ESPN president headlines panel discussion

By The Mercury

Dr. April Mason:

Tonight we’re really very pleased to welcome one of the most prominent figures in American sports media and three leaders in collegiate athletics to our Landon panel. This panel will undoubtedly bring insight, challenge us to question, and help guide Kansas State University to balance its interconnectivity between athletics, academics, and student life at Kansas State.

So, without further ado, let me introduce our panelists to you.

Mr. John Skipper is president of ESPN, Inc. and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. Since 2012, he has boosted ESPN’s stature in both the broadcast and the digital media landscapes. In 1998 he helped launch ESPN the magazine.

Prior to ESPN, Mr. Skipper oversaw all magazine, book, and licensed publishing operations in the U.S. for the Disney Publishing Group. He began his career as president and publishing director for Spin magazine. I think you’ll agree he’s had a very interesting career.

Would you join me in welcoming Mr. John Skipper?

I understand many of our students had the opportunity to interact with Mr. Skipper this afternoon. What a wonderful opportunity.

To guide us through our discussion this evening is a leader in athletics from our own University.

Mr John Currie joined the Kansas State University family in 2009 as director of athletics. In the past five years our athletics program has enjoyed an unprecedented combination of athletic, academic, administrative accomplishments, and national attention, including a record-setting year in 2012 - 2013.

Who can forget three Big 12 championships in one academic year? What’s more important than that is Mr. Currie shows integrity and accountability as a leader in forming a model intercollegiate athletics program.

Turning this over to John this evening, please welcome tonight’s moderator, John Currie, who will further introduce our panelists this evening. Thank you.


Thank you very much, Dr. Mason. It’s an honor and a pleasure to introduce our three additional panel guests.

First, to my right, Commissioner Bob Bowlsby is a man you’re familiar with as the leader of our conference who has led the Big 12 into a new era of stability and growth. He’s the reason we’re able to watch the Cats and other Big 12 games on some of the biggest primetime networks.

After three decades as an athletics director at Stanford, Iowa, and Northern Iowa, he was named Big 12 commissioner in 2012.

Since then, he finalized the Big 12 — SEC Sugar Bowl pact, has seen three national championships added to the Big 12 trophy case, and has witnessed twelve individuals earn NCAA crowns. Please welcome Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby.

It’s great to welcome back our next panelist to Kansas State. For the past 32 years, DeLoss Dodds has been the athletics director for the University of Texas, before retiring in November, 2013.

Some of you — most of you — may know that before DeLoss was a Longhorn he was a Wildcat. He is a 1959 graduate. For 19 years he worked at Kansas State as head track coach, and later in my job as athletics director.

In fact, DeLoss’s executive assistant, Rita Bath, was still in her same position when I arrived nine athletic directors after DeLoss. DeLoss is a native of Riley, Kansas. Let’s please welcome DeLoss Dodds home.

Last, and certainly not least because he’s my boss, Kansas State University president Kirk Schulz.

And if you follow him as @kstate_pres or talk with him for five minutes, you’ll know that Kansas State is on its way to becoming a Top-50 public research university by 2025.

One of the goals for his vision, K-State 2025, is about preparing student athletes for success in school, in sports, and after graduation, an aspiration in which I am proud to partner with President Schulz. Please welcome President Kirk Schulz.

We’re going to get started now and we’ll have an interactive discussion and some questions here. I expect, knowing these folks, that they’re not going to hold back.



I’ve been in negotiations will all of them and they never hold back, so far.



We’ve got you surrounded now. And then later on in the program there will be time for the audience to ask questions.

So, Mr. Skipper, ESPN is now a household word. Athletes want to be in a Top-10 highlight on Sportscenter, college bands play the theme music, there are restaurants, magazines, multiple channels viewed by over one hundred million households, but what is exactly ESPN’s mission?



I’ll tell you — I have to tell you I’m reeling a tiny bit because I’m pretty sure I heard somebody say that somebody was president for eight more days?

That’s you not me, right? OK.

Obviously, any company at a university, at a conference, among the most important things you need to do is coalesce people around something that is simple to understand and that is inspiring.

At ESPN our mission is to serve sports fans.  That’s it.

That’s what it’s been since the company started. We codified it at one point. A couple years ago we added “to serve sports fans anytime, anywhere” to take into account that it was no longer just about sitting in front of a television set at home and watching in your living room.

It might be about watching on your smartphone or your desktop computer. You do know that if you watch more ESPN at work you’re more productive? We have surveys that prove that.

We have 7,000 employees, mostly in Bristol, Connecticut; some in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami; Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin, Texas.

They all understand that that’s what we’re doing — we’re serving sports fans. It actually is quite a helpful way to think about decisions you make.

When we think about are we going to adopt a new technology, the answer is if sports fans like it we’re going to do it. We’ve been well-served by doing that. You almost said we’re a household world and that’s what we want to be. We actually want to be a household world.



That was a softball thrown your way.  Commissioner Bowlsby, what has ESPN meant to college athletics?



Dun-dun-dun. Dun-dun-dun.

Is there anybody in the room that doesn’t recognize that?

You know I don’t think there’s a short answer to that, John.

But clearly ESPN has changed the way the world consumes its sports. They did it in presentation, they did it in the way they’ve grown their family of networks.

There seems to be an almost insatiable appetite for additional content and ESPN has certainly been in the forefront of capturing that content.

I think John gets a lot of the credit for the visionary approach to capturing content.

The company under his leadership has aggressively gone after long-time contracts in an era which — he and I have talked about on occasion — the likelihood of changing technology in the years ahead is very substantial.

Who knows how we’ll be consuming our sports in the years ahead. But John knows that having those arrangements and nurturing the relationships is the way to go forward and do business together.

I think truly when it was the Entertainment Sports Programming Network and no one really knew what that meant, I just think it’s astonishing what it’s become.

Not only has ESPN created its own world, but they have created the world to which every other sports broadcaster aspires. They truly have set the standard for storytelling and for presentation and for multiple platform delivery.

It’s a remarkable story and one that is an American story. It has done a lot to define our culture over the last two decades.



Just as a point of order, when the commissioner or anybody else refers to John, they’re not really talking about me. They’re talking about John Skipper and I just figured that out.


We’ll stipulate when it’s you.



Thank you. If it’s me it’s going to be Currie or something like that. So, John Skipper, to be specific. This is a public affairs and public policy forum and tradition here, and you know the people that have been on the stage in this series. When you’re talking about public affairs, how does ESPN fit into public affairs?



Well it’s not just how ESPN fits into public affairs. I want to justify being here in this august Landon Lecture. I looked at some of the people that have been here before so it was a little bit daunting.

But I do think that it belongs because sports if very central in American culture right now. If you think about what people talk about, what matters, how big a business it is, sports is really central.

I have the point of view that in a world in which much of what we’re interested in is fragmented and there are no more Billboard 100 charts where everyone listens to the same music, or politics is very polarizing and it’s very difficult to bring it up at dinner parties, when people watch different movies and read different books — and it’s not a bad thing but there is this sort of real fragmentation of our culture — one of the few things people can talk about together is sports.

I’ve had the misfortune of having to go to a lot of focus groups at one point in my career. I try not to go now.

But that’s where you sit behind a one-way mirror and watch people talk. I can guarantee that if you bring eight or 10 guys into a room, guys don’t talk to each other very quickly. They’re slightly awkward around each other and they don’t quite know whether to say anything.

Women talk much more quickly in focus groups to each other. Eventually guys will talk to each other when one guys says to the other one “did you see the game last night?”  And that’s how they start.

It’s not trivial because we want common experiences, right? We want things to talk to each other about and ways to bond. It’s part of the passion of college sports.

I’ve heard 10 or 15 times today people talk about the K-State family. The Wildcat family. What it means to be here. I know that one of the things that you coalesce around is Kansas State athletics.

People come to the stadium on Saturday and 50,000 people have a great time there. That’s what sports is about. That’s why it’s public policy. It’s also of course intertwined with major state public university, public funds and financing, so significant issues with public policy become involved.



DeLoss, you spent your whole career in college athletics working on behalf of student athletes in higher education. Why are college sports so popular? What makes college sports so unique?



I want to start with something different.



Go ahead.



I had this same experience in a negotiation.



He’s been an AD four years. I think I’ve been an AD 35 (years).


President Schulz:

Ouch. That was painful



I know. But I love him. I want to first say high to Ernie Barrett and Bonnie — two of my favorite people.

I was in the Riley Cafe yesterday picking up hamburgers. There were three construction workers, a lady from Topeka, and a lady from Concordia sitting at three different tables.

All they talked about between the tables was Kansas State basketball, NCAA basketball tournament.

It is amazing what sports do. Driving in the Bill Snyder tollway or boulevard…



The tollway might be a good idea, by the way.



I’ve got a sister in Louisiana who went to Kansas State, but she has become a Southeast Conference fan. I’ve got a sister in Chicago — Big Ten — she loves Texas and she loves Kansas State.

But I mean when an SEC school loses, my sister in Louisiana will not take calls. No specific school — if any school in the SEC loses, she does not take calls.

If some school in the SEC goes on probation for huge problems, she says they’re just out after that school. If they lose it was the officiating.

There is something about sports that turns people on in a way that’s a good thing. You can pick a side, you can win or lose, and winning is important. It’s part of us if our team wins, and if we lose it’s part of us if we lose. It’s something that everybody puts time in, they put money in — right, John?

Are you putting in enough, John? It’s something that unites people.

But the bottom line — the best thing about sports — is the kids. It’s about the kids. It’s about the young men, the young women that participate in the sport and how much that helps them with their lives.

It helps them in every way. They can go to college, they get the same experience other students do, but they get the addon of sport.

And that is the best thing about our games. And ESPN is absolutely, John, absolutely wonderful.

I can remember 1981 in Austin, Texas, my first year watching Arizona State play a football game over and over and over on ESPN.



We showed the same game over and over?  You know, DeLoss, this year we did 1,700 basketball games and 400 college football games.

You were talking about just literally how it’s changed.  I’m interested to look out in the audience, we have people of several generations.

Those of you in my generation will remember when there was a single football game on on Saturday. And now every Kansas State game is on, and almost every game of every major university is on now.



And there are people that thought overexposure would hurt the sport, and that has not happened. Overexposure has helped the sport.



So now that we’ve established from the first three panelists that everything’s pretty much perfect in the world of sports and college television, let’s shift over to President Schulz because he is part of the NCAA governance that makes everything so wonderful.

President Schulz, you are part of a seven-member presidential task force attempting to reorganize NCAA governance and the structure.

Television affects all the members of the NCAA. Television revenue is more significant for a fewer number of members of the NCAA.

So how does ESPN and television enter into those conversations you all are having right now?


President Schulz:

Well, I think it involves the NCAA in several ways.

One: certainly the dollars that come from all those games being on and the dollars that come to the conference I think raises the visibility of college athletics overall.

But then when the media networks now talk about NCAA issues, I think there’s some number of years ago where you’d have to really be an interested fan or it would have to just affect your particular institution. And I think today there’s a lot of folks out there that have opinions on the NCAA. I think that’s good.

I think we want college sports to be a great competition, move student-athletes through school, help them to have great, wonderful careers. I think the NCAA ad that really reinforces that the vast majority of student-athletes are not going into professional sports is one of the best things that the NCAA has done.

That being said, we have to make sure that we structure the NCAA so that we do a great job of working with college sports and making sure that we look out for the student-athlete’s well-being.

At the end of the day, we get worried about how much somebody can eat and how much we can spend and what we’re doing, but really what the purpose of the NCAA — what we’re trying to do through the reform process — is focus on are we doing what we need to do to protect and to help the student athlete.

I think we have to sort of remember that.

I welcome the engagement and involvement. I think it’s important for the media to continue to be talking out there, involved and engaged with what we’re doing through the NCAA.

I think it forces us to also be accountable, because you know somebody out there is going to ask you a question. If you don’t have a reasonable answer to that or you say we’re going to hide behind a rule book, I don’t think the media world of today, where there’s a lot of immediate kinds of responses on Twitter and Facebook and social media, really do affect a lot of this.

So we’re going to get it right, we’re going to make the NCAA something that I hope people will be proud of.

Otherwise, I’m going to die trying. Anyway, the commissioner called me and said, “Kirk, this will only take you a couple hours.”

I’m not taking a call from the commissioner again, I can tell you. We’re going to get it right and we’re going to make it so we continue to take college athletics and continue to make it bigger and better for the country.



So we’ve got a number of our student-athletes at Kansas State and students at Kansas State here. Student leaders who spend an enormous amount of extracurricular time in their activities.

Some student athletes, I see our Big 12 basketball coach of the year Bruce Weber and his wife Megan here.

Commissioner, we’ve got all these great things from ESPN and the exposure and a few dollars and all that kind of stuff, but how do we continue to provide great content for this partner without continuing commercialization or disrupting the academic lives further of our student athletes?



Well, you know the interesting thing about the disruption aspects of the studentathlete experience is that in many ways modern modes of transportation has made it so many of our high-profile student athletes, especially in football, they’re not gone from campus very much.

Student football athletes, they miss part of a Friday and that’s about it. There really aren’t very many accommodations that are made in those sports for television purposes.

Interestingly enough, when I was at Stanford I was involved in the early stages of the Pac-12 Network. One of the things that everybody wanted was soccer wanted to be on TV, water polo wanted to be on TV, lacrosse wanted to be on television. They all wanted to be on television, but they all wanted to still play at 7 on Friday night.

There are some accommodations that need to be made and scheduling is one of those things.

We have lots of academic support, we have lots of things that are supportive of student-athletes that quite frankly are available to them as a result of the revenue that’s derived from our television partnerships and our media partnerships.

So, there are some good elements to what we do and most of them are highly positive, but there can sometimes be some additional missed class time, there can be some travel that was unanticipated. I think that we have evolved over time. But I think that the vast majority of change that has taken place as a result of expanded media is highly positive.

You know, there’s always lots of comments about television is driving this decision or television is driving that decision.

I have to tell you that in my three decades in the business, I haven’t ever had a television partner or any other media partner say that we should do one thing or we should do another.

I think they express their opinions and we express ours and there’s some pushing and shoving that’s involved, but indeed they really are partnerships and I don’t ever have to ask John Skipper if he cares about the education of our student-athletes because he understands that side of the business and so does his staff.

He may come to us with a specific need and say, “we really need your help on this and this is how we might be able to broker a deal.” But to say that they’re ever in a situation where they’re barking orders or driving the agenda is just not accurate.

It really is a partnership and those of us that are on the institutional side of that partnership spend a lot of time making sure that the right decisions are made for studen- athletes.

Because it is about getting an education and it is about some other things as well. If a student-athlete can have the opportunity to go on to a professional career or can have an opportunity to participate in the Olympics, those are highly-desirable by-products of a quality collegiate athletics experience.

That collegiate athletic experience certainly includes a solid emphasis on the academic side of it.

We very much view ESPN and or other media partners as just that. They are partners in an enterprise that we try and expose as widely as we can and that we try and derive revenue.

We try and bring some business thinking to it. But in the end we never want to lose track of the fact that we’re involved in higher education.

I’m really quite confident that John and his colleagues at ESPN and some of the other media companies that we work with are very mindful of that fact.



OK, so what you just said is that ESPN is not necessarily driving the agenda, right?

So I’ve got to look at you, John Skipper.

We went through this period of time over the last four or five years. We have some pretty significant realignment issues, and Kansas State emerged in a terrific place in the Big 12.

But we certainly experienced our league as much as anybody. Popular sentiment from some may be counter to what the commissioner said and there may be popular sentiment that ESPN and television drove or manipulated conference realignment. So what’s your view on that?



We don’t have any direct responsibility for schools moving.

The only thing you can lay on ESPN is that we’ve increased because the product is valuable.

We’ve increased the amount of money we put into that. Because of the sequencing of college conference deals, that means that sometimes some conferences are receiving more money than other conferences.

But no decisions about schools moving are made by us, nor do we ever suggest to a school that they should move or to a conference that they should bring somebody in. It is generally not good for us when schools move around.

We have deals with all of the major conferences. So, we at some point in time are paying every school.

So, when the Big 10… Big 12 — this is all confusing mathematics, of course. I can’t believe we’re in higher education.



We’re very confused, too.



When the Big 12 became 10 schools — this is with Bob’s predecessor — we agreed to pay the same money for 10 schools as 12 schools.

So, that was not a desirable financial outcome for us, but it helped keep the conferences together, which was a desirable outcome.

So we’re engaged in the discussion, but that wasn’t a good move for us.

And by the way, when those schools moved to another conference, we paid those conferences more money. So we got to pay everybody more money was a direct result.

I will stipulate very strongly here that we like the status quo.

We like where they are now and if nobody wanted to move we’d be happy.

This is like musical chairs. Everybody has a seat right now. I’d like to stay seated and I’d like everybody else to stay seated because we like the traditional rivalries.

We like what happens in these conferences. We love our relationship with the Big 12 and the Big Ten and the Pac-12 and the SEC and the ACC and on down.

We have relationships with 32 different conferences. But I can say categorically that we are not —we had no intention of starting any chain reaction of schools moving, nor did we take any direct actions to do so.

I’m not looking to have this be semantics that we took indirect actions, I’m only trying to own up to the fact that our exposing more schools, bringing more money into it does create a bit of a competition.

Schools want to get better exposure. They want to get more money, they want to build new stadiums and many of those things are good.

When Bob was talking about trade-offs around, all of these things ultimately come down to there are benefits that derive from your media partner and that’s exposure and money. And then you have to decide whether — we don’t want you to compromise on things that matter.

We want to have a balance. Exposure is a good thing.

We were talking earlier, President Schulz, because you were at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech very deliberately used Thursday night to grow their program. They wanted to have an important athletic program and they used athletics to some extent to transform their university, to raise money, to make people feel good about the university.

I would say the net of that is unbelievably positive. I think that happens here.

Again, you and I were talking a little bit — I won’t reveal anything — but you were talking about the duties of fundraising and the issue of funds from the state, which I also understand.

There are fiscal responsibilities of the state here, but Kansas State being on television is a good thing. It energizes your alums, I suspect fundraising goes up in a winning year. I find that often to be the case at many schools.

There was a long series in the New York Times about Louisville and how Louisville used athletics to build a stadium and build dormitories and raise teachers’ salaries and provide more athletics scholarships for female athletes. Those are all good outcomes of this.

However that doesn’t mean that we won’t have interesting things to talk about. Any time there is significant competition, money, there will be some temptation by some people to work outside the system. To do things that are wrong.

And the worst thing going on right now — I do not think it to be happening here. I’m very impressed. Today is the first I’ve met John and you are in the hands of an outstanding athletic director.

But where students are not student-athletes there’s a problem. Where they are athletes who are not going to school or not going to class it’s a problem. Where the athletes are taking all their classes online, that’s probably a problem. Where there’s a Northwestern quarterback — I’m only stating what he said — who was told not to take a chemistry class because it will interfere with football practice, that’s a problem.

And again, we don’t have direct involvement in all that, but we are at the center, to some extent, of the world of college sports and that’s where we want to be. We love it. We think it’s overwhelmingly good.

Sorry about that speech.



I should interject that I have a meeting with some of Mr. Skipper’s staff on Saturday and he took this opportunity to remind me that he’s already paid us for some members that left the league.

So I think that’s probably a precursor for me not asking for too much on Saturday. 



So, President Schulz, what’s your thoughts on these comments?


President Schulz:

Well, John you and I were very involved with all the conference reshuffling and things like that.

At the end of the day it was an interesting process because ultimately every school is trying to look out for what they think is going to put them and position them most effectively for financial reasons, the fan base, and things like that.

I think during the frenzy of people moving around, though, we had a couple things that were sort of lost.

I think the good thing is everybody has more resources — not everybody — but most people have more resources for travel and things like that.

So, I think my biggest disappointment in the conference reshuffling is some of the really historical, long-term rivalry type things on states that are contiguous that sort of got lost in the shuffle. I hope five years down the road that some of those things can start up again, even though we might be in different areas, because I do think our fans like to see live games and it’s a lot easier to hop in a car and be able to drive two or three hours somewhere then sometimes to have to fly a long, long ways.

I think that was a disappointment that came out of there, but like John Skipper said, I’m glad it’s done.

Hopefully that chapter is done and we can sort of move on with our new partners and continue to do great things.

The one other thing, though, that I do want to mention is we talk about student-athletes and all these opportunities and things, we’ve put tremendous — there are tremendous demands on our student-athletes.

We basically say you’re going to go to college, you’re going to get a degree in something, which is a complete full-time job, takes a lot of time particularly in many majors which are very, very demanding.

On top of that then we add essentially a second full-time type of deal. When you’re competing there’s certain things you have to do. When it’s off-season you’ve got certain things you have to do.

Really, those students benefit a lot from what they get from intercollegiate athletics and getting a degree, but they also lose some of the collegiate experience because we keep them so busy.

I do think it’s a great environment, we’ve got wonderful facilities, great coaches, lots of exposure.

But I do think our student-athletes — all of us — there’s a great deal of time commitment they have to make to really perform at that high level and that exposure I think makes that a lot different.



So what should we change from a student-athlete welfare standpoint as relates to some of those issues? 




Well, I think there’s a lot that’s right about the enterprise. I really do. I think the marriage of higher education and a student-athlete avocation is a good one that’s served us well over a long period of time.

There are some very positive things. Graduation rates in college football and college basketball are the highest they’ve ever been right now. That’s a positive message that’s largely lost in the noise.

But there are also a lot of things that aren’t right. Things that we need to make improvement on. Things that we’ve identified that we would like to pursue and haven’t been able to get the necessary support within Division I in order to do that.

There’s been lots written and lots of media coverage about autonomy for the five conferences, the Big 12, the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC.

Those 65 schools win more than 90 percent of the NCAA championships annually. We bring probably 95 percent of the financial equity to the environment.

You frequently see them on John’s networks and on the others that carry sports and we bring a lot of value. I think as a result we have some things that are important to us that may not be important or may not be attainable for the other 285 schools that are in Division I.

So it’s difficult to paint that environment with a broad brush and that’s what we’ve sought to do.

We’ve sought to legislate and manage college athletics based upon competitive equity. I’m not sure that that’s reasonable. I’m not sure that we are all the same.

In addition to all the equity aspects and competitive aspects that I mentioned, it’s also appropriate to mention that about 80 percent of the major violations of NCAA rules occur in those 65 schools. There’s an enormously competitive environment that is in play there and not everybody is doing it the right way.

Our national organization, when it comes to enforcement, is in my opinion, virtually defenseless at this point. Cheating pays and it pays in significant ways for institutions and for coaches and coaching staffs.

So there’s lots of progress to be made there.

I think it would be terrific if the NFL and the NBA approached their developmental process with the same method that Major League Baseball has approached this.

Obviously, we would love a rule that said draft a student out of high school or leave them alone until after their junior year. That train has probably left the station, but the NFL and the NBA have relied absolutely, 100 percent, on the colleges and universities for their feeder system.

We have, as a result, a lot of young men and women that come to college without a real aspiration for an education but are there really because it’s their only option.

And so, I think we ought to have another alternative.

I think that there are a number of things that coaches and a/emthletics departments find important.

Coaches value access to recruits, they value access to the postseason, and many are highly money-motivated.

In all frankness, if everybody in the coaching profession was like Bruce Weber, we wouldn’t have a lot of these problems because he stands for the right things.

And I would say the same thing about Bill Snyder, who I think has done — continues to do — Bill and I served at the University of Iowa for a brief time at the same time and I continue to believe that the turnaround at Kansas State University is the greatest turnaround in the history of college football.

But not everybody is similarly motivated, and to the extent that we have people in our organization that are not, we ought to do things that cull them out.

I think those things we’ve started down that path with access to the postseason. We had a very highly decorated program that was ineligible for the NCAA basketball tournament and we need to have more than that.

The rules need to be more responsive. They need to be more contemporaneous. We need to tie initial scholarships to graduation rates, and we need to do it in ways that don’t allow a coach to do a poor job and leave the campus and go to another place and make more money and do the same thing over again. In short, we need to put our money where our mouth is and we haven’t always done that.

I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to take it seriously and the last thing I’ll say about changes. I think we have been less than responsive in terms of what we need to do for student-athletes.

There is an opportunity. We’ve made some progress. We haven’t made enough. We need to give more voice. We need to give more benefits. We need to be doing some things that are different in light of modern circumstances.

And I think we need to do a complete revamp on our recruiting model. We haven’t changed it since the 70s and it, in large measure, doesn’t take into account the changes in social media and communication methods and all of those things.

There’s plenty of work to do but this operation is more than worthy of restoration and keeping it the way it is. If we go down the path, as John said, of creating an employee-employer relationship with our students, we will have forever lost our way.



So, DeLoss built the largest budget, the largest success story all of college athletics at Texas and yet when we’re working together in the Big 12 we had the smallest budget, you had the largest budget but we’re still working together and finding common ground and bringing value to each other.

So in this NCAA model — and the commissioner referenced 65 schools and 285 schools — and I’m asking you this question because you’re retired and you can say whatever you want…



I keep hearing him referred to as retiring. How much longer can he retire?



Life is good.



In this model, can these compromises and the things that the commissioner talked about, can that happen in this 350-school NCAA Division I model?



Money doesn’t buy victories.

We own Texas. Have you heard that?

My advice is if you do own Texas, you need to spend the winters down there.

The athletic model is really good. I agree with everything Bob said. The job we do with first-generation kids is just magnificent. If they came in as a student versus coming in as a student-athlete — totally different.

In athletics we take those young people, we spend dollars, we walk them through enrollment, we walk them through studying. We get them tutors, we get them everything they need. And then when we get them up to par we push them out the door and make them do it on their own like every other student.

So what we do with first-generation students, what we do with kids that come in a little short on the academic side I think is absolutely wonderful.

Now, how we made all that money down there, John, I’m watching you and you’re doing it pretty much how we did it.

I think when I left Kansas State the budget here was $1.8 million. When I got to Texas I think the budget was $4 million. And today our budget is $170 million.

It took a lot of time, it took a lot of effort. We started — at first we had no money to hire coaches at the rate coaches were being hired, and this is at Texas.

So, we decided the first thing we would do would be to generate dollars. So we started a foundation that had been generating $500,000 a year in external foundations and built that to the point today where it’s around $37 million a year. So we got the money.

The second thing we needed was facilities. So we put our dollars, we bonded money, we put our efforts into facilities. And that’s what I’m seeing. I drove by your stadium yesterday and I see that’s what you’re doing John. The very same thing.

The third thing we saw that we were short on was we were in a conference that all the institutions were in the same state and recruiting was very difficult because kids like to play on a huge platform.

They don’t want to play like they were in high school. We played games, if we won all our games our kids got to go to the Cotton Bowl, and they wanted to go to the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl. They wanted to do something bigger than that.

So our third thing was conference — we needed to do something with our conference. Donnie Duncan and I worked a long time with a lot of other people and helped build the Big 12, which I think has been wonderful for Texas.

I think it’s been wonderful for Kansas State. I think it’s been wonderful for all of us in the Big 12. With the money, the facilities, and the conference, we were able to go out and get coaches. We were able to go to the great University of North Carolina and hire their football coach.



That’s true. We were winning before you did that.



But when he got there you weren’t.



No, I know. And after he left we didn’t.



But we were able to hire terrific coaches and not just terrific coaches but great people. I think that is the basis of what we built our program on, John.

And I think that’s exactly what you’re doing and I’m proud of you and the president for doing that.



So, as we go forward. NCAA — 350 members, 65 to 85 with pretty much different resources, partly because of contracts in television.

So commissioner, you chimed in on this and President Schulz, and Mr. Skipper and DeLoss.

Can this thing stick together, the big entity with so many different needs and opinions and some of the things that you talked about that we need to do for student athlete welfare that we haven’t been able to get done. Can the whole thing stick together?


President Schulz:

Well John, I certainly believe it can stick together. You might suspect I’m going to say that because I’m in the middle of us all working together to try and do that.

And I think we want it to because we’ve got some really positive things that people have talked about.

But if we look at one of the premier college sporting events in the country, the NCAA tournament, and everybody filling out brackets and doing family competitions — which I’m winning in our family — and you do those kinds of things, what is it that gets people excited?

It’s when that 15 seed beats that No. 2 seed. That little school beats the big, highly-resourced school that they’ve seen on TV so much. I think Americans like an underdog.

So the reason that I think it’s important that we make it work is, as much as the 64 or 65 schools love to just play each other, we need that sense of competition out there and the David versus Goliath type of stories that I think Americans love and sports bring to us.

So, I think it’s incumbent on the leadership, the presidents, the commissioners, the athletic directors — to really work together to find a way to keep this together.

But understand that we’ve got to change some things. That we can’t just incrementally do some stuff. We’ve got to do some major changes.

We’re going to have a proposal come out in a couple weeks that I think will not address everything, but it’s going to address a lot of things. I think it represents a good, fair, honest effort to make some of the changes that we need to to keep this thing together and keep it rolling, but acknowledging that the way we did it maybe the last 30 years isn’t the way we’ve got to do it for the next 30.


You heard an awful lot of comments and ideas from Mr. Bowlsby here, which I would love to see them adopt.

I think that would include — I think, Bob, you’ve been public in suggesting that full payment for a student athletes would be a good thing.


President Schulz:

Cost of attendance.



And that really makes sense. You just rationalize things, right. When you hear stories about the kids who can’t go home to see their father who’s in the hospital or they can’t bring people into games, it’s just got to begin to make more sense.

The rules now that abstractly regulate the game, but they don’t seem to make sense. It seems to me, Kirk, that when these things come out that they’ve got to make people feel good about this. There’s so much that’s worthwhile to protect.

There actually is something I think could get a little bit of traction, Bob, which is the one and done that you referred to.

I think the one-and-done feels wrong to people. If we have a system which is about student-athletes and so the compact is that the student is coming and providing his spectacular athletic talent to play for the university and the university is providing a four-year education, full ride, a good experience, a degree at the end of that, that’s a great compact.

When a kid comes in and plays one year and is out the door in February, it’s no good. It’s a public display that we don’t really have that agreement, that that’s not what it’s about.

Now this has nothing to do — can’t do this, you can’t do this — Adam Silver who is the new commissioner of the NBA has said that he would like to do something about it. Because it’s not good for his league either — the National Basketball Association.

We favor this and are going to try to help him do that, because I think that is the most public place that everybody goes gee, if you have this compact where everybody’s getting benefit, it doesn’t smell right when these kids are coming in and they’re really not coming in to go to school.



You mentioned something that I wanted to ask about. Pro sports versus college sports and the appear.

For me, at least, there’s kind of a perception that pro sports is more about individuals and marketable personalities — LeBron James, Peyton Manning — that kind of thing.

Is college sports different than that?

Is college sports more about team-based rivalries and traditions than…



Well it certainly is by necessity, right?

Even if you get four-and-done, which is what I’m for — I’m for four-and-done — they’ll only be here four years.

So yeah, it’s about the jersey here, right? You care about the purple and white and you care about the Wildcats, and you love the players. They come back and you’re excited about that and you put them in the hall of fame, but by necessity they’re going to be in and out pretty quickly so it’s going to be different. It’s going to be about the jersey.

College sports is much more tribal, right? The tribes gather on Saturday morning and eat fried chicken — I’m from the south, I think you probably eat fried chicken here in the midwest? Eat fried chicken, you eat potato salad and drink Dr. Pepper, maybe with something in it. And that’s fun.

And I love the NBA, I’m a big basketball fan, but it is a little different. It’s more of a city thing, it’s not about just the jersey. It’s about LeBron James and it’s about Carmelo Anthony in New York City. It’s about the coaches. Of course, it’s about the coaches in college as well.

They’re both wonderful, but the level of passion in college sports is much more, because it’s about where you went to school or where you live on a college campus, or where your son or daughter went. Or your mother or father or aunt or uncle. And there’s just some kind of connection that I don’t think you have the same connection to a professional team.



Pay the players? Unionization? Those kind of things? Comments?



Well you heard my comments.



Yes, sir.



I really do believe that and I think John articulated it as well. I do want to, while we’re talking about NCAA reorganization though and while we’re here in Manhattan, is I want to give president Schulz his due.

He has carried a lot of water on behalf of the Big 12 and on behalf of college athletes and athletics nationally.

Kirk, I appreciate it very much. I do think I conned you into it under false pretenses, but it isn’t the worst one of those I’ve ever done. So my apologies, but please know that your president is deeply engaged and highly effective and doing a great job.


President Schulz:

John, the whole paying the players thing — and you and I have talked about this a lot — today at Kansas State and a lot of other public universities, if we look at an average debt load that an undergraduate student has when they come out — say $25-26,000 — and then we look and when folks are talking about paying players it’s like the scholarship that they get — the full scholarship that a student gets at University of Texas or Kansas State University or something for four years — there’s an awful lot of our families out there that would love to have an opportunity for their son or daughter or whoever to come to a school and be able to graduate debt-free, have tutoring and all those other sorts of things.

Now we have great expectations for student athletes so it’s not free.

But I think that’s missing from the conversation is the value of a scholarship at some great, great universities that are going to lead him out to a great career and we just sort of forget that and some of these when people talk about it.

You take some of the private universities out there — take Wake Forest, John (Currie) where you went to school —  what’s a four-year scholarship there worth?

That’s a lot of money, that’s an important resource and I think that’s got to continue to be part of the conversation we talk about what we’re doing to help student athletes move through school.



We’re going to work your tail off for four years and then you’re going to reap the benefits for 40 years, and it’s very true.



I agree completely. I think where the disconnect comes is when it appears that things are happening at a few places where that’s not the place. When you read about kids who come out after playing football for three years who don’t read very well. That’s shameful and I think that raises a question in people’s minds — it really is not going to make sense to pay the players, but I think that’s mostly a reaction to they’re being exploited. There’s a lot of money involved and so something’s wrong.

Paying the players will be one of those things were the unintended consequence will be — it will be a worse cure than the disease. Because most places it’s not broken.

Actually, I’ve never seen a plan that works for paying the players. I don’t know how that works. I don’t know how you — I’ve seen how you can establish the fund. We’ll figure out how much money the schools get, we’ll put 55 percent of that in the fund like they do in the NBA and we’ll pay out of that.

Well who are you going to pay? Are you going to pay the stars? Are you going to pay the walk-ons? Are you going to pay the wrestlers? Are you going to pay the baseball players? How are you going to pay? Are you going to pay based upon their importance relative to licensing? Well, do you really want a system where Johnny Manziel makes $8 million and his teammates don’t make any money?

We just published this thing at ESPN that proved that the disparity on pro teams — there’s a difference in wins and losses when the disparity in salaries is higher. So, if you have a team with people making a lot of money — eight players who make $20 million and eight players who make $200,000 — that team on balance will perform less than a team that has chemistry because they’re all being treated the same.

So to me the discussion about paying players is symptomatic of some highly visible things where something’s not right. People are being exploited. There’s big money and how come these kids didn’t learn how to read? But again, I know that’s not the case here.

To your point I think, Bob, the NCAA has got to act and put a system in place that feels fair. It makes me feel very good that you’re involved in that. It makes me feel very good to hear you say that.

But they’ve got to get that going because right now there’s all this noise in the environment about how unfair it is and how we’ve got to change something and do something. If you’ve got that situation, you better fix something in a hurry before somebody you don’t want to fix it decides that they’re going to regulate it. The courts. The NRLB is going to decide that this is the way we’re going to do it and then we’re all going to have a system that doesn’t work as well.






We don’t sell ourselves very well, either. I’m for cost of education, whatever that is.

Kirk, you can figure that out and you’ll tell us what that is and we’ll pay that bill. I’m for paying them more than what they’re — I think at the end of the year they have money out of pocket that we ought to take care of.

We did some research on this and we found that if a youngster’s scholarship for four years is $100,000 we probably put on top of that $150-200,000 in tutoring, mentoring, and all the things — training room — all the things that we do for that student.

So we need to sell that we’re doing a better job with our kids than what the public maybe sees that we’re doing.

Mr. President, while you’re working on all these things for the NCAA, five years of eligibility — I like that.



Bob wants freshman ineligibility. You want five years of eligibility.



I’m going to say this because I’ve already said I’m proud of what we do with first-generation students, but I worry about our academic standards.

I worry about our initial eligibility — we bring kids in that can’t get the job done, period. And we put pressure on coaches and academic counselors to get them through. I think that’s not good.

I worry about our initial eligibility. We have low initial eligibility and when it comes to doing continuing eligibility we’ve set standards there. So you put an athletic director like John is today, you put him in a bind because he lets his coaches take kids that can’t get through and he turns around and puts rules on them where their continuing eligibility has to meet certain standards like the APR. I’m strong for initial eligibility being raised some.



I would just comment that one of the things the president talks about is telling the story better and allowing people inside.

Not to pick on you, but one of the things you mentioned that we haven’t done a very good job of telling the story of is when a student-athlete does have an ill relative or whatever — in fact I was on a flight right out of Manhattan to Chicago with one of our student-athletes on Wednesday last week who was flying home — overseas — for a funeral and then right back to compete, and we were paying for that transport.



Look, we want to tell those stories. You guys see it on College Gameday. Tom Rinaldi tells the stories of teams that form bonds around kids who are sick or form bonds and do things in the community. After Katrina there were a lot of college athletes who did a lot of things down in New Orleans that we showed.

There are so many good stories and the preponderance — I agree with DeLoss — the preponderance of good relative to abuse is very, very high. But those things are a problem for all of us. Just as if the preponderance of things are good about ESPN, but we’ve got some problems we’ve got to take care of them. We’ve got to fix those and I think it requires that we do so.



So John Skipper, stepping back to ESPN and we’ve seen extraordinary growth and change obviously in the entire lifetime of the company. An accelerating pace of change. And now we’re watching our television on ESPN, on Watch ESPN, and ESPN.go and all that type of stuff.

What’s next,  and then what are the challenges that you feel as president of ESPN going forward?



The most difficult challenge we face is just adapting to new technology and the new way people watch video.

Our company has been completely — I wasn’t there, but in 1979 when the company started it was exactly concurrent with the start of cable television. Pay television.

So for many, many years all of the video that you wanted to watch you bought a pay television subscription for $35-45 and you got everything you need to watch.

Now that world is changing and there’s so much more video available on other places, predominantly the internet for free.

Youtube, there’s video available on Netflix. You don’t need a pay television sub. You want to watch television? Where it used to be in the living room, now you want to watch it everywhere.

When we did the World Cup in 2010, one out of every three people viewing was watching on something other than a television. And that happened because the games were during the day so people were watching at work on their desktops.

This is where we learned it’s really helpful for your career that — it is helpful for our careers by the way. We get to watch all the time.

But that’s kind of what we’ve got to deal with, sort of navigate those waters and figure out how we can serve fans, get them all the content they want all the time.

Live within a pay television universe but also provide paid content other places because people want to watch other places.

In terms of what’s going to happen, mobile is the dramatic change right now in technology. Mobile devices are now more important than desktop computer devices. People consume more content on them and will.

We’ve got to kind of figure out the advertising model because it’s hard there on a little device.

The traditional deal between fans and broadcasters and universities and advertisers has been we’ll bring you the game, we’re not going to charge you any more for the game, but you have to stop every now and then and watch a 30-second commercial. The advertisers like it because you can see it. It’s hard on a little device.

The other change that’s going to happen is just the continued proliferation of more games.

I think it was Bob who made the point that people were worried that we would satiate the desire for sports. That by putting all this content on people wouldn’t come to stadiums, they wouldn’t watch all these games.

This year we’ll do 35,000 live hours of television, about half of that is games and half of that is studio. Well if you do the math, that’s a little bit under four hours a day. Among other things it means if I sit up here for an hour I’m behind four more hours in my job.

But that’s how much content we do now and that’s going to go up. It’s going to go up to 50, 75. We were with some of the journalism and communications students today.

I don’t think it’s within this decade, I think, so before 2020, that at every major university all of your sports are going to be available on what I would call television. We don’t even use the word television any more, or we try not to. We just call them screens because the production technology is becoming less expensive, because everybody has a smart phone in their pocket, because you can put robotic cameras on tennis courts and in natatoriums.

We ought to be able to get all the wrestling matches up because people want to see those and our growth has come because we provide more and more content for more and more groups of sports fans.

My son went to Davidson College and I’ll never forget the experience — this was about four years ago, he was there contemporaneous with Seth Curry — and he wanted to watch his Southern Conference tournament so I did a deal — I didn’t use any public money and the shareholders knew all about it — where we did these Southern Conference tournaments on ESPN3 on a tablet.

He got to watch all of his Davidson games. Fans are fans. Fans of Poughkeepsie want to see their Poughkeepsie team play and we’re going to try to show them that.

There’s never been more technological change than there is right now. Things are happening at a very, very fast rate and our goal here is to keep up with all that as much as we can.



Now tell me, as a college kid, is there anything cooler than having your dad put on your conference tournament? There’s nothing cooler than that.


President Schulz:

Having your dad as a university president is much cooler.



I do. I have sons 28 and 24 and I’ve never really had the issue where they had that moment where they rejected me and went away.

And I realized it’s because my tickets are great. But my sons call every now and then because they can’t call every time I’ve got tickets.

So my sons will call me and they’ll say dad, how are you doing? Doing great, why’d you call? I was just calling to see how you’re doing.

I go tomorrow, I’m going to get a call and they’re going to want to go to the Eastern Regional final.

I don’t mind.

Every parent here knows that any way you can stay connected to your children is a good way.



I’m just happy to learn that my son might one day want to reacquaint with me.

He’s 13 now so what have I got? Five years to go here?

Alright, so we’re talking about going to games, right? And there’s concern about the experience at home is pretty good. Big screen television, you make it good, you’ve got all those camera angles and all that kind of stuff. But I would imagine that if you’re televising sports…



We want a crowd.



You want a crowd, you want atmosphere, you want K-State with 13 consecutive sellouts in football or the Octagon of Doom. You want that. So how do we balance that out?



I don’t think there’s any substitute for the live experience. It’s not more fun. We care about how many people watch on television.

People tell me — I pull for Nielsen, that’s who I pull for in every game. I want their score to be as high as possible.

The live experience is fabulous.

Now we talked a minute today, John. One thing is that you’ve got to — the NBA’s done a good job of this — people now demand experience at the arena, at the stadium.

We went to a game and we were fine sitting still during timeouts and watching scores from the rest of the conference come across the board.

Kids now are not going to stand for that. They’re going to want to be on their tablets, they’re going to bring them to the game, they’re going to want to be able to get other scores, able to watch other things.

So you’re going to have to wire your stadiums because they have to have that experience. But it’s still a great experience.

When teams are winning they sell all their games out. When fans have a good time and you take care — again, it’s customer service.

You see a lot of places now where you can order from your tablet your Coke and your hamburger and it comes to your seat. You’re going to do better customer service, wire the stadiums. 

I’ll tell you a terrible one, and this is completely self-interested — they’re always there when you’re playing somebody good.

I know you want to bring a couple of guys in you can beat up on, that’s the games that nobody shows up for. I know that’s self-serving, but — and there again I had this same conversation today with the journalism students.

The hard part is the rule of 500. When everybody plays and you add them all up, it’s 500. But big conferences try to game the system by playing four teams they can beat, eight teams in the conference, they go 4-4 in the conference and they’re 8-4 and go to a bowl.

We cause some of that trouble because we have 35 bowls, so I’ve got that.

Where’s Coach Webber? You know. You want to get some Ws. It’s also good for team chemistry and a lot of things. I’m having some fun, but we are pushing for — and it’s not as big a problem in a basketball arena as trying to fill up — You guys were smart and stayed at 50,000. A lot of schools get beyond where they can naturally fill up their stadium and that’s a problem.



That’s the truth. We went to a 100,000 and we could go to 115,000 and we absolutely will not do that.

I think, John, the decision to stay at 50 is right. People want amenities. They want suites, club seats, they want to be able to move from their seat to a club.

We have waiting lists at Texas for those amenities. We don’t have waiting lists for seats.



Bob did one of the smartest things I’ve ever seen and it’s counterintuitive.

You, at Stanford, took your stadium down. I forget, what was the capacity, Bob?



It was 85,000 and we went to 50,000 and also did what you said.

We fully WiFid all of our venues and it made a significant difference.


President Schulz:

I think the other part is information flow. We talk about a tablet or a device, but if I’m at home or anywhere else watching a modern telecast, and somebody runs for a certain number of yards or scores another point there’s immediately all these statistics and stuff up there.

It’s harder to do that in a game time environment because we don’t have all those screens and some of that kind of stuff up there.

So I think our fanbase have become more sophisticated and the kind of information that they’re expecting to see right there. So we’ve got the amenities in the stadium and it’s neat to be in a live environment.

I think it’s not just wiring it it’s also how they’re going to get that content and information so that the gameday experience becomes better than sitting at home with a bunch of buddies watching your team play on television.



It’s not bad though. Don’t run that down too much.



We have 375 in the new West Stadium Center, so there’s plenty of opportunity to do both.



Maybe your TV partner can provide you some of that g

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