay for the NCAA settlement, Randy Geller still won’t stop redacting the Glazier invoices, and Jamie Moffitt still won’t come clean about the Kilkenny baseball loan, etc.

From: “Dave Williford”
Subject: Response from David Williford, Athletics Department, University of Oregon
Date: December 22, 2011 2:56:13 PM PST

I would like to apologize for the insensitivity of my comments to the
New York Times. I wish to assure you that I hold the academic mission of
this University to be of the highest priority and certainly did not
intend to create any perception that resulted in a compromise of the
integrity of that academic mission.

Dave Williford
Asst. AD, Media Services
Athletics Department
University of Oregon@uoregon.edu>

 

Violate the standard assumptions

11/17/2011: Here at UO Matters our sports editors focus on the highly effective strategies that UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens and his “Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director for Finance and Administration” Jamie Moffitt have been using to squeeze every last dime from UO students and the academic side, to pay for the coach’s salaries and their own free cars.

But the Ducks are more than just a fast moving violation of generally accepted accounting principles. Coach Kelly has also been breaking many of the old assumptions of college football. And to understand that part of the athletics game, you really can’t do better than the analysis at the amazing fishduck.com website:


Who will pay UO’s NCAA fine?

11/11/2011: The NCAA investigation of the Kelly / Lyles deal is winding down. Many people expect a settlement this month. Maybe. One likely outcome is self-punishment: UO agrees to limits on players, gives up a bowl game, and pays a fine. Where would the money come from? Kelly’s contract is here, with this clause:

So, Rob Mullens could fine Kelly for the NCAA violations, etc. A day’s pay would be about $20,000, but there’s no upper limit and Kelly would not seem to have much recourse. Will Mullens do this? Probably not his best career move. I’m guessing the athletic department will announce they will pay, and then Jamie Moffitt will find some way to pass the cost off to the academic side.

Mullens takes another $10,000 from UO

7/25/2011: I’ve written before about the perverse “Directors Cup” incentives in the contract UO wrote for AD Rob Mullens last year. This is an NCAA competition between athletic directors for the most successful overall athletic program.

UO ranked 30th, and now the bill is due. I can see why Mr. Mullens would care about this – great for his career – but it’s irrelevant to UO and to most of the boosters, who care about football, basketball and of course track.

What UO wants – or should want – is an athletic program that does not require annual $1.1 million state lottery fund subsidies, $1.8 million UO general fund subsidies for athletic tutoring and the jock box,  $600K subsidies from UO staff, faculty, and students for the $40,000 per slot arena parking garage, and that doesn’t make the academic side shell out the $300,000 for running Jim O’Fallon’s FAR office.

So, does Mullens’s contract give him incentives for reducing these subsidies? No. Instead it rewards him for the very thing that he already cares about, and that we don’t. And it writes the options so he’s already in the money: Last year UO was 14th in this competition. This year we’re 30th. So, he pays a penalty, right? No, we give him $10,000.

Even worse, because performance in this Director’s Cup depends in part on the number of NCAA teams UO has, this clause gives Mullens a perverse incentive *not* to take the tough steps that will be needed to simultaneously keep Chip Kelly happy and wean the athletic department from the subsidies they are now receiving – drop a few money losing sports. UC-Berkeley just did this and saved $5 million for the academic side. Their AD went berserk. Tough shit.

But wait, that’s not all. At Kentucky, the athletic department’s annual report notes this:

As part of its ongoing commitment to help support the University’s goal of becoming a top-20 research institution, UK Athletics will donate $1.7 million in 2010-11 toward the university’s general fund and in support of UK’s Singletary Scholars program. During the past eight years, the department has given more than $13 million in over- all scholarship support of the University’s academic mission.

Maybe Kentucky fudges the numbers too, but at first glance, at Mullens’s last job the athletic department actually helped the academic side financially. At UO they just take. And UO’s contract with Mullens does nothing to address that problem.