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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Podcast: Blackhawks from good to bad, Bulls from bad to worse, and TEs of the NFL draft

Alex and I discuss the recent Blackhawks struggles, the Cubs recent signing, a bit of White Sox talk, the Bears draft, breakdown the Tight Ends in the upcoming draft, and talk about the complete breakdown of the Bulls.  All of this and more on this episode of Bill Swerski's Sports Talk Chicago.
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Facebook: /SwerskiSports

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why Colleges Cannot Pay Athletes...

At some point during every single NCAA football and basketball season, the argument arises on every sports talk radio and television program: Should college athletes be paid?

The typical argument against is usually “the players receive scholarships”. The arguments for a pay scale for athletes include “the school is generating millions in revenue”, “the player may get hurt and ruin the chance to play professionally”, and “they are athletes that happen to be students, not students who happen to be athletes”. Both sides feel their points are valid, but if we dig past the surface, where does the answer lie?

Based on 2015 data, the NCAA reports that 1.6% of college football players will play in the NFL. Of the collegiate basketball players, 1.2% of men’s players will make the NBA and 0.9% of women’s players will make the WNBA. 8.6% of college baseball players make the MLB. 6.8% of college hockey players play in the NHL. And 1.4% of soccer players go pro. The other sports combine for next to zero. For over 98% of college athletes, this will be their highest level of athletic competition. Afterwards, they must compete in the workforce to make their living. For these athletes, the thoughts of million dollar contracts are little more than pipedreams. But they do get a leg up on their non-athlete classmates: they have the opportunity to walk away with a 4-year degree with no debt.

Consider the annual cost of attending Notre Dame (tuition, books, room/board) exceeds $61,000 and the per year cost of attending Duke is over $67,000, players at these universities will receive annual scholarships worth more than the yearly income of the average American family ($53,657 per family in 2015 based on data from the US Census Bureau). In total over 4 years, these scholarships can be worth more than a quarter of a million dollars alone. This is hardly a value to scoff at considering a vast majority of athletes will never compete professionally in sports.

The argument that universities make millions of dollars on the backs of college athletes is a common one used. They will mention schools like Alabama and Ohio State with revenues that exceed $100M per year from athletics alone. The sheer size of the number seems to validate their argument. But the logic is flawed and here is why. If you own a store and sell a book for $20, did you make $20 profit? Of course not. You had the buy the book from the distributor for $15. You had to pay rent on the store in order to sell the book. You had to pay electricity so the customer could see the book. You had to pay a fee to process the customer’s credit card. And you had to pay taxes on the money you did make. In all…maybe you made $1. This is a gross exaggeration, but the concept remains the same for college athletics. Let’s look at the Texas Longhorns athletic program (based on ESPN publishing of their 2008 fiscal year): The program took in $120.3M in revenue (ticket sales, booster donations, media rights, branding, apparel sales). In that same time span, they spent $111M (tuition for athletes, coaches/staff salaries, recruiting, marketing, etc). That leaves just over $9M. And if you actually dig deeper than that, University of Texas is one of the very few schools even making a profit.

Based on the “2004-2013 NCAA Division I Intercollegiate Athletics Programs Report” published by the NCAA in April 2014, only 20 FBS schools generate more money than they spend. TWENTY. Of the 20 schools that made money, the median profit was $8.4M. Of the 103 schools that LOST money, the median deficit was $14.9M. And only two…TWO…college sports were profitable. That would be men’s basketball and football. The median profit for football programs was roughly $3M and the profit from men’s basketball was roughly $340,000.

One last key component hardly thought of is Title IX. If you are not familiar with Title IX, it is part of the Federal Education Amendments Act of 1972. It states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits, or be subjected to discrimination under any education programs or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” How does this apply to athletics? Per the NCAA’s website, athletic programs are considered educational programs and activities and are subject to the Federal laws under Title IX. The program requires that women and men be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports. Title IX requires that female and male student-athletes receive athletic scholarship dollars proportional to their participation. And it requires the equal treatment of male and female student-athletes as far as equipment, travel allowances, access to tutoring, locker rooms, etc. If you were to pay college athletes, you would be required to pay female athletes as well, under Federal law.

Let’s consider a situation where the NCAA moved to a system where student athletes were paid a salary on top of current benefits (tutoring, meal stipends, room/board, and tuition). The NCAA research has shown only 20 schools make a profit on athletics and the average profit is approximately $8M per year.

Those schools making the profit are typically the powerhouse schools such as Michigan, USC, Alabama, that have the most athletic teams and most varsity athletes. If you estimate each school has 400 varsity athletes and Federal Title IX requires equal pay, these schools theoretically COULD pay each athlete $20,000 per year without going in the red. But what about the other 100+ universities and their varsity athletes? If you were to pay each of them $20,000, it would require those schools to divert funds FROM their general student fund. You would take away programs and classroom technology and research funds for students that pay tuition and are at the school to learn. Not many university presidents would likely be ok with this. The obvious answer would be to cut programs. Non-profit generating sports would vanish: Wrestling? Gone. Baseball? Gone. Gymnastics? Gone. Hockey? Gone. The only college sports that would survive are the only ones found to be profitable: football and men’s basketball. Again, due to Title IX, you would be required to offer women’s programs, likely basketball.

Not taken into consideration in the hypothetical situation above would be other possible negative ramification of collegiate sports. The top student-athletes would only flock to programs that could afford to pay them. This would further destroy any semblance of parity that still exists in the college ranks. You could potentially see programs that are not attracting top talent and are not reaping profits from athletics completely remove varsity athletics as a whole.

On the surface, one can make arguments supporting paying athletes for their contribution to universities. However, a closer look at the reality of finances and the entirety of the economic situation shows that a payment system to athletes would not but financially possible at most schools and could potentially be devastating to the NCAA sport ecosystem.
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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Podcast: Runningback draft profiles, Bears draft, Bulls woes, and Hossa

Alex and I discuss the NFC Championship and how it impacts/influences the Bears, the runningbacks of the upcoming NFL draft, the Bulls, and the Blackhawks.  All of this and more on this episode of Bill Swerski's Sports Talk Chicago.
Make sure to follow us on
Twitter: @SwerskiSports @chifanpatt1
Facebook: /SwerskiSports

and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Podcast: The ups and downs of the Bulls and Blackhawks, Cubs convention, and the Bears #3 draft pick

Alex and I discuss Cubs fan convention, the trials and tribulations of the Bulls, the Blackhawks struggles, and what a waste it will be to draft Deshaun Watson at #3.  All of this and more on this episode of Bill Swerski's Sports Talk Chicago.
Make sure to follow us on
Twitter: @SwerskiSports
Facebook: /SwerskiSports

and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Podcast: Bears rants, Hossa's return, and Butler's rise, oh my!

We apologize about the audio glitches.  We'll get those fixed for next week.  Hosts Alex and Shawn rant about the Bears.  We talk the rise of Jimmy Butler and how that impacts the Bulls plans.  And we discuss Hossa's return the the winning streak of the Blackhawks.  All of this and more on this episode of Bill Swerski's Sports Talk Chicago.
Make sure to follow us on
Twitter: @SwerskiSports
Facebook: /SwerskiSports

and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher

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Friday, January 6, 2017

How the Bears SHOULD proceed at the QB position

Former Bears quarterback Connor Shaw in preseason action.

I think it’s clear that the Chicago Bears are at a quarterback crossroad.  It is sort of humorous to say that since this is an organization that has been around for nearly 100 years and still has not had a good quarterback.  But this is reality.

Since Jim Harbaugh left after the 1993 season, the Chicago Bears have had the following quarterbacks start at least one game:

Steve Walsh
Erik Kramer
Dave Krieg
Rick Mirer
Steve Stenstrom
Moses Moreno
Shane Matthews
Cade McNown
Jim Miller
Chris Chandler
Henry Burris
Kordell Stewart
Rex Grossman
Craig Krenzel
Chad Hutchinson
Jonathan Quinn
Kyle Orton
Brian Griese
Jay Cutler
Todd Collins
Caleb Hanie
Josh McCown
Jason Campbell
Jimmy Clausen
Brian Hoyer
Matt Barkley

That’s 26 starting quarterbacks in 23 seasons.  On top of that, statistically the best quarterback the Bears have ever had is currently on the roster and under contract and still in the prime of his career.  Yet the Bears are still at a quarterback crossroad.

This article is not an indictment of Jay Cutler, nor is it an article to plead his case to return as the starting quarterback.  The quarterback position needs to improve in 2017.  Fact.  Period.  No If’s.  No And’s.  No But’s.  The Bears were #2 in the NFL in interceptions thrown.  They were 28th in scoring offense (17.4 ppg).  28th in offensive touchdowns per game. And 25th in team QB rating.

So how do the Bears deal with this dire situation to solve the hardest puzzle in the NFL?  There’s only 4 paths you can take to get a starting quarterback:  draft one, trade for one, sign one in free agency, or develop one already on your roster.  We’ll discuss each option.

If you listen to “media experts” you’ll hear a wide variety of answers, but the loudest opinion seems to be that the Bears “need” to trade with the Patriots for backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.  Why are they saying this?  He has a nice NFL quarterback size.  He has been in the Patriots’ system learning under Tom Brady and Bill Belichek for three complete seasons.  He is a local kid from Arlington Heights, IL.  He has a nearly 70% completion percentage in regular season action.  Seems reasonable that he would be a good option, right?  But there are issues.  First, the Patriots have publicly said their starting asking price for Garoppolo would be a 1st and 4th round pick.  That’s an astronomical amount to pay for an unproven quarterback.  But, didn’t Minnesota give up that same amount for Sam Bradford just this past year?  Yes, but that was a team with playoff aspirations that were desperate because of a serious injury to their starting quarterback.  They panicked while entering a seller’s market.  The Bears aren’t and shouldn’t be desperate.  Consider New England traded their backup QB Matt Cassel in 2009 for a second round pick.  Atlanta traded Matt Schaub for two second rounder in 2007.  Philadelphia traded Kevin Kolb for a player and a second rounder, Donovan McNabb for a second rounder, and AJ Feeley for a second round pick.  Even in 1998 when Drew Bledsoe was still pro-bowl caliber, New England was only able to get a first-round pick for him.  So history shows that this is a steep price that New England won’t get.  Second, what has Jimmy Garoppolo proven in the NFL?  He threw 27 passes in 2014, 4 passes in 2015, and 60 passes in 2016 before he was injured.  And he was injured already in the second game he played this year when the Patriots only needed him for 4 games.  And finally, if you do trade for him, he only has 1 year left on his rookie contract.  Sure, you’ll have a QB for only $1.1M salary, but he’s going to command a huge payday after this season and will be an unrestricted free agent.  Other than Garoppolo, who is worth trading for at the QB position?  The only other possibility is to keep an eye on Raiders backup QB (who will be their starter in the playoffs) Connor Cook.  I loved him coming out of Michigan State.  If he performs well in the playoffs, he’s a possiblity to be traded because he’s stuck behind a young starter.

There is the free agency route to get yourself a quarterback.  I mean, the Bears do have roughly $60M in cap space to work with.  But other than Kirk Cousins (who will either sign a long term deal or be franchised again), the list of free agent QBs is pretty bleak.  There is Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer, Mike Glennon, Shaun Hill, and the list of nobodies goes on and on.
Developing a quarterback on your roster will be difficult because as it currently stands, Jay Cutler is THE ONLY quarterback under contract for 2017.  Brian Hoyer, Connor Shaw, and Matt Barkley were brought over on 1-year deals which expired after the 2016 seasons.  David Fales had a 2-year contract which expired after the 2016 season, as well.  So this option is pretty much off the table.

The final route is via the NFL draft.  With the #3 overall pick in this year’s draft, you’d expect the Bears to be able to get almost their choice of quarterbacks.  But unfortunately, this year’s quarterback crop doesn’t have an Andrew Luck.  It has some decent quarterbacks that all carry a laundry list of question marks regarding their ability to play at the next level.  In a dream scenario, the number 3 pick brings together a team need (QB) as well as the best player available at that spot.  However, that’s a dream.  This is reality.  One of the absolute worst decisions you can make for your team is to over-reach for a first round quarterback.  At worst, it sets your team back 3-4 years (Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, and Jake Locker).  Best case scenario is it leaves you with an adequate starter (ie Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler).  This is where the Bears coaching staff needs to utilize the fact that they are coaching the senior bowl to work with every young QB there as well as stay true to your draft board and trust your scouting. 

So…how should the Bears proceed?  How they will proceed is up to Ryan Pace.  However, if I was GM, this is how I would attempt to tackle the position:
  •  Current Roster:  I am moving on from Jay Cutler.  I think it has been long enough and it is clear that his contractual burden and devisiveness within the fans and organization have gone far enough.  Start 2017 season with a clean slate.
  • Free Agency:  I go on the assumption that Kirk Cousins will not leave Washington (either a new long term deal or the franchise tag).  I go after Connor Shawn, Mike Glennon and/or Brian Hoyer.  Prior to breaking his leg in pre-season, Connor Shaw was a young QB the Bears coaching staff was excited about.  I think he was the QB they wanted to groom.  Mike Glennon is still young and showed some promise.  If you can surround him with some weapons (like Alshon and Kevin White and Joran Howard), he might begin to flourish.  Brian Hoyer is an absolutely average NFL quarterback.  But he has been around the block long enough that he can help mentor a young QB, he can come off the bench to start games if needed or be your bridge starter, and he doesn’t turn the ball over.  But he plays it way too safe to ever get you to a Superbowl.
  • Trade:  Listen, it sounds like I am down on Jimmy Garoppolo.  I am not.  I am just down on his over valuation.  If the Bears are able to work a trade that is reasonable (ie a 2018 2nd and 3rd), then go for it.  Otherwise you move on.
  • Draft: The Bears were bad this year.  No doubt about it.  But they have some young play-makers on this team and will be coming back healthy next year.  So they are not nearly as dire as say Cleveland.  So there is no need to get caught in the “OMG WE NEED TO DRAFT A QB WITH OUR FIRST PICK” trap.  I am not comfortable with any QB with the #3 pick.  So you can wait for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th rounds and draft one there, or if a quarterback falls (ie Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater), you have trade currency to move back up into the first.  Regardless, you do need to draft a QB in the first half of the draft and it has to be someone you can groom.

Searching every avenue and taking multiple bites at the proverbial apple is the best way to approach this and I am confident the Bears will head to training camp in a better position (as far as quarterbacks) than they were in 2016.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Podcast: Bears nightmare season ends, Blackhawks slumping, upheaval with Bulls

Hosts Alex and Shawn break the ending of the Bears nightmare season, talk about the chaos that is the Chicago Bulls, and dig into the Blackhawks slump.  All of this and more on this episode of Bill Swerski's Sports Talk Chicago.
Make sure to follow us on
Twitter: @SwerskiSports
Facebook: /SwerskiSports

and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher

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