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Friday, April 28, 2017

Athletics: Follow the Money

Two weeks ago, I blogged about "Papa" John Schnatter's widely publicized comment that "Until you fix athletics, you cannot fix this university." As I wrote, local journalists and University of Louisville leaders reacted to that remark as if they did not see any problems with Athletics -- and could not conceive of them.

For example, in today's Louisville Courier-Journal, Athletics Board member Bill Stone was quoted offering "praise and support for [Athletics Director Tom] Jurich's leadership and said that other areas of the university are what needs fixing."
'Oh my god, our athletic department is the envy of the country," Stone said. "... We need to put our effort into University Hospital and bring that health care facility back to where it was, where it was the place of choice. That's where we need to spend our attention, not on what works.'
Local radio personality Terry Meiners was also puzzled: “'His comments at the board meeting made zero sense to me,' Meiners said. 'And I mean zero-point-zero.... Everybody’s a little baffled with this one.... I grew up here,' Meiners said. 'I’ve seen the difference in the growth of the school starting Day 1 with Jurich. It’s as if he’s built an entire civilization that we were thirsting for in our community.'”

Despite the apparent bewilderment of local elites, my post referenced some potential areas of concern and linked to several of my previous posts on the topic. Additionally, in the interim between the first story and today's, reporter Tim Sullivan did some research:
Stephen Clark, a tenured professor who has spent 18 years at U of L, perceives Jurich not as “invisible” but “untouchable.” 
Athletics is truly untouchable at this university,” Clark said via e-mail. “It has a different set of rules than all the schools within the university. That goes for things such as ‘conflicts of interest’ particularly. 
“... While athletics means so much to a university, the athletic director and coaches should be under the control of the administration of the university and should operate under parallel guidelines. I don't think that's true at U of L.” 
Student Body President Aaron Vance, whose office entitles him to a seat on the Board of Trustees, seconded Schnatter’s vague statements in a post-meeting tweet: “Papa gets it,” Vance wrote. “Something we have all been thinking here for years.”  
...The U of L Athletics Association operates independently of the university’s general fund and boasts at least 15 straight years of balanced budgets, but its spending patterns could be seen as extravagant in those departments with tightening belts and by those students dealing with rising debt.  Monday, Vance's Twitter feed included a copy of a 2011-12 student government resolution urging U of L to abolish its $50-per-semester student athletics fee.
This week, Athletics is firing back. Yesterday, as the C-J reported, Associate athletics director Kevin Miller "presented an information sheet detailing the amount of money the athletics department provides to the university and vice versa." First, Athletics did recognize that some of their costs are borne by the rest of the University:
According to the document, the athletic department receives a total of $7.344 million in benefits from the university and U of L student fees. Those benefits are $3.263 million in expenses, mostly related to the costs of utilities at the sports facilities; $1.323 million in gender-equity funding; $829,900 in assistance to boost student-athlete academics; and $1.928 million in student fees ($50 per student per semester). 
What about the other side of the relationship?
In turn, athletics reportedly accounts for $30.6 million in tuition, room, board and books for the university due to the presence of student-athletes, managers, spirit groups and the pep band at the school, according to the information sheet.   
The athletic department also provided $4 million to the U of L general fund ($2 million in 2013-14 and $2 million in 2016-17), according to the document.
I have previously mentioned the relatively paltry sums (a few million dollars) that Athletics has provided during particularly difficult years for the University. In reality, those mostly offset the student fees they collect.

The $30.6 million is a more interesting question. Does Athletics subsidize education for all of those students, or does this figure include funds paid by students enrolled in the University? I suspect the latter since the 2014 and 2015 Athletics audit posted online revealed only about $13 million in total athletic scholarships.

So what is missing from the figures Athletics provided yesterday?

First, if the discussion is going to consider revenues collected by one institution thanks to the spending of the other institution's students, then UofL should receive credit for ticket sales to students (and alumni). I haven't seen a breakdown focusing only on students and alums, but UofL athletics collected about $27 million in ticket sales in 2015. For 2016, media reports placed those revenues at just under $30 million.

Not all students or alumni attend games, of course, but many watch those events on television or listen on radio. UofL Athletics has been collecting significant sums from direct TV deals and shared payments from the Atlantic Coast Conference: about $13 million in media rights fees and $7 million from the ACC. That's $20 million more thanks to students, alumni and other fans of the University's teams.

UofL Athletics also collects about $29 million in contributions from donors. As I've blogged previously, some academic research suggests that those donors might otherwise give to the University if Athletics was not asking them for cash.

Finally, there is the matter of the University of Louisville name. When individual UofL athletes depart the campus, a few become stars in the NBA or NFL and help their franchises collect big profits. Presumably, the players are rewarded with lucrative salaries.

However, the largest portion of former UofL basketball players (which is UofL's most lucrative sport) toil in relative anonymity in development leagues or foreign leagues. The players are presumably more skilled and experienced once they leave campus, but they no longer generate nearly the same revenues for their new programs. UofL fans cheer these players, and pay for tickets, sweatshirts, and TV ads, precisely because they wear the cardinal red of the local sports team and perform their feats on local courts and fields.

Does UofL Athletics pay the University for this association? No. Instead, Athletics collected $23 million in licensing and royalties in 2013.

Literally, Athletics rakes in tens of millions of dollars annually thanks to its affiliation with the University.


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Notice something odd in the recent news?

Yesterday, former New England Patriot football player Aaron Hernandez apparently committed suicide in prison. His family and their lawyer have already called for an investigation because they do not believe Hernandez would have killed himself. After all, a few days ago, he was acquitted of some serious charges. And they presumably knew him best. On the other hand, Hernandez was serving life in prison without parole and his ex-teammates visited the Trump White House yesterday.

This news seemed especially unusual to me because a number of other prominent -- even notorious -- convicted killers and sex offenders have been found dead in prison in recent days and weeks. Locally, an 86-year old ex-priest convicted of sexually abusing 29 children died in prison in early March. 

That death seemed like natural causes given the age, but a series of recently reported prison deaths seems weird...perhaps statistically improbable:

Remember the Washington (state) mall shooter? He died earlier this week. April 17, BBC:
A man accused of killing five people at a shopping mall in Washington state has been found hanging inside his prison cell, say officials. 
Arcan Cetin, 20, who had been awaiting trial for the mass shooting in 2016, was found dead in the Snohomish County Jail on Sunday night.
Remember that Utah doctor who killed his wife, the former beauty queen? Washington Post, April 10:
61-year-old MacNeill was found unresponsive and declared dead at the Olympus Facility at the Utah State Prison in Draper, where he was doing time for his 2014 conviction of first-degree murder, second-degree obstruction of justice and second-degree forcible sex abuse. 
Prison officials said in a statement that MacNeill’s death is being investigated, though there were “no obvious signs of foul play.” 
This next case did not involve prominent killers or offenders, but it did involve multiple deaths. Thus, it made the national news less than two weeks ago. CNN, April 7:
Four inmates were found dead at a South Carolina prison, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said. 
Guards found the four men at 10:35 a.m. in a dorm at Kirkland Correctional Institution, a state maximum security site outside Columbia that holds approximately 15,000 offenders, said Sommer Sharpe.... 
The deaths "don't appear to be natural," Richland County Coroner Gary Watts told CNN affiliate WIS.
Three weeks ago, the locally-notorious "Angel of Death" serial killer (March 30):
A former nurse's aide dubbed the "Angel of Death" after he admitted killing three dozen hospital patients in Ohio and Kentucky died Thursday, two days after he was attacked and beaten in his prison cell. 
Donald Harvey, who was serving multiple life sentences, was found injured in his cell Tuesday afternoon at the state prison in Toledo, officials said. A patrol report said the 64-year-old was beaten when an unnamed person entered his cell.
Trying to recall the details of these recent incidents, I searched on Google and found a surprisingly long list of prison deaths. I'm not going to link to more of them.

Many of these deaths are first reported as suicide and some happened to older men, who seemingly died of natural causes. However, at least a few of the deaths seem suspicious, involving murder or under-explained violence in prison. Examining this string of deaths seems like (a) a potentially interesting question for a social scientist or student; (b) an important question for public policy makers responsible for securing prisons; and/or (c) the makings of a conspiracy-laden movie.

I should note that some investigative reporters have been down this road.

For anyone interested, here are other prominent examples I found in a quick search:

In 2015, an infamous California prisoner was killed after being moved into the general prison population.

Also in 2015: an Olympics gymnastics coach accused of child porn and molestation was found dead in prison.

In 2013, the Cleveland man who infamously held multiple women hostage for years in his home was found dead in prison.


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Friday, April 14, 2017

Fix UofL Athletics?

At a University of Louisville Board of Trustees meeting earlier this week, Board member John Schnatter -- of Papa John's Pizza fame -- said the following in an open session (link includes live video from the open part of the Board meeting):
“The athletics thing scares me … Until you fix athletics, you cannot fix this university,” Schnatter said.... 
[Interim University President] Postel, in an unrelated presentation during the meeting, said the university has an urgent need for operating cash in case of an emergency. 
Schnatter interjected, linking the university’s cash needs to the ongoing expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, where the Cards play football. 
“We’re doing this by the skin of our teeth. We’re going to put $60 million in a stadium – by the way, it’s my stadium,” Schnatter said, laughing. “And we’re $5 million over budget and we’ve got 10 days cash on hand.** That’s crazy.”
Much of the reporting about Schnatter's remarks made it seem as if no one understands what he was talking about: "Pressed for plausible explanations of Schnatter’s statements, insiders have spent a lot of time scratching their heads and studying possible scenarios."

In his column in today's sports page, Tim Sullivan speculated about several angles that parallel my own thinking and writing about this topic:
This much, though, is plain: with revenues rising at the top tier of college athletics (by $304 million for the 50 power conference schools in 2015), the quasi-amateur sports arms race strikes more and more observers as obscene. Dollars devoted to attracting recruits and rewarding coaches with ever-glitzier facilities and ever-sweeter pay packages are inconsistent with the experiences of other students and staff and only available because of an athletic program’s affiliation with a specific school
Too often, though, administrators at those schools have little say over whether those dollars might serve some higher purpose somewhere else on campus. Those athletic departments that retain nearly all of the money they generate, often while appropriating student fees and off-loading certain expenses on the university’s general fund, essentially operate in a parallel universe that can be a burden on the rest of the university
If that’s what Papa John is talking about, that’s a subject worth discussing, and one that applies to many major schools. 
University of Louisville, confronting a $48 million budget cut, needs to have this conversation immediately.


** Officials said at the meeting that the University actually now has 35 days of cash on hand -- thanks apparently to a recent hiring freeze accompanied by increased scrutiny on unit spending. Here's a November 2016 press release from Moody's explaining about why this number is important.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hidden history

This past week, during spring break, we had workers in our home stripping wallpaper from the master bedroom, dining room, and stairwell.

Underneath the wallpaper in the lower stairwell, the workers uncovered this message: "Native Dancer 1953." Here's a picture:


I'm curious about this as Native Dancer was a 1953 contender for the Triple Crown. It won the Belmont and Preakness, but lost the Kentucky Derby by "a head." In 22 career starts, Native Dancer won 21 races. Someone even wrote a book about him.

Why did someone scratch that into the wall of our home? Did they lose a big bet? Win a bet? Did they have a more personal connection? Dunno.

The horse was from Maryland, by the way, where I went to graduate school, was bred and owned by a Vanderbilt, and was nicknamed the "Grey Ghost." Wikipedia has these additional pieces of trivia:
"He appeared on the May 31 cover of Time magazine. Many consider the 'Grey Ghost of Sagamore' to have been the first Thoroughbred television star and TV Guide ranked him as a top icon of the era....In the Associated Press rankings of the greatest racehorses of the 20th century, he was ranked #3, tied with Citation, behind only Man o' War and Secretariat."


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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscars for 2016 Films

Academy Awards 2016
Public Domain from Flick: Jennifer Lawrence Films
The Academy Award ceremonies are tonight and my wife and I have again been using some of our leisure time to view nominated films and acting performances. Regular readers may recall that I only saw one of the films nominated for best picture during the 2016 calendar year.

We started watching nominees very late this year and didn't see many of the nominated movies or performances. Thus, this post is something that will be updated later in the year as we watch more of these films.

In any case, based on my recent attempts to see at least some of the contenders, I'm going to rank-order the films and acting performances. Obviously, this is my completely subjective perspective -- and hardly an ideal way to think about art. Plus, I can only rank the small sample of performances I watched. That is a big limit since I failed to see 6 of the Oscar-nominated Best Picture nominees (including the favorite) and I've yet to see most of the acting performances.

Keep in mind that these are not my predictions about winners in each category. Go to the Hollywood Stock Exchange if you want predictions based upon betting markets. Spoiler Alert: La La Land is a big favorite for Best Picture and its female star (Emma Stone) seems to be one of the biggest favorites in a major acting category. The film's director Damien Chazelle is also expected to win an Oscar. In other categories, Fences co-stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are strongly favored to pick up hardware, as is Mahershala Ali of Moonlight (and Hidden Figures).

Note for future readers: Films and performances shaded in yellow below will indicate additions/edits after the Oscars are awarded (and the original blog posting).

Best picture

Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures **
Moonlight
Arrival
Lion

Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Manchester by The Sea

Comment: I really liked Hell or High Water, but it is a crime noir film, one of my favorite genres. Hidden Figures was quite well done and I liked it too. Both films had some cliches of their respective genres. Moonlight is an excellent movie too.

Best director

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Best actor in a Leading Role

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Denzel Washington – Fences

Comment:

Best actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Dev Patel – Lion

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Either of those [top two] guys could win. They were both fantastic.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures **
Nicole Kidman – Lion

Viola Davis – Fences
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Her character is a villain in the film, but Harris was great in her role.

Best Documentary Feature

I failed to see any of these before the Oscars:

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

Comment: Netflix had 13th available to stream prior to the Oscars and the O.J. film is on demand on TV -- from ESPN, I think. A couple of others are on Prime. This is a category that I should have given more attention weeks ago.

Best Foreign Language Film

And I haven't seen these either:

Land of Mine (Denmark) in Danish
A Man Called Ove (Sweden) in Swedish
The Salesman (Iran) in Persian
Tanna (Australia) in Nauvhal
Toni Erdmann (Germany) in German

Toni Erdmann tops some lists as best picture of 2016. I'm eager to see it.

** I saw these films or performances in the theater.


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Saturday, February 25, 2017

ISA 2017

Harbor view from Hyatt Regency
I attended the 2017 ISA conference in Baltimore this past week. It's enormous and I have ambivalent feelings about it. There are 75 to 80 panels at a time, with at least 5 people usually on each panel (4 or 5 papers is typical on "regular" panels, plus a chair/discussant). Lots of people complain about under-attended panels, but many show up for roundtables featuring prominent scholars in the discipline.

I managed to see a few old friends from academia and from the "real" world. I visited a brewpub and a craft beer bar, walked around Camden Yards, and took the commuter train to DC in order to do some work tied to my job as department chair. Soon, I'll try to upload a few pictures with this post.

Pictured below left: the Babe Ruth statue outside Camden Yards and the beer menu from The Brewer's Art last Wednesday night.

Saturday morning, I presented a paper on "Trump and American Foreign Policy; A Threat to Peace and Prosperity?" I've uploaded it to my Academia.edu page and my Research Gate page. I'm grateful to Fabrizio Coticchia for his helpful comments. I'm not sure what to do with the paper, but Fabrizio had helpful insights about Silvio Berlusconi that seem directly applicable to Trump and about the literature on political "outsiders" who assume executive power.

If anyone reads the paper and has comments, please send them along. Also, I'm genuinely looking for ideas about what to do with it. At minimum, it has prepared me for teaching about Trump in class.

Note: "The Voice" TV program was conducting auditions just around the corner from my hotel and near the conference. I've included a photo of the line:

The Voice auditions


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Sunday, January 01, 2017

Films of 2016



As I note every December, I watch a lot of movies, though most are viewed on my television -- on DVD, from DVR recordings, or streamed from Netflix or Amazon Prime. Because I have not yet seen that many new films in the theater, I cannot yet write a credible post on the best movies of 2016. Most of the highly touted films are released in December, a very busy month. Eventually, of course, I will see them.

Again this year, I missed many of the summer blockbusters as well.

Indeed, the best films I saw this past year were movies that I originally missed in the theaters in prior years. I saw many late 2015 Oscar-bait films in theaters earlier this year. Again, I'll surely see most of the 2016 Oscar-bait films early in 2017.

To make this abbreviated 2016 list, I scanned the top grossing movies of the year, as well as IMDB's most popular titles for 2016. I also consulted Metacritic.

In rank order of my preference, these were the best 2016 films I saw this year, as best as I can recall:

Hell or High Water
Eye in the Sky
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them **
10 Cloverfield Lane
Keanu
Green Room

These were OK, but flawed films:

The Nice Guys
Swiss Army Man
Hail, Caesar!
Deadpool
Ghostbusters
Eddie the Eagle
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
How to Be Single

** I saw this film in the theater.

Only a couple of these films are doing well in end-of-year critic lists, but I anticipate the excellent Hell or High Water to be competitive for Oscars. Some of the others may be nominated for costumes, music, or effects.

The bulk of the my 2016 list consists of genre films -- comedies, action flicks, and science fiction. They are not ranked very carefully, though I think that the ones near the top are superior to the ones near the bottom.

Keanu provided genuine laughs for my entire family and Eye in the Sky offered riveting suspense and drama -- with a political context. I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts more than I did any of the Harry Potter films.

Here's the annual list of 2016 movies that I intend to see in the future (hopefully in 2017):

13th, 20th Century Women, Above and Below, American Honey, April and the Extraordinary World, Arrival, Barry, A Bigger Splash, Bleed for This, Cafe Society, Captain America: Civil War, Captain Fantastic, Cemetery of Splendor, Certain Women, Creative Control, The Dark Horse, Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, Don't Breathe, Don't Think Twice, Edge of Seventeen, Elle, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Family Fang, Fences, The Fits, Florence Foster Jenkins, Francofonia, Hacksaw Ridge, Hello My Name is Doris, Hidden Figures, Imperium, Indignation, The Infiltrator, The Invitation, Jackie, Jason Bourne, Krisha, LaLa Land, Lion, The Lobster, Lost City of Z, Louder than Bombs, Love & Friendship, Loving, Maggie's Plan, Manchester by the Sea, Midnight Special, Moonlight, Morris From America, Nocturnal Animals, Paterson, Patriots Day, The Phenom, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sausage Party, Silence, Sing Street, Southside with You, Star Trek Beyond, Sully, Take Me to the River, Tickled, Time to Choose, Toni Erdmann, Tower, Under the Sun, Weiner, Where to Invade Next, Wiener Dog, The Witch, and Zero Days.

Keep in mind that I didn't get around to seeing many 2015 movies from last year's wishlist:

45 Years, '71, 99 Homes, Amy, Anomalisa, The Assassin, Best of Enemies, Beasts of No Nation, Carol, Chi-Raq, Clouds of Sils Maria, Crimson Peak, The Danish Girl, Dope, End of the Tour, Everest, Far From the Madding Crowd, Furious 7,  Good Kill, Goodnight Mommy, Home, Human Capital, I'll See You in My Dreams, It Follows, Jimmy's Hall, The Look of Silence, Macbeth, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Mr. Holmes, Salt of the Earth, Son of Saul, Straight Outta Compton, Timbuktu, Tommorowland, Truth, The Walk, A Walk in the Woods, Wild Tales, The Wrecking Crew, and Youth.

Virtually all of those films are now readily available -- as DVDs at my University library or as recordings on my DVR. A few are on Netflix, HBO, etc.


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