11-16-09: Sports Take Mailbag

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to another new week. And it's a busy one for yours truly. Sure there's the usual work nonsense. But I've got a hockey game to attend Wednesday night, a CD release party to attend on Thursday night, and a friend's wedding to attend on Saturday. That is, as they say, a full dance card... Okay, okay, I don't dance, but it's an expression people! You've got to work with me a little bit!

As the title of today's column implies, the Mailbag returneth. Interestingly enough, I was planning on bringing it back in “mock” form anyway, but then a loyal reader went and sent me an email yesterday that set up the column rather perfectly.

Remember, if you have a sports question that's been nagging at you, or if something occurs to you that you think would set me up for a rant (granted, that's not difficult to do), feel free to send me an email at: and I'll do my best to include it in a future column!

So let's open up the bag and get to the answering!

”The will to be stupid is a powerful force, but there are always alternatives.”
- Lois McMaster Bujold (1949 - ), American author of science fiction and fantasy works.

Do I really have to elaborate on this one? As is so often the case, the best quotes stand on their own.

«Read More...»

The Sports Take Mailbag

Today's Mailbag question comes to us from Josh in Maple Grove...

Charlie Weiss is obviously on the hot seat at Notre Dame. Should he be? In my mind, the more interesting question is: are there any consequences for the person responsible for signing Weis to a ten-year contract extension midway through his first season as a coach (causing the school to owe the coach $18 million if they fire him after this season)?

Great questions, Josh!

First question first... “should he be”?

In my opinion, yes, he should be. Weiss is 35-24 with two games remaining in his 5th season at the helm of the Irish. Former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie was fired after amassing a 35-25 record in his 5 years. So if Notre Dame wishes to be consistent, it's clear that Weiss's job status should be in questions.

But we can broaden it out from there. During their game with Pittsburgh on Saturday night, I saw an interesting statistic. Pittsburgh head coach Dave Wannstedt is 34-24 with two games remaining in his 5th year leading the Panthers. Yet even though his record is nearly identical to Weiss's, there aren't any calls for his head.

Part of that is that Weiss was successful early, but has struggled of late, while Wannstedt struggled early, but has improved greatly (including this year's 9-1 mark) of late. And part of that is that expectations are just flat higher at Notre Dame than they are at Pittsburgh.

At first blush, that may not seem fair, but when you're a school with your own network deal, and you have the wherewithal to sign a coach to a 10-year contract, I think you're allowed to have higher standards for success. And it's clear that Weiss isn't meeting those standards.

But that doesn't mean he's going to be fired. And that brings us to the second part of Josh's question, “are there consequences for the person who is responsible for signing Weiss to [that contract]”?

I wish there was an easy answer to that, but the truth is, “yes and no”.

Football coaches are technically hired and extended by athletic directors. But the truth is, when it comes to offering 10-year extensions and paying buy-outs, University Presidents generally have the final say. That's because University Presidents are in charge of the money. They do the bulk of the fund-raising, and they decide who gets what money.

That situation sets AD's up to be fall guys. If Weiss has to go, then the Notre Dame Athletic Director may be right behind him. Sure it was the President who ultimately had to give the okey-doke to the extension, but the President will say that it was with the AD's recommendation that he gave said okey-doke, and therefore, the failure of Weiss is a failure of the Athletic Director's as well.

Fair? Again, probably not. But welcome to the world of big-time college athletics. You don't like it? There are other jobs out there. We wish you well in your future endeavors.

But there's a wrinkle. As Josh mentioned, Weiss will be owed something in the neighborhood of $18 million if he's bought out of his deal after this season. That's not an insignificant chunk of change, even for a university with the bank account of Notre Dame.

In a situation like that, what often determines a coach's firing is whether can come up with the money to pay off that $18 million or not. Seems crazy, doesn't it? The university wants to fire a coach, the fans want to fire a coach, but because the university wrote a ridiculous contract, the fans have to fund the firing. And even crazier, they often do. There are enough rich alums who are willing to write checks that buy-outs are usually funded in exactly that fashion.

That being said... $18 million payoffs? Those don't come around every day. I know the Irish have deep pockets. But I don't know if they can come up with that kind of cheese or not.

My prediction? They'll wait til after Notre Dame's bowl game to make a decision. If the Irish win, and there's enough positive vibe around the program that they can put off his termination for a year, they'll do that. If for no other reason than to reduce the price of his buy-out. If they lose the bowl game, given how this season looks to be winding down? Then I'm not sure they'll have much choice. They'll beg, borrow and steal to try and pay him to go away.

And if I was their Athletic Director, I'd be making sure my resume was up to date!

Our second question today comes from Mary in Plymouth:

So there was a letter to the editor in Sunday's paper...

Since the Vikings have no chance of getting state money for a new stadium, here's my solution: Let's build a state-run sports book in downtown Minneapolis. The profits would be split between paying off the Vikings stadium and funding high school and youth sports to slow the out-of-control activity fees. It would let sports fans essentially pay for a sports stadium, add another attraction to downtown Minneapolis and allow the Indian tribes to maintain their monopoly on slot machines and five-deck blackjack.

There has been discussion about adding state slots or some such to assist with our deplorable revenue gap and budget deficit. With education in as much trouble as anything else (and the stadium not as likely to fly in this climate), we certainly need creative ideas. This one struck me as something you might like to comment on, especially given your history of events you would bet on, given wherewithal and legality.

What think you?

First, mea culpa: Mary sent in this question ages ago. But with the Vikings in the midst of a 8-1 season, it seemed like an opportune time to answer it.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government has set up laws that would preclude Minnesota from opening up a sports book. So sports betting can't be the answer.

Slots, on the other hand, are very much available to the state as a revenue source. And personally, I couldn't be more in favor of the idea.

People don't like to pay taxes. And they certainly don't like voluntarily raising their taxes, no matter the logic behind them. That's not a universal truth, but it's more true than not. Except when it comes to gambling. I can point to the Minnesota State Lottery and a host of other gambling initiatives in other states to prove that people will tax the bejeezus out of themselves if they're a direct, immediate and tangible benefit to themselves.

So why on earth wouldn't we take advantage of that revenue stream? We've all heard the arguments that gambling as revenue is regressive. And while it's true that unlike most taxes, it's not based on your ability to pay as much as your willingness to pay, it's that very willingness that counterbalances the regressive nature of the tax. It's voluntary. Nobody has a gun to their head making them gamble. I'm aware there are addicts in this world, and I certainly don't belittle how serious their problems are.

But they are a minority. And with the advent of internet gaming, if a gambling addict wants to find a way to wager their money, they will. That shouldn't prevent the rest of us who don't have gambling problems from enjoying some recreational gaming at our leisure.

Any unbiased study of gambling revenues will show you that it's one of the most consistent revenue sources available to be taxed. And yet, for the most part, it goes un-tapped.

Considering the budgetary difficulties Minnesota has, as well as the lack of an obvious funding source for a new Vikings facility, slots at Canterbury Park and Running Aces Harness Park are something the government ought to consider.

So says I.

That's your mailbag for today. Remember, no question is too small, no issue too inconsequential that I can't manage to squeeze a rant out of it! Send yours to: today!

I'm back on Wednesday with more of the college football dreck you've come to know and love.

Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. As far as using gambling to raise money for a stadium goes, I think someone needs to check federal/state laws regarding treaties with Indian tribes. As I recall from my last conversation with an american indian who had some knowledge of such things, Minnesota is part of a federal agreement with the indian tribes that says that tribal land is the only place where "gaming" (gambling and slots) is allowed and no other property or institution can build or operate such a facility for any reason. I have to admit, I haven't researched this topic, but I'd suggest someone look into it before we stake our hopes on using casinos to raise money for a Viking Staidium.