Bloomberg News

U.S. College Sports Are on Trial, So Let’s Give In: Opening Line

June 09, 2014

Testimony begins today in Oakland, California, in the trial over what boils down to amateurism in U.S. college athletics.

If your Saturday afternoons in autumn are devoted to the legacy of your alma mater’s history on the playing field, spanning perhaps generations of players who have come and gone while the school colors remain the same, this case is for you.

If the O’Bannon trial, as it’s being called, is decided in favor of the NCAA, the organization will continue to reap more than $800 million a year off the backs of the kids, who will remain, basically, chattel. If U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken finds in favor of the student-athletes -- or, in the case of the University of Florida’s men’s basketball team, just athletes -- the outcome could mean teens with agents, fewer teams being fielded by colleges and lawsuits by marching bands, as Karen Gullo puts it today.

O’Bannon is Ed O’Bannon, the star of UCLA’s 1995 NCAA championship team. His position is that the NCAA is a cartel mining riches from students and enriching everyone but them. For illustration, take a look at the contract the University of Kentucky just gave men’s basketball coach John Calipari. He’s totally right.

The NCAA says fans love its college athletics precisely because they’re not professionals, and that “paying players would pit schools against each other to attract top talent, and cause some to stop fielding teams and fans to tune out in droves.” No, wait -- they’re right.

Is it time to tear it all apart? Rip up the broadcast deals like the one that inflicts Notre Dame football on us every weekend on NBC, scale it all way, way back and indeed direct what money does come in toward those areas in the colleges that really need them?

Or, since we’ve already surrendered amateurism in the Olympic games, should we just give up the fight and let money take this part of our hearts, too?

We’re of two minds.

***

No economic indicators or earnings to speak of today. Netflix (NFLX:US) will hold its annual meeting. Overnight, Japan said first-quarter GDP grew an annualized 6.7 percent, compared with economists’ forecasts for 5.6 percent.

Leaders from Sweden, Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands meet in Harpsund, Sweden, to discuss Europe’s competitiveness and the next European Commission president. They’ll hold a press conference tomorrow at 10:45 local/04:45 EDT.

***

+ Tyson Foods has outbid Pilgrim’s Pride for Hillshire Brands, two people with knowledge of the agreement told Jeff McCracken and David Welch. The Wall Street Journal puts the winning bid at $63 a share in cash, or about $7.7 billion.

+ A Taliban-inspired attack at the international airport in Karachi, Pakistan, killed at least 27, 10 of them attackers. The group is promising more.

+ A who-knows-what inspired attack on two Las Vegas policemen and a bystander by a man and woman resulted in the shooting death of all five.

+ Twenty women were kidnapped near the site of the schoolgirl abductions in Nigeria.

+ Rape: “sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong,” the minister for law and order in India’s Madhya Pradesh state says.

+ The world’s oldest man lived in Manhattan until yesterday.

***

Market psychology sure is interesting. In its logic today from Callie Bost is the understanding that, in the current bull market and specifically in the past two years, rising short interest is a sign those investors are going to be wrong.

Shorts in the S&P 500 ETF Index has risen to almost 11 percent of its shares, the highest level since 2012, she writes. In technology stocks, it’s roughly 67 percent above the 12-month average in the PowerShares QQQ (QQQ:US) ETF. This after shorts were practically driven out of stock markets last year.

On May 19, Lu Wang showed us that money flowing out of equity funds was a sign to buy. Since then, the S&P 500 has risen 3.4 percent. Today it’s the rising short interest. The less love you show it, the more the market flowers.

“That, from a trader’s standpoint, is a bullish sign,” BB&T Wealth Management’s Walter Hellwig tells Bost. “That there isn’t unbridled optimism shows that there could be more upside.”

U.S. stocks managing editor Chris Nagi says these shorts could be a bet on direction and could be hedges or part of trades that are bullish on certain industries, “but the fact of the matter is, even if people are hedging they’re doing a lot more hedging now than they had until recently.

‘‘The story could be viewed as a sign to put on a bullish trade, but there’s a danger in that, in that practically anything anyone did in the last five years could be held up as an indicator of gains to come from shorting the market to roasting marshmallows, because the market has unilaterally gone up in the last five years,” Nagi says.

Skepticism is a constant part of a market’s character, and it was in the bull markets of the 1990s and mid-2000s. Then “the market steamrolls those views and they become less credible and people’s daring becomes greater,” Nagi says. “The more often this happens, the more often they are proven to be people crying wolf, the more velocity the market picks up.”

***

“Transit villages” are springing up throughout New Jersey and have been since the late 1990s. At least 26,000 homes in these planned developments have been or will be constructed.

The housing concept is “seen as a remedy for suburban sprawl,” and is being studied in Detroit and Stockton, California, Elise Young reports today.

Governor Chris Christie expanded aid for the development in 2011 through the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program, a $1.75 billion package of incentives of which about $1.4 billion has been committed.

As the population grows, this is all part of a smart planning strategy to make it easier to commute to New York without driving.

Just one problem: How are they going to get there?

***

Prostitution is legal and the black market in U.S. dollars isn’t, which tells you all you need to know to understand the upside down world of Venezuela.

Anatoly Kurmanaev traveled among the, eh, professionals for today’s story about how the prostitutes of Venezuela are part of the front line of illegal currency trading, joining tour agents and taxi drivers. The only difference being that “we have to sell our bodies for it,” a woman who goes by the name Elena tells him.

The black-market rate for the bolivar has fallen to 71 from 23 since Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chavez in April 2013, while the official exchange rate, is 6.3 bolivars per dollar.

Venezuelans are forced to wait for hours to obtain such staples as rice and flour, and sex workers get a jump on this hardship with their access to dollars, but it’s the currency trade Maduro calls “perverse.”

***

Congratulations to Maria Sharapova for her second French Open title and to Rafael Nadal for his ninth. Ninth? His ninth? Sacre bleu.

***

The top-brass member of the Opening Line team happens to be a New York Rangers fan and happened to be in Los Angeles over the weekend at the end of a work trip and happened to luck into a ticket Saturday for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, which continue tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Funny how things happen.

Anyway, we reached out to him yesterday for a little color.

What was the scene there?

“The Staples Center is really nice, but there is something basically weird about playing ice hockey amid palm trees -- in water-starved Los Angeles.”

Assume you kept your mouth shut rather than have Kings fan fill it with knuckle sandwich. Speaking as a Flyers fan, that is.

“There were enough Rangers fans to actually get a ‘Let’s go Rangers’ chant going -- only to be immediately drowned out by ‘Rangers suck.’ I sat next to an older guy, a Kings fan, who was not at all annoyed by my presence.”

Is this your first Stanley Cup finals game?

“I was at Game 7 in 1994.”

Damn.

“By the way, the Kings are really big and really good.”

***

The air conditioning was working last night in San Antonio, where LeBron James pumped in 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Miami’s 98-96 win over the Spurs in Game 2 of the NBA finals.

James took a lot of heat, pardon the pun, for supposedly abandoning his team in Game 1, when the air conditioning failed and left everyone playing in temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mike Lupica’s having none of it.

Game 3 is tomorrow night in Miami, as the NBA returns to the 2-2-1-1-1 games format.

***

Maybe we’ll be calling him Johnny Baseball.

Not likely. He last played baseball in high school, but that didn’t stop the San Diego Padres from heaving a Hail Mary with its selection of Johnny Manziel this past weekend in the MLB draft.

A couple other boldface names popped up in the draft, and they have certainly greater potential legitimacy. Cal Ripken’s son Ryan was chosen in the 15th round by the Nationals, and the sons of Bobby Bonilla, John Franco, Benito Santiago and Magglio Ordonez also were drafted.

***

It would have been so great to have a Triple Crown winner this year, no? Something cool about life for a little while, something from the realm of competition that didn’t involve whose team was being represented -- no people, no jerseys, no cities represented. Just an animal against fate.

Things started out OK. California Chrome was in the No. 2 post position and was hemmed in for a little while, and we could swear we saw his head twitch in displeasure a couple times while he was in there. Once he got outside he looked fine, too, like he was going to settle in and then, once jockey Victor Espinoza flipped the switch, off he’d go into glory. But there was a loose connection.

We can’t help sympathizing with co-owner Steve Coburn’s lament, raw as it was coming in the moments immediately after the horses crossed the wire, and the day after, about the fairness of fielding horses who haven’t been through the challenge of the Crown’s first two legs. Is that what horse racing is to be -- a stable giving it its best shot, only to meet a crowd of spoilers waiting for the horse in New York?

Is this why there are no Triple Crowns anymore?

Maybe, maybe not. Whatever. Bummer.

To contact the reporter on this story: C. Thompson in Wilmington at cthompson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Marty Schenker at mschenker@bloomberg.net


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