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CSL Daily

December 12, 2013

The Heisman Trophy-Should Integrity Matter?

by Greg Burton

I am one of about a dozen sports reporters in Virginia that vote for the Heisman Trophy, Heisman
the iconic award given to the most outstanding player in college football.
I’ve had a vote for about five years. I take it seriously, checking stats and game recaps from players around the country each Sunday.  What am I looking for? Simply, I vote for the college football player that had the best season. Not the best player or the most valuable player. I think it’s darn near impossible to identify the BEST player in all of college football. It could be a left tackle or middle linebacker but it’s difficult to quantify their value and compare it with positions that rack up eye-popping statistics like touchdowns or rushing yards. That is why, traditionally, the Heisman trophy winner (and most of the candidates) have been quarterbacks or running backs. Occasionally, a defensive player gains some attention like Ndamukong Suh in 2009 (he finished 2nd in the voting).

I have talked with dozens of other Heisman voters over the years and, while each may have some subtle differences in their evaluation, most end up relying on statistics. It’s really all you have and, because of that, the award has remained one that honors quarterbacks and running backs.

This year, for the first time since I was a voter, a new factor was ejected into the voting: Florida State v Pittsburghintegrity. This became an issue when Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy front-runner Jameis Winston became the target of a sexual assault investigation. If you are not familiar with the story, you can read the details here.

Last week, the state attorney in Florida decided not to charge Winston. Prior to that legal decision, many Heisman Trophy voters were contemplating not including Winston on their ballot. The voters cited the Heisman mission statement as the rationale for their stance. 

Here is the exact text of the mission statement pulled from the Heisman Trophy website:  The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award.

How can the Heisman Trust have integrity in the mission without a clear definition? Is it
on-field integrity? Is it integrity of the vote?

Sports reporters across the country believed they could not vote for someone who might be charged with sexual assault or any felony for that matter. Even though Winston had not been charged with anything, the thought of him winning this prestigious award and then being charged with felony sexual assault was too much to bear for some voters.

I did not feel that way.  I never considered excluding Winston from my ballot.photo (6)
(Due to an agreement with the Heisman Trust,
I am prohibited from revealing my vote until the award is announced Saturday night.)
Here’s why: I can only evaluate what I know. At the time, Jameis Winston had not been charged with a crime. After reading some details of the case through public record, it seems he, at the very least, exercised poor judgment and, worse, may have taken advantage of an intoxicated female. However, I have covered and witnessed too many legal cases where there was a rush to judgment after the court of public opinion had already made up their mind. We must let our judicial process run its course and allow due process to take place.

That being said, I wish the Heisman Trust would better define or elaborate the element of integrity. We should celebrate it and honor those who exercise it on and off the football field.  I love college football but it has become one of the most corrupt and greedy sports entities anywhere.  If the Heisman Trophy wishes to return to the values on which it was founded more than 75 years ago and recapture the reverence this award once held, the Heisman Trust will re-evaluate and more clearly define the parameters on which we judge the contenders. And integrity will stand side-by-side with statistics. Until then, it’s just another award.

Greg Burton is an award-winning sportscaster for more than 20 years. He currently hosts an afternoon sports talk radio show in Richmond. Burton has been an instructor for the Center for Sport Leadership for five years. You can reach him at gwburton@vcu.edu & follow him on Twitter @hardlyworkin950 

December 10, 2013

Alumni Profile-Sean Soares

by Nicky Gordon, CSL Graduate Student

Not many twenty-four year olds have a World Series ring, have been to the Final Four, are part of a $280 million dollar football stadium renovation and are a new dad.sean soares
Sean Soares is that man.

“All of my experiences have been blessings and not something many people get to go through during their careers,” admits Soares, the Assistant Director of Events with the University of Washington.

Originally from Santa Clara, California, Soares was led to Richmond when he was accepted at the Center for Sport Leadership. While doing his graduate assistantship for Events and Facilities at VCU, he enjoyed the Rams’ magical run to the Final Four in 2011. This wasn’t Soares first championship. While working for the San Francisco Giants, Soares experienced their run to the World Series title in 2010.

As graduation from the CSL approached, Soares caught a break. The position of Assistant Director for Event Management & Facility Operations with VCU Athletics became open. Soares slid seamlessly into the full time job following graduation.

After one exciting year with VCU, Soares learned of an opening with the University of Washington. Everything about the position appealed to him: a Pac 12 school, getting back to the West Coast and working with football. Soares landed the job at UW and couldn’t be happier.

As the Assistant Director of Events with the University of Washington, Soares finds his responsibilities hard to nail down because his role changes constantly.  He is able to pinpoint several roles he fulfills throughout the month. At University of Washington, Soares directs all game-day operations for men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, and gymnastics, which include managing the $230,000 budget for those game days. Soares also controls the master calendar for all athletic facilities and supervises all hired staff for athletic events, while coordinating with all outside vendors. In addition, he designs and implements programs for a 70,000+ seat stadium, such as creating an Emergency Evacuation Operations Plan and a $300,000 seat-cushion rental program.

There are many more responsibilities, but one of the most important parts of his career involves his communication with a variety of constituents, including coaches, administrators, officials, students, and conference representatives. In fact Soares believes the ability to communicate is the biggest skill he has picked up along the way. He adds, “Being able to effectively communicate with all the different people involved with the athletic department gives me the ability to operate at a level that leads to success.”

Soares advises current CSL students to get involved.
“You might feel like you are busy, but you can always do more. Take advantage of any free time you have to learn more about different departments within the University. Volunteer, put yourself out of your comfort zone, never be content, and always want more.”

He feels these actions will help CSL students to become leaders.
“Leaders know how to lead, lead through example, and lead in a way that gets others to follow. They show others how to lead and are always willing to put the team before themselves.”

December 10, 2013

Today’s #CoreValues Thought on #Collaborative

December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela and our CSL Core Values

Our five core values at the CSL are: Accountable, Collaborative, Empowering, Global-Minded & Authentic. All are topics Nelson Mandela addressed, directly or indirectly, throughout his life. mandela

ON EMPOWERING:
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

ON COLLABORATIVE:
“I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

ON GLOBAL-MINDED
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

ON ACCOUNTABLE:
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

ON AUTHENTIC:
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

December 5, 2013

CSL Students, Faculty “Ring” in the Holiday Season

photo 3 (1)

 Despite the hectic finish to the semester and the stress of the holiday season,  a simple community service project reminds CSL students and faculty about the power of giving.

photo 2 (1)

On Wednesday, the CSL family rang the bell to support The Salvation Army. The money collected in The Salvation Army’s iconic red kettles during the holiday season help provide essential services like food, clothing and shelter to thousands of people in Central Virginia throughout the year.

photo 1 (1)

CSL graduate student Traci Bonds led the recruiting effort, getting classmates and faculty to volunteers for one hour shifts outside of Kroger on Bowe Street.  While the CSL donates their time to help The Salvation Army, we get to experience first hand the overwhelming generosity of people in the VCU community and surrounding neighborhoods.

bell ringing

You can support The Salvation Army in your community by “ringing the bell”.
Log on to www.redkettlevolunteer.org for more informaiton.

December 4, 2013

Faculty Forum-Moneyball in Moderation

by Carrie LeCrom, Ph.D.

As the end of the semester approaches, I always reflect on what I hope my students have learned in the Research Methods in Sport course.  I’m also struck by a thought that I haven’t had in any of my eight years teaching the course: numbers can’t tell you everything.

I’m fully aware that I’ve just blown the minds of my students of years past. From 2006-moneyball_book_cover_01_custom-ea36630e47960157244ed4290140853c60db41a8-s6-c30 2012 I used Michael Lewis’s Moneyball as a supplemental reading in the course. I was (and still am) on the Moneyball bandwagon in a major way. How could you not be impressed with the results the Oakland A’s were having given their less than stellar budget? While I’m fully aware that there are those who question the success of the A’s (many of them former baseball players in my classes), it’s difficult to argue with what the data revealed. And, more importantly, and central to what I teach in the Research course, they found a way to use numbers to inform their decisions. They showed that what you see with the naked eye could be misleading, unrepresentative, and biased. Sometimes it is not any of these things, but taken as a single snapshot, what you see is not always what you get. For instance, A’s general manager Billy Beane notes that you can’t tell the difference between a .300 and .275 hitter by just watching him play a few times. But you can tell the difference when you look at his stats.

This year, being ever mindful of our core values (global minded), I switched from utilizing Moneyball as the supplemental research text to another research based sports book. Soccernomics, which seems to have been somewhat inspired by Moneyball, takes an economists look at the world’s game, tackling issues such as: why soccer clubs don’t make money, why the transfer market is inefficient, whether penalty kicks are cosmically unfair, why hosting a world cup is good for you, and who is destined to become the ‘king of the world’s most popular sport’ (Kuper & Szymanski, 2012). For each of these topics and more, the authors utilize years of statistics to answer their questions.

soccernomicsThe authors of Soccernomics claim that soccer came late to the
sabermetrics game, and that the sport still has a long way to go
and a lot to learn about how to effectively utilize data.
But it seems that soccer is not alone. This year more than any I recall, you can see the impact of Moneyball on sports around the world. Just check out a few examples here:

http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/moneyball-sports-analytics-ibm-microsoft-120954

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/phillies/Phillies_add_analytics_help_for_player_evaluations.html?utm_content=bufferc9cfa&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/wizards/nba-embraces-advanced-analytics-as-moneyball-movement-sweeps-pro-basketball/2013/10/25/1bd40e24-3d7a-11e3-b0e7-716179a2c2c7_story.html

It seems that everyone is finally buying in to the value of data. The value that, for eight years, I’ve been evangelizing! I’m sure my students can hear me saying it now, “Get on board. Use statistics! Measure everything you can! This is the direction sports are going!” So while I’m glad to see that college and professional teams are collectively on board with this, I’ve had to add a ‘but’ to my mantra.

Make no mistake; I’m still a Moneyball/Soccernomics advocate. In a big way! I think there is so much that can be determined by looking at data and am excited by the possibilities, which are almost limitless. However, a good friend told me a few years ago that life should be lived in moderation. (Great advice from a guy who ate soup for lunch EVERY DAY for the first three years that I knew him…he eventually took his own moderation advice, and now only eats soup once a week). While I didn’t realize that it applied to this situation until I was pondering it recently, I think it absolutely does.

Statistics are crucial to building a successful organization, but they are not everything. moneyball_stats2There is still value in scouting. There is still value in how an athlete performs under pressure. There is still value in the intangibles and un-measurables that are a part of every sporting event. So, here it is, my new mantra: Get on board! Use statistics! Measure everything you can! But…don’t go overboard. There is still magic in the unpredictable nature of sport. Live life in moderation (yes, even when it comes to statistics)!

Dr. Carrie LeCrom is the exectuive director of the Center for Sport Leadership at VCU.
You can email her at cwlecom@vcu.edu and follow her on Twitter: @cwlecrom