SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: January 18, 2024

Episode Summary

College programs continue to bring in the dollars; Bjork introduced at Ohio State and the early numbers on women's hockey

Episode Transcription

We are thinking of our friends at the Golden State Warriors, who lost assistant coach Dejan Milojević after a sudden heart attack at a team dinner. He was just 46 years old. Very sad, very tragic. And we are thinking of our friends at the Golden State Warriors.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, January 17th. Good morning, I'm made Abe Madkour. Well, there's more and more revenue coming into college sports, and it's reflected in some programs' public filings. First, the University of Texas athletics program has flexed its muscle as the program has brought in just over $270 million in operating revenue during the 2023 fiscal year. That means that Texas increased its revenue by more than $30 million over the year prior. That's a big, big jump. And for now that overall figure of $271 million, that's a record. It's the largest single year total. It tops Ohio State, which reported over $250 million in 2022. So let's see what the numbers are for Ohio State when they release their figures later.

But let's go inside the numbers and see where Texas really overperformed. They brought in $11 million more in contributions. They brought more than $10 million more in revenue from sponsorship and licensing and advertising. And finally, they brought in nearly $6 million more in ticket revenue. And yes, it's all about football. As Texas's football program brought in $183 million in top line revenue, and at the end of the year had a $122 million surplus, all to the bottom line. And that shows the role of football at Texas.

But it's not just Texas performing well. Penn State's athletic department revenue rose by nearly $21 million in 2023. The athletic department as a whole brought in roughly $202 million in revenue. That's against $202 million in expenses. So at the end of the day, they nearly broke even on their athletic department revenue and expenses. It was a big boost for Penn State as they brought in more than $20 million in one year. Penn State football of course brought in the most, nearly $110 million in revenue, and that was up $5 million from the prior year. So the bottom line, each of these line items are growing in college sports, and of course driven by football.

Let's stay with college sports, because the hiring of Ross Bjork as a new athletic director at the Ohio State University is official, and the themes around his hire are pretty consistent. It has surprised many in the college space that Ohio State picked someone who was not part of Gene Smith's lineage or administrative tree. And many wonder if that was intentional by the school's new president. Many previously believed that the AD selection would come from somebody who worked with Gene Smith. A lot of people thought Ohio State wanted to keep the continuity and continued Gene Smith's vision.

Remember, Ohio State, as I mentioned, has one of the largest budgets, and traditionally brings in more revenue than any other school. Gene Smith has built Ohio State into a financial juggernaut, but Ross Bjork's hire was the first big hire of new president Ted Carter. He officially began his role as president just this month. Gene Smith has served at Ohio State since 2005. He is seen as one of the most influential athletic directors in the country. Ross Bjork, coming from Texas A&M, will bring a new point of view and he will take over on July 1st. But a very interesting hire that many people are talking about in the college space.

One of my favorite stories in the last few weeks has been the launch of the Professional Women's Hockey League, the PWHL. The launch has been impressive for all the right reasons. Six teams are drawing more than 5,000 fans per game. The Minnesota franchise averages a league high of nearly 8,600 fans per game, and of course, they drew more than 13,000 for their home opener. So far the style of play has been very well received, and fans are showing up. It's hard to believe the league leaders could have scripted it any better. Now I have not seen the televised product, so I can't comment on the quality of the broadcast, but officials acknowledge that the startup costs for the PWHL have been more than they anticipated.

But the key takeaway is that you have investors committed to this league who have deep pockets and are in it for the long haul. Mark Walter has the money to put behind this and make it work. And those close to the league have told me how they are impressed how professionalized and sophisticated the Professional Women's Hockey League is in just six short months. And now the focus turns to making it a long-term profitable business. And again, Mark Walter, with his deep pockets, will continue to invest to make his vision work.

If you're making your plans for the upcoming NBA All-Star games, you'll be in Indianapolis this February. You'll be at the Chase Center in February of '25, and then the Intuit Dome for the 2026 All-Star Game. The NBA awarded the All-Star Game in '26 to Steve Ballmer. It marks the first time the NBA has awarded an All-Star Game to an arena that isn't completed. It's still under construction. The facility will open this August, and there'll be a full season in the new building for the Clippers before the league comes in to host the All-Star Game. So the NBA obviously feels that is enough time to make sure the venue is ready for such an event.

And this matches the desire of the NBA to move the All-Star Game to new venues. And this is a basketball-focused building that the NBA will really want to show off. Remember, the All-Star Game was in LA just a few short years ago, but we're seeing more and more big events take place in California and Los Angeles specifically, and the NBA All-Star Game will be back in that market in 2026.

And to all my friends who play ultimate frisbee, here's some interesting news. After 12 years under the name of the American Ultimate Disc League, the league will be rebranded as the Ultimate Frisbee Association, starting with this upcoming 2024 season. This move is smart. It's certainly more on-brand for ultimate frisbee followers, and the decision to rebrand stem from wanting to have broader recognition and to distinguish the Ultimate Frisbee Association from other disc leagues, such as Disc Golf. And if you're not familiar with the Ultimate Frisbee Association, like I said, it's been around for more than 12 years and has grown to 24 teams, now with a new name, the Ultimate Frisbee Association.

And finally, we will end with news around the NWSL as the Kansas City Current have hired Milwaukee Bucks Executive Vice President of Business Operations, Raven Jemeson, as the team president. This comes before the team opens its season in March at their new soccer-specific stadium. Jemison replaces Allison Howard, who became the club's first president in May of 2022, and she's recently transitioned into an advisory role.

Now Raven Jemison is an SBJ Game Changer. She's worked throughout her career in a number of sports. Prior to the Bucks, she worked in the NBA's TMBO unit for nearly six years. She also worked at the 49ers, the Pirates, and the Florida Panthers. Now she will lead the team as it prepares to move in to its new $117 million stadium called CPKC Stadium. That is the country's first stadium built specifically for a woman's professional soccer team, and season tickets are already sold out for the upcoming season. Now, Alison Howard said the time was right for her to transition out of the presidency as the club's major sponsorship deals have been sold. She should be proud of her work, and she is moving on to her next professional venture. So the Kansas City Curren, have a new team president in Raven Jemeson.

That is your Morning Buzzcast for Thursday, January 18th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.