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:

It Was Big (Ten); It Can Be Bigger

In the college football world, a lot has happened since last Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game unfolded in Indianapolis for the second consecutive year. (More on that in a minute). Northern Illinois crashed the Bowl Championship Series party, creating a venom that is usually reserved for teams that are on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA basketball tournament.

The coach who won that Big Ten title game has bolted Wisconsin for Arkansas in an unexpected move. Notre Dame, Ball State and Purdue learned their bowl destinations, with the Boilermakers hiring a new coach — from that same no-respect Mid-American Conference as Northern Illinois and Ball State. (In case, you didn ‘t know I’m a Ball State grad and proud to be making the trip to Florida for the always popular Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl).

But my focus is back to Indiana and the business of sports. Yes, the 41,000-plus in attendance at Lucas Oil Saturday night was a dramatic drop from more than 62,000 a year earlier. Yes, TV ratings were down (falling almost as fast as the Nebraska defenders as Wisconsin running backs piled up more than 500 yards in a 70-31 victory). Yes, there is concern despite Indy being in the middle of a five-year contract to serve as host. Many say the attendance problem would have been solved if undefeated Ohio State had not been on probation, but that falls into the category of things we can’t control.

I volunteered both Friday and Saturday at the Big Ten Fanfest at the Indiana Convention Center and attended the game. A few observations.

  • Wisconsin and Nebraska fans showed up and they liked what they saw. I talked with numerous parents and family members who, like so many before them, truly appreciated downtown Indianapolis and all its amenities. They enjoyed Georgia Street before the game and they, at least on the Wisconsin side, enjoyed a winning effort in Lucas Oil for the second straight year.
  • Yes, this is only anecdotal, but I witnessed far fewer fans from the Hoosier state taking part in either the Fanfest or the game. On a smaller scale, the Fanfest was similar to the NFL Experience that took place in conjunction with Super Bowl XLVI earlier this year. An opportunity seemed to be missed in not generating more interest and participation on a local or regional level.
  • These events, and many others, bring a true excitement and economic impact to downtown. The benefits both in the short term and in further establishing the Circle City as a destination spot are numerous.

Let’s allow the creative people who do such a good job bringing these sports championships here to work on ways to bring more fans into the fold. And if you’re looking for something else to do in late November/early December on a post-Thanksgiving weekend, give the Big Ten and its championship a good hard look in coming years.

NCAA Hoops: Shooting for Dollars

The Wall Street Journal has an intriguing piece today about the most monetarily valuable NCAA basketball programs (if they could be sold like a professional franchise). Surprisingly, Louisville tops the charts. Not surprisingly, Indiana is No. 3, and Purdue made the top 20 at No. 18.

Oh, and congrats to "that team from the SEC" for winning the championship last night.

While Kansas and Kentucky battle it out Monday night for the national championship, college basketball’s real No. 1 will be sitting back on the sideline, counting its considerable cash.

The Louisville men’s basketball team is far and away the most valuable program in the sport, according to a recent study. Despite not even being the most prestigious team in its own state—that would be Kentucky, which beat the Cardinals on Saturday for a spot in the national-title game—Louisville would be worth an estimated $211.5 million if it could be bought and sold like a professional franchise. Kansas ($146 million) is second, while Kentucky ($73.7 million) stands a distant 16th.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, right, shakes hands with Kentucky head coach John Calipari before the first half of Saturday’s Final Four game.

Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, calculated the intrinsic valuations of 100 top Division I programs, including all 74 major-conference ones. Among other factors, the study examined each program’s revenues and expenses and made cash-flow adjustments, risk assessments and growth projections for every school.

Louisville blew away the field in part because of the massive revenues it has been making at the recently built KFC Yum! Center. The Cardinals, who began playing in the 22,000-seat arena in the fall of 2010, reported $40.9 million in revenue in the last fiscal year, according to government data—nearly $12 million more than any other team.

But conference-wise, the Big Ten came out on top. The Big Ten’s 12 schools have an average value of $68.3 million, followed by the Atlantic Coast ($58.2 million) and Big 12 ($50.2 million). The Big East ($40.3 million) is weighed down by its smaller members, while the Pac-12 ($35.0 million) and Southeastern Conferences ($30.7 million) are well behind.

Hat tip to Chamber staffer Ashton Eller for passing along the article.

Will IU Tackle the Longstanding Mascot Question?

More of a light-hearted story here about a state school, but as an IU grad, I’d like to weigh in on the IU mascot debate featured in today’s Indy Star. Personally, I think we definitely need a mascot, and I’ve long been jealous of the Boilers’ "Purdue Pete" (the old/new one, not the stuffed pillow they had for about 20 minutes a couple of months ago), which I think is one of the top mascots in the country. Since my time at IU, I’ve advocated (among friends) the development of "Harry the Hoosier Hog." Just a giant State Fair-quality pig to run mosey on out with the football team during games, and then maybe a student in a hog costume during the hoops season. What’s not to like about hogs? They’re sometimes cute, often aggressive, and always delicious.

That said, I do think the bison idea in the article has merit. The animal is on the state seal, and while we no longer have them here, bison remain a part of our history. The Star reports:

In the late 1960s, IU had a bison as its mascot. In 1979, IU had someone named "Hoosier Pride," a hick-looking person with a large head and a crimson cowboy hat. Apparently, though, that one didn’t pass the politically correct test and was quickly abandoned.

Since then, however, nothing.

"I think you should have a contest, get the university students involved and let them draw up something," Gearries said. "Let’s have a name contest, let’s have a drawing contest, and when we finally get it down to two or three finalists, we can let the students vote on it."

Valerie Gill, IU’s director of licensing and trademarks, said nothing is currently in the works.

Glass said any decision on a mascot would need to be made at the university level.

"Ultimately that’s a university decision, and my belief is that if it bubbles up, it will be more of a grass-roots effort from the students and fans," Glass said.

Most of the mascots in the Big Ten date to the 1950s, though their role has significantly expanded from an extension of the cheerleading squad over the decades.

Minnesota assistant athletic director Scott Ellison said its mascot, Goldy, made 572 appearances last year, roughly 300 of them outside athletic and other school events, including birthday parties and weddings. Goldy can make as many seven appearances in a day and is a revenue source for the school.

"(A mascot) is an ambassador for the university," Ellison said. "It’s one of our brands. It’s very visible and very much the face of not only the athletics department, but also the university."

A Dawg Gone Great Story

As you’re checking this out on what I hope is a pleasant Monday in Indiana and beyond, isn’t it a great day to be a Bulldog? I’m writing this on Friday before departing for Houston, truly anticipating that the Butler basketball team will be competing in the national championship game for the second consecutive year.

If somehow the Bulldogs became the latest victim Saturday in a magical run by VCU, the Butler tale remains a great one. One college basketball analyst called it simply the best story in the history of college basketball.

Wait, some who know me are saying, "You’re not a Bulldog, but a Cardinal" (as in Ball State graduate). And while I’ll remain a BSU supporter, it has been 21 years since a Sweet 16 run that saw the Cards give eventual champion UNLV its biggest tourney threat. But being a sports junkie, living in Indiana most of my life and in Indianapolis the last 13 years, how can you not support the Dawgs and, most importantly, the way they go about their business.

Historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Butler Way, players that are as focused on the classroom as the court — these are just a few of the reasons Hoosiers and others throughout the country are in for a long stay on the Butler bandwagon.

No matter the outcome, the Dawgs are winners. And I think they might just bring home the trophy that goes with being out front on the scoreboard too.

Finally, you ask: What does this have to do with business? Not a whole lot other than Butler is a longstanding Indiana Chamber member, a success story in many ways and something for all to rally around. Go Dawgs!

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 A promo may be viewed at

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, 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.

IU Football Symbolizes Decisions Universities Must Make About Importance of Athletics

As an IU alum and football fan, this was obviously of great interest to me. The Indianapolis Business Journal’s recent article on the state of the school’s football program seems to highlight the risk vs. reward dilemma facing larger universities’ athletic budgets. When is it worth a major investment, and when should the pursuit of winning be scaled back?

Athletic Director Fred Glass has emphasized marketing, been the point man in radio and television commercials, and is leading the charge into a season that promises football financial gains not seen in Bloomington in a very long time.

While success on the field is not guaranteed, Glass is promising significant attendance increases and a continued rebirth of the football program that he believes will lead to critical fiscal gains for the school and its athletic department.

IU has a long way to go, and some critics wonder if it’s wise for the Hoosiers to chase the likes of Ohio State University … or even the University of Wisconsin. IU’s $55.7 million athletic department budget looks small compared with the Buckeyes’

“College athletics is a very dangerous investment for schools,” said David Ridpath, a professor of sports administration at Ohio University and past president of The Drake Group, a not-for-profit that bills itself as a watchdog for academic integrity in the face of big-time college sports.

“Schools can get caught up in chasing bigger programs with many more resources, and it becomes difficult to justify the expenses based on true return on investments.”

Butler’s Shining Moment Ends with Standing Ovation

No, David’s rock didn’t quite strike Goliath in the noggin. But what a run by a great Butler team, and the parallels to where Duke was when Coach Krzyzewski began are quite evident. This could be the first in a long line of Final Four efforts by the men from Hinkle. Many devoted fans packed into the Fieldhouse last night to view the game, and here’s an ESPN story that contains video of the crowd’s reaction to the last shot that almost shocked the basketball world.

Go Butler!

Here’s a little poem I penned a couple of years ago. Pardon my indulgence, but I thought it was apropos for the moment. Though the city and most of the state claim other alma maters, this weekend we’re all for Butler (at least in my family, considering my dad was Brad Stevens’ eighth grade coach). Go Dogs!!!

A Night at Hinkle

The ball is tipped into the air;
Hot dogs, popcorn, standard fare.
Tho not so standard are the seats;
The years, the tears, and few defeats.

Bulldogs running stride for stride;
King Bulldog barking from the side.
Yet even he must leave behind
The pensive thoughts that grace his mind
Of so much history in one place –
The challengers, the goods, the greats.
One feels so pleasured by the presence
Of ghosts who haunt these hardwood heavens.

All these years since Mr. Hoover,
In our hearts, we’ll never lose her.
Plump’s last shot a great surprise;
College kids and college tries.

Unprivileged are those who must
Play their games in fancy-fussed
Arenas, gyms that feel so plastic;
Too much shine seems so bombastic.

I’ll take this place any day –
This sculpture almost made of clay,
So perfect every last detail,
In black & white, her walls regale.

For one thousand stars that twinkle,
I wouldn’t trade one night at Hinkle.

Bradley: ISU’s Noteworthy Alumni Key in Breaking Racial Barriers

ISU President Daniel J. Bradley explains how his university has played a significant role in American civil rights.

  • Tell us something that not enough people know about your college or university that makes it such a special place.

Indiana State University is proud to have one of the most diverse student populations in Indiana. Providing access and opportunity to higher education has been an important part of Indiana State’s history since it was created as the Indiana State Normal School in 1865.

Indiana State and its alumni have also played an important part in breaking racial barriers. Willa Brown Chappell, a 1927 graduate of Indiana State, was the first African-American officer in the Civil Air Patrol. A lifelong activist, Chappell lobbied the U.S. government to integrate both the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Civilian Pilot Training Program. She was appointed as coordinator of the CPTP in Chicago and trained more than 200 pilots including some of the Tuskegee Airmen.

With basketball tournament time upon us, many people may not be aware of the role Indiana State had in integrating the national basketball scene. In 1947, the Indiana State Sycamores men’s basketball team, coached by John Wooden, won the conference title and was invited to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament. (Coach Wooden, of course, would later go on to win 10 NCAA championships at UCLA.)

However, the tournament officials had one stipulation to their invitation. Clarence Walker, Indiana State’s one African-American player, could not attend. Coach Wooden and the entire team immediately declined the invitation.

The following year, the team again won the conference championship and was invited to the national tournament. This time, the NAIA relented and let Walker attend. He played in the 1948 tournament with the full and unrelenting support of his coaches and teammates, becoming the first African-American to play in a national collegiate basketball tournament.

Indiana State has also been an avenue to success for many first-generation college students. Helping students achieve their educational goals remains a top priority and is a key component of Indiana State’s new strategic plan, “The Pathway to Success.”

Tomorrow: Indiana University’s Michael McRobbie