From the headlines to your syllabus, seven new topics

By Bill Sutton

This marks my second consecutive September not being in a classroom. For many of you it marks the first time with in-class attendance and the opportunities for discussion in a face-to-face format. To that end, I have endeavored to offer professors some topics sure to generate class involvement; some activities that are timely, interesting and will expose the class to developments that might not be top of mind. For students, these areas offer opportunities to “eat some class minutes” as well as to provide some deep thinking and the ability to formulate opinions and thoughts prior to those upcoming job interviews. Enjoy!

1. The most recent round of expansion will see the Big 12 actually consist of 12 teams, by adding three teams with significant media markets and another with a national following. Will there be more expansion, contraction and movement in the next 12-24 months and what might that landscape look like? Does this recent expansion and movement alter the expansion of the College Football Playoff? Does it pose a challenge to the NCAA form of governance?

2. You are the commissioner of (pick your league or conference) and concerned about revenue and fulfilling your contractual obligations to media and corporate partners. Members on your executive board are torn between requiring all student athletes to be vaccinated in order to play, thus minimizing the chances of canceling or forfeiting games. You have teams in states with the highest and lowest vaccination rates so there is great internal debate, but the membership is looking for you to propose a policy. Proceed …

3. You are an athletic director and have received a proposal from the student government and the faculty senate to form a varsity esports team. The proposal originated in large part asking that the student fees currently allocated to help fund the intercollegiate athletic programs include esports, and that a recent survey indicated that student interest in esports was ranked third behind only football and basketball. The position of your senior leadership is that esports is an activity and not a sport. You have been asked to respond to the editor of the student newspaper on this issue. Respond …

4. Sports betting is under review by the state legislature. The opportunity would be a windfall for your franchise and would more than make up for the losses of playing an entire season without fans last year. There is, however, a significant lobby opposing the legislation because of the fear that the ease of placing recreational bets as you enter the venue might not only increase the risk of gambling addiction but also might expose children to the world of betting in a way that positions it as fun and entertaining. You are scheduled to appear and present your position to support the legislation and explain how you and the organization will be addressing the concerns that have been raised.

5. The success of the Marvel franchise — adapting comic book characters and stories to creating fresh content for the theaters and streaming — has been significant. Riot Games, owner of the League of Legends franchise, is attempting a similar approach taking the characters from LoL and launching a Netflix series called “Arcane” that will premier this fall. After the series is released, have the class view and critique the first episode with regard to how successful or not you think it will be and the likelihood that other video game companies will follow suit.

6. Much has been made about the pros and cons of name, image and likeness. After reading my previous column (NIL: Panacea or Pandora’s box? Aug. 16, 2021), interview three student athletes on your campus — male and female — one from the most popular sport on campus and two others. Ask them about their level of awareness regarding NIL and what other athletes around the country have done to this point. Ask if they have any plans for launching and managing their own NIL campaigns. Choose one of the athletes you interviewed or a hypothetical athlete and construct an outline of an effective NIL campaign including social media, sponsorship opportunities and delivery of services through lessons, clinics and camps.

7. One of the challenges facing baseball, and in particular Major League Baseball, is an aging fan base and the need to attract and retain younger fans. Critics point out the need for baseball to have an alternative format that can accommodate fewer participants in a nontraditional space (think smaller fields or alternative facilities). Basketball has 3-on-3 leagues and soccer, cricket, rugby and even football have adapted by having sanctioned games with fewer than nine players per side. The manufacturers of baseball equipment have come together and proposed a national contest to develop a successful alternative to the traditional format that would be attractive to consumers and participants and increase interest in the game of baseball. Given the large cash prize being offered, you have decided to submit an entry. Proceed …

As with the offer I made last year, I’m happy to help out virtually either by lecturing, having Q&A sessions or helping initiate discussion of these questions and activities. I understand the trials and tribulations of virtual teaching, and I’m hopeful that this academic year provides both students and faculty the opportunity to meet and have meaningful discourse in a traditional classroom setting. 

Bill Sutton (billsuttonandassociates@gmail.com) is director emeritus of the Vinik Graduate Sport Business Program at USF and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.

Questions about OPED guidelines or letters to the editor? Email editor Jake Kyler at jkyler@sportsbusinessjournal.com

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