Congratulations to everyone in the college football ecosystem for making it to the finish line. It’s been a wild ride since July 1, and really before that. I was volunteering at Big Ten Media Day with Ohio State (great guys BTW) in July when the Oklahoma/Texas stuff dropped and then we played a wild season and then Covid dropped a Tom Brady-like 4th quarter comeback.
But the FBS national championship game is upon us and while the recipe isn’t always perfect, again the entreé is right. The two best teams are playing for the title in America’s best city for big sporting events. I am glad to see downtown Indianapolis buzzing with the CFP, and with that I have a few thoughts I thought I’d put out there before we move on to the meat of college basketball season.
I Don’t Suffer Bad Takes: College Football Playoff In Indy
As policy, I don’t share, link to, quote tweet, comment and try not to click on things online I think are not useful. Most people love to point to things they disagree with online. They’ll share it with a little snarky comment. But, what they’re doing is fanning the flames. Why engage? If something isn’t worth your curiosity or entertain you, while amplify it? Like The Simpsons said, “Just Don’t Look.”
In this Halloween episode, for the monsters from the ads and media to stop terrorizing the town, the citizens of Springfield looked away. Once they looked away, the monsters died. But that’s not how social media works. People work hard to share things with which they disagree.
Last week, a beat writer from Atlanta suggested to Georgia fans that they stay in Louisville because Indianapolis is “cold and expensive.” Clickbait. Just don’t look. But Indianapolis does tend to be a little defensive (no functional public transit, called flyover country, what the heck is a Hoosier?), and the article went haywire online. Indianapolis people shared the article and commented and engaged with it in huge numbers.
Needless to say, the writer was way off. Sure it was cold when folks got in but it was decent Saturday and Sunday and we don’t have any snow. There’s obviously tons of stuff to do. I took a couple Division I conference assistant commissioners around on Saturday and they had a great time. As did 100,000 others this weekend. So yeah, clickbait is just that. Last week, the Kevin & Query Show on 1070 The Fan in Indy addressed this and offered what to do on Monday during the day before the game. (You can hear their suggestions here). An “ideal day in Indy before the national championship game.”
So here’s my take on what fans should do today in Indy before the 8pm College Football Playoff kickoff (assuming you’re staying downtown):
- Breakfast at Cafe Patachou at Capitol and Washington
- Walk off breakfast over to Monument Circle. Walking to the top is closed nowadays, but it’s a picturesque scene setter for the day.
- Zip over to the NCAA Hall of Champions (walkable from downtown but you may want to drive because you’re heading west and then north after this). It’s a cool spot for sports fans and that part of downtown is really good. You can check out the canal while you’re there.
- About 10 minutes farther west is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s a thing.
- Get in your car and head 15 minutes northeast to Butler University, my alma mater and home of one of the nation’s great college basketball cathedrals. Fans can likely get into Hinkle Fieldhouse and get a feel for the history of the building and even yell “Hickory!!!” because people can’t help themselves.
- Grab a late lunch in Broad Ripple – Jake Query suggested Plump’s Last Show, which is a cool spot draped in basketball history. I’d counter with a trip to 54th and College to the original Yat’s. Yat’s is a cajun creole local chain. I lived in North Carolina and the only thing I thought Raleigh couldn’t compete with food-wise was Yat’s. Folks in Georgia and Alabama will want to eat Yat’s. Don’t forget extra bread. (There are also 2 locations downtown).
- Back downtown, I’d hit up Mass Ave (a straight shot south from Yat’s). Most fans and media don’t get over there during Final Fours and other events because it’s not that close to the JW. It’s downtown and walkable, but it is a little bit of a walk. You can find some good pregame fun on Mass Ave.
- If you need to eat again before the game, I’d stay on Mass Ave and eat at The Eagle. I always tell people who go downtown for whatever reason to eat at The Eagle. I took people there Saturday and they listened to everything I suggested after that.
That’s a pretty good day. I might just do that myself once it warms up a bit.
Musings On 5 College Athletics Topics Ahead Of The CFP Final
- The Meaning Of ”NIL” Has Been Greatly Misconstrued
This summer, many of my friends and family were interested in ”schools paying players now”. I gladly explained over and over that schools aren’t directly paying players, and that the team ”NIL” is really just the removal of a barrier. It’s less a green light as much as it is a removal of a red light. Student-athletes can now be in ads and be compensated – which is awesome. I had dozens of great ideas for ads in college athletics over the years that I could never use. I always just wanted Learfield to throw a few shekels to the athletes so we can use their images in sponsorship ads. Seemed to make sense to me.
Also, I wrote in March 2018 some ideas for compensating players that I thought were fair. My stance has always been anything asked of athletes outside of the National Letter of Intent they sign when they go to college should be fair game for compensation.
When coaches say, ”NIL deals have been happening a long time, it’s just now legal,” that doesn’t help. NIL deals never existed before 7-1-21. Ever. Whether coaches were impermissibly paying players, yeah, that’s different. But NIL deals were not a thing. People need to understand what they mean and what they are. It’s lazily and incorrectly being connected with ”paying players” but it’s really just the ability to be compensated for being in a commercial or promoting something commercially.
- The Student-Athlete Experience Is Farrrrrrr Better Than It’s Portrayed
The idea that NIL deals are righting some wrong isn’t quite accurate either. Being a college sports star is pretty amazing. Full ride scholarship and the entire suite of advantages, experiences, resources and unlimited everything aside, it’s a pretty good existence to be 20 and famous. Even if you aren’t a star, just being on a roster is an immense advantage for life. By simply being a good guy/gal, graduating and satisfactorily participating a student-athlete is almost guaranteed to thrive in life. I worked at five different schools in my life, and I have yet to see a student-athlete who did those things and not have a great job and great advantages in life.
The student-athlete experience produces outstanding workers who employers trip over themselves to hire. The experience is an outstanding one for the overwhelming majority of athletes.
- Increases In Transferring Will End Up Hurting Player Values In Marketplace
Student-athletes have enjoyed fewer restrictions in transfer rules, most of them fair. This trend mirrors society at large. People change jobs. They change situations. It’s part of life. There are some unintended consequences though. In an era where players are now mindful of their brand value, switching teams will almost certainly hinder that value. Often times, I don’t even know who is on which team. And I’m a guy who works in the industry! Playing QB at a major power is probably the best route to maximizing that value, and I hope student-athletes are seeing that fact and getting good advice.
89% of customers stay loyal to brands that share their values. In college sports, that’s almost always the school brand. If I don’t know what team you’re on, you certainly will lose effectiveness in marketing endeavors.
- Talking Points On Key Topics Need To Be Better
During the summer of 2020, as conferences set policies and canceled games and then put them back on, I felt like many leaders in the industry missed the mark when commenting on game cancellations. The ”We need to play these games for revenue” quotes didn’t land right when young people were losing their chances to compete. Particularly mid-majors talking about losing Power 5 games, I feel like many of those talking points could have been different.
Regarding NIL, the ”competitive balance” talking points miss by a mile and are easy fodder for critics of the industry. I hope department communications pros are bringing up the topics with coaches ahead of time, at least to think about the topic ahead of time.
It’s hard to tell major major major coaches what to say, but bringing it to them before they sit on the dais is always helpful. At best, coaches and comms can hash out talking points. At the least, coaches have a minute to think about it ahead of time. On the whole, this is a symptom of many things and connects back to Topic 1 above.
- College Athletics And The Great Resignation
I’ve followed the mass job hop in over the last year across all industries. I myself left a job I liked for something new. Several of my teammates did the same. From February 2020 to a year after that, 37% of the U.S. labor force changed jobs. I get job opening emails and notifications multiple times a day. The average lifespan of a person in a job in America is 4.1 years. Life upheaval and strife has ravaged the college athletics industry workforce in 2021. I’m hoping that jobs in college sports (many paying $47K or less) are reshaped and reimagined going forward to keep good people doing what they love.
Working on a college campus can be magic. There’s a lot of good to do and to have. I’m predicting another summer of musical chairs before things settle in late 2022.
Some Items That May Be Useful
I found Sahlil Bloom on Twitter, and I like a lot of what he says. He was a pitcher at Stanford and has been successful in business (see what I mean?). Here, Bloom talks about how to win without talent or luck. Food for thought.
This is sort of an older post of habits worth cutting out, and many of these things are common. But I thought it was worth sharing, as many points made by Tim Ferris are. I haven’t read his books but I read a lot of Ferris’s posts and heard many of his podcasts on long drives.
According to this piece in the New Yorker, we need fewer things to work on and need to reimagine our concept of what being productive means.
Some Interesting Things To Read
This blog post had some good stats about rookie quarterbacks and how they fare in NFL playoff games. New England is rolling out a rookie QB in the playoffs next week.
Are we on a path to a Civil War? We have hit a couple signposts that suggest we could be, but it’s still a longshot and could be considered fear-mongering. But there are some things worth thinking about that the author addresses here.
Finish With A Joke
I recently rewatched all of the John Mulaney standup specials on Netflix. In his New In Town special, I love this joke. Among many others. I hope he gets back on stage soon.