Category Archives: sports

Haslam lobbies sports league for Memphis

Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he contacted Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and several university presidents in the Power 5 league to speak on behalf of the University of Memphis and its campaign to become an expansion member, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Memphis is among several top candidates seeking one of two – and possibly four – invitations to the league, which is considering adding to its 10-team conference.

U of M president M. David Rudd has been leading the Memphis drive and enlisted Haslam’s help. Haslam said he spoke to presidents on the Big 12’s composition, or expansion, committee.

“Dr. Rudd had called and said we would really like to make this happen, can you help?” Haslam told a reporter from The Tennessean. “I doubt I was a persuasive factor in it, but I tried to help any way I could.”

Haslam briefly discussed his involvement with the Memphis bid following an education event in Nashville. He said if the U of M were to receive an invitation, it would be a “step up.”

Haslam’s comments came on a day an ESPN report revealed the Big 12 will conduct video conferences with representatives from 17 schools that have contacted the league regarding expansion. The U of M is one of the 17 schools that reportedly will be contacted by Bowlsby, who was given instructions last month by the league’s board of directors to “actively evaluate” expansion.

Memphis, BYU, Cincinnati and Houston have emerged as top candidates to join the more lucrative Power 5 league, but South Florida, Central Florida, UConn, Colorado State and Boise State also are campaigning

Congressional Gold Medal for Pat Summitt will have to wait

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. says he has ended his campaign to award Pat Summitt the Congressional Gold Medal medal because of a lack of support among fellow congressmen before her death and a law requiring a five-year wait for posthumous honor, reports Michael Collins.

Legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal must be sponsored by two-thirds of Congress — 290 House members, 67 senators. Duncan’s bill to honor Summitt had just 142 co-sponsors — 73 Republicans and 69 Democrats.

Summitt’s death last month further complicated matters: To qualify for the award posthumously, a recipient must be deceased at least five years.

While it won’t be possible to award Summitt with the gold medal right now, Duncan said he intends to see if there are other ways for Congress to honor her life and career.

“She has been honored about every way she can,” he said.

Duncan nominated Summitt for the Congressional Gold Medal back in 2014, just a couple of years after she ended her reign as the head coach of the UT women’s basketball team.

UT paying $2.48M to settle sexual harassment lawsuit

The University of Tennessee will pay $2.48 million to settle a federal Title IX lawsuit alleging the university maintains a “hostile sexual environment,” reports the News Sentinel.

Lawyers for UT and the eight unidentified female plaintiffs agreed to the settlement, announced Tuesday, two days before a response to the lawsuit from UT lawyers was due in U.S. District Court.

The settlement, to be paid half by the athletics department and half by the Knoxville campus, still needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger of Nashville.

The lawsuit alleges UT violates Title IX in handling of sexual assault cases, especially accusations against student athletes. The February filing spurred a wave of media attention and brought recent sexual assault cases involving UT athletes as well as allegations against former UT and National Football League quarterback Peyton Manning back into the spotlight.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include the accusers in sexual assault cases against former basketball player Yemi Makanjuola and former football players A.J. Johnson, Michael Williams, Von Pearson, Alexis Johnson and Riyahd Jones. A trial had been set for May 2018.

The settlement amount, just under half of the maximum UT expected to pay had its defense failed, was discussed for months, according to UT.

The settlement required approval from a long list of UT and state officials and comes after Trauger denied motions by the university to dismiss the case, to move the trial from Nashville to Knoxville and to remove references to Manning.

The agreement means UT has paid roughly $4.01 million in settlements and attorney fees for athletics-related lawsuits in the past two years.

In announcing the agreement, UT officials and lawyers called settling the lawsuit “the right thing to do” to prevent an emotional toll on those involved, protect the reputation of UT and avoid added legal costs that the university estimated could reach $5.5 million.

TN begins licensing fantasy sports operators

News release from TN Secretary of State’s office
Nashville, Tennessee – (July 5, 2016) – The Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming has a new name. Effective July 1, it’s now the Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports and Gaming. The division’s new title is a result of the Fantasy Sports Act of 2016 approved by the General Assembly and signed into law in April.

The new law requires fantasy sports operators to obtain a license with the division. The license requirement applies to fantasy sports operators who offer daily and season-long contests that charge players an entry fee to assemble imaginary teams and subsequently offer prizes as a result of the outcome of those games. Examples include DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo! Sports.

There is no requirement for players to register with the Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports and Gaming. Free games where players do not pay an entry fee to win a prize are also excluded from the law. Continue reading

Obama, TN politicians join in tributes to Pat Summitt

Statement of President Barrack Obama, as issued by White House press office

Nobody walked off a college basketball court victorious more times than Tennessee’s Pat Summitt. For four decades, she outworked her rivals, made winning an attitude, loved her players like family, and became a role model to millions of Americans, including our two daughters. Her unparalleled success includes never recording a losing season in 38 years of coaching‎, but also, and more importantly, a 100 percent graduation rate among her players who completed their athletic eligibility. Her legacy, however, is measured much more by the generations of young women and men who admired Pat’s intense competitiveness and character, and as a result found in themselves the confidence to practice hard, play harder, and live with courage on and off the court. As Pat once said in recalling her achievements, “What I see are not the numbers. I see their faces.”

Pat learned early on that everyone should be treated the same. When she would play basketball against her older brothers in the family barn, they didn’t treat her any differently and certainly didn’t go easy on her. Later, her Hall of Fame career would tell the story of the historic progress toward equality in American athletics that she helped advance. Pat started playing college hoops before Title IX and started coaching before the NCAA recognized women’s basketball as a sport. When she took the helm at Tennessee as a 22-year-old, she had to wash her players’ uniforms; by the time Pat stepped down as the Lady Vols’ head coach, her teams wore eight championship rings and had cut down nets in sold-out stadiums.

Pat was a patriot who earned Olympic medals for America as a player and a coach, and I was honored to award her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was a proud Tennessean who, when she went into labor while on a recruiting visit, demanded the pilot return to Knoxville so her son could be born in her home state. And she was an inspiring fighter. Even after Alzheimer’s started to soften her memory, and she began a public and brave fight against that terrible disease, Pat had the grace and perspective to remind us that “God doesn’t take things away to be cruel. … He takes things away to lighten us. He takes things away so we can fly.”

Michelle and I send our condolences to Pat Summitt’s family – which includes her former players and fans on Rocky Top and across America. Continue reading

On legalizing fantasy sports gambling in TN

Without fanfare, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill pushed by online giants DraftKings and FanDuel allowing the companies and approximately 1 million Tennessee players who are already participating to do so legally, reports the Times-Free Press. The legislation will create an exemption from state anti-gambling provisions.

Sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville, the legislation was pushed by the companies here in anticipation of legal trouble after attorneys general in a number of states, including New York, Texas and Nevada, ruled fantasy sports violated their laws.

…Not long after the bill initially passed the Tennessee Senate, state Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion declaring that fantasy sports are indeed gambling — and illegal under Tennessee law.

While proponents said the online games are based on players’ skill in picking their teams, Slatery said there’s an element of chance and participants stand to gain financially. He said that’s gambling in Tennessee, and it’s illegal. The legal opinion was requested by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

Early on, DraftKings and FanDuel were taking no chances.

According to filings with the Tennessee Ethics Commission, they hired McMahan Winstead, a Nashville lobbying firm whose clients have included tobacco companies, liquor stores and payday lenders. The companies also enlisted Washington, D.C., lobbyist Scott Ward, who serves as government affairs counsel for the law firm Orrick. And DraftKings hired former House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner.

At least eight lobbyists were registered to speak on the bill.
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Horse racing study launched by legislature

The House approved and sent to the governor today a bill that tales a first step toward setting up a horse race gambling system in Tennessee.

The bill (SB1738) passed the Senate 24-2 on April 7 under sponsorship of Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. It was approved by the House today 50-32 with Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, as sponsor.

The measure sets up a seven-member “State Horse Racing Advisory Committee,” appointed by the governor, that must come up with its recommendations by July 1, 2018.

Horse race gambling was legalized years ago with a state Racing Commission named to oversee licensing and regulation – but no operations were ever established and the commission ceased to exist. In their comments, the sponsors said that one factor was that the state would get 5 percent of all proceeds – a figure they said was too high and discouraged people from investing in horse racing in Tennessee.

Niceley said in committee that he envisions small racing operations around the state at county fairs and the like as well as harness racing and steeplechase events.

Final approval given bill to legalize and tax fantasy sports betting

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s Legislature passed a bill that would make clear that fantasy sports betting is legal, but would also regulate it and put a tax on it.

The Senate passed the Fantasy Sports Tax Act on Tuesday, and the bill (HB2105) is now on its way to the governor. The legislation follows a state attorney general issued legal opinion issued earlier this month that said fantasy sports contests are illegal gambling.

The measure says online companies that offer the contests must be licensed by the state. The measure also generally limits players to betting no more than $2,500 per month, unless they can show that the limit should be increased. And it would allow the state to impose a 6 percent gambling tax on the adjusted revenue of fantasy sport operators.
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TN public universities spent $50M on coach salaries in 2015

Public universities in Tennessee spent $50.7 million on coaches’ salaries in 2015 with the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis leading the way, according to data compiled through a USA TODAY national investigation.

Further, as reported by the Commercial Appeal:

The University of Tennessee, with an operating budget of $126.6 million, spent $18.2 million on salaries, or 14.3 percent of its budget. The University of Memphis, with an operating budget of $43.4 million, spent $11.2 million on salaries, or 25.8 percent of its budget.

Only one of the other seven public universities in the state — Middle Tennessee State — spent more than $5 million on coaching salaries. Middle Tennessee paid its coaches $5.3 million, or 16.8 percent of its budget.

At Tennessee, the athletic program’s spending on coaches salaries hasn’t increased as quickly as it has at Memphis, but the $18,160,180 the Vols spent in 2015 is almost $7 million more than the Tigers’ $11,191,649 and the highest total in the state.

The gap between Tennessee and the other schools in the state is much larger in support staff and administrative compensation. Tennessee spent $20,470,689 in that category in 2015. No other state school spent more than $6,075,765.

Tennessee has been able to spend more in compensation in part because it has had to pay less money in severance packages. Tennessee has spent a total of $21,087,757 on severance pay since 2005 including $7,969,849 in 2013 when football coach Derek Dooley and his staff were fired. Tennessee also spent $3,719,285 in severance in 2011 when basketball coach Bruce Pearl, baseball coach Todd Raleigh and athletic director Mike Hamilton were fired and $6,953,625 in 2009 after football coach Phillip Fulmer was fired.

AG: Fantasy sports are illegal gambling in TN

By Shelia Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s attorney general has called fantasy sports contests illegal gambling.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued a formal opinion Tuesday that said fantasy sports betting violates state laws against gambling. He said that’s because participants pay an entry fee to win a prize and a portion of that fee goes to a pot where wins are paid out.

In fantasy sports, players assemble imaginary teams made up of professional sports figures. These virtual teams compete against each other based on how well the real professional players wind up performing in the real world. The attorney general said that while participants may use skill to select players, the actual performance of many athletes is often left to chance by things like the weather, injuries and referees

The attorney general’s opinion comes as states across the country have wrestled with the question of whether the popular games played by millions of Americans should be banned outright or face more regulation. Last year nearly 30 legislatures considered proposals to outright ban the games, legalize them or regulate them. Continue reading