College football’s money teams

terpsIn college football, it’s all about the pursuit of being No. 1. That’s what Auburn and Florida State are playing for Monday night in the BCS National Championship Game.

But there is more than one way of ranking college football teams, and we’re not just talking about the difference between the Associated Press media poll and the USA Today coaches poll. There is also the Brewer rankings.

Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, has devised a formula to determine the financial value of college football teams. In his rankings, the University of Texas is No. 1, worth $875.0 million, followed by Notre Dame at $811.5 million. (Auburn is ninth, Florida State 22nd.)

As in those other rankings, the University of Maryland also has a bit of a way to go in the Brewer list. UM football comes in at No. 64, valued at $25.8 million. Maryland’s new conference home starting in the fall, the Big Ten, places six teams in the top 30, led by Ohio State at No. 4, with $674.8 million.

H/T The Wall Street Journal

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NFL funds concussion research

The Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, the National Institutes of Health and the National Football League are putting their heads together to study youth concussions.

Last year, the NFL donated $30 million to an NIH program that funds research on injuries affecting athletes, and today, the NIH announced that Kennedy Krieger researchers are receiving $275,000 of that total.

HelmetThe project is one of six pilot projects receiving a total of about $2 million over two years from the NIH. If the early results are encouraging, officials said, the six pilots may get more funding as larger projects down the line.

Dr. Stacy Suskauer, director of Kennedy Krieger’s Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program, is leading the study, which aims to find a way to reliably diagnose youth concussions and predict how an individual will recover.

The NFL’s $30 million donation is being distributed among eight projects (including the Kennedy Krieger study and the five other pilot projects), that focus on traumatic brain injury, which officials say is the leading cause of death among young adults.

Current tests are unable to reliably identify a concussion, officials said, and there’s no way to predict who will recover quickly, who will experience long-term symptoms and who will develop progressive brain degeneration.

Suskauer’s team hopes to overcome those issues by tapping into the somatosensory system, which provides us with information about our environment, such as how an object feels to the touch.

Because the somatosensory system may be affected by a brain injury, the researchers wonder if they could design a concussion-identification test by measuring changes in somatosensory system information processing.

The team will deliver vibrations to an individual’s fingertips (focusing on ages 13 through 17) and measure how well the vibrations are perceived. Those perceptions reflect the individual’s somatosensory system information processing.

The researchers hope that changes in SSIP will offer information about whether a concussion has occurred, and later on, whether the individual is recovering.

Getting physical, getting digital and getting social

Under Armour’s acquisition of MapMyFitness demonstrates the importance of digital tracking to athletic apparel companies. But the increasing digital focus from companies like Under Armour, Nike and Adidas also demonstrates another growing consideration in the world of health and fitness, social media.

In commenting on the acquisition, Josh Levinson, an avid runner and owner of Charm City Run, attributed the popularity of MapMyFitness to two crowds: “über performance athletes,” and “the young crowd that likes to share.”

MapMyFitness and Nike+ each have around 20 million registered users — nowhere near Facebook popularity, but substantial. These platforms allow users to keep track of their routes, workouts and accomplishments for personal use, but they also create the opportunity to make that exercise activity public.

JoggingRunning as an athletic activity has grown in popularity — as cited in Friday’s Daily Record article, an increasing number of individuals classify themselves as occasional or frequent runners. According to the Running USA 2013 State of the Sport, 49.2 million people run 25 or more days per year. Of those, about 9.2 million run at least 110 days per year.

Levinson said this may be attributable in part to the affordability of running and walking as an exercise program. Even after a runner has purchased the shoes and clothing they may need (or want) for the sport, they’re likely saving cash over a gym membership.

But in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece posted Tuesday, writer Chad Stafko aired a slightly different theory — that more people want to run because it is a form of exercise they can easily broadcast to the world, even before they post it to Facebook, Twitter or MapMyRun.

“There is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running,” he wrote. “These days, people want more than ever to be seen. This is the age of taking a photo selfie and posting it on Facebook with the announcement that you’re bored—in the hope that someone will ‘like’ that information.”

Stafko admits that not all runners are motivated by the “look-at-me desire,” as he calls it. But with increasingly popular apps that allow runners, cyclers, walkers and hikers to flaunt their success, he may have a point.

But sharing ability is great for the health and fitness community, said Levinson. Because what does a person want to do when they’ve seen that their friend was out running? Well, they might want to go for a run.

And every shoe-scuffing, shirt-soaking mile inspired by a social media status, well that’s good news for the athletic apparel industry.

Fourth Under Armour tank could use a feminine touch

As seen in a photo on our front page Thursday, Under Armour officially lit up three Westway Terminals molasses tanks with the images of Baltimore athletic legends.

The three tanks — called “Title Tanks” by the company — are now wrapped with iconic photos of Cal Ripken, Michael Phelps and Ray Lewis. These three were chosen for their contributions to Baltimore, said a spokesperson from Under Armour. Ripken and Phelps are both natives of the region, Ripken and Lewis both held long careers playing for Baltimore teams.

Under Armour Tanks

Under Armour has lit up three Westway Terminals molasses tanks, or “Title Tanks,” with the images of Baltimore athletic legends.

And the three of them have two things in common — they are all beloved athletes … and they are all men.

Under Armour said that it plans to eventually plaster a fourth tank at Westway, but has not disclosed which athlete will claim the title. But it’s only good business sense that this fourth memorial go to a woman.

The athletic apparel company has made clear that it wants to grow its women’s business. Founder and CEO Kevin Plank said in the company’s third quarter earnings call that this part of the business “will be larger than men’s someday in the future.”

Plank said he wants to make the women’s line a $1 billion business by 2016. With a growing collection of women’s products and a new presence in fashion-conscious New York City, the company is taking steps toward making this happen.

But how can a female consumer from Maryland, Plank’s home state, aspire to be one of the Maryland’s glorified iconic athletes donned in Under Armour apparel, if the company itself glorifies only men on its giant display, visible from across the Baltimore Inner Harbor?

At the Network 2000 Women of Excellence Luncheon on Wednesday, female business leaders acknowledged that they have a long way to go to achieve parity in the workplace. Featured speaker Geena Davis explained her institute’s research on women in TV shows and movies — they are rarely depicted at the C-suite level, which can make young girls think that business leadership is a man’s job.

Davis also mentioned that participating in sports dramatically changed her self-image for the better, but she was already an adult.  The first time someone encouraged her to try sports, telling her she had potential, was when she starred in baseball film “A League of Their Own.”

If the lack of female leader characters in the media can affect girls’ career aspirations, it seems logical that a lack of publicized female athletes could do the same for their sports dreams.

It’s not as though Maryland hasn’t seen a few iconic woman athletes.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Maryland native and University of Maryland alumna Dominique Dawes, the first African-American to win Olympic gold in gymnastics, and member of three medal-winning Olympic gymnastic teams.

What about Pam Shriver — a Baltimore native who won more than 130 top tennis titles, including an Olympic Gold for doubles in Seoul, 1988.

Or maybe Jessica Long. This Baltimorean may not have as large a reputation as Michael Phelps, but she has double-digit gold medals. Hers are from the Paralympic games, in which she’s competed since 2004, when she was 12 years old.

If Plank wants to reach more of the female demographic, expanding the women’s clothing options, incorporating high-fashion influences, and securing endorsements with female athletes like Lindsey Vonn and Sloane Stephens are all good moves.

But perhaps he should make an extra effort right here in Maryland — by glorifying some of his home state’s iconic female athletes, right alongside their male counterparts.

‘I heard the Grand Prix…’ Part II

I’m posting random snippets of overheard conversations about the Grand Prix of Baltimore and fleshing out what I think the comments indicate about public perceptions of the race. Part I can be found here.

The characters: Two male twenty-somethings

The setting: Federal Hill, the land of twenty-somethings

The comment: “…because they must get so much foot traffic from people who are going to the race…”

This man was referring to businesses in the neighborhood, specifically those located on South Charles Street, which were within a mile from the race action. He seemed very confident his comment was correct; his friend nodded in agreement.

It is a logical thought – why wouldn’t race fans spill out into surrounding neighborhoods to do some shopping? It’s also a common one: Lots of people think city businesses benefit from the crowds.

I’ll be writing about this for Wednesday paper, but the short answer is, the Grand Prix is not an automatic boon for local businesses. Some do get more customers than usual, but depending on where they’re located and what kind of business they are, many others do not. Some owners say they actually do worse.

Still, many people still think businesses in neighborhoods such as Federal Hill see a ton of extra foot traffic, which, across the board, translates into more revenue.

From where are they getting this idea? And what impact does that belief have on their overall perception of the race?

As for the first question, your guess is as good as mine. (Feel free to supply your own theory in the comments section.) As for the second question, I’d say: a big one.

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‘I heard the Grand Prix…’ Part I

Baltimoreans love to talk about the Grand Prix. Some spout off about the traffic, the detours, the inconvenience and so forth. But most just muse over how the event is going – you know, whether it will be a success, whether “they’re” making money.

The Grand Prix of Baltimore is an easy conversation starter, even for people who don’t know or care about the details. Still, these conversations are a gold mine of information about how residents feel about the massive street race that has begun taking over their city.

Throughout the weekend, I will post snippets of random conversations I hear about the Grand Prix of Baltimore. I’ll flesh out what I think each comment reveals about public attitudes and knowledge (or maybe lack thereof) about the event.

Pedestrian No. 1: “…Well, the city is just interested in making a profit. Otherwise, why would they bother doing it…?”

This woman seems to have gotten her players mixed up. She said “the city” but the city isn’t the entity putting on the event; they’re not the big investor here hoping to turn a profit. That role falls to Race On LLC, the private ownership group.

The city is banking on revenue from taxes (on sales, hotel rooms, tickets, etc) and financial compensation from Race On in exchange for lending its police, fire, traffic and sanitation departments and helping in other ways to pull off the event.

But make a profit? No. At least, not at first. Last year, Race On paid Baltimore $350,000 up front for its troubles but city officials estimated they actually spent more like $800,000 in worker overtime pay, cleanup and other costs.

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When a shirt is more than a shirt

Baltimore half-marathon T-shirt

The 2013 Baltimore Half-Marathon long-sleeved T-shirt

Will I still get my T-shirt?

That was my first thought when I heard Under Armour was bowing out as a sponsor of the Baltimore Marathon. Every October, a few days before the marathon, I eagerly pick up my half-marathon T-shirt and text my parents what color we can add to our collection. (Last year’s purple and 2011′s orange were big hits in the Jacobs households.)

I have shirts that go back to 2006, when I ran the anchor leg of the marathon relay, my first race. The following year, after months of training, I got my first half-marathon T-shirt. I’ve continued collecting shirts to the point where my workout gear some weeks is exclusively from the Baltimore race.

In many ways, the shirts have transformed and evolved much like the company that makes them. The roughness and heaviness of those first few shirts have given way to sleek, shiny garments that are soft to the touch. It’s like running while being swaddled in your baby blanket.

I’ve run a few other half-marathons and the other swag shirts pale in comparison. Plus, the Baltimore shirts are a badge of honor. I like to nod to all runners I see when I’m out, but the nod for someone wearing a Baltimore race shirt is, in a way, a secret handshake of sorts.

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Runners rev up for Baltimore Marathon

RunningFestivalJC5Attention runners of Charm City: If you haven’t already registered for the Baltimore Running Festival, the Oct. 12 event that includes the marathon, you better get to it.

There are 15 percent more runners registered for the race than there were at this time last year, according to Corrigan Sports Enterprises, the sports marketing and event management firm that organizes the festival.

Now in its 13th year, the Baltimore Running Festival was honored earlier this week as one of the top 15 fall marathons in the country by workout website

Additionally, all available vendor booths for the event’s Health & Fitness Expo — which is Oct. 10 and 11 in the Baltimore Convention Center — have sold out. (The news comes on the heels of the city tourism agency’s annual report, which found that tourism continues to rebound and boost the local economy.)

“We’ve worked hard to put on a world-class event in Baltimore, so it’s great to be recognized right alongside other industry giants as a top destination for runners,” Lee Corrigan, president of CSE, said in a statement. “This event offers tremendous value and our sales for both runner registration and expo booths reflect that.”

The Baltimore Running Festival offers something for runners of all walks, including those who don’t have those “26.2” stickers on their cars. There’s the signature event, of course, the Under Armour Baltimore Marathon, but there’s also a half-marathon, a team relay, a 5K and a kids’ fun run.

Registration costs between $90 and $110 for the marathon and between $15 and $100 for the other events.

The 2012 BRF had an economic impact of $38.6 million and raised $1.7 million for charity, according to a study by the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University.

(For a behind-the-scenes look at how a tiny, local firm like Corrigan Sports Enterprises plans the massive event, check out my story leading up to last year’s race and my blog post with anecdotes about the company’s formation and stats about the race)

Does the Grand Prix encourage playing hooky?

Baltimore Grand Prix (File photo)

Baltimore Grand Prix (File photo)

Organizers of the Grand Prix of Baltimore — the auto race that hits downtown streets Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 — are big supporters of local students. To show their appreciation for hardworking youngsters, they’re offering discounted Friday tickets to “active students.” All-day admission will be only $5 with a valid student ID.

Sounds awesome. The only problem is, “active students” have school that day.

Public school systems in surrounding counties kick off the quarter Monday, Aug. 26, or later that week. Private schools are also in session by Aug. 30. Sure, everybody knows the first week of school is sort of a joke — the heavy lifting stuff starts after Labor Day. Still, there are forms to sign, schedules to learn and teachers to meet. Attendance is important — I’m sure the Grand Prix organizers would agree.

Actually, maybe I’m not so sure…

“This is the ideal day way for students to enjoy the final days of summer, before school kicks into high gear,” race General Manager Tim Mayer said in a statement. “Whether you’re an elementary school student or doing post-graduate work, this is a great opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the Celebration of Acceleration for just $5.”

To be fair, I doubt the folks over at Andretti Sports Marketing (I’ve met them – they’re a standup bunch) are truly trying to tempt kids to cut class. Friday’s Grand Prix festivities last from 6 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. There’s plenty of time for students to, you know, be students and still make it to the racetrack. There will be a few solid hours of motorhead madness to enjoy after the dismissal bell rings, including IZOD IndyCar Series and American Le Mans Series practice runs, qualifiers for races later in the weekend, activities in the Esskay Family Fun Zone and musical performances on the main stage.

Students ages 21 and over can also access the Budweiser Party Zone, where 98 Rock will broadcast throughout the day. (Nothing like a “Bud and Bacon” party at 6 a.m. to prepare you for the school day, am I right?)

Discounted student tickets are only available in person at one of the ticket booths located outside all the entrance gates, not online.

In other Grand Prix news, organizers will hold a press conference Tuesday to provide a detailed schedule for racetrack construction, which begins next week. Word on the street (pardon the pun) says the work won’t be as disruptive as in past years. Stay tuned.

NAIOP Maryland hosts networking madness

basketballWhile the Maryland men’s basketball team will not be playing in the NCAA Tournament, the 370 members of NAIOP Maryland will be shooting for their One Shining Moment.

The state chapter of the commercial real estate trade group will hold its annual March Madness networking party on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. at the Townhouse Kitchen and Bar, located on 1350 Lancaster St. in Baltimore.

The party is open to members and non-members and tickets are $65 per person for hors d’oeuvres, drinks, door prizes and a mini bracketology contest.

Is your company or organization doing anything connected with the NCAA Tournament? Let us know in the comments section.