In college hoops, ESPN often has the ultimate say

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 1, 2014 - 11:44 AM
hide

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, left, shakes hands with his son, Richard.

Photo: Timothy D. Easley, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

ESPN had an idea for a showpiece college basketball game, and the way it was pieced together provides a glimpse of how the cable giant can control college sports.

What if the University of Louisville, the 2013 national champions, played an all-expenses-paid game in Puerto Rico in November of 2014, network officials thought. Better yet, what if the marquee attraction pitted coach Rick Pitino against his son, coach Richard Pitino of the Minnesota Gophers?

ESPN first approached Louisville and, after getting its agreement, then dialed Minnesota, making it appear that the Gophers were only along for the ride.

“ESPN, really, made a suggestion of, ‘How would Minnesota look in this game?’ ” said Louisville senior associate athletic director Kenny Klein. “It was basically a joint thing” between Louisville and ESPN to approach the University of Minnesota.

The matchup, which will be played in November at a U.S. Coast Guard air station, is but one example of how Minnesota — like most major college sports programs — goes far and wide to gain exposure for its basketball team. But teams can be beholden to sponsors in doing so.

The exposure can help with recruiting, give well-heeled fans a chance to accompany the team to popular locations and add spice to a season that, for the Gophers this year, will end with a trip to the ESPN-televised National Invitational Tournament in New York City.

Clint Overby, ESPN’s senior director of events, said the sports cable network’s influence can be overstated, and “I can’t [see] that in any scenario where we technically ‘control the universe.’ ” Overby noted that in any matchup involving Louisville, “they’re the marquee attraction. [But] Minnesota’s had a great year.”

Three months after ESPN announced the Louisville-Minnesota game, Minnesota officials are still releasing few details about the game but acknowledged that television is often in control.

“The reality of modern college athletics is that television has influence on almost every game we play,” said Chris Werle, a Gophers associate athletic director. But “in-season [special games and] tournaments are worthwhile investments.”

While sponsors pay for nearly all of the costs, the team can sometimes be left spending more than it gets reimbursed.

Costs add up

The Gophers flew to Hawaii at Thanksgiving to play in the Maui Invitational, a trip that matched the team against powerhouse Syracuse and Arkansas but according to newly released figures left the school nearly $100,000 in the red. The school spent more than $37,000 for meals and $50,000 for hotel rooms.

As part of its Maui tournament contract — the tournament’s chief sponsor is EA Sports, the sports video game maker — the Gophers were obligated to play a “Maui Warm-Up” game and pay an opponent $80,000 for them to come to Minnesota. The Gophers won the warm-up game against Coastal Carolina. Minnesota, as part of its contract obligations, also paid a Chicago-based company $40,000 to help market the tournament.

Meanwhile the Maui Visitors Bureau reported that the tournament brought $12.7 million in visitor spending to the island, and nearly 5,000 visitors. “The summits, beaches and beauty of Maui [were] also showcased to 6.7 million viewers across the globe on ESPN telecasts,” the visitors’ bureau said in an after-tournament statement.

Steve Erban of Creative Charters in Lake Elmo said that fans going to the Maui tournament did not get a particularly good deal because of the control sponsors have on travel packages. He said that gameday tickets were selling for $65 in Maui, but cost $114 for those who prepaid for them as part of a package.

The year before, the team flew to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which is not televised by ESPN. The trip was largely underwritten by a hotelier and casino operator, and the team played its games in a large hotel ballroom before a TV audience, but relatively few fans. The Gophers second game in the Bahamas, a victory against the University of Memphis, drew 1,462 fans.

Werle said the school took into account that the Atlantis hotel complex had a casino, and that the team was reminded about the university’s “expectations of conduct, which includes discussions about gambling.”

Kerzner International paid the Gophers a $150,000 appearance fee. The team, under the contract, received $25,000 for appearing in the fifth place game.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - D. Hutchison 12:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Tanaka
Washington - S. Strasburg 12:10 PM
Miami - N. Eovaldi
NY Mets - J. deGrom 12:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Boston - J. Kelly 12:35 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 12:35 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Chicago WSox - J. Danks 12:40 PM
Tampa Bay - N. Karns
Cleveland - C. Kluber 1:10 PM
Minnesota - A. Swarzak
Detroit - R. Porcello 1:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
Seattle - H. Iwakuma 1:10 PM
Houston - C. McHugh
Los Angeles - J. Wright 1:20 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner
Texas - N. Tepesch 2:35 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 3:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong 3:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Arizona - W. Miley 3:10 PM
Colorado - C. Bergman
Cincinnati - A. Simon 7:05 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
San Diego 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 12:30 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 4:00 PM
Washington
St. Louis 5:30 PM
Columbus
Calgary 7:00 PM
Edmonton
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Calgary
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 2:00 PM
Toronto FC
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close