It seems like every time you blink another school has switched conferences during this ongoing period of realignment. There are also constant news stories about TV deals, coaches acting out, players transferring, etc. We wanted to get some expert opinions on all these trendy topics, so we decided to talk to Harvey Schiller, whose resume will blow your mind.
He currently serves as Chairman of the Board and CEO at GlobalOptions Group, a company that specializes in risk management and business solutions. Among his many, many past jobs he was Chairman and CEO of YankeeNets (a media company that owned the Yankees, Nets, Devils), president of Turner Sports, Inc., president of the Atlanta Thrashers, Executive Director/Secretary General of the US Olympic Committee, Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, and member of the NCAA Executive and Championship Committees. The Sporting News selected him as the 44th most powerful figure in sports. Jon Teitel got to sit down with Mr. Schiller earlier this summer to get his take on the hottest topics in college athletics.
What emphasis should colleges place on marketing, and how crucial is their ability to create corporate sponsorships? Every sports organization with a fan base needs both the revenue and promotional value of sponsorships. Colleges are especially vulnerable to the financial challenges of government and philanthropy.
Which has a larger impact: making an exclusive national agreement with major TV networks or creating a conference-specific network? No question, the national opportunities with major networks are the most important aspect of broadcast agreements. They bring national attention for the recruiting of all student-athletes as well as financial value.
Do you think that major and mid-major conferences should be treated the same, and what about revenue sports vs. non-revenue sports? It all comes down to the commitment that conference members make to both their revenue and non-revenue programs. While many non-revenue sports are competitive between most conference members, the opposite (with few exceptions) is not true when talking about major football and basketball programs.
How important is it for a conference to get its own representatives on NCAA committees? Every conference should try to place members on NCAA committees: that is where the rules that affect their programs originate.
I assume that a school located in a major media market has a huge advantage over its rural counterpart. How close did Texas come to joining the SEC a couple of years ago? I cannot speak for recent years, but in the late 1980s both Texas and Texas A&M explored SEC membership.
What changes need to be made to better address compliance issues? Compliance is about always knowing what is happening on and off campus with regard to both athletes and coaches. It is a reflection of leadership at all levels.
Should players be allowed to transfer whenever and wherever they want, and should it matter whether or not they have graduated? Transfers among athletes under scholarship need to be restrictive regarding future eligibility. However, when coaches leave the programs at which they were responsible for recruiting, then no restrictions should be made on transferring. Saying all this, no student-athlete should be restricted from having the opportunity to demonstrate his or her athletic talents.
In light of numerous recent incidents involving coaches behaving badly, how can a parent feel comfortable about putting their child’s well-being in the hands of a coach? Parents need to communicate with their children and understand the environment they operate in.
What do you think is the proper number of teams a conference should have, and how do you reconcile that with the desire for a full round-robin conference schedule? I do not think there should be a limit to the number of conference members. Competitions can be arranged between members in a variety of ways while maintaining long-term relationships.
Do you like the current format of the NCAA tourney, and what changes would you like to see happen in the years ahead? I believe the NCAA basketball tourney is working just fine. Keeping teams close to home throughout the tournament is the one area that needs more attention.