• Column: Texas athletes deserve to capitalize on successes

    The Longhorns can be 6-0 if you have a video game controller in your hand. But in real life, the Longhorns are 2-4, and a new edition of Electronic Arts’ NCAA Football hasn’t been released for two years.

    Trademark licensing from conferences and the NCAA has created issues for EA Sports, but uncertainties surrounding player likeness lawsuits like O’Bannon vs. NCAA provide the biggest source of anxiety for not only EA Sports but college football as a whole.

    Currently, the O’Bannon case represents the biggest threat to the NCAA amateurism structure. The initial case, brought forth by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon in 2009, regarded the NCAA’s profit from the names and likenesses of former student-athletes. The case has since been expanded to include all NCAA Division I football and men’s basketball players.

    On Aug. 8, 2014, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken determined that men’s basketball and football players should receive a $5,000 stipend.

    However, last September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the $5,000 student-athlete stipend while upholding the ruling that the NCAA is violating antitrust laws. In doing so, this ruling reinforces the amateurism model that the organization continues to sell to the public.

    Despite its overall lack of legal success, the O’Bannon lawsuit is viewed by many as the first domino in the fall of the NCAA.

    In a proactive measure, the University has increased the scholarship money received by student-athletes from $21,552 to $25,862. This is far from the $10,000 amount that former athletic director Steve Patterson proposed had the NCAA lost the O’Bannon case. But it is an attempt to reconcile the existence of the student-athlete in a billion-dollar business.

    The University is a major player in the business. According to reports from the Associated Press, the University of Texas and Nike have agreed to a 15-year, $200 million licensing and apparel deal. That's $13.3 million per year in revenue — on top of media rights deals, the Longhorn Network and the athletic program itself.

    With that said, each student-athlete deserves more than $4,310 in spending money. A lot more.

    After quarterback Jerrod Heard's record-setting performance against California, he deserved the opportunity to capitalize on it. Whether that's through selling his autograph or appearing in a Nike commercial, Heard should have that opportunity. Increasing those rights is a practical, free-market solution that would allow the NCAA and the rest of the billion-dollar college sports business to exist. Heard can earn the extra money he deserves, but the University will not suffer financially.

    Texas is one of the most valuable brands in college football. The student-athletes who have built that brand deserve to profit, too.

  • University reaches 15-year deal with Nike, according to sources

    The University of Texas has reached a 15-year deal with Nike, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The Statesman reports the value of the deal is expected to be close to $200 million, making it the biggest shoe and apparel deal in college sports.

    The University of Michigan signed a 15-year agreement with Nike over the summer worth $169 million. 

    Under Armour was expected to be in the bidding for Texas, but the Statesman reported the school canceled it’s meeting with Under Armour on Oct. 4. Even had Under Armour made an offer, Nike would have had the chance to match it.

  • Bedford says Texas' freshmen, pass rush continue to make strides

    Texas freshmen earning more playing time

    Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said Wednesday that the team’s freshmen are maturing and gaining more confidence. With the mental growth, those freshmen will see the field more.

    “When you get older, you get confidence, and you feel a little more intelligent,” Bedford said. “You learn how not to do certain things and how to do certain things. We’re moving in that direction now with a lot of young guys.”

    Bedford particularly praised the play of freshman cornerback Holton Hill. Hill played significant time in the Longhorns’ last two games, and he’s earned his coaches’ trust.

    “You look at Holton Hill — he’s started two games — he’s gotten better and better,” Bedford said. “You can see a young man that’s growing as a football player and maturing.”

    Hill and his freshmen teammates are undoubtedly making an impact for Texas’ defense. However, they are still young, and Bedford said growing pains are expected.

    “They all still make freshman mistakes,” Bedford said. “They make bumps and they have to grow up and learn what to do all the time to be consistent.”

    Longhorns focusing on rushing the quarterback

    Texas’ defense controlled the line of scrimmage in its 24-17 victory over the No. 17 Sooners. The Longhorns penetrated Oklahoma’s backfield and sacked junior quarterback Baker Mayfield six times. Now, Texas looks to build on its attacking style.

    “We need to be aggressive,” Bedford said. “I said 'let’s put pressure on the quarterback and see can he make a play'.”

    The Longhorns haven’t been successful at rushing the quarterback all season. Texas ranks just No. 59 in sacks, and Bedford said the team has missed around 10 to 15 sacks this season. Yet, after consistently getting to Mayfield, Texas’ defense has confidence that it can make big plays going forward, according to Bedford.

    “We’ve pressured quite a bit this year, but we just haven’t been able to make plays,” Bedford said. “I think you saw us take a step in the right direction [against Oklahoma].”

  • All eyes are on Kevin Durant in his final year of his contract

    Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant has a lot of eyes on him as the 2015–2016 NBA season approaches.

    The former Longhorn has one year left on his current contract before he tests the waters of free agency. He also is still recovering from his injury-riddled 2014–2015 season.

    Two seasons ago, Durant was the league MVP, averaging an NBA-high 32.0 points per game to lead the Thunder to a 59-23 season — the second-best record in the Western Conference. He guided the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals, where the Spurs ousted Oklahoma City in six games.

    Durant and the Thunder were less fortunate during the 2014–2015 season. As the season launched, Durant spent 17 games sidelined with a fracture in his right foot. Upon returning, he reverted to his stellar scoring averages, posting 25.4 points per game on 51 percent shooting, but then he suffered an ankle injury. Durant played his last game of the season in February before sitting out with complications from a foot fracture. Without Durant, the Thunder missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The team went 18-9 in games with Durant and 27-28 as Durant sat out.

    On September 23, Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Durant is cleared to play and has “been playing without restriction.” Even if Durant is healthy and returns to MVP form, the team still faces many challenges.

    The Western Conference is extremely competitive , featuring the defending-champion Golden State Warriors as well as the Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and Grizzlies. After a season of missing the playoffs, it is uncertain where the Thunder belong in this picture. The team has not reached the NBA Finals since 2012, when All-Star James Harden still competed alongside Durant and Russell Westbrook. But the Thunder’s drop speaks more to the health of their lineup.

    If the Thunder cannot overcome these obstacles and return to the NBA Finals, Kevin Durant’s offseason will prove eventful. Many teams will recruit him, most notably his home team, the  Washington Wizards. During NBA Media Day on Sept. 28, Durant said he is not “looking for people to lobby [him].” While he focuses on playing basketball, many NBA teams will focus on luring him to their teams.

    “[We will] throw a pitch at him and try to get him to come back,” Wizards point guard John Wall said at the media day.

    Fully recovered from injury, Durant will be under a great spotlight all season long, from opening night to free agency next July. In his first game back with the Thunder, he will face the San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 28.

  • Longhorns confident as they prepare to take on Kansas State

    Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard said Tuesday that the Longhorns’ chemistry is peaking after a week off. 

    “Our chemistry right now is awesome,” Heard said. “We’re feeling for each other out there. The O-line, communication-wise, is great. … The receivers are running the right routes. Everything is coming together.”

    Heard said the upset win against the Sooners sparked new and improved chemistry. Additionally, several players are back from injury, which gives the Longhorns an extra punch.

    “We’ve been very banged up up front,” play-caller Jay Norvell said. “That affected us the last couple weeks, to be honest, … but this bye week has really helped us to heal up. We weren’t 100 percent, to be honest with you.”  

    The Longhorns are particularly satisfied with the offense’s progress through bye-week practices. Heard said the unit improved the most during the week off. Now, he expects it to put up points.

    “That’s the one thing we wanted to do.” Heard said. “Just help our defense out, chew the clock down and execute.”

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