TIME NFL

NFL Player Ray McDonald Arrested on Domestic Violence Charges

Ray McDonald
San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald during an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 1, 2013, in San Francisco. Greg Trott—AP

The San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle was arrested the same week NFL introduced harsher punishments for domestic violence offenders

San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald was arrested early Sunday morning on felony domestic violence charges, according to the San Jose Police Department.

McDonald was taken into custody and brought to the Santa Clara County Jail after officers responded to reports of a violent altercation in San Jose, Calif., around 2:45 a.m., NBC Bay Area reports. The alleged victim was pregnant. No bail has been set.

The 29-year-old, who has been with the team since 2007, was previously arrested in 2010 for DUI and again in 2012 for an outstanding warrant.

The arrest comes in the same week as National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell instituted harsher punishments for players guilty of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes against women. First-time offenders will be subject to a six-game suspension, while a repeat offender will be banned from the league for life.

Goodell was motivated to change the league’s policies after being widely criticized over the suspension of Ray Rice for only two games in July, after the Baltimore Ravens running back was captured on video pulling his unconscious fiancé out of an elevator following an altercation.

The NFL commissioner later acknowledged that he “didn’t get it right” on Rice’s punishment. (As TIME’s Sean Gregory notes, the league gives year-long suspensions for marijuana use.)

In a Sunday statement, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said that the team is “aware of the recent reports regarding Ray McDonald and we take such matters seriously. As we continue to gather the facts, we will reserve further comment.”

Former 49ers players say head coach Jim Harbaugh has a zero-tolerance policy for assaulting women, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “He said that we can do anything in the world and we can come and talk to him and he’ll forgive us except put our hands on women,” Donte Whitner, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, said in 2012. “If you put your hand on a woman, then you’re done in his book.”

[NBC Bay Area]

TIME Football

What’s Next for Michael Sam?

St. Louis Rams cut the openly gay defensive end Saturday, but analysts say he has a future in the NFL

+ READ ARTICLE

The NFL may not see its first openly gay player on a regular season roster this year after all.

The St. Louis Rams announced Saturday that Michael Sam didn’t make the team’s 53-man roster, but analysts say the rookie defensive end still has a shot at a career in the NFL.

Sam now becomes a free agent, but if another team doesn’t pick him up, he might end up back where he started: with the Rams, as part of their 10-member practice squad, the Washington Post reported. In that case, the player would practice with the team but not play in games.

Watch the video above for more on what analysts say is in store for Sam.

TIME Sports

Michael Sam’s March to NFL History Derailed — but Only for Now

FILE - Michael Sam Released By St. Louis Rams
Michael Sam addresses the media during a press conference at Rams Park on May 13, 2014 in Earth City, Missouri. The St. Louis Rams released defensive end, ending Sam's effort to become the first openly gay player in NFL history. Dilip Vishwanat—Getty Images

Michael Sam the NFL player may not have a jersey right now, but he isn’t going anywhere

The Rams cut openly gay rookie defensive end Michael Sam on Saturday, minutes before the NFL’s mandated roster deadline. The news sent shockwaves through the NFL and the LGBT community Saturday afternoon, his march to history seemingly derailed.

Yet for Sam, his journey continues. This is just a hiccup for the man who was the first openly gay man drafted by the NFL, the first openly gay man to play in an NFL preseason game, and who will be the first openly gay man to play in a regular-season NFL game.

Michael Sam the NFL player may not have a jersey right now, but he isn’t going anywhere.

The road to that final piece of immortality is simply a little bumpier now. Sam will have to be signed by another team in the next 24 hours, or he’ll most certainly end up on the Rams’ practice squad. From there, he would continue to work with the staff that drafted him in May, honing his skills and proving his worth on the football field. He would then wait week-to-week as other NFL teams considered picking him up or until the Rams activated him for a game.

The journey isn’t over, it just took a left turn.

Sam was born to be this man. Growing up in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood he survived tragedy after tragedy as a child, surrounded by drug dealers and coping with the loss of three siblings. His father abandoned the family during his youth. His mother, a Jehovah’s Witness, barred Sam from playing football when he was younger.

His mother banning him from football didn’t take, and neither will this.

Since coming out publicly, Sam has continued to endure. His NFL Draft stock fell in May in part — many including myself believe — because he is openly gay. He endured heavy criticism with the announcement of a docuseries produced by Oprah Winfrey. While many have lauded Sam, there have also been jabs at him, most recently with ESPN’s report on his showering habits.

With more scrutiny and pressure than any seventh-round pick in NFL history, plus the hopes of an entire community on his shoulders, Sam performed well in four preseason games, tallying three sacks and leading the team in tackles just last Thursday against the Miami Dolphins.

The Rams’ decision to cut him is just another hurdle that will ultimately demonstrate the courage and fortitude of a great man.

The man knows how to overcome set-backs and handle pressure. He was made for this trailblazing role. He was made for the NFL.

Many in the LGBT community are lashing out at the NFL today, claiming homophobia. It’s understandable. Gay men have been told for decades they’re not good enough to play football, they’re not welcome in the locker rooms. Some of those messages have even reverberated in 2014. While the Rams’ decision wasn’t based on homophobia, it’s hard not to afford gay men a little foot-stomping at this latest rejection.

You know who isn’t lashing out? Michael Sam. He knew this was always a possibility, part of the cold business that is the NFL. A coach is your mentor and father-figure one day. The next afternoon he gives you a pink slip. Sam understands this is not the end, but rather another opportunity to prove his doubters wrong, earn his spot at the very top of his profession and take his rightful place in history.

“The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy,” Sam said in a statement after learning the Rams’ decision. “This is a lesson I’ve always known.

“The journey continues.”

Zeigler is co-founder and editor of Outsports.com.

TIME Football

49ers’ Aldon Smith Gets 9-Game Suspension Following DUIs

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended for nine NFL games following a number of incidents including making a false bomb threat and two arrests for driving under the influence.

“Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team,” the team’s general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”

Smith has a long list of transgressions to his name. He was charged with possession of illegal assault rifles and driving under the influence in May and pleaded no contest. He faced another DUI charge in 2012. Smith was also arrested in April at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly suggesting that he was carrying a bomb, but formal charges were never filed.

The punishment means the 49ers will be without a key player for most of the regular season this year. Smith will be eligible to return to the field in November.

MONEY Sports

Why Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games

Bleachers at Michigan Stadium.
Bleachers at Michigan Stadium. Simon Bruty—Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

With college football ticket prices soaring and expanded conferences leading to less exciting matchups, fans—students in particular—are more likely to watch games from home.

There’s no denying that college football is a hugely successful business enterprise, arguably the second-biggest, most popular sport in the U.S. right now (after pro football in the NFL). But there’s one glaring crack in the armor that college football conferences and storied college programs have been struggling with for years: Fewer and fewer fans are actually buying tickets and attending games in person.

The problem is particularly evident among students, who aren’t buying tickets like generations past. For the upcoming season, the University of Michigan, the winner of no fewer than 11 national championships and 42 conference crowns, projects that student attendance will hit around 13,000—a shocking 40% less than the figure hit last year (roughly 19,000).

It’s not just a problem in Ann Arbor. The Wall Street Journal reported that student attendance fell 7.1% from 2009 to 2013, and that it has even fallen over the past few years at games hosted by perennial powerhouses such as Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, LSU, and the University of Florida. A year ago, observers took note that home attendance was down for the majority of teams in the SEC, even though the conference has thoroughly dominated college football in recent years.

The two most frequently cited reasons for the ticket slump are simply: 1) higher ticket prices; and 2) less interesting games. A student season ticket package at Michigan, for instance, now costs $295, up from $205 not long ago. There are only six homes games in the package, mind you, so that breaks down to just under $50 per game. “There are students who are being priced out,” a Michigan business student named Michael Proppe explained to the WSJ. “People are looking to trim costs, and for a lot of folks, football is an easy thing to cut. It’s not essential to going to college.”

What makes the decision easier for students at Michigan and other schools is the expectation that the games they’re missing aren’t going to be that good. The shifting and expansion of college football conferences has led to incredibly lucrative TV contracts for the programs involved, but it has also meant that traditional rivals don’t play every year like they used to. Michigan’s biggest rivals are Michigan State and Ohio State, but for the first time in nearly 40 years, the Wolverines won’t be hosting either team this season. Instead, Michigan will welcome the likes of Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio), opponents that many fans apparently think aren’t worth paying $50 to see.

As ticket prices have soared, and the quality of the product has declined, it has become more of a no-brainer for fans—poor students in particular—to stay home and watch the game on the couch. After all, this option has gotten cheaper and more entertaining and convenient in recent years, thanks to the declining prices of big-screen TVs and the advent of DVRs, multi-angle replays, and other innovations. Sure, the exciting roar of the crowd may not be there if you watch the game at home, or the frat house, or heck, in the parking lot while tailgating outside the stadium. But the way trends are going in terms of shrinking attendance at games, the crowd might not be all that loud inside the stadium either.

MONEY

How This Weekend’s College Football Rivals Stack Up as College Values

The college football season has kicked off. We looked at which of the schools in this weekend's games are the winners in Money's Best Colleges rankings.

  • Texas A&M v. University of South Carolina

    Left: Reveille cheers on the Texas A&M Aggies. Right: South Carolina Gamecocks mascot Sir Big Spur on his perch during the game.
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images (left)—Joe Robbins/Getty Images (right)

     

    When: Thursday Aug. 28, 6 p.m. EDT

    The Winner: Texas A&M, which came into the game ranked 21st in the AP poll, upset the 9th-ranked Gamecocks.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: Texas A&M.

    Texas A&M is one of the most affordable and highest quality public universities in the country. MONEY estimates that the total cost of a degree for freshmen starting this fall will average $86,000—$14,000 less than a degree from the University of South Carolina. Also, Aggies earn, on average, about $52,000 a year within five years of graduation, according to data from Payscale.com. Gamecocks report earning only about $41,300.

  • Penn State v. University of Central Florida

    When: Saturday, August 30, 8:30 a.m. EDT

    Oddsmakers’ pick to win: UCF is given a slight edge thanks to its returning veteran defensive line.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: Penn State

    True, Penn State is expensive—a degree costs Nittany Lions an average of $142,000, or $41,000 more than Knights pay for their degrees—but Penn Staters are much more likely to graduate and earn healthy salaries. Penn Staters report earning almost $51,000 within five years of graduation, almost $10,000 more than UCF grads.

     

  • Florida State University v. Oklahoma State University

    140828_FF_Rivalries_FSUOSU_2
    Getty Images

     

    When: Saturday, August 30, 8 p.m. EDT

    Oddsmakers’ pick to win: FSU, last year’s national champion, is also the top-ranked team this fall, and has top-notch players at nearly every position.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: It’s a tie.

    Schools within about 30 places in our value rankings are very similar, as shown by the slight differences between Oklahoma State, ranked 194, and FSU, 223. OSU’s graduation rate of 62% is significantly worse than FSUs 75%. But OSU students who do make it through tend to earn more: $44,400 a year within five years, versus FSU’s average of $41,600.

  • University of Miami v. University of Louisville

    When: Monday, Sept. 4, 8 p.m. EDT

    Oddsmakers’ pick to win: Louisville beat the Miami Hurricanes soundly in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl. But oddsmakers are giving them only a slight edge in the rematch.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: Louisville

    MONEY ranks Louisville No. 382 for value in the country–not great–in part because of its painfully low graduation rate of just 51% (compared with 81% for the University of Miami.) But as a public school, Louisville charges Kentuckians, on average, less than $100,000 for a degree, about half what students at the private Miami typically pay. Those high costs are one reason we ranked Miami 536 out of 665 on our list.

     

  • University of Notre Dame v. Rice University

    When: Saturday, August 30, 3:30 p.m. EDT

    Oddmakers’ pick to win: Notre Dame, even though some its best players have been sidelines by an academic investigation. The Fighting Irish are ranked 17 by the AP poll; Rice is unranked.

    MONEY’s pick for college value: It’s a tie.

    You really can’t lose with either of this schools. MONEY ranks both Notre Dame and Rice equally at 20th place for value. They both have stellar graduation rates of more than 90%. And students go on to earn salaries in the mid $50,000s within five years of graduation, according to Payscale.com. Notre Dame costs more (a degree costs about $185,000, versus $150,000 for Rice), but the higher cost was balanced out by unusually high earnings reported by Notre Dame’s non-science majors.

    See more of Money’s Best Colleges:
    The 25 Most Affordable Colleges
    The 25 Colleges That Add the Most Value
    The 25 Best Colleges That You Can Actually Get Into

MONEY Sports

NFL Preseason Tickets Aren’t Even Worth $10

Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns scrambles for a touchdown during the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 23, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns scrambles for a touchdown during the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 23, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Joe Sargent—Getty Images

What do fans think of NFL preseason games? Basically that they're meaningless, to the point that they're sometimes not worth paying $10, or even $5, to attend.

Every year around this time, sports talk radio overflows with rants about the meaninglessness of the NFL preseason. Actually, the anger is about more than just that the games don’t mean anything in terms of rankings or even what fans can expect out of their team in the coming (real) season. Sure, the quality of the games is low due to the fact that starters rarely play for more than a few minutes. But that’s only part of the equation that makes the preseason a magnet for hate.

What also gets fans up in arms is that some of their team’s favorite, most important players might get hurt when they do briefly jump into the action during these meaningless games. And the thing that really drives the most loyal fans nuts is that they are forced to buy tickets—usually at full price—for these matchups that mostly feature players they don’t know and may not see again in the regular season. Anyone who buys season tickets, after all, is required to pay for seats for two home preseason games as part of the package. These are tickets, by the way, that cost an average of $81 apiece at face value last year.

During the regular season, prices on the secondary market for those tickets can and often do soar far above their face value. According to the ticket resale and research site TiqIQ, the average resale price for tickets at most NFL stadiums is more than $200, and tickets for home games for Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots average over $400.

That’s all during the regular season, though. During the preseason, it’s a different story entirely—because, again, fans couldn’t care less. Leading into this past weekend, tickets for NFL preseason games hosted in Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, and Arizona were all selling for $10 or less at secondary ticket sites such as StubHub. Meanwhile, the get-in price on Thursday night in Buffalo, when the Bills host the Detroit Lions in their final preseason game, has dropped as low as $4.50.

Another game this Thursday, in which the San Diego Chargers will host the Arizona Cardinals, is also a matchup drawing a remarkable disinterest among fans. Not only is it a work night, but not much is expected in terms of success or playoff runs from either team this year—plus the two teams are playing again, 11 days after this preseason game, when it actually means something as the Monday Night Football season opener.

Last week, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that tickets to the preseason game were starting at around $6 on the secondary market, with many seats selling for 85% off face value. Prime seats on the 50-yard line were on the market for around $19.

Stating the obvious, Miro Copic, a San Diego State University College of Business Administration marketing lecturer, said to the Union-Tribune that the shockingly low prices of these games “really does create a question about the value of preseason for fans.”

He then offered an interesting suggestion that could turn the preseason, currently a subject of great frustration among fans, into something that could make them happy, and even build the customer base: “It’s almost like the NFL could offer them for free as a PR activity. One of the things that should be considered is how do you make preseason a way to engage fans who otherwise may not afford a Charger game, or are now willing to get apparel?”

TIME Football

Bradford Out for Season With ACL Tear

Sam Bradford
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford leaves the field after getting hit by Cleveland Browns defensive end Armonty Bryant in Cleveland on Aug. 23, 2014 David Richard—AP

In all, five St. Louis Rams starters were hurt in the first half against the Browns on Saturday night

(ST. LOUIS) — Jeff Fisher shared the bad news with Sam Bradford on Sunday morning.

By the time the St. Louis Rams coach began his day-after news conference, he’d had several hours to digest the impact of an injury that puts the team’s once-rosy outlook in serious doubt, and to give a vote of confidence to journeyman backup Shaun Hill.

After announcing Bradford’s season-ending torn ACL in his left knee for the second time in nine months, Fisher said speculation about a trade was premature.

At the least, they’ll likely wait to see who hits the market in the first round of cuts on Tuesday when rosters must be at 75 players.

“It makes no sense to jump and react right now and try to fill the hole at whatever cost,” Fisher said. “We’re going to take our time and evaluate this.

“There’s going to be some quarterbacks that are released and there may or may not be some quarterbacks out there that have trade value.”

Fisher confirmed the extent of the injury first reported by ESPN and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He said no timetable had been set for surgery.

“We lost Sam for the year,” Fisher said. “The news was devastating to him.”

The coach quickly added that everyone at Rams Park must quickly become accustomed to the 34-year-old Hill running the offense.

“We’re going to move forward, we’re not going to change anything,” Fisher said. “We have to move on and Shaun’s the guy.”

In all, five starters were hurt in the first half against the Browns Saturday night. Fisher called it a “nightmare.”

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson was carted off with a knee injury and three others — guard Rodger Saffold and defensive tackles Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers — left with ankle injuries.

Johnson will be out 4-6 weeks with an MCL tear, but Fisher said Saffold, Langford and Brockers could play if needed in the preseason finale Thursday at Miami.

Bradford was injured in the first quarter of Saturday night’s 33-14 preseason victory at Cleveland. He was hit on his left side by Browns defensive end Armonty Bryant as he threw a pass, and hopped briefly on his right leg before dropping to the ground.

Fisher said the injury was a “one in 100″ rarity.

“The knee was locked and something has to give,” Fisher said. “Unfortunately, the ACL gave.”

Bradford, the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, missed the last nine games last season after getting injured at Carolina. The Rams also have rookie Garrett Gilbert and Austin Davis on the roster.

Hill strolled through the auditorium to a meeting as Fisher walked to the podium and Davis also made an appearance during the news conference.

“Shaun’s our guy,” Fisher said. “I brought him here.”

The Rams shifted to a ground-heavy offense after Bradford was injured last year and Kellen Clemens inherited the job. They were 3-4 with Bradford and 4-5 with Clemens.

Unlike Bradford, Clemens was a bit of a scrambler. Hill is more in the Bradford mold of a drop-back passer.

After the game, Fisher thought Bradford might have hyperextended the knee and was “very optimistic.”Bradford walked off the field, and then walked to the locker room after the injury.

Wide receiver Brian Quick said he was assured by the quarterback that he was “OK.”

“It is a tremendous loss for them,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “We knew that it didn’t look like much when it happened, but I just think it was a good amount of weight that got put on it. It’s such an unfortunate thing.”

Pettine said there “certainly wasn’t any intent” by Bryant to hurt Bradford.

Bradford had 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions last season. The Rams then upgraded their offensive line by drafting guard-tackle Greg Robinson No. 2 overall.

Bradford played in two preseason games and was 4 for 9 for 77 yards against the Browns.

The 34-year-old Hill has thrown only 16 passes the past three seasons as the backup in Detroit. He made 10 starts in 2010 for the Lions in place of injured Matthew Stafford and beat the Rams for Detroit’s first win after a 0-4 start.

“He makes good decisions, he’s mobile and just understands defense,” Fisher said. “He’s very reliable.”

TIME Big Picture

Meet Levi’s Stadium, the Most High-Tech Sports Venue Yet

Levi's Stadium
A general view during a preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on August 17, 2014 in Santa Clara, California Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Most people have heard of smartphones, smart cars and smart homes. Say hello to the smart stadium.

Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, Levi’s Stadium — home to the San Francisco 49ers — is now the most high-tech stadium anywhere in the world.

It’s in the center of the tech universe, of course, so it’s only natural that 49ers management decided to devote a significant sum of money to building high-tech infrastructure. The stadium will allow all 70,000+ fans to connect to Wi-Fi and 4G networks to take advantage of personalized services, making the event experience more enjoyable.

I had the privilege of attending the inaugural event at Levi’s Stadium, where the San Jose Earthquakes took on the Seattle Sounders in an MLS league game. About 49,000 people attended that event, well below the stadium’s 70,000+ seat capacity, so the game served as a dry run to work out some of the kinks. I also attended the first NFL game to be played in the stadium: the Denver Broncos came to town to help the 49ers christen the stadium in a preseason game on Aug 17. The first regular-season NFL game will be held there on Sept 14, and will serve as the official grand opening of the stadium.

Turning Downtime Into Screen Time

What I discovered from these two experiences is that the 49ers’ stadium is indeed the most tech-advanced stadium in the world, using technology to make the fan experience much richer and more entertaining. Al Guido, the COO of the 49ers, told me that one challenge that’s been an issue in the NFL is that the amount of action that takes place in a football game only about amounts to about 15 minutes. People want access to things like stats, replays and other media when live play isn’t taking place.

During that downtime, the 49ers organization wanted to deliver all types of new ways to enjoy the game, turning to technology to deliver it through a connected experience. According to Mr. Guido, “The 49ers wanted to transform the in-stadium fan experience and make it possible to see the action live but still have the similar features that a fan has at home while watching the game on TV.”

Cables, Routers and Bandwidth Aplenty

So how did the 49ers and their tech partners achieve the goal of enhancing the fan experience by harnessing technology for this purpose?

According to Dan Williams, the VP of technology for Levi’s Stadium, they laid out 400 miles of cabling, 70 miles of which are just dedicated to connecting the 1,200 distributed antenna systems that serve the Wi-Fi routers that are placed to serve every 100 seats throughout the stadium. Levi’s Stadium features a backbone of 40 gigabits per second of available bandwidth, easily scalable to accomodate event attendance, which is 40 times more Internet bandwidth capacity than any known U.S. stadium, and four times greater than the standard for NFL stadiums that’s been mandated by the league to be in place by 2015.

Levi's Stadium Router
Access points are spread throughout the stadium every 100 seats, serving up wireless Internet service to fans during the games Ben Bajarin for TIME
Levi's Stadium Repeater
Repeaters placed throughout Levi’s Stadium pass Internet service along from section to section Ben Bajarin for TIME

The stadium also has about 1,700 high-tech beacons. Using the latest version of the Bluetooth Low Energy standard, these beacons can be used to give people pinpoint directions to their seats as well as to any other place in the stadium. They can also be used to send them alerts about specials from concession stands and other promotions from time to time.

Tech Partnerships

One of the companies that contributed to the overall strategy and execution of some the stadium’s high-tech features is Sony. Sony’s technology is at the center of the stadium’s control room, which manages all of the video for the over 2,000 Sony TVs that have been placed around the venue, as well as the 70 4K TVs found in most of the suites and the two giant LED displays in each end zone.

When I asked Mike Fasulo, the president and COO of Sony Electronics, about his company’s involvement in the new Levi’s Stadium, he told me, “Our partnership with the San Francisco 49ers and the new Levi’s Stadium goes well beyond technology and products. This is truly a one-of-a-kind fan experience, with the world’s greatest showcase of 4K technology from the best of Sony’s professional and consumer products. For every event, every fan will be immersed in the pinnacle of entertainment and technology to enhance their experience.”

Other major sponsors from the tech world include Intel, SAP, Yahoo and Brocade.

An App to Tie It All Together

There’s also a Levi’s Stadium smartphone and tablet app, which offers the following features:

  • The app can guide people to the parking lot entrance closest to their seats, and then once inside, guide them to their actual seats.
  • Fans can watch up to four replays at a time during the game, seeing the exact replays shown by the studio as if they were watching at home on their TV. A fan can actually watch the game live on this app as well. They can also get stats and other info related to the game via this app.
  • It can guide fans to the closest bathroom with the shortest lines, which I predict will become the most used feature at any game.
  • Fans can connect either by Wi-Fi or to one of the 4G networks from the major carriers. Each of the big telecom networks has expanded its antenna service to enhance its customers’ wireless connections within the stadium.
  • Fans can order food and drink from any seat in the stadium and it will be delivered directly to their seats. People also have the option of ordering food from their seats and going to an express line at the concession stands to pick up their food in person, too.

The painstaking attention to tech detail that the 49ers and its partners have integrated into Levi’s Stadium is sure to be the envy of NFL stadiums throughout the U.S. For the time being, it’s the gold standard in high-tech stadiums and one that’s sure to be copied by many sports facilities around the world.

The Valley Advantage

However, I suspect that by being in the heart of Silicon Valley, this stadium may keep the lead in high-tech wizardry for some time. Keep in mind that the tech companies partnered with the 49ers on Levi’s Stadium because it also provided them a showcase for their technology. As Sony’s Fasulo stated above, it provided the company with a major showcase for its 4K professional and consumer products. Intel loves the fact that all of the servers that are used to power the networks show off the power of Intel processors, and Brocade’s networking technology is showcased as a world- class solution.

Silicon Valley is also the center of tech innovation. As people in the industry continue to create new technologies that can be used to enhance the sports experience, where do you think they will take it first? Since the 49ers have already shown a commitment to using technology for delivering the ultimate in-stadium fan experience, the organization will most likely be open to all sorts of new technology to help it deliver an even greater experience in the future. Think of this symbiotic relationship between Silicon Valley’s tech companies and the 49ers as home field advantage for both.

It’s probably not a stretch to say that the pioneering efforts of the 49ers to make Levi’s Stadium a truly smart stadium will force other NFL stadiums to follow the team’s lead, striving to make all of their stadiums smarter. It will also serve as a potential blueprint for other sports stadiums around the world. Being in Silicon Valley does have its advantages, though: With the kinds of tech sponsors and partners that are in its back yard, I suspect that Levi’s Stadium will continue to get smarter and smarter.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

TIME College football

Notre Dame Benches 4 Football Players Over Cheating Charges

The players are suspected of submitting papers that others had written for them

Officials at the University of Notre Dame are investigating four members of the school’s football team for suspected academic dishonesty, the school announced Friday. The players, who helped the team win the 2012 Bowl Championship Series, will not be allowed to attend practice or play in games for an unspecified period of time.

“Young people sometimes make bad decisions, but our job is to hold them accountable,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, the school’s president, in press conference.

Evidence of the cheating, which consisted of submitting classwork that had been written by others, emerged on July 29, and the school’s general counsel initiated an investigation, according to a press release.

“We’re going to have this investigation go wherever it leads us, and we’re going to be thorough,” said Jack Swarbrick, director of athletics at Notre Dame.

Jenkins said the investigation is still ongoing and that the school would initiate a committee to consider the allegations in accordance with the school’s honor code. There is no evidence that any of the coaching staff or academic personnel knew about the alleged misconduct, he said.

Notre Dame’s football team has fared well in recent years. The four players in question played on the 2012 team that made it to the BCS national championship. Jenkins said that the NCAA has been notified of the investigation, and said that it is possible that the school will vacate its wins during past competition as the players would have been ineligible under NCAA rules due to their academic dishonesty.

Notre Dame’s opening home game against Rice is scheduled for August 30th.

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