phoenix-international-raceway10 TO WATCH WEEK OF 12/05/16



  1. The CFP selection committee went with conventional thought for its top four teams in Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Washington, respectively. Now, bowl committees around the country have locked in their pairings for college football’s postseason. This year’s angriest fan base left out in the cold appears to be Penn State, shut out of the playoff after winning the Big 10 conference championship and a resounding regular season win over Ohio State. Regardless, the 12 committee members can make a strong argument for each of their picks, and let’s face it, we’re never going to get out of the CFP Playoff without some controversy as long as the field is a very short four teams. The current configuration has conference commissioners like the Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby questioning the selection committee’s insistence that the 13th data point – winning a conference championship – was of utmost importance after Ohio State got in without that win, along with strength of schedule, where Washington clearly fell short. Now, get your popcorn ready for December 17, when college football’s post season kicks off in New Mexico at 2 pm ET. Another lingering controversy this year – at 41 games, including the championship, has the current bowl slate replaced reward with mediocrity? More to come on that in the coming weeks.
  2. Trending this season: gifting a live event experience. With the holidays upon us and the gift card business booming, companies are seeing shoppers looking to create memories that last longer than just the day on which they receive their gift. In a recent study issued by StubHub and consumer insights firm Trendera, research shows that live event experiences have a deeply meaningful impact on people’s emotions and memories, and sharing live experiences with friends – in person as well as on social media – is a true trend. In the study, 75% of the respondents would prefer to give someone an unforgettable experience over a nice gift, and live events were among the top three best gifts to be given and received. This preference is reflected in StubHub’s gift card business this holiday season – with promotions and new offerings, including exclusive Super Bowl packages, up year over year. From Thanksgiving through Cyber Weekend, the live event ticket marketplace experienced 25% growth compared to the same week last year. StubHub is the world’s largest ticket marketplace, with 10’s of thousands of live events to gift, from sports to music and theater. As people around the world place a premium on live events and participate more in the “experience economy,” StubHub finds itself in the center of this movement, wherein they are uniquely positioned to connect people anywhere, anytime with access to an inspiring event experience and a lasting memory, which might just be what’s on your list this holiday season.


  1. MLB and the MLBPA reached an agreement on a new CBA just before the midnight deadline, preventing a lockout this coming season. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the new CBA is set for the next five years and effectively extends labor peace between the two sides to nearly 30 years. Upon ratification by both parties, “the luxury tax threshold, which had been at $189 million since 2014, will shift to $195 million next season and rise steadily to $210 million by 2021, with heightened tax rates for both first and repeat offenders.” Another huge change under the new CBA is that the league that wins the All-Star Game “no longer will get home-field advantage in the World Series.” This rule has historically been unique when compared to how other professional sports leagues operate, as home-field will now “go to the pennant winner with the better regular-season record.” MLB is adding a number of additional years to “significant labor peace,” adding significant value to major league franchises over time.


  1. Tragedy and sadness loom in South America, where a chartered plane carrying Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense crashed in the Columbian mountains, killing 75 of the 81 people on board. The team was on its way to “the biggest game in its history,” a matchup with Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana final, the second-biggest club tournament in South America. Reasons are unknown as to why the plane crashed, but early reports note that a possible electrical problem could be the primary reason. In an amazing act of honor and sportsmanship, Atletico Nacional offered to concede the tie to allow Chapecoense to be awarded the championship, and fellow Brazilian clubs have decided to loan out players to the club for free, sending “a request to the Brazilian FA stating that the club should be immune from relegation for three years.” Mixture of shock, sportsmanship, and economic upheaval over the next few weeks. Clearly, safe transportation for sports teams is taken for granted, yet incredibly important in the scheme of sports competition and its commerce.


  1. Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is back on track to repair his public image after a whirlwind of an offseason last year, one that was plagued with sexual assault charges and other off-ice issues. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Kane has recently appeared in commercials “for Chevrolet and hockey equipment brand Bauer” as well as Gatorade and Upper Deck. He “abandoned social media for eight months after the allegations surfaced in Buffalo last year, generally avoided media attention and was absent from ads.” The reigning NHL MVP is nearing a “full image comeback,” which will definitely deepen his pockets as sponsors will now come clamoring back to sign the electric player. Kane was set to be on the cover of EA Sports NHL 2016 with Jonathan Toews after helping the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup victory, but was removed when the allegations surfaced. Kane finished sixth in the 2015 Horrow Sports Ventures Power 100 off-field/on-field performance. He has been a key cornerstone for the Blackhawks both on and off the ice.


  1. NASL has struggled to stay afloat and popular over the past few years with the massive expansion of MLS, but the second-tier domestic soccer league “is rumored to be closing,” according to soccer writer Pedro Heizer. Most recently, the defending champion N.Y. Cosmos have notified NASL that they “will cease operations,” while all other remaining clubs are making “exit plans” to join the third-tier rival USL “as early as this upcoming season.” The USL currently has 29 teams with plans to add four more expansion clubs; NASL ended 2016 with 12 teams, but “saw the Ottowa Fury and the Tampa Bay Rowdies leave for the USL, while Minnesota United is set to join MLS next season.” Losing three teams puts the NASL “below the number of teams needed to receive Division II sanctioning by U.S. Soccer.” MLS continues to plow along with its developmental partner – the USL. There has always been significant discussion of whether another soccer league would work in the United States, especially with scarce market support and tighter corporate and development opportunities.


  1. Golden State Warriors star guard Steph Curry currently has one of the hottest endorsement portfolios of any professional athlete, but now he is “mostly saying no” to potential endorsement offers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Curry’s agent, Jeff Austin, says that his client is rejecting offers that “they would have leapt at” early in his career. Given the Warriors’ proximity to Silicon Valley, Curry has partnered with a handful of budding tech and digital companies. “The access is there for sure,” said Curry. “If you’re serious about something and call up somebody at Sequoia or Andreessen Horowitz or any venture capital firm, they’ll give you a meeting. But they won’t put money in, or go in blindly, just because it’s me.” One of Curry’s biggest off-court ventures is the role he plays at Slyce, the social media company he co-founded with his college roommate Bryant Barr. Curry is the active CIO, helping grow his “entrepreneurial career.” Curry continues his significant endorsements as the Warriors maintain their partnership with him. Look for him to be incredibly selective in the years to come.


  1. After significant recent developments as part of a plan to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, the franchise may not leave town after all. According to the S.F. Chronicle, the “Oakland City Council and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors are considering a proposal that would see the city and county ‘jointly put up’ $200 million to ‘upgrade infrastructure’ at the site of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with the hope of keeping the Raiders there. That sum of money would eventually be repaid from revenue generated by the stadium project. In order to make this feasible, 125 acres would be lent to the Oakland City Pro Football Group from the city and county; 90 of those would be used to build a new 55,000- to 58,000-seat stadium. In exchange for providing the team these resources, the city and county would “share some percentage of non-football revenues at the stadium” plus new taxes generated by new commercial development. The Oakland Raiders stadium situation changes daily. As with the Chargers, there is always a last-minute effort to keep the team in its respective market before the possibility of relocation. This appears to be no different. This plan seems to be a meaningful opportunity to actually put a deal together and avoid relocation.


  1. The NFL could soon be taking a page out of the NBA’s book. NFL Executive Vice President/Football Operations Troy Vincent said that his department is “making recommendations for a developmental league or in-season academy after years studying the matter,” according to Numerous coaches and owners across the NFL are behind the idea of adding a developmental league, expanding on the current model of keeping a small practice squad on top of the mandated 53-man roster. This initiative has been a “focal point of Vincent’s work” and has been a “special project” for former coach Tom Coughlin, who joined the league office this year. This project is “deeply supported” by Pro Football HOFer John Madden, who “continues to consult for the league on such matters.” If approved, the new league could be implemented as soon as 2017, but will “require substantial negotiations with the NFLPA.” The NFL views colleges and junior colleges as their “feeder system,” but it has traditionally also tinkered with their own developmental leagues – think World League of American Football. Cultivating “winning markets” is another reason to re-explore this concept.


  1. Phoenix International Raceway will receive a massive facelift in the coming years as announced by ISC, according to the Arizona Republic. The “major overhaul” will cost $178 million in total and includes “new and upgraded grandstands, added structures for competitors and sponsors in the infield area, more RV parking and new steel and metal exteriors.” ISC plans on paying for the entire project independently without seeking help from local taxpayers, a major bonus for Arizona NASCAR fans. The project is scheduled to kick off in early 2017 and should be finished by late 2018. The start-finish line also will “move under the new plan to the area between Turn Two and the following bend.” This project comes on the heels of another major spending spree for ISC, which finished a $400 million “re-imagining” of Daytona International Speedway last year. The PIR project was labeled a “priority” after Daytona by ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy four years ago. Kudos to PIR President Bryan Sperber for developing a significant public/private partnership that should create substantial economic impact for the Valley of the Sun.