The September 2022 Edition

College Football: Is It All About the Money? And Should Congress Enter the Fray?

By TOM WOOD / SEPTEMBER 24, 2022

Doug Mathews has spent most of his adult life either playing, coaching, or talking about college football. So when writing about the issues facing college football for the Sept. 23-29 issue of the Ledger, the former Vanderbilt athlete and Tennessee assistant coach, and current sports talk radio host was one of the first people I contacted.

Mathews has his finger on the pulse of those many issues – everything from name, image, likeness (NIL) to the transfer portal (scholarship athletes leaving schools to play elsewhere), from conference expansion to expanded college football playoffs, from conferences changing their TV packages and states changing their NIL laws.

It seems to me all those issues were connected by one thing: money. And Doug, with a few exceptions, agreed.

“(NIL) is certainly about money, but that’s also about the student-athlete,” said Mathews, the host of Football Saturday and Big Orange Sunday. “The university (and) conferences don’t benefit from that. That’s about student-athletes. Transfer portal is about the student-athlete. … Now the College Football Playoff, the expansion, all of that is certainly about the money. No question about that.”

College football’s top issues are all connected by money.

— Cover design by Mike Hopey

We also spoke about NCAA reorganization and calls for Congress to regulate NIL rules, which currently vary from state to state. Melia Jones, executive vice president and general counsel of Nashville-based Athlete Licensing Company, has compared  NIL rules to the wild, wild West, adding, “It’s even wilder now.”

“It’s going to be that way until two things happen,” Mathews said. “Number one, the reorganization of the NCAA, which is ongoing right now. Whenever that gets settled and whatever the organization that comes out of it — the governing body, that hasn’t been settled yet — that’s one thing.

“And then the second thing is if and when Congress will pass some type of law that kind of works with this. That’s what needs to happen. Instead of having 50 different state laws or 48 or 45 different state laws to have one national law.

“(Former Auburn coach) Tommy Tuberville is one of the senators that’s working on this, but I don’t think many people think that’s going to happen anytime in the near future. But right now, it is kind of flying by the seat of your pants.”

The Ledger package also looks at whether Nashville could someday host a College Football Playoff game now that its expanding from four- to a 12-team format beginning in 2026. Nashville is currently considering whether or not to build an enclosed stadium to replace aging Nissan Stadium.

Here are a few other things I’ve written about recently:

Ledger Wins Award for General Excellence

By TOM WOOD / AUGUST 27, 2022

Congratulations to us! On Friday, August 26, the Nashville Ledger was named winner of the Tennessee Press Association’s top annual award for Division III General Excellence.

The Ledger also took first place in four other categories, led by columnist Joe Rogers, who won two first place awards for Best Personal Column (Nothing is black and white when discussing race) and Editorials (Remember when government intrusion was a bad thingMilitant Moonies might not be the ideal new neighbor and TN Health officials have some nerve doing their jobs).

Nashville Ledger wins top award for division.

Michelle Morrow won for Best News Photo (Nashville history not easily recreated), and the newspaper won a first for Best Coronavirus News Coverage by Catherine Mayhew (Who’s paying for COVID? All of us), Kathy Carlson (Getting more shots in armsWill vaccine hesitancy extend to little arms? and No vaccine, no job? Not yet) and Tom Wood (Another COVID toll: $2 billion for funeral costs).

Congratulations to Lyle Graves, the Ledger’s general manager and executive editor, and the rest of the staff and writers. And here’s to more great work in the coming year.

Music City Grand Prix roared again

That buzz you hear about Nashville’s booming economy will turn into a roar this weekend as the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix returns for its second running over downtown street course that includes crossing the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge.

It’s a fun, food and concert festival atmosphere that is capped by Sunday afternoon’s NTT IndyCar Series race that is expected to contribute some $24 million to the Nashville economy this weekend. I preview Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m., NBC/WSMV-4) in the Aug. 4-10 Nashville Ledger.

“We always said that our projections were $20-plus million in the first year, based on some of the examples that we had looked at that had been provided to us by similar-sized, similar-attended events in Nashville. And that held true,” said Christian Parker, event president for the ownership group that includes high-profile names like Justin Timberlake and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others.

“I believe that when it was all said and done, we were close to $24 million in total economic impact. That really hit those marks in year one, and that’s great because it’s true direct economic impact.”

Music City Grand Prix lifts economy.

— Photo | LAT

Like the 2021 debut, this year’s event is expected to draw 100,000 people from across the country to the three-day event. If and when international travel improves, the Grand Prix could draw even bigger crowds. Sunday’s race will be televised in 50 countries.

Marcus Ericsson is the defending champion and crowds are sure to be cheering for local favorite Josef Newgarden, a Nashville resident who grew up in Hendersonville. Newgarden currently is third in the Series points championship behind Team Penske teammate Will Power and Ericsson.

Newgarden suffered a couple of hard crashes in the last month but was fully cleared to compete in last week’s road course race in Indianapolis. Look for Josef to run with the leaders again and perhaps even win on his hometown street course.

Here are some of the other things I’ve written about and done in 2022.

Preds celebrate Christmas in July

Nashville Predators star forward Filip Forsberg has a new contract worth $68 million, a move sure to please the Stanley Cup-starved Smashville fan base, which gets to keep Forsberg in Nashville with the eight-year deal.

The high-profile transaction – which includes no-move and no-trade clauses – means the team avoided losing the 27-year-old Swede in free agency, which began July 13. Forsberg will remain in a Nashville uniform through 2030 and perhaps for the rest of his professional career.

The Forsberg deal is just one of several topics I cover in the July 15-21 edition of the Ledger. Other key moves examined are the addition of former Gov. Bill Haslam to the ownership group, the trade for Ryan McDonagh and the NHL Draft.

Forsberg stays with Predators.

— Photo By Mark Humphrey | AP

After signing the deal, Forsberg made clear his intentions of helping the Predators win their first Stanley Cup championship this decade. “At the end of the day, I want to sit back on the couch and look at a Stanley Cup ring. That’s my ultimate motivation,” he said.

Look for my 2022-2023 Predators preview in the October 7 edition.

As always, thanks for reading.

Tom Wood

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