To Sell or Not to Sell

A story caught my eye last week about Kansas State University implementing a pilot program to sell beer to its fans during the six remaining home baseball games of the season.  Several universities have experimented with the concept recently, and now there are approximately 21 Division 1 FBS schools selling beer at their home games.  I thought it would be interesting to examine what we’ve learned thus far.

The University of Minnesota sold beer for the first time in its new football stadium last year, to mixed results.  Sales totaled over $900,000, exceeding expectations and certainly demonstrating the demand is there.  Astonishingly, however, UM claims to have LOST money on the program overall.  The extra security personnel, tents and facilities, as well as equipment rental ate every bit of that $900k.  UM officials admitted to perhaps being overly cautious, but still it is hard to imagine not making money on the sale of alcohol at a sporting event.

West Virginia University’s first year of selling beer at football games profited the athletic department between $500,000 and $700,000 depending on the source.  WVU also said allowing sales in the stadium, along with prohibiting the ability to leave the stadium and return, cut down on alcohol related incidents commonly associated with binge drinking that goes on at pregame and halftime tailgate parties.

A quick glance at other schools showed Bowling Green State University profited between $20k-$25k in 2011, and Kent State University broke even.  Syracuse University didn’t provide sales or profit numbers, but did say that beer sales make up 47% of total concession revenue.

It is difficult to find a consensus regarding the financial impact of selling beer to fans.  Certainly some schools are making money while others are not.  Two major factors appear to be playing into that: 1) pricing – the universities above range from $2/beer to over $7/beer; and 2) non-product expenses – Minnesota invested in large tents with generators, as well as extra security personnel, while other schools added minimal costs.

There does, however, appear to be a consensus that alcohol related issues did not increase as a result of the new policies.  Further, several schools claimed they saw fewer incidents when selling beer in the stadium than they did before.

We’re still fairly early in this growing trend and more data needs to be collected and examined.  But if there is a way to enhance the fan experience, increase revenue, and drive down alcohol related incidents by selling beer in the athletic venues, it won’t be long until a majority of schools will be on board.

Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DanielHare

A Look At Oregon’s Alleged NCAA Violations: What Could Hurt The Ducks The Most

After making a public records request in December, the Oregonian and KATU.com received over 500 pages of documents related to alleged NCAA violations committed by Oregon’s football program between 2008 and 2011.  The documents detail findings related largely to Oregon’s payment to a recruiting service company, whose talent scout, Will Lyles, allegedly had impermissible contact with prospective Oregon student-athletes.  While reports have focused upon Oregon’s payment of $25,000 to Lyles’ recruiting service agency, it appears that the bulk of the NCAA’s concern does not lie with that payment, but rather, practices that Lyles allegedly engaged in.

One such practice is that Lyles allegedly did not provide written or video reports about recruits to Oregon.  Under NCAA bylaw 13.14.3, recruiting services must provide subscribers with written or video reports quarterly.  Up until 2011, Lyles allegedly provided neither, but instead, provided Oregon with oral reports about prospective student-athletes.  On the face, this practice seems like a minor issue and another instance of the NCAA making a mountain out of a molehill.  However, the NCAA requires recruiting and scouting service companies to provide written or video reports to prevent institutions from gaining unfair advantages when it comes to gleaning information about recruits.  Requiring written or video reports ensures that each institution subscribing to the service receives the same information.

Given that Lyles allegedly was providing oral reports to Oregon, the notion is that Oregon was getting information about recruits that other institutions using Lyles’ services were not receiving.  It is unknown whether this was the case, but a number of recruits with ties to Lyles eventually signed with Oregon.  This, however, does not in and of itself depict any impropriety by Oregon or Lyles.

Perhaps the biggest issue Oregon faces, though, is explaining allegations that upon the NCAA’s discovery that Lyles wasn’t providing Oregon with written or video reports, that Lyles allegedly provided “outdated” reports to Oregon.  From the outside, this allegation depicts a cover-up of sorts.  If a cover-up was in fact orchestrated, it is for the NCAA to decide who ordered the cover-up.  Did Lyles earnestly provide written reports to save face with the NCAA in an honest attempt to continue being an NCAA-sanctioned recruiting service?  Or, did Oregon ask him to do so after the NCAA realized that Lyles hadn’t provided the report?  In the coming months, Oregon should prepare to answer this question.  Should the NCAA find that the cover-up was upon Oregon’s request, the program will likely suffer stiffer penalties from the NCAA.

For now, the biggest issue Oregon faces is whether the football program’s alleged receipt of Lyles’ oral reports on recruits was a major or secondary NCAA violation.  Secondary infractions are those isolated or inadvertent instances that only provide minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantages.  Major infractions provide major recruiting or competitive advantages.  Over the coming months, the NCAA’s committee on infractions will issue a final report on its findings related to whether a major or secondary violation was committed.  Thereafter, sometime within the year, Oregon will have a hearing before the committee on infractions.

The good news, perhaps, for Oregon is that reports indicate that the NCAA found neither a lack of institutional control nor unethical conduct present.  These factors should help Oregon avoid some of the NCAA’s harsher penalties.  However, one issue Oregon continues to face is that the NCAA may determine it is a repeat violator, as the alleged violations came within five years of Oregon’s 2004 violations.  Should Oregon be deemed to be a repeat violator of the NCAA bylaws, harsher penalties could be imposed on that ground.

Overall, Oregon must prepare the case as to why this alleged violation did not amount to a major violation.  To do this, it must show that it did not receive major recruiting or competitive advantages.  This may be difficult, given the recruits Lyles was allegedly tied to who committed to Oregon.  Reports indicate that Lyles served as a “mentor” to LaMichael James, Tra Carson, Dontae Williams and Marcus Davis, all of whom committed to Oregon.  Thus, Oregon must work to demonstrate that it would have recruited those student-athletes even without the information Lyles provided them with orally.  Given the talent level of these players, this arguably won’t be difficult to accomplish.  Additionally, Oregon must demonstrate that those recruits’ decisions to commit to Oregon were unattached to any relationship they may have had with Lyles.  This may prove to be the more difficult task for Oregon.  However, given the program’s offerings and success over recent years, it likely will not be impossible.  Nonetheless, spring is shaping up to be a busy time for Oregon’s athletics department.

Alicia Jessop is a Colorado-based attorney and the founder of the sports law website RulingSports.com.  Follow her @RulingSports and at AliciaJessop.com.

The Impact Of A $3.1 Million Verdict Against Riddell On Future Football Concussion Litigation

Jurors in a small southern town in Colorado found that Riddell Helmets contributorily negligent in the head injuries a former Trinidad High School (CO) football sustained in 2008.  As a result of its verdict, the jury awarded damages in the amount of $11.5 million, of which Riddell is responsible for paying $3.1 million.

The lawsuit arose after Rhett Ridolfi participated in a “Machine Gun Drill” during an early morning practice.  During the course of the drill, Ridolfi allegedly made helmet-to-helmet contact with another teammate.  This contact resulted in Ridolfi sustaining a serious head injury, which according to Ridolfi’s attorney, has left Ridolfi with impulse and behavioral problems and has left in a walking brace and with limited functions on his body’s left side.

Ridolfi’s mother filed the lawsuit on his behalf in March 2010.  The lawsuit alleged negligence not only against Riddell, but also against six of Ridolfi’s football coaches.  Three of the coaches were found by the jury to be negligent.  However, reports indicate that damages were not ordered to be paid by them.  Ridolfi’s attorney told the media that he will be filing a motion to have Riddell pay all of the $11.5 million in damages awarded by the jury.  Riddell plans to appeal the verdict.

While the court transcript has not been reviewed, it appears that Ridolfi’s attorney argued that the defendants were liable for two types of products liability negligence:  product defect and failure to warn.

With respect to the product defect claim, Ridolfi’s attorneys argued that the padding in the front of Ridolfi’s helmet which was manufactured by Riddell wasn’t safe enough.  They also argued that another type of padding could have been used which would have protected Ridolfi.  This argument was rejected by the jury.

However, the jury found that Riddell was negligent in the type of warning it provided on its helmet, which was worn by Ridolfi.  Under tort law, a product may be defective as a result of the manufacturer’s failure to give adequate warnings as to the risks involved in using the product.  For liability to attach, the danger must not be apparent to users.

Reports indicate that Riddell has included a warning label on its helmets since 2002.  However, in this instance, it appears that the Colorado jury found that the warning label present on Ridolfi’s helmet in 2008 was inadequate.  This was likely due to the fact that the warning label did not warn against the possibility that the helmet would not protect against concussions and serious bodily injury sustained from instances including helmet-to-helmet contact.

A statement released by Riddell indicated that it believed that if testimony from a “warnings” expert would have been admitted by the judge, that it would have been fully exonerated in this case.  It is likely that Riddell’s appeal will argue that point, as well as the damages awarded and that its warning was sufficient.

This case, which arose out of a small town in Colorado, likely has larger implications than the damages which Riddell is facing paying.  First, it demonstrates juries’ willingness to hold helmet manufacturers liable for failing to adequately warn of the injuries football players can sustain even while wearing a helmet.  This factor is relevant as Riddell is currently facing at least two other cases on this issue, one of which is brought by 4,000 former NFL players.  Whether juries in other jurisdictions–where the other cases against Riddell are located–will find similarly will only be determined by time.  Furthermore, it is to be seen whether other courts allow Riddell’s “warnings” expert to take the stand and how that testimony may impact the outcome of the trial.

Riddell, however, can likely breathe a small sigh of relief that the Colorado jury did not find the design of its product to be defective.  Thus, Riddell may feel fairly certain that the product design defense it has created may be successful in other jurisdictions and in front of other jurors.

Nonetheless, the road for Riddell is not clear.  In coming months, it faces cases against plaintiffs who are more well-known (for example, the family of the late Junior Seau), have deeper pockets and greater media attention on their sides.  It is to be seen whether given these factors, juries return similar verdicts to that reached by the Colorado jury.

Alicia Jessop is a Colorado-based attorney and the founder of the sports law website RulingSports.com.  Nothing in this article is legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is intended to be created by this article.  Follow Alicia @RulingSports and at AliciaJessop.com.

UConn to Add 2,000 Temporary Seats for Michigan Game

By: Hunter Mundy

The Connecticut Huskies will be hosting the Michigan Wolverines football team on September 21, 2013.  For UConn, this may be the biggest home game ever scheduled.  The game will take place at the Huskies’ Rentaschler Field, which has a normal capacity of 40,000 fans.  This will be the second game in the contracted series between the two teams.  The first game, a 2010 Wolverine victory of 30-10, was held before of a crowd of 113,090 at Michigan Stadium.

Connecticut normally allots 3,000 tickets to visiting opponents, but the contract with Michigan requires UConn to reserve 5,000 tickets for the Wolverines.  In order to keep the same amount of season ticket opportunities, UCONN plans to add 2,000 temporary seats to the stadium’s capacity.  While the Huskies have had numerous games in past years where crowds reached the 40,000 capacity, the additional seats, along with this game’s high demand for tickets, are sure to set a new record for football attendance.

In 2009, UConn’s average attendance was 38,229, and in 2012 the average number of spectators at Connecticut’s six home games was 34,672. Over four years, the ticket demand for Huskies football tickets has decreased by approximately 3 percent. Not taking into account required donations during the 2009-2011 cycle, tickets ranged from $150 for reserved seats to $210 for mezzanine chairs for a six-game home schedule.  For 2013, which has a seven-game home schedule featuring the Wolverines, season ticket prices range from $175 for reserved seats to $280 for mezzanine chairs.  UCONN/Michigan game attendees (outside of those purchased through the Wolverines allotment) will be required to purchase season tickets through the Huskies Athletic Ticket Office.

Some may ask why Michigan would not renegotiate or buy their way out of this contract in order to allow for an extra home game and the additional revenue that would generate.  Dave Brandon, Michigan athletic director, stated to CBS Sports that even though he could have broken the deal, he opted not to because, “it would screw up [UConn’s] schedule” and force Michigan to “run around trying to find another game.”  While cancelling this game would have led to scheduling difficulties for both groups, allowing this game to take place is truly a win-win for both institutions.

Michigan’s allotted 5,000 seats for this game does not nearly meet the expected ticket demand of Wolverine fans.  With UConn located in one of the most populated areas of the United States, Michigan alumni are plentiful.  For instance, the University of Michigan Alumni Club of New York, based in New York City, has over 13,000 members.  Additionally, there are at least eight UM alumni clubs within a three-hour drive of UConn’s Rentaschler Field. UM Alumni Club members typically have the opportunity to purchase tickets for most home and away Michigan football games.  However, it is the norm for these benefits to exclude rivalry games with Notre Dame and Ohio State as well as other games with traditional high-ticket demand.

As an example of the excitement and limited supply of tickets in the marketplace, the UConn game has also been added to the excluded list of games available directly to UM alumni club members.  Look for UM fans throughout the region to either increase their UM athletic club donations and/or purchase UConn season football tickets in an effort to see their beloved Wolverines live and in person.

The 2013 season will be Connecticut’s first year in the newly named and configured American Athletic Conference.  Having a home opponent on the schedule such as Michigan could not come at a better time.  With losing former Big East rivals West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Huskies schedule, the Wolverines visit to Rentaschler Field will give the university and its football program a spark and a chance to shine on the national stage.

Many college programs choose to schedule traditional powers in order invigorate their home schedules and grow their program’s budgets.  For instance, UConn’s rival Rutgers hosts the SEC’s Arkansas Razorbacks on the same day the Wolverines visit the Huskies.

In 2010, Duke University hosted the Alabama Crimson Tide, which set a modern day attendance record at the Blue Devils’ Wallace Wade Stadium (35,237).  The #1 Crimson Tide routed Duke 62-13 in front of what ESPN dubbed “a crimson coated stadium named for a former Alabama coach.”  Duke also used temporary stadium seating to accommodate the extra Alabama fans for this big contract game.

Additionally, Michigan State, along with Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan are a part of an agreement known as “Celebrate the State.”   This contract contains 12 games from 2011 to 2020 with Michigan State facing each team four times during the period.  One game of each these four game series will be played on the home field of Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan.  In 2012, Michigan State visited Central Michigan and won 41-7.  This game set an attendance record for Kelly/Shorts Stadium of 35,127 spectators with plenty of green-clad Spartans fans in attendance. Johnny Adams, Michigan State’s cornerback, stated to ESPN, “It was a little different, a smaller environment; but at the end of the day it’s all football.  It’s good for the fans and it’s good for Central to bring the fans out here and put on a great show.”

New Databases Added: 2010-2011 Football Revenue and Expenses

Here at BusinessofCollegeSports.com we keep enormous databases of information to assist in our reporting and analysis. We try to share as much with you as possible, but our web capabilities aren’t always what we wish they were. That being said, we recently came across a great WordPress plugin called TablePress that will allow us to post more of our databases. So, today we give you our 2010-2011 databases on football revenue and expenses (broken down by category) for public FBS schools subject to public disclosure laws.

You can find all of our databases under the Data tab above.

Should Student Athlete Assistance Fund be Used to Send Parents to Final Four?

Imagine you have a son who plays basketball for a Division 1 school and they make it into the NCAA Tournament. You watched him pick up a basketball for the first time, you remember his first game, cheered him on in high school and now he is playing on national television in front of the entire country. Of course at this point you’re not going to stay home to watch his game from your couch.  What if the cost of traveling from Washington DC to San Jose, California is too much for you? Maybe if your son plays for a school such as Ohio State University or Kentucky this wouldn’t be an issue.

Last year when Ohio State and Kentucky made it to the Final Four, both schools decided to show gratitude to the parents of the players by helping pay for their travel costs to New Orleans. Only costing a little more than $13,000 the schools purchased one additional hotel room for three nights for each player’s family. Both schools went to the head of their conferences (Big 10 and SEC) and asked for permission to use money from the Student Assistance Fund in order to afford all this to happen.

In my last post I mentioned the Student Assistance Fund when I broke down where all the NCAA tournament money goes. As I explained previously, the Student Assistance Fund is used to help student athletes who are either financially strained and can be used for a variety of things from buying clothes to paying for an application to graduate school.

The primary source of revenue for the Student Assistance Fund is generated from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  With more than $66 million available, schools have plenty of opportunity to ask their respective conferences for money to do more deeds such as Ohio State and Kentucky.

Many would presume that student athletes would apply for the fund, with how many there are that complain they don’t receive enough and are hungry or don’t have clothes.  However, several schools have told BusinessofCollegeSports.com that their students under utilize this fund despite knowing about its existence.

That being said, the money is still being used for its intended purpose. The fund paid out more than $53 million to 81,00o student-athletes during the 2010-11 academic year according to the NCAA.

When student-athletes aren’t applying individually to use the funds, however, schools like University of Maryland utilize the money to enhance the academic experience with iPads for all its student-athletes. The university spent $281,000 to help students in the classroom as well as stay in better contact with the Athletic department and their coaches.

Whether or not someone believes that this money is not being used for its intended purpose, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn told the IndyStar, “The conferences are responsible for administering the fund within the parameters,” when asked “is that a proper use of the fund, or an NCAA-permitted use of the fund?”

One of the biggest fears for any parent would be for something to happen to your child.  When you’re watching your child from your couch in Atlanta, just like University of Louisville’s Kevin Ware’s parents did, watching your son break his leg cannot be easy. (It was hard for me to watch it, and I don’t even know the guy!)  In cases such as these, when your son’s team makes it as far as the regional final and parents can’t make it to Indianapolis, it would be nice to see the schools show a little thanks to the parents. After all they wouldn’t have an athlete if it hadn’t been for mom and dad.

More schools such as University of Louisville are beginning to look more into fund uses. Many were unaware that they were even allowed to even do this. John Cams, Louisville’s senior associate athletic director for compliance told the IndyStar, “We’ve never been asked by our sports teams about doing so and we’ve never contemplated it because our conference isn’t throwing it out there”

Ohio State was the first school to start the trend, and even made a public announcement saying, “We are grateful for their [parents] support and dedication… We wish we could have done more.”

Surprising enough that it hasn’t been thought of until now, even Chad Hawley the Associate Commissioner of Compliance for the Big Ten, is taken back by how little the fund is accessed. Especially when the Big Ten received another $2 million after the 2011-12 academic year, bring the total to $7.6 million.

‘This is something that can have a direct impact on students, or maybe a direct impact on their families…” says Hawley. As any athlete knows, no one will support you as much as your family will. Who knows, maybe that was the key to Kentucky’s win last year.

Auburn Justice: The Serious Issue Facing Former Auburn Football Player Mike McNeil

Selena Roberts’ serious allegations against the Auburn athletics department earlier this week caused an uproar among members of the media and college football fans. If true, the story’s accusations of rampant drug use by football players, coaches handing players money under the table and academic officials changing football players’ grades to ensure their eligibility, are enough to turn Auburn athletics on its head. Tucked away in the story, though, is an issue more pressing and with greater possible harm than any NCAA sanction can impose. It is one that may cost former Auburn football player, Mike McNeil, his freedom.

McNeil is currently facing trial on two felony counts of first-degree robbery. The charges stem from allegations that four former Auburn football players robbed a home while armed. While building allegations of Auburn’s alleged athletic improprieties to a crescendo, Roberts quickly slipped a fact into her story that a trained legal eye would not let go unnoticed. Eight paragraphs into Roberts’ Auburn expose, was the following quote,

“To show you how innocent he is, Mike is willing to go to trial because he says he didn’t do it,” says Ben Hand, who recently was dismissed as McNeil’s attorney after the family formally complained that he had a conflict of interest. “Mike McNeil didn’t rob anyone.”

As it turns out, McNeil’s attorney previously represented a man who lived in the house that McNeil allegedly robbed. In the legal world, this is called a “conflict of interest.” And in the legal world, a conflict of interest is a reason for which a criminal defendant can appeal the outcome of his case, should he be convicted.

Roberts’ assertion in her article that Hand was dismissed as McNeil’s attorney is incorrect. That is because today, the Auburn educated judge hearing McNeil’s case ruled that Hand could not withdraw as counsel for McNeil’s case. Rather, McNeil’s case will proceed to trial next Monday.

At that trial, McNeil faces three options when it comes to legal representation. The first, is to be represented by a lawyer who once represented someone whose home McNeil allegedly robbed. The second is for McNeil, without a college degree, to represent himself in a felony case in which he faces 21 years to life in prison. The third option, is for McNeil to hire a new attorney who will assist his conflicted attorney. That attorney will have 72 hours to prepare for a trial that took the prosecution nearly two years to bring to fruition.

Arguably, there is not an attractive choice present in this bunch. As depicted above, Hand has maintained McNeil’s innocence to the media and will likely advocate zealously for him. Additionally, the presiding judge in McNeil’s case, in ruling that Hand cannot withdraw from the case, determined that the prosecution will only proceed to trial against McNeil on two charges, as opposed to the seven charges he was originally facing. This was based upon the judge’s finding that conflicts existed between Hand and those charges, but were not present in the two charges McNeil continues to face. Regardless of these facts, questions likely persist in McNeil’s mind as to whether his attorney bears any biases towards him and if he will receive a fair shot at justice.

As the time on the clock dwindles down to McNeil’s trial date, a review of 11th Circuit (the circuit in which Alabama is located) and Supreme Court case law is necessary. One basis upon which a defendant can appeal his conviction is for ineffective assistance of counsel. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a criminal defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel is violated where a defendant’s attorney has an actual conflict of interest that affects the defendant adversely. Something is an actual conflict of interest when a lawyer has inconsistent interests. 11th circuit case law says that a conflict of interest exists when a defendant can point to specific instances in the record to suggest an actual conflict or impairment of interest. Specific instances could include an attorney choosing to elicit or failing to elicit evidence helpful to one client but harmful to another.

The question here, then, is does Hand have inconsistent interests when it comes to representing McNeil? While Hand represented a resident of the home McNeil allegedly robbed, that representation came on an unrelated matter that occurred prior to the alleged robbery. Given the differential between the matters and the time that has passed sense, does an actual conflict exist?

If an actual conflict of interest existed, case law also requires that the conflict adversely affected the counsel’s performance in order to successfully appeal on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. A defendant must show three things to prove an adverse effect: 1. That the defense attorney could have pursued a plausible alternative strategy, 2. that the alternative strategy was reasonable and 3. that the alternative strategy was not followed because it conflicted with the attorney’s external loyalties.

At this stage, only McNeil and Hand know what alternative strategies exist, if any. And at this stage, it is likely that they are the only two people who know why one defense strategy was chosen over another.

Should McNeil be convicted and wish to appeal his case, the real question that may persist is whether he waived his right to conflict-free counsel. A defendant waives his right to conflict-free counsel when he chooses to proceed to trial with an attorney who has an adverse conflict of interest. Arguably, this decision could bar an appeal on this issue, as the Supreme Court case of Johnson v. Zerbst found that a “waiver of the right to conflict-free counsel ‘disposes of the need to evaluate the actual or potential ineffectiveness of counsel caused by the alleged conflicts of interests.’” To demonstrate a waiver, it must be shown that the defendant was aware of the conflict, recognized it could impact his defense and knew of his right to obtain other counsel. Notably, today, the presiding judge in McNeil’s case advised him of his right to proceed to trial without an attorney or with a new attorney to assist Hand. It is to be seen what decision McNeil makes.

Many unknowns face Mike McNeil at this moment. The decisions facing McNeil as his trial approaches are lofty. Truth be told, they are likely as big as the choice he made to commit to playing football at Auburn University.

Follow Alicia Jessop on Twitter @RulingSports.

Final Four Pumps Millions into Atlanta Economy

$70 million.

That’s the projected economic impact the 2013 Final Four will have on Atlanta this weekend. While none of Georgia’s home teams are contending in the Big Dance, the state still has plenty to celebrate with an estimated 100,000 out-of-town guests flocking to its capital. This is the fourth time Atlanta has hosted the NCAA Men’s Final Four, but, as this year marks the 75th anniversary of March Madness, organizers expect the event to draw one of the largest crowds in tournament history.

The Georgia Dome, situated in the heart of downtown Atlanta, offers nearly 75,000 seats to spectators who are paying up to $1600 per ticket. Philips Arena, home to the Atlanta Hawks, will also play host to the Division II and III championships, luring an even wider fan-base. It’s not ticket sales that will be pumping dollars into the city’s bank account, though. Approximately 10,000 hotel rooms will be booked for the weekend, and the fine-dining establishments within driving distance from the Dome are jam-packed with reservations.

Drawing a crowd of this magnitude offers colossal opportunities to increase revenue. Hotels in metro Atlanta are showing spikes in nightly rates anywhere from 55-200 percent. According to atlantahotels.org, a King Room at the downtown Holiday Inn Express typically runs for $139 per night. This weekend, however, guests will pay around $382. The same model room at Hotel Indigo in midtown jumped from $129 to $406− an astounding 215 percent increase.

Though local businesses are certainly taking advantage of the chance to turn sizable profits, the city is not forgetting its dedication to Southern hospitality. The Georgia World Congress Center is offering plenty of fan festivities and Centennial Olympic Park will feature free concerts on Friday and Saturday, headlining artists such as Ludacris, Sting, Muse and the Dave Mathews Band.

In a struggling national economy, we rely on cultural staples to transcend financial strife. College sports will always be among these. While a trip to the Final Four (and especially a national title) will give hundreds of thousands back to coaches, universities, and conferences, the economic value of collegiate athletics can be appreciated across the board. This weekend, Atlanta, Georgia will be the obliged beneficiary.

Indiana Baseball Unveils So-Called “Dirt-less Diamond”

Athletic department officials do not believe that the field at Bart Kaufman Field is the first of kind, but it is certainly rare. The new home to Hoosier baseball features no dirt anywhere on the field. Turf fields are undoubtedly commonplace in place in modern baseball, but a turf field usually features dirt on the base paths, or at least around the plate and on the mound. This IU photo gallery shows the AstroTurf field, including the turf mound and warning track.

Over the years, turf baseball fields have gained popularity. As turf has become more commonplace, the amount of dirt on artificial fields has decreased. First, dirt on the base paths was reduced to the areas directly around the bases. Next, turf fields with only dirt in the area around the plate and on the mound appeared. In recent years, teams like Ohio State, Louisville, and Virginia Tech have unveiled turf fields that only have dirt on the mound. But Bart Kaufman Field takes it to the next level with an all turf mound. At least one other totally dirt-less field is thought to exist. Consol Energy Park is shared by a high school team and an independent minor league team and in Pennsylvania. The Hoosiers new home could very well be the first all turf field in college baseball.

Last season, two northern teams made it to the College World Series. Part of Kent State and Stony Brook’s success was credited to an unseasonably warm winter which allowed both teams more on-field practice than in normal offseasons. While the bitter cold keeps many teams indoors, the effect of winter weather on field conditions should not be overlooked. Indiana’s Associate Athletic Director for Facilities Eric Neuburger says the all turf field will allow significantly increased field on-time for the Hoosier baseball program.

At the Division I level, postseason baseball host sites are awarded to programs based on merit, though teams ranked number one have been outbid for the right to host in the past. As a ranked team with an outstanding facility, Indiana has a serious shot at hosting a regional. This should come as a welcome change for NCAA as many, including Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, have claimed that baseball’s early start date is unfair to northern teams and makes it impossible for them succeed or host postseason events.

While baseball traditionalists may cringe at thought of a diamond without dirt, the benefits are too overwhelming for northern programs to pass up. The profound impact on off-season training regimens will be very tempting for coaches and administrators of teams located in regions with less than ideal baseball climates. Having a field that is suitable for play year-round could be a major recruiting asset for northern teams. Look for more turf only fields to pop around the country in the future.

Luke Mashburn is a Game Day Operations Specialist at Kennesaw State University. You can follow him on Twitter @L_Mashburn.

Penn State on the Rebound

By: Alexandria Jenkins

An entire nation was left shocked and speechless when news of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal surfaced in November 2011. The Penn State community fell victim to the horrifying betrayal of its former defensive coordinator and was forced to sit by idly as the effects of the crime rippled through “Happy Valley.” For university officials, students, fans and alumni alike, nothing could have proven more sickening than the life-long damage inflicted on Sandusky’s victims.

Then, as if to rub salt in the wound, the NCAA imposed an unprecedented $60 million, five-year fine and four-year postseason ban on the Nittany Lions. Additionally, numerous sponsors cut ties with the university, with along with other costs associated with the scandal brought the school’s total estimated losses attributed to the scandal to $46 million and counting over the past 17 months, according to an article posted by Advertising Age.

Since Dec. 31, 2012, Penn State says it has spent more than $41 million on NCAA fines, legal and consulting fees. Advertising Age added that the university has lost more than $1 million in sponsorship/advertising after companies like General Motors, Cars.com and Sherwin Williams pulled their support for the football team, while forfeiting another $700,000 in licensing royalties from merchandise sales. Furthermore, This month, Penn State will shell out $3.25 million to the Big Ten Conference to be donated to children’s charities as part of the first installment of a four-year, $13 million penalty, according to Scott Chipman, the Conference’s Assistant Commissioner.

Now, six months removed from Sandusky’s trial, Penn State is finally starting its uphill battle towards financial recovery. After pulling its ads in late 2011 “out of respect for those involved,” Cars.com returned to football telecasts last season and has announced plans of staying on for 2013-2014. There is also hope of potential sponsorships with Chevy and State Farm, although no deals have been finalized.

The shamed Penn State brand is also showing signs of recovery. According to Marketing Arm, Penn State ranked in the top five most-trusted NCAA properties in June 2011. By January 2012, the university had fallen to last place among 104 nationally measured schools. It bounced back to the mid-60s in 2012, now ranking among well-respected schools like Stanford, Michigan and Harvard.

Despite all of this, Cynthia Hall, Penn State’s acting Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, said that the university did not increase its overall marketing budget since the scandal occurred.