Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Staggering riches of college sports continue upward

June 01, 2014 12:00 am  • 
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  • In 2014, the M in May also stood for Money in Pac-12 sports.

    According to the San Jose Mercury News, the league’s tax returns for the 2013 fiscal year reported revenues of $329 million, which almost doubled the previous year’s $175 million.

    Arizona and ASU each received $19.8 in media rights money, about triple what it was four years ago.

    The UA then announced a $17.66 million retention plan in which a donor would pay Sean Miller and Rich Rodriguez both $6.19 million, and athletic director Greg Byrne $3.5 million, if they remain Wildcats long enough.

    That was just a start: ASU offered naming rights to Sun Devil Stadium to a high bidder; UCLA said it would spend $35 million to build a basketball practice facility, matching the one Utah broke ground on a few weeks earlier; even Boise State from the Mountain West Conference said it would change the name of Bronco Stadium in a deal worth $12.5 million from Albertsons.

    More? ASU confirmed it will pay new wrestling coach Zeke Jones $215,000 per year, which is more than the base salaries of Arizona’s NCAA championship coaches Mike Candrea and Andy Lopez.

    The Sun Devils last week also boosted the pay of modestly successful football coach Todd Graham to $2.7 million, which is more than Arizona paid Miller this season; Miller was paid $2.64 million after bonuses.

    The commas, decimal points and lucre of college sports have become a blur. The available wealth is no longer viewed as staggering (or sinful) but routine.

    After scanning recent Pac-12 figures, I was struck not by the league’s $26 million cut of the NCAA basketball tournament, or any of the other bold profits, but by how far in arrears ASU is and has been.

    According to figures posted last week by the Arizona Board of Regents, the Sun Devils ran a $9.1 million athletic deficit a year ago, and project an $8.9 million deficit this year. In total, ASU posted a cumulative athletic deficit of $33.2 million over the last five years.

    The only written explanation to the regents was that ASU was forced to buy out contracts of Dennis Erickson‘s old football staff and also the contract of ex-AD Lisa Love in 2011-12.


    Meanwhile, in more old-school news, NAU extended the contract of basketball coach Jack Murphy, a former UA team manager, through 2019. It boosted Murphy’s salary to $185,400 and awarded him an $8,000 bonus for his team’s academic performance.

    Murph’s contract is one of the last links to sanity in the new economics of college sports.

  • It is unlikely that Sahuaro High lefty Alex Verdugo will join CDO’s Brian Anderson, Tucson’s Eddie Leon and Sahuaro’s Sam Khalifa among Tucson’s all-time first-round selections in this week’s MLB draft.

    Baseball America, the leading source of draft analysis in the industry, projects Verdugo as the No. 55 overall prospect. That’s outstanding any year. Sabino’s J. J. Hardy was No. 56 overall in the 2001 draft. He was last year’s All-Star Game starting shortstop for the American League.

    The Baseball America analysis of Verdugo says: “He had an uneven spring with blister issues that kept him out for a few weeks and questions about his effort level. His velocity has been in the 88-90 mph range with the ability to reach back for more when he wants it but dipping lower at times. Scouts have not liked his body language or effort at times this season and have noted immature behavior. As a position player, Verdugo profiles as a corner outfielder with an above-average arm, below-average speed and hitting potential.”

    Verdugo hit .532 for Sahuaro with just three home runs. He was 4-3 as a pitcher with a 2.26 ERA and 31 walks in 52 innings.

    I assume scouts will remember Verdugo’s junior year, in which he was 10-0 with a 1.29 ERA. The No. 55 overall pick a year ago, Tyler Danish, a righty pitcher, was paid a bonus of $1,001,800 by the Chicago White Sox and is now pitching for Winston-Salem of the Class A Carolina League.

  • Alex Robles, the Star’s 2013 Southern Arizona Baseball Player of the Year, had a rousing college debut. Robles was named the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, hitting a team-high .349 at Austin Peay and also leading the Governors in pitching victories, finishing 6-2 with a 3.63 ERA. Robles, of Tucson High,  started 54 gamesas a pitcher-shortstop and usually batted cleanup.

  • In its final mock draft for the MLB draft, Baseball America lists UA second baseman Trent Gilbert No. 268 overall, or somewhere in the eighth or ninth round. No other UA player is in the top 300.

  • Jay Rees has been a big part of the game day experience at Arizona Stadium since he became director of the Pride of Arizona 21 years ago. He is leaving for a similar position with the Miami Hurricanes at a time that band music has been marginalized at Arizona Stadium, replaced by video board messages, games, interviews, canned music and advertisements. But it remains a Very Big Job, involving more than 300 musicians, cheerleaders and others. Rees was a nontraditional band director, choosing not to play the staple sounds of American college football, but rather innovative and sometimes off-the-grid pieces. To me, a marching band is an irreplaceable part of college football, as important as a linebacker or a left tackle. Despite his detractors, Rees did well at Arizona and ran a first-class operation.

  • Todd McCorkle, who coached Arizona to the 2000 NCAA women’s golf championship, has revived his golf career. He finished 54th in the Senior PGA Championships last week, overcoming a pair of hip replacements and losing his job as the head coach at Georgia in 2007. McCorkle, who is married to UA alumna Jenna Daniels, the 2000 NCAA individual champion, is an assistant pro a the Old Overton Club in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

  • Tod Brown was a 1992 All-Pac-10 pitcher at Arizona, a Sabino High grad who worked his way through the system, first as an assistant coach at Sabino, later at Arizona and Bowling Green. On Friday, Brown coached his North Dakota State Bison into the NCAA baseball playoffs, at No. 1 Oregon State. The Beavers won a 2-1 thriller. Brown’s team won the Summit League championship a week ago, making it to the NCAAs for the first time in history.

  • Phil Mickelson snubbed the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships three times in its eight Dove Mountain years, including 2013 and 2014, but he is back in Tucson golf in a new way. Last week, Mickelson’s golf management group agreed to take over day-to-day operations at the Stone Canyon Club, potentially saving the high-end golf property from bankruptcy. Mickelson’s group, the M Club, also operates courses in Scottsdale, Payson and Litchfield Park.

  • Those selecting the top college softball All-American team, the NFCA, surely goofed last week when they did not include UA junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre on any of three All-American teams. Goodacre hit 22 homers and had 72 RBI. She scored 42 runs and had just one error all season. But the NFCA thirdsecond team All-Americans included ASU’s catcher Amber Freeman instead. Freeman had 11 homers, 44 RBI and scored just 24 runs. Is it too late to re-vote?

  • Jerry Coons Jr., a Palo Verde High School grad who has been racing since he was 5 (yes, 5) had one of the top moments of his USAC career last week. He finished second in the Pay Less Little Indy500 in Anderson, Indiana, after qualifying for a spot on the front row. Now 42, Coons almost never stops. He spends part of the winter racing in New Zealand and Australia and is on the USAC circuit the rest of the year.

  • Former UA linebacker-safety Marquis Flowers, a sixth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, signed his first NFL contract last week. He will receive a $78,680 signing bonus and a non-guaranteed contract of $439,000 this season. The trick now will be to stay in the NFL long enough to get a second and third contract.

  • UA junior Alex McMahon will find himself in prestigious company Monday when he plays in the U.S. Open Sectional qualifying at Lake Merced Country Club near San Francisco. Also in the 120-man field — the final stage of U.S. Open qualifying — are former Arizona All-Americans Jason Gore and Mike Springer, both of whom have won PGA Tour events. McMahon, a graduate of Ironwood Ridge High School, was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic team last week; he had a 3.96 GPA in business. He plans to play in the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Public Links Amateur and the Arizona Amateur leading up to his final season at Arizona.

  • Palo Verde grad Bryce Cotton, an All-Big East Conference point guard at Providence this season, worked out for the Los Angeles Clippers recently. He was measured as 5 feet 11¾ inches and just 163 pounds. He had a 40 inch vertical leap (Arizona’s Nick Johnson jumped 41½ at the NBA Combine) and has also worked out for the Heat, Spurs, Jazz and Kings. After spending 10 days in Tucson last month, Cotton returned to Providence where he is coached/instructed by ex-Friars standout God Shammgod. Remember him? He scored 23 points against Arizona at the 1997 Elite Eight in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • As an Arizona distance runner, Stephen Sambu was a seven-time All-American who holds the school record for 10,000 meters in 27.28.64. He shattered that number at the Prefontaine Classic Friday night in Eugene, Ore., running the 10K in 26.54.61, a personal best, fourth overall as Galen Rupp broke the USA record in 26.44.36. Sambu, who lives in Tucson and trains with UA coach James Li, won two 10K races last month, in New York City and Washington D.C., as part of the B.A.A Distance Medley. Last year, he earned $100,000 for winning the B.A.A Distance Medley. Do you know what he did with part of the money? He spent $15,000 to have a well drilled in his hometown of Eldoret, Kenya, so that people in his hometown could drink fresh water. He does not charge a fee for those who use his well. He can run on my team any time.

  • Chris Ingraham was part of Brian Peabody’s 1990s basketball powers at Salpointe Catholic, a teammate of Brian SmithJohn Ash and Will Porter, all of who played Division I basketball.

    Ingraham became an all-conference player at Amherst, where he earned a degree in English literature. He later earned a master’s at the University of Chicago.

    After working in the publishing business for a few years, Ingraham enrolled at Colorado, working on a doctorate in communications. As part of his program, he became a grad assistant teacher. One of those he taught was Buffaloes star receiver Paul Richardson, who was the second-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks last month.

    On draft day last month, Richardson told reporters that Ingraham was his favorite professor at CU.

    “He taught me a lot: how to speak well under pressure and how to gather myself,” Richardson said. Impressive.

    Last month, Ingraham was named CU’s Graduate Student of the Year by the department of communications. Not bad for an old ballplayer.

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