07/27/15: MAC Commissioner talks ground game; Cowherd gets an early exit; MLS picks a fantasy partner


Good morning. It’s Monday July 27, 2015, and this is your first early morning Sports briefing. 

Last month’s announcement that Mid-American Conference Commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher had signed on for an additional three years atop the league capped a crucial year for the league that saw a beefed up deal with ESPN, a new TV partner in CBS Sports Network, and expanded bowl opportunities among recent highlights. With “MACtion” set to return in just over a month with the new college football season, Cynopsis Sports spoke with Dr. Steinbrecher about the state of the conference, the cost of attendance stipends and what we can expect in the years ahead.

Steinbrecher on the state of the conference: The MAC is in a good place. We’ve had a very stable membership, as we are the only FBS conference that has neither added nor lost a full member in well over a decade. We are growing our revenues as a league, which provides us with more resources to send back to the member institutions for them to use to support the students who participate in collegiate athletics. The things we’ve done as a league, for the past five or six years, in conjunction with our growing media opportunities have lifted this conference from a nice regional brand to a good national brand. Some good things are happening at our member institutions right now.

On TV partnerships: We’ve had the opportunity now to work with ESPN to start to build out the sub-licensing. So we have CBS Sports Network coming aboard this year which will build our national exposure through a different platform. I think you will see some additional sublicensees come aboard over the next couple of weeks as we continue to build out the exposure we have not only in football and basketball but across an array of sports for us.

On cost of attendance: Based on where we are in today’s world where, particularly at the upper end of the spectrum, it is probably the right thing to do. It was done very inelegantly, I think. The legislation that was passed didn’t put in place some of the protections that probably needed to be there, a level of transparency to better govern where institutions are setting their numbers. I think most people are doing it right but you are hearing about some schools that are growing their number rather significantly and that has cause for concern. All of our institutions are on board with it. A couple are phasing it in, but others are doing it right off the bat.

On expansion: Never say never, that’s rule number one. The second rule is that you expand for two reasons: you expand to survive and you expand to get stronger. We are certainly not in survival mode so we would only look at people that make us stronger, and you could probably measure that across a number of metrics: academic profile metrics; on-field performance metrics; does it bring additional value to your TV and marketing rights, etc. etc.,. All of those would be things you would take into consideration.

On Akron cutting sports: They are going through an institutional retrenchment. They are looking at everything across the board and athletics will play a role in that. You never want to see programs drop, but I understand what they are going through. As soon as they announced what they were doing, we immediately provided a blanket waiver of our intra-conference transfer policy so that those young men could transfer within the league if that was of interest. It does not affect their standing in the conference. We go from 12 to 11 teams in baseball, and it doesn’t endanger the sport in the conference. Next week we will be discussing what we will do now.


Words got in the way for two sports personalities whose runs with their long-time employers were cut short on Friday. Following Colin Cowherd’s comments about the Dominican Republic on his show, ESPN announced that it would expedite the end of his tenure on the air, stating that “Colin Cowherd’s comments over the past two days do not reflect the values of ESPN or our employees. Colin will no longer appear on ESPN.” The company previously announced that his deal would not be renewed.

Meanwhile, WWE terminated its relationship with Hulk Hogan, who reportedly made multiple racial comments on tape. Hogan, who had been serving as a judge on WWE Tough Enough, had most references about him scrubbed by the company. “WWE terminated its contract with Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan),” the company said in a statement. “WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide." Meanwhile, WWE and USA Network announced that a new judge will be named tomorrow night at 8p, with Bret Hart rumored to be the favorite for the job.

FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game will see John Strong on board as play-by-play announcer, joining analyst Brad Friedel and sideline reporter Julie Stewart-Binks. Coverage begins Wednesday at 8p with pregame, hosted by Rob Stone with analysts Eric Wynalda, Alexi Lalas and Stuart Holden. Production of the game will let viewers listen to the match’s fourth official, who agreed to wear a microphone during the game. Throughout the match, Strong and Friedel will be able to chat with the official and get real-time feedback into the crew’s decisions.

HBO PPV announced that Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux will look to unify belts on Oct. 17, with K2 Promotions and Golden Boy unveiling the boxing matchup. "This is the fight that all the fans and the world wants to see," Lemieux said, per ESPN.com. "I hope and expect this will be the best fight of the last five years. There will be blood. It’s going to be exciting."

FOX Sports announced that Garbage Time with Katie Nolan drew more than 1 million viewers for its July 19 episode, marking the show’s third-highest total this season. The show’s total television reach for the episode saw a 45% rise compared to the show’s average to-date.

TSN unveiled its broadcast schedule for the Premier League through September 27, offering fans up to five games per week via five national feeds throughout the 2015-16 season. Coverage kicks off at 9:30a on Aug. 8 with three games that include Chelsea/Swansea at 12:30p on TSN. Additional schedule highlights for TSN’s coverage through the end of September include: Chelsea/Manchester City on Aug. 16 at 11a; Manchester United/Newcastle on Aug. 22 at 7:45a.

Speaking of Canada, the head of the Canadian Olympic Committee said that Toronto will enter the fray to host the 2024 Olympics, according to USA Today, joining Boston, Budapest, Hamburg, Paris, and Rome.


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The FIFA corruption scandal is affecting the organization’s hunt for sponsors, according to the AP. FIFA is now targeting almost $6 billion in revenue for the 2018 tournament, but has not signed any new sponsors since last year’s World Cup in Brazil. "Definitely the current situation does not help to finalize any new agreement. That is a fact," FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said.

The Basketball Tournament locked in a deal with Jack Link’s to serve as Presenting Sponsor for what will now be known as The Basketball Tournament presented by Jack Link’s Jerky. The sponsorship will include integration into the event logo, in-arena signage, promotional opportunities, streaming presence and broadcast advertising for all the TBT games for the remainder of this year, including the $1 million, winner-take-all championship live on ESPN on Aug. 2 at 3p.


Univision Deportes released the second phase of its educational TV Everywhere campaign for the live streaming of the CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer tournament. The initiative will tap Periscope to offer “in-depth customer care for viewers seeking to watch the final stages of the tournament on their phones, tablets or computers.” The platform will serve as a Live Customer Service channel to offer support for viewers logging in to gain access to the matches and featured UDN personality Aly Villegas. 


DraftKings nabbed another league, inking a deal with MLS to serve as the exclusive daily fantasy sports destination for the league in both the US and Canada. The deal will see DraftKings and MLS develop new daily fantasy games to bring the daily fantasy soccer experience to MLS fans. DraftKings will also partner with a number of MLS clubs, with details to be unveiled at a later date. “The increasingly popular daily fantasy sports space is a proven fan development tool that we’re excited about,” said Gary Stevenson, President and Managing Director of MLS Business Ventures in a statement. “You’ll see deep integration within our many digital platforms and you’ll see a number of club deals. We are delighted to partner with DraftKings to give our passionate fans another innovative way to experience the sport that they love.”


Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke is heading to the NFL where he will serve as COO, according to the franchise. Leiweke resigned on Friday with team president Steve Griggs named to replace his as CEO. “The future of all things here in Tampa is bright due to great people like Jeff Vinik, Steve Griggs, Steve Yzerman and our leadership team,” said Leiweke. “I want to thank Jeff and his family for allowing me to be a part of such a special group that has changed the course of this franchise. I am thankful for so many community friends and partners who bought into the idea of a community-based franchise and literally joined arms with us to save this team.

Meanwhile, former NFL Network head of programming Charles Coplin was tapped to help launch a new Russian national sports channel, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The channel was ordered by President Vladimir Putin and run by the natural gas giant Gazprom’s media wing.


Yankees/Rangers on ESPN at 8p.


Wednesday, August 12 at 1:30PM to 3:00PM (ET)

Featured speakers include Steve Bookbinder Co-Founder/CEO at Digital Media Training?, John Rohrs, President at Rohrs Media Group, Adam L. Snyder, Chief Digital Officer at Kwittken and Vikki Neil, GM & SVP for Scripps Networks Interactive Digital Brands. Moderated by Mary Olson-Menzel Managing Director at Sagan Consulting/President, MVP Executive Search & Development


ON THIS DAY in 1986: Greg Lemond becomes the first American to win the Tour de France.

In The Know: Who played Jake LaMotta’s brother, Joey, in the film Raging Bull? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city.)

Answer to Our Last Sports Trivia Question: Which athlete’s autobiography is entitled Bad as I Wanna Be? Answer: Dennis Rodman. Kudos: Marc Wollis-NBC Sports Group/NY; Nicole Correnti-Fuse Media/NY; Mike Donato-ABC/NY; Nello Pesci-Discovery/NY; Mike Antolini-Tiger Woods Foundation/Prince William County; Allison Wright-Viacom Media Networks/Detroit; Synda Kollman-Charter Marketing Group/Boca Raton; Wayne "World B." Otto-Pro-Am Sports/Boone; Andy Pittman-TAMU/College Station; Gretchen Brady-KDAF/Dallas; Steve Hebel-Katz Television Group/ Chicago; Brienne Chance-G/O Digital/Phoenix; Steve Hirsen-Producer/Director/Sherman Oaks; Tom Moore-Kalt Productions/LA; David Westberg-SAG-AFTRA Federal Credit Union/Burbank; Paul Gygli-NBCUniversal Television Distribution/Universal City.

Later — Chris
Chris Pursell for
Cynopsis | Sports @VegasandVine

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