SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: September 6, 2022

Episode Summary

Inside the CFP decision; why the Bears job is so coveted; UFC extends into France and celebrations of the lives of two late NFL executives.

Episode Transcription

The US Open is having a record setting tournament heading into week two. College football delivered some significant opening week headlines, and LIV Golf had easily its most compelling and successful event in Boston this weekend. And what's next? Oh, that's right, the NFL kicks off as the Bills and Rams open the season Thursday night, and then a full schedule of week one games on Sunday. So yes, our Sundays are booked until February.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, September 6th. I hope everybody had a nice Labor Day weekend. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. And we're going to start with news on the college football playoff, and it took the college presidents to take control and approve expanding the college football playoff to 12 teams, which will happen no later than 2026, which will bring seismic change to that sport.

FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame's Jack Swarbrick will meet in Dallas this week and try to work out some final details, which SI reports includes its deal with ESPN, how revenue will be distributed in an expanded playoff, and the role of the Rose Bowl which has always been a sticking point during the past year of negotiations. But this deal has been approved and here is what it will look like. First, the top four conference champions will get byes while the other eight teams would play first round games at the home stadiums of the higher seated teams.

Neutral sites will then host the final seven games of the tournament. So the four quarterfinal games and the two semifinal games will be rotated among bowl games similar to the way the current New Year's Six bowl games rotate as playoff semifinal sites. And first round games will be held either the second or third weekend in December. And there would be at least 12 days between conference title games and first round playoff games.

In this model, the championship game will be moved back at least a week until mid January. So what else will we see? Well, while we'll see on-campus home games, which is very appealing to many schools. You could also see weather be a factor as this could bring bad weather in the Midwest into play during these games.

So after years of trying to get this done, how did it get through? Well, most point to the desires and push by the university presidents and chancellors who basically told bickering conference commissioners that they were approving this and they just have to figure out the details. Mississippi State president, Mark Keenum, who serves as the CFP board of managers chair and West Virginia's Gordon Gee were key proponents of getting enough of the school leaders on board. They had been holding informal talks for months.

Even Keenum stated so much saying, "We felt like we needed to give them a definitive, this is where we are, this is where we think college football needs to be headed." Even SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey told Paul Finebaum that motivation from the presidents and chancellors was enormously helpful, and they delivered a message that was the motivating factor. So again, you see that the presidents and the chancellors took the matter and really made this happen.

Remember last time, the ACC, The Big Ten, and the Pac-12 voted against the expansion proposal, but they reversed course this time and most agree that the university presidents knew they had to go in this direction to generate more revenue, and any money coming from the next TV deal will be significant. Remember, ESPN pays roughly $470 million a year. And one estimate over the weekend had this ending up to be the biggest TV deal in college sports history, all told it could bring in close to $2 billion a year and include a number of different media partners. ESPN, of course, holds the rights exclusively up until 2025.

But the question becomes if the new 12-team format can be implemented before the current deal with ESPN expires, how does that work and how do the talks proceed? Will ESPN get the first bid, or how does it play out in the open market? Because it's very clear the CFP plans to take this new package to the full marketplace, all in all a very historic moment for college football and so many angles to explore in the days and weeks ahead.

So let's move on to the NFL. For years, sources have told me the one sleeping giant in the NFL that aspiring leaders in team sports have dreamed of running is the Chicago Bears. So many executives have told me they would love to have a shot at returning that organization to glory because of its appeal, because of its history, and because of the great market of Chicago.

Well, the Bears will have a very rare change in leadership as president and CEO, Ted Phillips, plans to retire in late February after spending 40 seasons with the team. The 65-year-old has worked in his present role since 1999. He originally joined the Bears in 1993 as the controller. His departure is not a surprise. It's been speculated for a few years. But remember Ted Phillips is just the fourth president in the Bears' 102-year history. That's amazing. 

He's recently been focused on the team's expected move to Arlington Heights, and we should get more news on that front this week as the team plans to offer their vision for that ambitious mixed-use facility. So in terms of Ted Phillips' replacement, the Bears are reportedly in talks with the search firm, Nolan Partners, about handling this search. And let's just say, this will be high profile and there will be no lack of interest in this position.

Speaking of positions in football, Russell Reynolds has begun the process of finding a new executive director for the NFLPA to replace D. Smith. The search firm has conducted a number of interviews, primarily designed to get input on how the job description should be written and what the union's future challenges will be. Our Ben Fischer listed six people who the search firm has discussed the role with, each with ties to the NFLPA. But the search remains in its earliest phases and any kind of short list would still be many months away.

But that process to replace D. Smith is now beginning to happen, while the hot weather out west impacted college football in a couple of ways. First, a new facility, a much talked about facility opened over the weekend in San Diego. Snapdragon Stadium's grand opening took place on Saturday. Now, announced attendance was more than 34,000, but if you saw the highlights, you could see far fewer fans because it really wasn't the smoothest of openings as temperatures reached a hundred degrees at kickoff. And some fans were seen being carried out on stretchers by first responders. But the opening of Snapdragon Stadium did happen certainly impacted by the hot weather.

It was a theme in California as UCLA is giving fans who attended Saturday's game against Bowling Green at the Rose Bowl a $25 credit in their ticket accounts, good for any other athletic event this year, because that game on Saturday took place with the temperature again around a hundred degrees. It drew a record low attendance of just over 27,000. That low number broke the previous low set 30 years ago. Yes, there were factors, the heat. USC also played a home game Saturday. Students aren't on campus at UCLA yet. And the opponent was of course, an out of conference opponent, but this is still UCLA and it's an issue to watch. I would imagine the influential alums and leaders of that campus will keep a close eye on attendance by UCLA games for football this year for sure.

A quick shift to the UFC. Remember the UFC was Sports League of the Year at the Sports Business Awards in May and its appeal continues to grow. As the UFC drew a sellout crowd of more than 15,000 fans in Paris, it marked the UFC's first ever fight in France. Mixed martial arts was actually banned in that country until 2020, and UFC certainly lobbied hard to have those laws changed. Now the event was co-produced by UFC and IMG. So again, further expansion of the UFC's footprint as it draws more than 15,000 fans a sellout crowd in its first fight in France.

And finally, I want to end talking about two people who we've talked about on the Buzzcast. There were two celebration of life services over the weekend. First, I watched the celebration of Former Texans President, Jamey Rootes that took place on Sunday. It was powerful to hear his two young children offer eulogies, talk about the love of their father, but also acknowledge the difficult dark days of his last few years. I still can't believe that he's gone. I can't believe what Jamey Rootes went through.

And then on Monday, the Miami Dolphins opened Hard Rock Stadium to honor the life of senior vice president, Jason Jenkins. Friends, family, and members of the public came to attend and celebrate a life again far too short, but Jason Jenkins is very impactful in the south Florida community. Remember, he died suddenly of a blood clot on Saturday, August 27th, far too young. He worked in the Dolphins organization for the past 14 years, working closely with the media and with the team's community affairs division. And again, made a huge impact on so many people in South Florida. So two important celebration of life services, one for Jamey Rootes and one for Jason Jenkins.

So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, September 6th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening. Stay healthy. Be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.