Friday, November 30, 2007

CSTV Collegiate Nationals

Today the UPA announced that College Nationals '08 would be changed in two significant ways: (1) it will be a week earlier, and (2) it will be held in conjunction with a multi-sport event produced by CSTV, the UPA's broadcast partner for the 6th straight year. Some background, and then some issues. Note: These opinions are mine alone and do not represent an official communication from the UPA or tournament staff.

CSTV's Collegiate Nationals is a championship event for a variety of non-varsity sports. The ultimate competition will take place at the Pleasant View soccer complex in Boulder—home to 1999 College Nationals, 2006 H.S. Westerns, and Colorado Cup since 2006. One thing I was wary of was having multiple events at Pleasant View, but we will be the only sport there.

Nationals will take place May 16–18, the weekend before Memorial Day. I searched RSD for any reference to a past College Nationals that wasn't on Memorial Day weekend but I didn't find anything. Is this a big deal? Maybe, maybe not.

The TDs have worked on Westerns and Colorado Cup, plus we have UPA staff down the street, so I am confident this will be a well-run event. Disclaimer: Yes, I am involved in the tournament (though I am not the TD). I was enthusiastic about the prospect of bringing Nationals to my back yard, so perhaps I was a bit blinded by the detrimental effects of moving the event and incorporating into a larger event. In many ways ultimate is entrenched in various habits, for better or worse, and these two steps are pretty big. Let's have a look.

Issue #1 – Bumping Nationals up a week
This move—to accommodate an event that we have no ownership over—will probably be seen as the less desirable one. There are some unavoidable problems with the move in schedule, but they are problems we will overcome.

There are no plans to move up the start of the College Series (some Sectionals are held in crappy/cold weather anyway), and qualifiers from the second round of Regionals will face a tight window in which to get plane tickets. Will travel costs increase for players? I think not, for a few reasons. As the SW RC I am going to try to have Regionals on the first potential weekend and I will encourage other RCs to follow suit. Perhaps an airline discount can be arranged for players to take a bite out of costs. I also assume that airfares are lower on this weekend than they are on Memorial Day, a holiday and the traditional start to summer vacation season. (I checked some travel web sites. This far out they are the same.)

It's not a three-day weekend, but does that matter? We play on Friday and finish on Sunday in either case. Yes, the buffer travel day is nice, but I know last year Match Diesel had lab on Monday morning. We may hit a few more graduations, but there are some on Memorial Day too.

And the last issue, which has surfaced more recently, is that of competing events. Not with the other CSTV Nationals events, but specifically with lacrosse. The NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships are always held Memorial Day weekend. If we are to assume that we are actually competing with other, non-football & non-basketball events (i.e., every other sport yearning for coverage) for media exposure and television time, then moving college ultimate's premier tournament makes sense. Turns out the Div II and III lax finals—which take place the same weekend and as part of the same event as Div I—are airing live on CSTV on Memorial Day weekend. Good move moving us.

Issue #2 – Incorporating into a larger event
I think this is another good move. Yes, we lose some autonomy, but we are also exposing ourselves, as it were, to similar athletes (those that have chosen alternative sports) and increasing the size and scope of audiences and sponsors alike. I think the absolute worst case is a neutral effect, but the overlap is likely going to be a net gain.

Take, for example, the fraction of good coming from our internet exposure. How many people last year do you think found information about UPA College Nationals? I'm betting pretty much the people that were looking for it and no one else. But this year we have video highlights and cross-audience exposure on a site that garners over 3 million hits per month. Internet broadcasting is the future of every sport. Sign me up.

Does the sport sacrifice anything by joining forces with other sports? I don't think so. As I said above, the ultimate competition—the gist of the weekend for ultimate players—remains the same. And does the larger event lend any authenticity or credibility to the sport? Yes. Snowboarding, skiing, beach volleyball, weightlifting ... several of the sports at CSTV's Nationals are Olympic sports and those clinging to their coattails (ultimate, wakeboarding, adventure racing) can only benefit. You could think of this as the X-Games for college sports.

This tactic of combining resources also stands to benefit every club sport in the eyes of college administrators. Club sports occupy a gray area on many campuses. More than intramural rec, but clearly inferior to varsity athletics in terms of administrative & financial support. If X University previously had three unrelated club sports teams going to their respective championships in three different places, but now has three teams going to one huge championship event, shouldn't the admin sit up and take notice? I hope so.

The college nationals "social event," which has understandably* been handcuffed, ridiculed, and demoted from "party" to "event" in the last three or four years could be part of something half-way interesting. Go watch another sport? Have an awards ceremony with other sports? Have split parties (over- and under-21) with a thousand other athletes? I don't know, but it might be cool.

*Liability is a bitch.

Normal gripes
People will complain about the location because it is far away from them, or that airfare to [fill in the blank—DEN this year] is high, but the only legitimate gripe is that we are at altitude. Yep, Pleasant View is about 5,300 feet above sea level. Sorry about that, but every 7–8 years (Ft. Collins 1992, Boulder 1999 & 2007) is not that often for great fields, a great ultimate community, and the UPA's back yard. Plus Denver/Boulder is more central than many locations.


Huffles said...

What other sports will be participating in the CSTV Nationals event?

Tarr said...

Nationals was on Memorial day weekend from 1999-2007. In 1997 and 1998 it was a week later. Not sure about before that.

I'm worried about more school conflicts with this change. That's the weekend after Brown's finals - better reschedule those Friday exams.

kevin said...

I'm almost positive that SEVERAL schools will have graduation/exams that weekend. In all of the discussion, I think primary emphasis should be placed on player's ability to make the event. I haven't checked in to who else, but Minnesota graduates that weekend and I beleive that mid may is the standard. And fuck cstv, their exposure has lessened and decreased in quality annually.

Nathan said...

First of all, what have you done with Hector? He promised exciting posts and...nothing.

Second, any response to Match Diesel's ravings on rsd? He makes a fair point, amidst the raves - what of Rob and Ultivillage at Nationals? The ultimate community loves Rob's stuff - if I were in high school, I would be downloading every single college ultimate video he makes. Any plans for Rob's inclusion?

degs said...

MD made some good points, but there are several issues he was trying to address all at once. I agree with him that CSTV's coverage leaves something to be desired (pre-finals coverage for example), but in principle I think the idea of working with CSTV is a good one. I guess I'm most interested to see how this year pans out. Will more people watch this year? What do we gain/lose in the CSTV partnership vs one with Rob? Etc.

Rob has my full support though. I buy the DVDs, the UVtv subscription, etc. The market may bear this out though -- what if Rob partners with CCS and produces a kick-ass series?

bali_ultimate said...

I just read the UPA press release. It says very little of concrete value on what was given up by CSTV to get ultimate to conform to their schedule.
1. Atheletes get an "olympic village type" atmosphere (who gives a shit about that?).
2. There will be "increased media exposure" (this is just an assertion... unless CSTV has guarantee much heavier rotation for ultimate. It doesn't say that, though).

And that's it. These are the only stated benefits. The only other possible carrot is a sentence to the effect that "details are still being worked out" as to the "potential benefits to athletes and teams."

These are questions that should have been included and answered in that college nationals FAQ (which reads as if written by a flimflam man):
1. How much will the UPA pay for its CSTV coverage this year and how much air time will it get for that price? What were these numbers last year?
2. Is there any part of this deal that will help either the UPA or players save money? How?
3. What does the UPA gain from going with these guys and freezing out rob? (You ask this below degnan, but then you say you're interested to "find out." But the answer to this questions should be known when you make the decision. "UPA: Rob's a sweet kid, we'd like to keep him around. CSTV: We'll, make us exlcusive and we'll guarantee 10 hours of coverage on our network. UPA: Bye, rob?"

SO, what is the deal? Why isn't the uPA telling its membership? Or was there some other press release that has all this info that i missed?

TheTruth said...

That the UPA is still paying for coverage is laughable. If a network is unable to monetize it's content, it's obviously the wrong choice.

This is like the guy who buys the girl dinner, flowers, and a diamond necklace on the first date -- and wonders why she goes in for the cheek kiss before 11pm cabbing it over to my place....

degs said...

Scoop, I don't know the answers to those questions. If people aren't satisfied with this event I'm sure the organizers & the UPA Board will hear about it. It seems that we are not committed to anything beyond 2008, and from past experience Rob might be able to come and tape until finals. (And Denver, being much closer to him than Columbus, might compel him to come.)

Anonymous said...

Looks like the expanded the FAQ by one Q.

Anonymous said...

That's a standard week for exams and graduation and regardless of how huge ulty is these days, it's unrealistic to expect that profs will let players move exams to play nationals.

You're left with the horrible position of choosing between school and frisbee, when both have traditionally coexisted quite well. Even worse would be the potential for family unrest over missing commencement. And for what? CSTV coverage? Who even gets that shit network?

Anonymous said...

Lots of people have exams during Regionals and there is never this much bitching. It just happens... even Memorial Day has conflicts.

cgb said...

i believe the name itself enlightens us to why there is no 'bitching' about regionals: its near one's school given that you remain within your region. two, it's only one weekend. On the men's side, one school from lastyear's nationals is within driving distance of boulder (kansas, 7 hours). That means, most teams must commit at the very least two days to travel alone, plus 2 days minimum for actually game time. A minimum of 4 days during finals period is spent away from the school. This does not include the fact that teams usually like to arrive a day early to prepare.

Now, compare that to regionals. By and large (SW being the major exception), teams have a reasonable drive to the fields whereby they can leave either in the afternoon (after exams have concluded for the day) or early the day of. They can usually return that Sunday, when there are no exams, and be home in plenty of time to rest up for a potential monday exam.

However, with nationals, one is missing at the bare minimum (save a select few colleges) 2 days of classes (monday/friday, some saturday).

This was longwinded, in sum regionals equals minimum lost school time and time committment, nationals, significantly more lost time, thus valid to complain.

Finally, missing graduation is no big deal, anyone who sat through a 3 hour commencement ceremony with some absurd speaker would agree.

degs said...

cgb, some good points in there but you almost ruin it at the end. To many people (and to their families) graduation is a huge deal. Granted, passing your exams is crucial to even walking across the stage...

As for Regionals, both NW and SW Regionals require huge travel distances sometimes. Teams in OR and WA go to the Bay Area and vice versa. SoCal comes to CO and vice versa.

And you're right that the stakes and time commitment are higher at Nationals, but teams re-arrange finals and miss graduations for Regionals nonetheless.

cgb said...

That was just my personal experience with graduation (as well at 90% of my friends). As a solution, I'd suggest walking the following semester if possible. Personally, it seems importance of graduation is more taking pictures in the robes and spending time with the family than anything else – both of which can be accomplished at a later date. Granted, I went to a large state school (Wisco) where the school provided newspapers to the parents to read during the longwinded and boring ceremony and most students were extremely hung-over and brought books to read themselves. But, things might be different elsewhere.

Additionally, what i merely implied, but didn’t do a good job expressing, with regards to regionals, is that usually the player will miss/ be forced to reschedule 1, at most (and highly unlikely) 2 exams - either a Friday or Monday one. However, with nationals, the odds increase substantially that more exams will need to be rescheduled, thus, increasing the odds that 1. some professor will not permit it and/or 2.the shifting of schedules will be incompatible given the new time restrictions (meaning there are now less day available to fit the exams in, and the shuffling has to be both compatible with your schedule, but the various professors must have schedules compatible with each other in order to line everything up perfectly – I didn’t express this well, hopefully you get the gist).

Ultimately, some schools will have conflicts with the timing, which is unfortunate, but the UPA should try to pick the date that provides the greatest overall utility (which it may have for all i know, and this debate is a non-starter).

Graduation is not a big deal, but for me, it is/was a non starter.