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New Basketball League Wants to Pay Student-Athletes Upwards of $100,000 a Year

The Historical Basketball League wants to pay student-athletes and disrupt the NCAA.

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The Historical Basketball League wants to pay student-athletes and disrupt the NCAA.

The Baldwin Wallace University School of Health, Physical Education, and Sport Sciences (HPESS) presented a panel discussion on amateurism and paying college athletes with the founding executive leaders of the new Historical Basketball League (HBL), which aims to operate outside of the NCAA-controlled varsity athletics system and compensate its players. The panel consisted of Andy Schwarz, chief strategist; Ralph Green, chief marketing and licensing officer; and Ricky Volante, chief executive officer. It was MC’d by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bilingual play-by-play announcer and RoadTrippinPodcast producer Rafa El Alcalde.

The league will be comprised of mostly, if not all, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s). Some HBCU’s include Spelman College, Howard University, Hampton University, Florida A&M University and more. Volante explained why they are targeting HBCU’s.

“We have decided to go with them mostly because they have the largest incentive to break away from the current system or try to create some alternative path to what they presently have.”

Schwarz, the original creator of the idea, is an antitrust economist, who has worked on numerous cases, including the O’Bannon v. NCAA case.

“The court found what the NCAA does is they cap payments. In this case, they cap licensing payments at $0 which was price fixing. But, the court’s remedy was very narrow, and as someone who worked on the case for five years, it was really disappointing,” explained Schwarz to the audience. “They said yes, you are doing all the classic things of a price fixer and we’re going give you a slap on the wrist, but you can still price fix, just be a little bit more generous with it.”

This case, combined with Northwestern attempting to unionize their football team, winning, and then being shut down by an appeals court were huge motivators for Schwarz in wanting to create an alternative for college athletes.

The season would take place in the summer months (June-September) when school is not in session, that way these student-athletes are able to focus on studies during the school year without having to travel and miss weeks of class. That is another huge factor the HBL is attempting to address. They also plan on providing their one-and-done players with an option where if they were to have some sort of career ending injury or for some reason, the NBA/G League do not work out, they are able to return to school on the same scholarship and finish their education.

Additionally, the league will play by official NBA rules; better-prepping players for the NBA from the get-go. This will take away some of the guesswork from NBA scouts and player operations personnel, as they will be able to evaluate the players in more of a professional setting.

Players will be able to monetize their likeness on social media platforms as well as hire an agent to take care of potential endorsement deals and contracts. As of now, the HBL is looking to pay its players anywhere from $50,000-$100,000. Volante went on to talk about other perks for HBL players:

“For us, it’s important that these guys have lawyers and agents day one. In addition, there are the ancillary benefits. We’ll have insurance policies in place for them; for the elite players, loss of value policies, so in the event of injury and their draft stock is negatively impacted, they’ll be covered there as well as 401k’s and disability policies.”

This league would not only benefit the players, it would significantly help the HBCU member institutions, as the HBL will pay signing bonuses to entice them to join the league. Most collegiate athletic departments are run on shoestring budgets, with the exception of a few. The HBL will provide another avenue for revenue generation, as member institutions will also be included in the revenues generated by the league, which can then be kicked back into the NCAA/NAIA varsity programs at the school. The league will primarily generate revenue through broadcasting rights and licensing fees. The HBL’s goal is to assist with new facilities as the league gets up and running as well.

The plan is to start with collegiate men’s basketball with the overall goal being to move into other sports. In order to abide by Title IX standards, the HBL would seek to provide additional scholarship opportunities for the women’s teams as the HBL will be starting out with only the men’s teams.

When asked about the possible repercussions from the NCAA, Green explained, “Because of the club designation, there probably isn’t a violation that the NCAA can throw at any school that’s participating, but there are some things around the edges that we’ve got to be sensitive to… such as the basketball staff within the school athletic departments… Are they going to face additional behind the scenes pushback? One thing about choosing the HBCU’s is that they [the NCAA] aren’t doing a whole lot for them anyway.”

There are a lot of variables at play when it comes to recruiting the talent that is necessary to make this league successful, but if done right, it could have a massive impact on the future of college sports. 

Things to note: These teams will be treated as club teams and be separate from the varsity teams. Players will essentially be employees of the HBL receiving pay for their services.

Link to panel discussion: https://www.pscp.tv/w/1yNxaVgXOrWKj

Justin is a contributing writer for Front Office Sports. A current senior at Baldwin Wallace University, Justin has worked with the Cleveland Indians, ESPN Cleveland, Integrated Sports Marketing, and both Super Bowl 50 and LI. He can be reached at justin.herrin14@gmail.com.

College Athletics

Michigan Athletics Turns to Facebook to Drive New Donations

The University of Michigan athletic department has found a great return on investment by reaching donors through paid Facebook advertising.

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The University of Michigan recently tapped into a fundraising reservoir using Facebook.

Last December, Brian Wagner was given a list of 20,000 emails of University of Michigan alumni who had the means to give, but hadn’t previously donated to the athletic department. As the department’s digital strategy and creative lead, Wagner decided to turn to a modern solution: social media.

Uploading the list into Facebook, Wagner found 15,000 of those emails on the website and from there the department created a “basic ad campaign” with former quarterback Denard Robinson.

“We were trying to grab some emotional strings there,” Wagner said.

SEE MORE: VERT Looks to Real-Time Data to Provide More Engaging Fan Experience

Spending $500 in the final week of December, the University of Michigan athletic department reached 9,029 of the 15,000 targeted users. Intrigued by the ad, 199 people clicked the link and eventually 40 donated a whopping $17,392. The 56-percent result rate and $2.51 cost per result were well worth the initial $500 investment, Wagner said.

The money went to the Michigan Athletics Scholarship Fund.

“Our development team was very pleased with the results,” Wagner said. “We do so much of our interactions with our season-ticket holders, and unless you’re a big donor, there’s not a lot of touch, and in the last week of the year we wanted to amp that up.”

The campaign was the only one that resulted in monetary donations, but Wagner said the athletic department regularly uses targeted Facebook campaigns, including letting the 25,000 season-ticket members know that there would be a “maize out” for a football game.

Early on in the football season, Wagner said they spent a few hundred dollars for a “thank-you” message to their season-ticket holders and will likely do another one later in the season, near Senior Day.

SEE MORE: Paws & Claws Club Provides Auburn Pets to Be Fans 

More were used to target the geographic area for ticket sales. The best performing campaigns are those emails they have from previous ticket purchasers, so they’re not just sounding off with a “megaphone.”

The success of the campaign also has resulted in Facebook receiving budgetary allocations in the annual budget. Wagner said the department will likely do another donor push in the near future.

“A lot still goes toward more traditional marketing, but we were able to add more dollars in this year for the paid social, where we hadn’t budgeted in previous years,” Wagner said. “We’d have to allocate from other areas, so it’s not an overnight shift, but we were able to siphon off more money directed to paid social and most of it is geared toward more revenue generation.”

The process sounds more sophisticated, Wagner said, but is fairly easy once the ad buyer dives in. He also said social media paid ad targeting isn’t something talked about much in his world, but it can be a useful tool.

SEE MORE: ‘Climb With Us’ Moniker Leads Marketing Efforts for Penn State 

A worry is all the controversy brought up surrounding Facebook and other social media business models, Wagner said. So far, however, the University of Michigan Athletic Department hasn’t had negative feedback.

“I’ve even thought about that myself,” he said. “But we’ve not received any emails or calls. The way I see it, and others might, I would much rather see an ad like this than one that doesn’t relate to me.”

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The Importance of Useable Data for Colorado State Athletics

Colorado State Athletics is doubling down on data to help drive revenue and spot trends in ways it hasn’t been able to before.

Adam White

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Photo courtesy of Colorado State Athletics

(*Old Hat is a proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

Is it data or is it intelligence?

If you were to ask Chris Ferris, senior associate athletic director for sales, marketing, and communications at Colorado State, he would most likely tell you that it’s actually “strategic intelligence.”

As data and its impact has permeated sports of all levels, there has never been a better time to be able to make decisions based on what the numbers suggest. But, with all of the numbers floating around, and all of the potential data points to be collected, what should be focused on first?

While Ferris may not point to a specific data point that everyone should look for, seeing as all athletic departments have different goals, he did mention that the most important fact beyond acquiring data is being able to use it to implement new initiatives.

Hence, the “strategic intelligence” idea.

“At the end of the day, we have a finite amount of resources, people, and time. Finding out how to direct and utilize resources, people, and time is critical. Strategic intelligence that helps us do that is very powerful.”

READ MORE: The Boom of Implementing Esports Classes in College Has Begun

It’s great to have data, but it’s even better to have data and a context that makes what the spreadsheets are telling you useable.

“To me, it’s about data and information that you can use to plot out specific initiatives that you can mobilize resources against,” mentioned Ferris. “There’s a lot of data out there that we all like to look at and think is interesting, but the question would be, ‘How are you going to use that data and what category of use does it fit in?’”

Opening in 2017, Canvas Stadium brought football back to the CSU campus for the first time in 49 years. Not only did the move provide students and fans with a better experience, it also gave Ferris and his team the opportunity to review a few areas in which they wanted to improve.

Teaming up with Old Hat, building a use case with its data was focused around three areas: retention, engagement, and communications.

“I think what Old Hat really did well for us is they not only presented data, they presented data with a plan of how to use it. It was data with a to-do list, which has been extremely helpful.” – Chris Ferris, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sales, Marketing, and Communications at Colorado State

Colorado State wanted to know whether or not stakeholders were happy with their investments in the program “monetarily or time-driven” and what areas the department needs to focus on with existing and/or additional resources.

When it came to retention, Ferris was looking for a better way to connect with specific industries — both local and regional — that were relatable in impact in the community as well as an opportunity to provide value from a partnership perspective.

“What are those industries, and where are those opportunities from a corporate perspective that lend themselves to integration and partnership? I thought that was very helpful because if we can connect with those industries that resonate our current stakeholders, that helps us with retention and growth, which is a double positive.”

To drive engagement, the team narrowed in on making sure the department’s messaging was being received correctly. What they found was that while a large part of their alumni base is in Denver, the messaging could be too focused and alumni and fans in cities like Parker, Greeley and Loveland may not be receiving it as well.

Instead of approaching these areas as just a department, the shift has been focused on approaching them more as a team — involving not only the individual athletic programs, but the academic programs like the school’s renowned agriculture department when appropriate.  

Although Ferris and the team can’t solve all the problems at once, their newly found “strategic intelligence” enables them to be more prepared and confident in the initiatives they execute.

“We’re confident that the efforts we’re going to make will have positive results because we’ve done our homework, right? It is good to go into projects with a level of preparedness and confidence like this.”

(*Old Hat is a proud Partner of Front Office Sports)

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College Athletics

Beyond the Ticket: Executing Effective Pricing Strategies

In this webinar, presented by Old Hat, you will learn about the different pricing strategies used across the country, what teams are having success, and what is driving that success.

Front Office Sports

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