MONEY Sports

How College Football Sacked the NBA and MLB

Houston football fans singing the National Anthem
Dave Einsel—AP

With the college football season upon us, it's time to take stock of just how valuable this "amateur" sport has become.

Want to know how rabid fans have become for college football?

Well, the season kicks off in earnest tonight when the South Carolina Gamecocks (ranked 9th in the country) take on the Texas A&M Aggies (ranked 21st).

The game will be played in Columbia, South Carolina, in front of 80,000 screaming fans — an amazing feat given that Columbia has a population of just 133,000. The Aggies, for their part, play in Kyle Field, which in 2015 will be able to hold almost every single College Station, Texas, resident.

Last year, the Gamecocks opened with a game against the University of North Carolina, and 3.7 million people across the country tuned in. That may not sound that impressive, but consider that Columbia is just the 77th largest television market in the U.S., behind cities like Omaha and Toledo.

There’s no doubt about it. Americans love football.

More people watched the NFL Sunday Night pregame show last year than watched the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. In fact, professional football games comprised all but four of the 50 most-watched sporting events of 2013. The National Football League is the most popular spectator sport in America.

What’s No. 2? Not the NBA, not Major League Baseball—but college football. And with college football introducing a new-fangled playoff system this year, expect America’s infatuation to only grow.

Here are a few measures of its influence.

Ratings

The 2013 NBA finals featured perhaps the most popular athlete in the world, Lebron James, as his super team battled against the San Antonio Spurs for seven unforgettable games. An average of almost 18 million viewers saw James secure his second NBA title. A few months later, 15 million baseball fans saw the Red Sox win their third championship since 2004.

How many viewers watched Florida State beat Auburn in the 2014 BCS title game? Twenty-six million, per Nielsen ratings.

This isn’t a one-off event. On average, 2.6 million people watched NCAA regular season football games last year, according to Nielsen. Take Saturday, October 5, 2013. Both the University of Georgia and Tennessee were enduring less than stellar seasons. Nevertheless, 5.6 million people tuned in to see the two Southeastern Conference schools play each another on CBS.

Viewer demand is only likely to increase. Starting this year, college football will institute a four-team playoff to decide the national champion, and rejiggered rules allow the biggest football programs more control over their finances. According to USA Today, these developments will lead to the biggest schools earning 71.5% of the $470 million annual television revenue for the playoff.

Baseball and basketball simply don’t attract as many eyeballs. About 700,000 people watched an MLB regular season game on television in 2013, and 1.4 million watched a non-playoff NBA game in the 2012-13 season. (All are based on nationally televised games.)

The total attendance for 835 NCAA Division I football games was a little more than 38 million, with a per-game attendance of 46,000. The NBA, which has almost 400 more total games in its season, drew 21 million people, while the MLB attracted 30,500 per game. (Major League Baseball has almost three times as many games and brought in a total of 74 million fans.)

Reach

Part of college football’s popularity might be its reach. While the NBA and MLB have 30 teams collected mostly around large metropolitan areas, college football programs exist where there are colleges – which is everywhere. Consider that New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco have 15 professional baseball and basketball teams. That’s a quarter of all the teams in only four cities.

Now look at NCAA football. The top five teams play in Tallahassee, Tuscaloosa, Eugene, Norman, and Columbus. While it’s true that a number of the West Coast schools play in big cities (UCLA, Stanford, and the University of Washington), most of the big-time schools are the only game in town. If you live in Boise, Idaho, do you really care about anything else the way you care about Boise State Broncos football?

Riches

There is something a bit unsettling about college football’s popularity, and corresponding affluence. A college football coach is the highest paid public employee in 27 states – including South Carolina and Texas. Alabama’s Nick Saban made more than $5.5 million last year, despite the fact that his and every other team’s players weren’t paid anything. (Many were given athletic scholarships, but those can be taken away if a “student-athlete” becomes injured. Just for some perspective: the University of Texas’s football program earned $82 million in profit last year.)

Plus, football is a dangerous game, and it’s an open question whether an institution of higher learning should even be in the business of promoting a sport that causes severe head trauma. (Google: Owen Thomas.)

College football, though, is inexorably linked to American history. The first intercollegiate game took place four years after the end of the Civil War, and the college game itself was saved by then President Teddy Roosevelt.

Otherwise normal, hard-working Americans revert to 20-year-old fanatics every fall Saturday afternoon and cheer on their alma maters. Tonight’s game in Columbia is just another page in the never-ending story of America’s love with her second-favorite sport.

TIME Television

Infamous Ex-Pitcher John Rocker to Star in Newest Season of Survivor

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Former Braves player John Rocker participates in a pre-game ceremony honoring many Braves alumni at Turner Field on August 8, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin Liles — Getty Images

Series kicks off on Sept. 24

The newest season of Survivor will feature none other than former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker, according to CBS Sports.

The retired pitcher, who played portions of six seasons in the MLB, will compete in Survivor: San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water, which will debut on Sept. 24, CBS says.

Rocker is notoriously remembered for the bigoted comments he made about New Yorkers during a widely publicized interview in Sports Illustrated in 1999.

“I was raised in a professional baseball clubhouse and still carry a lot of that idiocy with me,” said Rocker in a trailer released by CBS.

The former reliever will appear on the show alongside his girlfriend Julie McGee.

TIME Sports

Top 10 Worst First Pitches

From 50 Cent to Mariah Carey, there are some people who should never, ever be allowed to throw out the first ceremonial pitch. Then again, everybody deserves a good laugh.

Look, most of us aren’t important enough to be invited to throw a ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game, so we shouldn’t judge. Shouldn’t being the key word, though. We are still totally going to judge.

Some celebrities do a totally respectable job when they take the mound, but others screw up so royally that we can’t help but laugh wildly as we’re overcome with pure schadenfreude. Beginning with the most recent fail, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable (worst) first pitches in baseball history.

  • Miss Texas Monique Evans

    To be fair, Miss Texas appeared to be attempting ballet and baseball simultaneously when she threw the first pitch at last week’s Angels-Rangers game. So that provided an additional challenge, since most people simply attempt the pitch and nothing else. The result? The ball hit the ground within seconds and rolled very, very far away from the plate. She did manage to keep her crown on her head, though, so bonus points for that.

  • Carly Rae Jepsen

    Oh man — the Canadian pop singer should have called a baseball coach maybe. In July 2013, a year after her hit “Call Me Maybe” charmed the world, Jepsen headed to Florida to throw the first pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays. We would call the result “absolutely dreadful” but that would be the understatement of the century.

  • 50 Cent

    The rapper grinned so wide after throwing the ceremonial first pitch on behalf of the Mets in May 2014 that you’d think he threw a perfect strike. Not so, friends. Not so. He launched the ball literally MILES (well, okay, feet) from the plate, and though he laughed it off at first, he later blamed it on a shoulder injury. Okay, okay, so that’s not too embarrassing, right? Well, he then blamed that injury on “excessive masturbation.”

    Either way, this confirms any suspicions anybody might have had that 50 Cent was a secret baseball superstar. Maybe just stick to rapping, Fiddy.

  • Mariah Carey

    As soon as Mariah Carey walked onto the field at the Tokyo Dome in 2008, you knew things weren’t going to end well. The first giveaway: her staggering, four-inch heels. (Her itty-bitty short- shorts don’t exactly scream athleticism either). Perhaps just as disturbing, though, are the mascots who escorted her and the cameraman’s lingering gaze at Ms. Carey’s stems.

  • Mark Mallory

    On Opening Day in 2007, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory uncorked a ceremonial first pitch that briefly made him a nation-wide punch line. “That’s one of the worst opening pitches I’ve ever seen!” mutters an announcer. Former Reds star Eric Davis — Mallory’s catcher — appears flabbergasted; the umpire is so disgusted he mock-ejects the mayor.

    Richard Nixon once said that a man unable to hold his own in a poker game was not fit to be President. The same could be said of politicians unable to hurl a Little League-caliber fastball. To Mallory’s credit, he maintained a sense of humor about the incident, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer, “Eric Davis missed the sign. I called for a pitchout.”

  • Carl Lewis

    It’s hard to pick on Carl Lewis. Once known as the world’s fastest man, he notched nine Olympic gold medals in four track-and-field events. But for a superhuman athlete, the guy cannot throw a baseball to save his life — as this 2003 effort at Seattle’s Safeco Field reveals. Here’s what’s truly frightening: Lewis’ performance on the mound was betterthan his 1993 rendition of the National Anthem. It’s probably best that Lewis steer clear of baseball diamonds entirely.

  • Joan Steinbrenner

    To be fair, Joan Steinbrenner is old. And her feeble toss didn’t ruin the 2008 renaming of the Yankees’ spring training facility after her husband. But why couldn’t a club that ponied up more than $400 million this off-season on free-agent acquisitions alone shell out a few more bucks to get the owner’s wife a pitching coach?

  • Annika Sorenstam

    In 2008, the Swedish golf star took the mound before a Mets game and deposited a 55-footer that shocked the Shea Stadium faithful. “No matter what stage you’ve ever performed on, when you have to throw out a first pitch … outside your realm of normality, that’s a tough, tough thing to pull off,” an announcer explains. Still, we’d have expected better from a woman whose booming drives helped her to 72 LPGA victories during a storied career.

  • Patrick Sharp

    Patrick Sharp is a damn cheater. After the Chicago Blackhawks winger stepped onto the mound at U.S. Cellular Field in September ’08, he surprised players and fans alike by abruptly walking right back off the mound only to return with a hockey stick. He then slapped the ball right into the glove of White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle. Sure, it might have been a perfect strike, but we’re not counting it!

  • Dick Cheney

    The throw wasn’t half bad. But the reaction Dick Cheney got from fans at the Washington Nationals’ home opener versus the New York Mets in 2006 — “with loud boos and some cheers,” as the Associated Press put it — makes this one of the worst ceremonial first pitches ever. When asked later about the audience’s vitriol, Mets third baseman David Wright shrugged it off: “When you’ve got 50 percent of America that’s Republican, 50 percent that’s Democrat, you’re probably going to get mixed reviews.”

    The original version of this list was published on April 6, 2009.

TIME MLB

Meet Baseball’s New Commissioner

Memorial Tribute To Tony Gwynn
Rob Manfred speaks during a Memorial Tribute To Tony Gwynn by the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 26, 2014 in San Diego, California. Stephen Dunn—Getty Images

Rob Manfred will succeed Bud Selig

Rob Manfred was chosen to be the new Major League Baseball commissioner by the league’s owners on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. Manfred, who has been working in baseball since 1988, will replace Bud Selig at the helm of an organization that catches $8 billion in revenue annually.

Manfred, 55, is the 10th man to step into the most powerful position in baseball. He beat out Boston Red Sox owner Tom Werner and the MLB’s executive vice president of business, Tim Brosnan, for the spot. He was Selig’s pick for successor—Selig, 80, promoted him last September to chief operating officer—but only got the job after several contentious hours of debate and voting among the league owners in Baltimore.

Manfred served as executive vice president of the MLB for 15 years. During his time heading up labor relations, there were no lockouts. He also oversaw the league’s crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs.

[AP]

TIME Baseball

10 Not-to-Miss Moments From the MLB All-Star Game

Derek Jeter went 2-for-2 in his 14th and final All-Star Game performance and the American League defeated the National League 5-3

Fans gathered at Target Field in Minneapolis Tuesday night, to watch the American League face off against the National League in the All-Star Game. Here are 10 of the best moments from–and Derek Jeter’s last appearance at–the annual celebration of baseball’s finest.

TIME MLB

All-Star Game All About Derek Jeter

The Captain stole the spotlight at the Midsummer Classic

+ READ ARTICLE

He may not have won MVP (that honor went to heir apparent Mike Trout) but retiring New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter stole the show at the 85th All-Star Game Tuesday.

Cameras followed Jeter’s almost every move at his final Midsummer Classic from when his name was read during lineups to when he took a curtain call to a standing ovation. The Yankee shone on the field too, leading off the game with a double and and scoring as part of a three-run inning.

Most importantly, Jeter did what he always does, quietly helping his team win the game. Well, as quietly as they would let him.

TIME MLB

1964 All-Star Game: Putting the ‘Classic’ in Midsummer Classic

Legendary names, drama, and a come-from-behind finish - the '64 MLB All-Star Game had it all.

+ READ ARTICLE

Crowds that skipped the ’64 Worlds Fair in order to see the thirty-fifth MLB All-Star Game were treated to one of the best games of all time.

While sports pundits whine about how the All-Star Game has become a joke and broadcasters report lower and lower viewership, match-ups like the ’64 contest remain a shining beacon of what the game could be.

The big names like Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Roberto Clemente showed up to play (with Mays even laying out for a hard-hit ball).

In the end it came down to a bottom of the ninth two-out, two-strike home run to decide the game, putting the “classic” in Midsummer Classic.

TIME Sports

After Today, Wrigley Field Will Never Be the Same

Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs
Chicago's landmarks commission unanimously approved a multimillion-dollar renovation July 10 of Wrigley Field, home of baseball's Chicago Cubs. Jonathan Daniel—Getty Images

Chicago's landmarks commission has approved a $575 million renovation to the Chicago Cubs’ iconic stadium

One of America’s sports cathedrals is officially inching closer to the Jumbotron era.

Chicago’s landmarks commission unanimously approved a plan July 10 for a multimillion-dollar upgrade to Wrigley Field, home of baseball’s Chicago Cubs, clearing the way for seven advertising signs that includes a video screen hovering over its iconic ivy-covered outfield walls. The plan has raised the ire of Wrigleyville’s residents and could trigger a lawsuit from owners of the ballpark’s surrounding rooftop clubs and restaurants who rely on their unobstructed view inside the stadium.

The $575 million upgrade has been in limbo for months after the Cubs failed to reach a deal with rooftop owners who argue that additional signage in the outfield will block their views and hurt their business.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks, which must approve any changes to Wrigley after the ballpark was deemed a city landmark in 2004, initially signed off on a $500 million renovation last year, which included just two new outfield signs and prompted the threat of a lawsuit from surrounding rooftop owners. But as talks broke down between the team and rooftop owners, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts unveiled a new proposal that included seven signs, more lights and larger clubhouses, essentially abandoning negotiations and all but inviting legal action from rooftop owners.

The team took the new proposal to the commission after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked the Cubs to reduce the size of the outfield advertising and pledge to continue negotiating with rooftop owners, who have a revenue-sharing agreement with the team that expires at the end of 2023.

The Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, argues that additional advertising is necessary to fund major renovations to the ballpark that could ultimately raise revenues and help the team get to its first World Series in more than a century.

But the changes have been challenged not only by surrounding rooftop owners, who fear the signs will hurt business, but also by those who view The Friendly Confines — with its hand-turned scoreboard, ivy-covered outfield and neighborhood feel — with nostalgia and bristle at any changes to one of America’s most beloved stadiums, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

While the landmarks commission approved the renovation, the city council still has to OK it – and the rooftop owners still may opt to sue the team after all.

But if the renovations finally move forward, the additional revenue could provide a boost for the city’s beloved Cubbies, who haven’t reached the playoffs since 2008 and haven’t won a World Series since 1908. They’re currently 39-52 and in last place in the National League Central Division.

MONEY Sports

Why Germany Is So Good At Soccer (and the U.S. Is So Mediocre) in 2 Charts

Germany's national soccer players Roman Weidenfeller, Shkodran Mustafi, Andre Schuerrle , Kevin Grosskreutz and Per Mertesacker celebrate
Kai Pfaffenbach—Reuters

Hint: It's Focus.

As Germany takes the pitch Sunday, fresh off crushing Brazil’s World Cup hopes in a historic 7-1 blowout, it’s worth reflecting how Germany got there. Not the team; the country.

See, this isn’t Germany’s first grab at the sport’s brass ring.The German national team is one of international soccer’s most consistent powerhouses. German teams—including those from the Nazi era, post-war West Germany, and reunified Germany—have qualified for 18 of 20 World Cup tournaments and missed the quarter finals of those only once. The team has also made it to a mind-blowing seven finals — a 35% appearance rate — winning three of them.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the United States has not exactly replicated Deutschland’s success. The U.S. has zero titles and zero finals appearances, and reached the semi-finals only once, at the first World Cup in 1930. This year, we were eliminated by Belgium in the round of 16, and finished 15th overall in the tournament. Not bad by our standards, but not great. And certainly not befitting of a country with the world’s largest economy, 300 million people, and an extremely competitive national team in almost every other team sport.

So why is Germany is so good and the U.S. so mediocre? Following America’s most recent loss, many theories have been offered. We over-coach our players; our college system doesn’t mirror international play; we don’t have a soccer “culture.” There’s likely some truth to all of these answers, but there’s one I find most convincing: competition from other sports. The U.S. has only so much athletic talent, and unlike many other nations, we tend to spread it around. Germany, on the other hand, concentrates the vast majority of its athletic talent on soccer—and they’ve certainly reaped the rewards.

In order to visualize this, I’ve assembled pie charts showing the revenue breakdown of the most popular professional sports leagues. The numbers aren’t perfectly analogous—updated figures on smaller German team sports are hard to come by, sports seasons don’t coincide and sometimes span more than one calendar year, and we’re including only major team sports. But as a rough proxy for each nation’s athletic focus, they are offer a clear picture of the sports the two nations care most about and to which they dedicate the most resources and, as economists and others would argue, talent.

In the two charts below, the green pie slice represents the percentage of major team sports revenue that goes to soccer. As you can see, it’s not even close.

GermanySportsRevNew

 

USSportsRev

Soccer eats up the overwhelming majority of German team sports revenue, while in the US, it barely makes up a sliver. Germany’s three major soccer leagues each take in over €100 million, and their combined revenue is €2.8 billion—the equivalent of over $3.8 billion. There’s really only one major sport in Germany, with a few second-tier leagues running far behind.

In comparison, America’s MLS teams have a combined revenue of about $494 million, as estimated by Forbes in 2013 (the MLS does not release total revenue figures). That’s about 1/7th of the NHL’s revenue, and 1/20th of the NFL’s total income.

So next time you’re wondering why the U.S. isn’t good at soccer, remember: the American people are not exactly focussed on the “beautiful game.” All things considered, it’s surprising we aren’t worse.

Sources: BBL: Deloitte via SportsBusinessDaily; DEL: Deloitte via SportsBusinessDaily; 3. Liga: DFB official figure; Bundesliga: 2014 report; 2. Bundesliga: 2014 report; NFL: Forbes via Statistica; NBA: Forbes via Statistica; NHL: CBS Sports; MLB: Forbes; MLS: Forbes

 

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46,152 other followers