There's been some worthwhile content from the sports blogosphere over the past couple of days.
1) following up on the Andre Waters story, Geoffrey Rapp of the sports law blog raises questions about the expert witness upon whom Alan Schwarz relied for his New York Times article (the link is dead right now). Rapp looked into the credentials of Dr. Bennet Omalu, whom Schwarz described as a leading expert in the field. Rapp notes that Schwarz misleadingly described Dr. Omalu as "of the University of Pittsburgh" when Omalu is only a volunteer there. Furthermore, Rapp suggests that Omalu may have a vested interest in having reached the conclusions he did with respect to Waters' autopsy because Omalu has reached similar conclusions in other cases. I am dubious that having previously testified about such matters constitutes a vested interest, but it strikes me as fair for Rapp to suggest that this is a new area of medical research and that while Omalu may be right, his conclusions cannot be considered definitive. Schwarz, perhaps, over-stated Omalu's credentials in order to add credibility to those conclusions.
Schwarz himself responded in comments and was quite defensive, noting that he did, of course, check on Omalu's credentials, and that he resented the insinuation that both Omalu and Chris Wolinski, the author of the book on traumatic head injuries featured in the article, had ulterior motives. It does strike me that, in a new area of research, early pioneers in the field may well come across as advocates in a way that researchers in an established field don't, merely because they need to speak more loudly in order to be heard.
2) Paulsen, at sports media watch, wrote a post a few days ago about the scrutiny Serena and Venus Williams have faced over the years.
Summarizing the ceaseless criticism of the two that he documents in the post, Paulsen writes:
They don't know how to play the game. They never understood; they got taught by their father and somehow lucked their way into twelve Grand Slam titles. They somehow lucked their way into being ranked numbers one and two in the world. They somehow lucked their way into backing up every seemingly arrogant statement they made at the start of their careers; they somehow lucked their way into dominating tennis for three straight years, playing each other in Grand Slam finals five times.
They fixed their matches, deserved to get booed. They wore beads on the court, and designed their own clothes. They were in TV shows and movies, and designing houses and doing everything backwards. How dare they have other interests than tennis?
Twelve Grand Slam titles will never be enough for Venus and Serena. No matter what they do, nothing will ever be enough. Because the elements in tennis pick and prod at every single thing they do, finding fault with every single aspect of their careers and lives. And it won't end until they finally leave a sport where they never were and never will be appreciated, a sport that didn't want them there and didn't want them dominating.
3) This post from the WBRS sports blog looks at what it's cost Rutgers to develop (and sustain) a competitive football team:
Two things can occur after a historic season such as the one experienced by Rutgers transpires...Either A, the head coach and even some of his assistants move on to other universities, accepting more prominent job offers from schools that can offer them greater salaries. When this occurs, in seasons to come the team continues to play well, but not at an 11-2 level. Then there is option B, the one that allows a university like Rutgers to continue to play top notch football. This involves offering the current coaches bundles of cash to stay together and turn an 11-2 season into a consistent outcome for many seasons to come. It appears Rutgers University seems set on the more appeasing "option B". But with this choice comes consequences, not all of which are positive...
Apparently Rutgers' state aid was cut $80 million this past year and it was recently announced that this lost money will force the university to dismiss 825 employees and cancel approximatley 459 course sections. Further, AD Robert E. Mulcahy III stated that the school will cut "six high-performing Olympic sports that cost a combined $800,000."
Meanwhile, as the school attempts to cope with this lack of funding they are showing their students, alumni and fans that a winning football program is extremely vital to the university. During this time of financial restraint rather than decreasing funding for the football program, the school is taking that "option B" and increasing spending by nearly $3 million.
"Most of Schiano's six-figure coaching assistants got double-digit raises even as the university reeled under state budget cuts that forced the elimination of 825 jobs...Salaries for nine coaches now range between $115,000 and $185,000, according to the contracts obtained by The Record under the state's Open Public Records Act. Each also gets a $7,200 annual car stipend and an additional one month's pay -- a bonus for getting the Scarlet Knights into the Texas Bowl."
Mini me, who wrote this post, thinks the expense is justified, in the hope that if Rutgers can sustain success, football will eventually become the kind of cash cow that not only turns a profit, but can fund other programs on campus, including academic ones.
There is a significant tendency to overstate how profitable college football programs really are. That's partly because while revenues can be very high, especially at the high profile programs, expenses are very high as well. Some programs, like Notre Dame, make enormous profits and the university as a whole benefits from that. But, this is the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, there's a lot of gimmickry in accounting at major athletic programs that make me wonder even about those programs that report high profits. That issue - of accounting gimmickry - deserves its own post and I'll try to get to that in the next day or two.