March Madness: Is It Really Fouling Up Productivity?

9819223Thankfully, our beloved Hoosier state is rejoicing as we’ve placed five colleges into the Big Dance!

But with much attention this week now devoted toward brackets and sneaking in an online stream of a game, are Indiana employers paying the price?

Fortune cites stats from Challenger, Gray & Christmas indicating that a staggering 60 million Americans will be solely focused on tourney games later this week. And it could be costing employers up to $1.9 billion in wages.

That does sound like a big ol’ negative. But the executives quoted in the article report they’re not too concerned about it. So is it possible we should all just relax on the “it hurts productivity” argument and simply enjoy the experience?

Sports broadcaster and Talk Sporty to Me founder Jen Mueller says claims of lost productivity are overblown because the brackets increase camaraderie and conversation within the office. She contends that actually boosts your bottom line in the long run. (Frankly, this Indiana University alum likes the way she thinks.) See her reasoning below:

Show Them the Money

Recently, we asked your reaction to President Obama’s proposal for “free” community college. The results:

  • 43%: Who will pay the $60 billion price tag?
  • 20%: Sign me up
  • 14%: Won’t help if more students don’t graduate
  • 12%: Not for me but a step in the right direction

Our current poll asks a question that could not have been offered a year ago when no Indiana schools were represented in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Vote (top right) on your home state favorite for March Madness.

Nate Silver Breaks Down March Madness

Your office may face a hit to productivity this week as staffers scramble to fill out March Madness brackets. Not here of course; we at the Chamber remain dutifully focused. For example, I'm writing this important blog … about college basketball.

Analyst/number cruncher Nate Silver gained a great deal of acclaim during the 2012 election by accurately predicting President Obama's return to the White House (although he also has a reputation for fantasy baseball prognosticating). So now he takes a crack at the 2013 NCAA tournament. Here's an excerpt, but read the entire piece for A LOT more detail:

Even before the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament bracket was announced on Sunday, there was plenty of discussion about how much parity there was in this year’s field. The chatter only increased after Louisville, the No. 1 overall seed, was placed in a brutally tough Midwest region that also includes Duke and Michigan State.

This condition is nothing new, however. Parity has been the rule for some time in the N.C.A.A. tournament.

Louisville is in fact the nominal favorite to win the tournament despite its tough draw, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast. Still, Louisville has only a 23 percent chance of doing so, just ahead of Indiana at 20 percent.

In 2012, the FiveThirtyEight formula listed Kentucky as the tournament favorite. That call looks prescient since the Wildcats went on to win. Still, the result involved as much luck as skill, since the forecast gave Kentucky just a 27 percent chance of winning, only modestly better than Louisville and Indiana this year.

Ball St. Plays Key Role in Promoting Madness

Ball State’s Sports Link program and its students will play a vital production role in bringing NCAA March Madness to the masses. See info from a press release below. For more on Ball State’s Sports Link program, see my recent article in BizVoice.

College basketball and emerging media will sync this spring as members of Sports Link, an immersive learning program at Ball State University, take a leading role in producing one of the largest sporting events in the country – the 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.

As many as 18 students, telecommunications instructor Chris Taylor and graduate assistant Steven Albritton of Carmel will serve as online producers and social analysts for NCAA March Madness on Demand (MMOD), produced by Turner Sports Interactive. The site is www.ncaa.com/mmod. A promo may be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlOM3Z0p4Ok.

Ball State Provost Terry King pointed out that the NCAA project is the second national partnership in the last year for Sports Link. In 2010, the interdisciplinary student organization partnered with Fox College Sports to bring magazine shows and live coverage of Ball State sporting events to nearly 56 million homes in the nation’s top 25 television markets.

"Sports Link provides real-life problem solving opportunities where students synthesize and integrate traditional academic information," King said. "It offers students a transformative experience that delivers game-day excitement to audiences across the country. Students run the show. In addition to being on-air talent, they produce, write, record and edit the packages."

For the upcoming tournament, the Emmy-winning Sports Link crew will work exclusively with production teams from Turner Sports and CBS Sports, interacting with digital producers, television announcers, teams and fans. Content may be found at http://www.ncaa.com/cokezerosocialarena, Facebook (NCAA March Madness) and Twitter (@marchmadness).

Ball State Sports Link members will produce content on campus in a remodeled facility designed especially for the project. The students started preparation for the tournament in February as they researched teams, storylines, social media trends and content. They participated in two weeks of rehearsals and development time prior to the launch of MMOD on March 13. The tournament spans 23 days through the NCAA Championship Game on April 4.

In addition to the entire program’s involvement, Taylor and Albritton will serve as two of the tournament’s online hosts, while senior Alex Kartman of Fort Wayne and junior Ben Wagner of Yorktown will assist as overall and morning-drive time producers. Junior Kyle Binder of Carmel and sophomore Chris Renkel of West Lake, Ohio, will perform the same role as afternoon-drive time producers.

Business of Sports (Impact) at Work

Global workplace productivity is expected to suffer over the next month as the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament takes center stage. The U.S. impact won’t be as substantial. Despite the continued growth in youth soccer (my son wanted to take a personal day from camp to watch the South Africa-Mexico opener on Friday morning), the world’s most popular game has not attracted the same fanatical support here at home.

But the folks at Challenger, Gray & Christmas have put together a non-scientific ranking of the sporting events that likely do have the biggest effect on employees … and ultimately employers. No surprise to me at No. 1. I’m of the belief that a certain Thursday and Friday in March are really national holidays.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (aka, March Madness) – Widespread office tournament pools and the fact that about half of the first 32 games are played during work hours (and streamed live on CBS Sports March Madness on Demand) make this the granddaddy of productivity sappers. Proof of the event’s impact on productivity: the “Boss Button,” which instantly hides the webcast behind a fake spreadsheet, was hit 3.3 million times during the 2010 Tournament.
 
NFL Fantasy Football – Millions of fantasy football participants manage their teams from their office, whether it’s preparing for the fantasy draft or initiating a four-way trade.   

The Super Bowl – While the game is not played during traditional work hours, the impact on the workplace comes the following day, when many Super Bowl revelers find this particular Monday especially difficult to manage.  

World Cup Soccer – Some companies in Europe and South America may even shut down on the day of a big match.
 
College Football Bowl Season – Bowl games start in mid-December and many die-hard college football fans attempt to watch every game. Some of these games are played during the day, while others go late into the evening.  

Baseball Playoffs and World Series – Games are mostly played in the evening, but often stretch into the wee hours. Groggy fans, particularly in cities with playoff/World Series teams, may be less productive the day after these prolonged games.
 
NHL Playoffs/Stanley Cup Finals – Professional hockey playoffs last almost two months. For cities with teams playing, this can create considerable distractions. 
 
NBA Playoffs/Finals – Much like with baseball and hockey, productivity is mostly killed in cities with competing teams. The biggest threat comes from late night game-watching on work nights. 
 
The Olympics – While most people get their fill through prime-time coverage, faster Internet connections are making it possible to watch live streaming of events from one’s desk. 
 
Apple Product Announcements – While this technically is not a sporting event, these announcements feature almost as much pre-event hype and watercooler speculation about what will transpire, particularly among members of the IT staff. Most events, which occur in the middle of the workday, are covered via live blogging, so those who cannot wait for news reports after the fact are able to be among the first to learn about Apple’s latest creation or product update.

Education Secretary Duncan Calls Foul on NCAA

While driving into work, I listened to ESPN’s "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show relay that U.S. Education Secretary (and former Harvard basketball star) Arne Duncan has proposed NCAA teams who don’t graduate 40% of their players should not be allowed to compete in the postseason. A New York Times blog explains:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan took another swing at the National Collegiate Athletic Association and top college basketball programs Wednesday, reiterating a call he made in January to ban from postseason play teams that fail to graduate at least 40 percent of their players.

If Duncan’s proposal were to be carried out, 12 teams in the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament would be barred from competing, including Kentucky, a No. 1 seed, which has a graduation rate of 31 percent, according to a study released earlier this week by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. Six institutions (Brigham Young, Marquette, Notre Dame, Utah State, Wake Forest and Wofford) achieved a 100 percent graduation rate.

“If a university can’t have two out of five of their student-athletes graduate, I don’t know why they’re rewarded with postseason play,” Duncan said in a telephone conference call. His remarks were nearly identical to ones he made in a speech in January at the N.C.A.A. convention in Atlanta, where he told a crowd of athletic directors and university presidents that leaders in college sports aren’t doing enough to graduate basketball players.

ESPN’s analysts agreed the concept was well-meaning, although the logistics of such legislation would end up becoming convoluted because so many factors play into graduation rates (e.g. transfers, players who go to the NBA early, etc.). Jay Bilas also offered that coaches should not be punished for kicking a student off the team who can’t handle the academic load, since most would agree that’s the correct thing to do. He also opined that these are more than just basketball teams, they are institutions of higher learning, and they are equipped to handle these matters themselves.

What do you think? Fair or foul?