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Stakeholders seek solutions for revenue gap at NCAA symposium

ASU hosts symposium for in-depth look at college sports, timed to Final Four.
April 3, 2017

University presidents, athletic directors and conference commissioners gather at ASU

A prominent leader in higher education said college sports revenue has been flourishing, but a great disparity is on the horizon as conferences align to make lucrative network deals.

“The rich will get richer, and the others will die,” E. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University, said Monday. “We need to come together rather than engage in hand-to-hand combat.”  

Gee’s comment came at a symposium, “Full Court Press: Media, Autonomy, and the Future of College Sports” on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The timing of the event, which was hosted by the Sports Law and Business Program at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, was designed to coincide with the Final Four — the NCAA’s primary revenue generator.

The half-day conference brought together leading university presidents, athletic directors, conference commissioners and sports industry professionals to prompt an in-depth examination of college sports and where the industry could be headed in the years to come.

“By bringing together officials from both in- and outside collegiate athletics, this symposium melds the major forces influencing college sports — media, law and business,” said Glenn M. Wong, executive director of the Sports Law and Business Program.

In addition to Gee, other participants included Gene Smith, athletic director of Ohio State University; Renu Khator, chancellor and president of the University of Houston; Keith Gill, athletic director of the University of Richmond; Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12; Janet Judge, president of Sports Law Associates; Mark Hollis, athletic director of Michigan State; Steve Smith, basketball analyst; Hania Poole, director of NCAA Digital and Turner Sports; Gary R. Roberts, president of Bradley University; and Kenneth Shropshire, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

The panel agreed one of the most critical issues facing college sports is the widening revenue gap between the institutions in the Power 5The five conferences are the Pac-12; Big 12; Big Ten; Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference. conferences, and those in the remainder of the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A.

Many wondered if those other schools would still be able to compete despite significant disparities.

“Financially, the model is broken and has always been dysfunctional,” Smith said. “Teams and conferences have to stay strong.”

Smith suggested regionalizing the conferences — an approach Division II schools have thrived on for years — to ensure that schools in every region have fair access to championships.

Regionalization would also reduce the amount of time student-athletes spend on the road in competition and allow them to better enjoy the college experience, Khator said.

“This takes a toll on a student-athlete’s time demands,” Khator said. “What comes first — academics or athletics?”

The panel also tackled issues such as diversity in administration, the power of autonomy, Title IX, social justice and the expanding role of digital media.

Poole said the NCAA now has 15 different media and digital platforms, and millennials are driving the way in which we view sports.

“People prefer to watch the game in many different ways as it fits their lifestyle,” Poole said.

Wong said by weaving these perspectives together at one event, participants gained a better understanding of why change is occurring and where the industry may be headed.

“Linking all of these individuals and their ability to make industry-shifting decisions highlights the significance of our symposium,” Wong said.

Participants also took time to praise Phoenix as the host site for the Final Four weekend.

“This Final Four is just a phenomenon,” Smith said, “and it’s been a great run.”

For a detailed look at the symposium's three panels, click here.


Top photo: West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee listens during a panel discussion on the state of collegiate sports at the "Full Court Press: Media, Autonomy, and the Future of College Sports" symposium Monday at the Beus Center for Law and Society in downtown Phoenix. The program featured officials from both the inside and outside of collegiate athletics, and it focused on major influences on college sports: media, law and business. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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Unveiling 'Humanity' — a musical plea for tolerance, peace, empathy and creativity

Motown legend Bobby Taylor finishes work of rock legend Dick Wagner for ASU.
New song will debut at Project Humanities-led event on Friday in Tempe.
April 5, 2017

ASU Project Humanities will unveil its new theme song, 'Humanity (Love is in the Air),' at free concert this week in Tempe

Neal Lester is quite aware of how music and social movements can bring people together in divisive times, but when rock guitarist Dick Wagner penned an original tune for Humanity 101Humanity 101 is a comprehensive effort that Project Humanities organizers say promotes and sustains a robust dialogue and understanding between individuals and across communities about seven values that impact all human interactions and behaviors across disciplines. They are compassion, empathy, forgiveness, integrity, kindness, respect and self-reflection. , the power of that moment didn’t immediately register.

“Actually, we didn’t want a song, and there was never an ask,” said Lester, founding director of ASU’s Project Humanities and foundation professor of English. “Eventually, it occurred to me, ‘Absolutely we need a song!’ But the song came before there was an awareness for the need of a song.”

Now, “Humanity (Love is in the Air)”, a plea for tolerance, peace, empathy and creativity, will serve as Humanity 101’s official theme music. (Hear a sample below.)

Recorded and produced by Motown’s Bobby Taylor, the new tune will be the centerpiece of Project Humanities' “Music and Social Movements Concert: The Unveiling of Humanity (Love is in the Air)” at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Tempe’s Sun Studios of Arizona.

The free concert will feature music by local bands, a spoken word performance, a behind-the-scenes video of the making of “Humanity (Love is in the Air)” and a brief presentation by Don GuilloryGuillory is also an affiliate faculty of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and the author of “The Token Black Guide: Navigations Through Race in America." on the history of music and social movements.

Guillory, a history instructor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, said music is a powerful tool to convey messages and spark emotion. 

“Through much of this history of mankind, music and musical expression have helped facilitate communication, whether it was on the battlefield or demonstrating social strife to a wider audience,” Guillory said. He added that music tells the stories of people who are seeking inclusion and appropriate representation in the American landscape.

“Music can help explain grievances due to its unique ability to touch the soul of a person,” Guillory said.

Lester said he's already caught a glimpse of how “Humanity (Love is in the Air)” has affected people.

“When we recorded ‘Humanity,' people were in tears by the end of the session,” Lester said. “It wasn’t tears of exhaustion, but tears of joy because they were continuing the legacy of someone else’s work.”

Lester is referring to Wagner's legacy. Known as the "Maestro of Rock" for his collaborations with Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Kiss and Lou Reed, Wagner wrote and recorded a demo of the song shortly after meeting Lester for lunch in spring 2014. He died months later after years of declining health, and the song went unfinished.

For his part, Lester wouldn’t give up on the work. At the insistence of Wagner’s manager, Susan Michelson, Lester reached out to producer Bobby Taylor in Hong Kong to see if he'd be interested in flying to Arizona to finish the song. Taylor hadn't been in the states since 2009, but an honorarium by the Puffin West Foundation helped make it happen.

The 82-year-old Taylor became known for discovering Michael Jackson and working with Jimi Hendrix, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops and the Temptations. He also fronted Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, a Canadian band that charted a handful of soul and R&B songs.

Over a four-day period in October, Taylor led a group of about 20 singers and musicians — including three members of ASU’s Gospel Choir — at Well Spring Studios in Phoenix and Sun Studios of Arizona in Tempe to finish the song.

Michelson said Wagner would have been pleased.

“He would have loved the finished product and found it inspiring,” Michelson said. “Dick would have also enjoyed collaborating with Bobby Taylor.”

Lester said with the contentious and divisive 2016 presidential election in the rearview mirror, “Humanity (Love is in the Air)” resonates much stronger today than when it was written.

“The song asks us to shed our vanity and humble ourselves by taking a risk by being vulnerable,” Lester said. “Helping someone and stepping outside of ourselves is acknowledging vulnerability and that's the risk of our individual and shared humanity.”


To RSVP or register for “Music and Social Movements Concert: The Unveiling of Humanity (Love is in the Air)” go here.

For more information, call 480-727-7030 or visit


Top photo: Producer Bobby Taylor gives notes to musicians as they prepare to record the song created for Project Humanities entitled "Humanity (Love is in the Air)", in Phoenix on Oct. 17, 2016. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now