Every person in sports has one thing in common: they want to win. For years, winning was determined by ownership, front offices, and coaching. Their decisions regarding which players to draft, trade, develop, and coach had a significant impact on the outlook of the franchise. Then, in 2003, everything changed.

Oakland Athletics’ General Manager, former player Billy Beane revolutionized the world of sports forever. Beane used sabermetrics to discover the secret to success in baseball and improve the often imperfect science of sports. This was the first known use of the prioritization of statistics and data to make personnel decisions in professional sports. Beane’s thought process was simple. He theorized that a team with a high on-base percentage was a team more likely to score runs and, as a result, more likely to win more games. Beane built his team around that central tendency and helped the Athletics find success. Ever since Beane’s introduction, sports analytics has not only revolutionized baseball’s modern era but professional sports as a whole.

Today, every major professional sports team has at least one analytic expert, most frequently supported by an entire analytics department. The current sports analytics market has an evaluated net worth of $774.6 million, a small price in comparison to its expected growth. Due to analytics’ profound impact on baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and most other sports, the market is expected to grow at an astronomical compound annual growth rate of 31.2% by 2025, increasing its worth to well over four and a half-billion dollars. 

This exponential growth is a result of the competitive advantage that analytics provides a team. Mathematicians record hundreds of categories of stats on each individual player, crunching those numbers in order to provide an overall assessment of the athlete’s compatibility with the team and help make the work of scouts and general managers easier. Analysts create an overall profile of a player to determine if that player is worth drafting, signing, trading for, or even cutting.

The increased popularity of data analytics has even trickled its way down to the fans. Websites like FiveThirtyEight have over 20 journalists counting and crunching numbers for fans to gain a better understanding of an upcoming game, series, or season. Additionally, they track and project player performances as well as overall win-loss records and game results. The increased accessibility that these websites provide to fans has certainly contributed to the rampant run analytics has taken throughout athletics. 

Basketball has also been heavily impacted by the widespread use of data analytics. National Basketball Association (NBA) teams now use a form of a technology called “Player Tracking” which evaluates the efficiency of a team by analyzing individual player movement, on and off the ball. Each team now uses six cameras, installed in the catwalks of arenas, to track the movements of every player on the court and the basketball 25 times per second. This data provides a plethora of statistics on speed, distance, player separation, and ball possession. However, the way in which the data is used, determines how effective it can be. The sheer volume of data that is currently collected makes decision-making difficult for NBA franchises and results in some teams better utilizing their data than others.

Besides helping teams win, data analytics also drives customer engagement. Teams are running data-driven campaigns to understand what and when fans are watching, via app logins and online video views, in order to maximize their fan engagement. Additionally, this data is used in order to improve the in-stadium gameday experience, concession sales, improve parking lot congestion, and increase the front and back-office intelligence and overall understanding of their athletes and fanbase. 

Most recently, data analytics has made its way into the National Football League (NFL) in a fascinating manner. Harvard University senior Ella Papanek is a research and strategy intern who assisted with Cleveland Brown’s analytical preparation for its 2021 AFC wild-card game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL has quickly become a data-hungry league with websites like Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference popularizing the globalization of analytics. Papanek developed a player projection model for Cleveland’s analytics team to assess and plan for the upcoming game accordingly. Papanek is indicative of the ever-expanding market of data analytics and the countless job opportunities developing in the field.

While Billy Beane thought he was just going to turn around an abysmal Oakland Athletics team, he instead revolutionized sports forever. Data analytics has become an integral part of all major sports and provides coaches, general managers, and other stakeholders with a competitive advantage in predicting outcomes and assessing individual player performances. Professional sports have just recently scratched the surface of data analytics and the opportunities and benefits that will one day amount from it are endless.

 

On May 14th, 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, thus providing each state the decision and opportunity to legalize sports betting. This decision has revolutionized the sports gambling world, propelling the betting industry into an incredibly lucrative market space. As the rate of sports gambling continues to increase exponentially in the United States, the industry’s future remains bright. But what will the lasting impact of the wide legalization of sports betting be?

Aiming to profit from the newly legal industry, 25 states and Washington D.C. have chosen to legalize sports betting and 80% of the other states are expected to do the same in the next few years. Since then, over $20 billion in bets have been placed (ESPN). In 2020, U.S. sports betting generated one billion dollars in revenue, and that number is expected to grow sixfold by 2023 (Forbes). If betting is legalized by all 50 states, the estimated revenue would exceed $19 billion a year. 

Many companies and organizations are attempting to capitalize on this rapidly expanding industry. This includes major sports leagues in the U.S. such as the MLB, NBA, and NFL. These leagues have come to understand how strong and dedicated the sports betting demographic can be and they have chosen to support that fanbase. Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s senior vice president and head of fantasy and gaming, explains the matter.

“We want to meet the fans wherever they are and so, if [betting is] how they’re choosing to engage, we want to support that,” Kaufman-Ross said. “We’ve seen the data that shows people who play fantasy sports, people who bet on sports, they are some of our most engaged fans. They consume more content than traditional fans – they watch more games and for longer periods of time.”

Partnerships between leagues, teams, and betting platforms have also exploded in popularity in recent years. The MLB’s Chicago Cubs just inked a $100 million deal with DraftKings and the NBA has secured deals with Genius Sports Group (GSG) and Sportradar. Many other organizations are following in their footsteps, with the hopes of benefitting the leagues, teams, fans, and other companies.

“The wealth of data around US sports is impressive and the customers’ appetite is massive,” Kaufman-Ross said. “That translates in fantasy-type games being hugely popular but also, from a sports betting perspective, it’s showing a higher propensity of data-driven player propositions. The leagues have made a big step towards providing real-time data to licensed league operators and that is the basis of a partnership that can be successful for both leagues and operators while delivering a better experience for the fans and customers.”

In this past Super Bowl, over 23 million Americans reported plans to bet a total of $4.3 billion (Forbes). 7.6 million of those bets were placed online, up 63% from the previous year. Due to technology’s constant accessibility, online gambling is becoming the most popular medium. An increase in gambling addictions has come with this change.

After reviewing over 140 studies and reports related to sports gambling and addiction, the National Council on Problem Gaming (NCPG) offered a statement. “Recent research suggests that gambling problems may increase as sports gambling grows explosively at the same time that mobile and online technologies evolve to create seemingly unlimited types of wagering opportunities.” Additionally, the NCPG found that sports bettors have at least two times higher rates of addiction than other gamblers, and these rates of addiction increase in an online format. This is because online gambling provides increased convenience and privacy. 

Online sports betting has also made it easier for minors to get addicted to gambling. Many minors are able to illegally create accounts and begin betting from a young age. A recent study found that 75% more students are gambling now than in 2015, but many people are now working to counteract this growing movement. Moving forward, organizations such as the NCPG are working to research the dangers of gambling addictions and educate the public. Additionally, they are aiming to prohibit TV advertisements for sports betting and to enact stricter laws/regulations surrounding the topic. If the industry is able to reduce the amount of underage gambling as well as addiction, then the future will remain increasingly bright and astronomically lucrative. Sports betting truly is sweeping its way through the nation. So, with that being said, in one of the biggest games of the year, Alabama +3 or Georgia -3? You heard it here first: Roll Tide!

Every single day thousands of UCLA students stream down the Hill, walking to class. Every single day thousands of students roam Bruin Walk and study in Royce Hall. Every single day thousands of students pass by the beloved Pauley Pavilion. And every one of these days, these students pass by the statue of our legendary, renowned head coach John Wooden. It leaves me wondering one thing: Can Mick Cronin fill these shoes and truly be our next Coach Wooden?

Mick Cronin was born on July 17th, 1971 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cronin has always had a love for basketball and has played for as long as he can remember. As a 5’3” high school point guard, Cronin led the city in assists, was second in three-point shooting percentage and earned all-city honors in basketball at LaSalle High School. However, after an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), his playing career was sadly forced to end. But, Cronin didn’t let this obstacle get in the way of the game he loves. 

After high school, Cronin attended his hometown school, the University of Cincinnati. While accompanying his father, a coach at the University of Cincinnati, on a scouting mission to Cincinnati Woodward High School, Cronin was offered a job coaching the freshman team and serving as a varsity assistant coach. In his short tenure there, Cronin accumulated a very impressive record of 57-3, leading Woodward to three city championships. Additionally, Cronin helped develop six players who would go on to play Division I basketball. Coach Cronin was officially born. 

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in 1996, Cronin remained at the University as a video coordinator, eventually being promoted to assistant coach. Cronin worked there until 2001 and very quickly gained the reputation of being able to elevate and recruit top talent. Cronin was soon offered the job of recruiting coordinator and associate head coach at Louisville under Rick Pitino and in his first year he attracted a top ten recruiting class. By 2003, Cronin was ready for his first head coaching position at Murray State. In three seasons here, Cronin led the Racers to two NCAA tournament appearances and was named the Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year. By 2006, Cronin returned to his alma mater to be the head coach and face of Cincinnati basketball.

Cronin arrived at the scene to find a relatively depleted basketball program, with scarce recruiting in the past year. Cronin’s team was so understaffed that he was forced to recruit future NFL linebacker Connor Barwin from the Cincinnati football team to play for the basketball program. Cronin’s team may have struggled early on throughout his tenure, but he quickly righted the ship. By the end of the 2017 season, Cronin had amassed a 166–63 record, spent 45 weeks ranked in the AP Poll, and reached 6 straight NCAA Tournaments, while picking up 4 NCAA Tournament wins. During this period, Cronin’s legendary recruiting record held up once again. In the 2009-2010 season, Cronin recruited Lance Stephenson to the team, a player who had just become the all-time leading scorer in New York state high school basketball history. During his one season at Cincinnati, Stephenson was named the Big East Rookie of the Year and later had NBA stints with multiple teams. In Cronin’s most successful season as head coach, he led 6th seeded Cincinnati to a win over 3rd seed Florida State in 2012. This allowed the Bearcats to reach the Sweet 16, while recording their only ever win over a higher seeded team in tournament history. It is safe to say that Cronin left his mark on this university. 

Leaving Cincinnati was a difficult decision for Cronin. On one hand, the school felt like a home to him. But on the other hand, Cronin couldn’t turn down the opportunity that he was presented with. That opportunity was to become head coach of one of the most legendary and historic basketball programs in the world. He was honored to be yet another successor to the almighty John Wooden and write his name down next to some of the UCLA greats.

In his introductory press conference with UCLA, Cronin revealed how excited, overwhelmed and thankful he was to be given this opportunity. He wasn’t sure that this day would ever come. 

“Yesterday was the toughest day of my life professionally – telling the team that you love you’re leaving,” Cronin said. “I never thought I’d have that meeting, to be honest with you. I never thought that day would come, that I’d ever have to have that meeting. But, 11 National championships, having the best players, graduating elite student-athletes, all of the above is at your fingertips here. I understand it’s a tremendous challenge – tremendous challenge. But it’s also a great opportunity. And one that I was not going to pass up. Because I came from a situation obviously where I was at home. We had great success. But I had a chance to be the coach at UCLA. Let’s be honest. The chance to be the coach where John Wooden coached. This is not a hard decision. To be named the head basketball coach not only at John Wooden’s program and UCLA but to be named the head basketball coach at the world’s foremost No. 1 public institution is an unbelievable, incredible honor for me. So I’m overwhelmed a little bit. But, trust me, I’m prepared. You’ve got to embrace it. You only live once.” 

Cronin’s first year as head coach was off to a shaky start, however he was able to eventually turn it around. The Bruins went on to win 11 of their final 14 games, en route to a second place finish in the Pac-12. Once again, the basketball community took note of Cronin’s coaching abilities as he was awarded Pac-12 Coach of the Year and NABC District 19 Coach of the Year honors. The Bruin’s ended the season as one of the top rebounding teams in the nation and had three straight victories against ranked opponents, giving the UCLA fanbase a taste of what was yet to come. Furthermore, one of the most promising aspects of this season was seeing the player development that is capable in the hands of Cronin. Chris Smith earned the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player of the Year award and Tyger Campbell’s safe, smart and reliable basketball performances were encouraging to see after his freshman year ACL injury. Cronin and his fiery demeanor made it clear in his debut season, the future is bright.

Cronin’s second season served as a complete revival of UCLA basketball. He led the Bruins to a 22-10 regular season record, but, after a disappointing Pac-12 tournament the Bruins finished fourth in the conference. Luckily enough, UCLA was granted a play-in game to the 2020-2021 NCAA tournament, allowing Cronin to make history. Cronin became one of five coaches to lead their team to all 10 of the past NCAA tournaments, joining the elite company of Mark Few, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and recently retired Roy Williams. This tournament run proved to be historic, as the Bruins went on to upset Brigham Young University (BYU), Alabama, Michigan and eventually suffer a heart-breaking, buzzer-beater loss to Gonzaga. 

In a press conference after this legendary run, Cronin had a message for the nation as he declared that UCLA basketball was finally here to stay.

“Nobody picked us,” Cronin said. “Nobody believed in us. And that’s how we like it.”

Cronin and the UCLA basketball team are hungrier than ever to show the world what this basketball program is made of. And, after last season, they are starting to get the recognition that they deserve. Keeping in theme of Cronin’s elite player development, UCLA had a trio of selections to the year-end All-Pac-12 team in 2020-21, including Tyger Campbell (first team), Jaime Jaquez Jr. (second team) and Johnny Juzang (second team). Juzang was arguably the nation’s biggest breakout star and is ready to run it back this 2021-2022 season under Cronin’s tutelage. 

Cronin is entering his third year as The Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach, with a cumulative coaching record of 406-196 (.678 win percentage), in the Bruin’s most highly anticipated season in recent memory. Entering the season as the nationally ranked number two seed, UCLA had an electric overtime victory over 4th ranked Villanova, proving to the nation that the Bruins mean business. UCLA will look to dominate the Pac-12 this year and hopefully compete for a national championship in March. A highly anticipated final four rematch between UCLA and Gonzaga is right around the corner this Tuesday, as UCLA looks to rewrite the history books and steal away that number one ranking in the nation.

This UCLA basketball team is full of depth but also possesses elite scorers and lockdown defenders. The Bruins are serious contenders this year, but this reign will look to continue years down the line under Coach Cronin’s guidance. Cronin has the team playing a quick paced offense this year, spreading the wealth around and getting their various sharpshooters as many looks as possible. On the other side of the ball, Cronin has the team playing aggressive defense, featuring more full court-press than previous years. The team’s movements and rotations are looking strong and all signs point to NCAA success. Cronin is strategically utilizing his large inventory of weapons, making UCLA one of the more, if not most, dynamic and lethal teams in the conference and nation. 

While hopes are high for this season, Cronin’s elite recruiting and talent development paired with the love and care he has for each player should enable the Bruins to be a basketball powerhouse for years to come. He has fostered a unique basketball environment here, one in which will certainly attract future stars down the line. Cronin has turned the likes of Johnny Juzang, Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez Jr, and Jules Bernard into elite college basketball players. Who’s to say what he can accomplish with 5 star recruit Peyton Watson this year or 5 star recruits Amari Bailey and Adem Bona next year? While winning is starting to become synonymous with his name, Cronin’s hallmark recruiting abilities have reestablished this basketball program, and established it with the intentions of longevity. Last year’s Final Four run was very exciting, but Cronin knows his job isn’t done yet. He yearns for that 12th National Championship and he has the weapons and basketball expertise to bring it home to Westwood. Maybe one day he can get a statue right next to John Wooden, because Cronin and UCLA basketball alike are here to stay.

Life as a professional athlete is very different from life as a corporate employee, particularly financially. As an athlete, you get your money on a reverse trajectory from the norm. A draft or signing bonus would be more than enough to constitute the ordinary person’s retirement fund, mortgages, and future childrens’ college funds. However, without careful consideration, that money can be, and often is, gone before they know it, leading to a life of financial ruin and regret.

A Sports Illustrated statistic states that a staggering 78% of all National Football League (NFL) and 60% of all National Basketball Association (NBA) players will declare bankruptcy within 1 and 5 years of retirement, respectively. The NFL is at the forefront of this growing dilemma due to their incomparably low average career lengths. In the three years or less than the average pro career lasts, NFL players make an average of $2 million per year. Athlete Essentials, a wealth management firm that caters to athletes, acknowledges that most NFL draftees are too young and immature to acquire such large amounts of money, as well as they being unequipped to manage or save that money to last. These young athletes, who often come from nothing, suddenly enter a world in which they have just been handed more fame and money than they ever could have imagined. Many tend to fall into a lavish lifestyle characterized by million-dollar cars, mansions, parties, and more. But by the third or fourth year of their careers, many players begin to struggle to live up to their lifestyle’s lavish standards as their signing bonus begins to dwindle. Before long, many athletes have begun living well beyond their means and are desperate for another paycheck. 

Furthermore, athletes tend to overproject their own levels of success, which can quickly lead to financial ruin. If a talented athlete is expecting a second multi-million dollar contract to be waiting around the corner, there is a fairly decent probability that they are going to squander most of their first deal. This can be exponentially more detrimental when an athlete gets injured. With the way the NFL contracts are structured, a large percentage of athletes’ salaries are non-guaranteed, meaning that if a player has a devastating career-ending injury, there is very little that can be done. These players, expecting to make millions of more dollars over the course of their careers, find themselves with very few options and oftentimes large amounts of debt. And don’t forget, only about 50% of players in the NFL have their college degrees, while the other 50% might struggle to find a future job somewhere else. While you might see established NFL stars such as Tom Brady walk in wearing a $12,000 suit and pricier watch, it is starting to become evident that athletes like him represent the minority, not the majority of the leagues. 

The lack of financial guidance that the NFL fosters is almost entirely liable for this situation. There is very little systemic support offered within the NFL offices and very little financial mentorship offered by staff or even players. This poor financial decision-making is often passed on from generation to generation, furthering this endless cycle. 

However, the NFL has begun implementing programs and guidelines in order to educate and assist all of the athletes that enter the league. The NFL has begun encouraging young NFL players to budget their initial paychecks until they are sure they will have steady income down the line. Additionally, the NFL is urging all athletes to hire a financial advisor to help manage spending habits and maximize their investment portfolios. NFL safety Glover Quinn, recently decided to store away 70% of his post-tax income with the intention of being able to live comfortably and support his family through retirement. This is the type of financial planning that the NFL is encouraging and believes will save the future of countless players. The NFL doesn’t want these young athletes to ignore the urge to splurge, but they want them to do so in a controlled, advised manner. While these players might enjoy competing with each others’ extravagant lifestyles and purchases, it isn’t sustainable and would be disapproved of by any reasonable financial advisor. 

While the NFL is beginning to incite change on the professional level, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has to be more prepared than ever to do the same. With the recent Name, Image, Likeness Laws that passed across the NCAA, which allows for student compensation, younger athletes than ever will be coming into very large amounts of money. These college students have been given a platform, and depending on the school and popularity of the sport, have the potential to earn millions of dollars in income ever before playing a professional second of sports. These athletes are even younger and have less experience managing money than professionals, but the NCAA and its new initiatives are on it. 

In a recent survey published in the Journal of Athlete Development and Experience, every athlete that participated responded that they would benefit from learning financial literacy and education. Over 60% of the athletes hadn’t received any source of financial education in high school and only 9% had since met with a financial advisor. It is also said that very few students knew about the NCAA’s existing financial literacy instructional videos, however, they are in the process of getting those videos more attractive. Additionally, the NCAA is working on making financial training available through videos, tips via text message, workshops just for student-athletes, meetings with a peer counselor, book recommendations, mandatory classes, and seminars, and even through an app on your phone. Corporate partners are very enthusiastic and willing to come to talk with athletes about budgeting, establishing credit, and planning financially for their future, and it is proving to be a necessary step for all young athletes. 

While thousands of athletes have been forced to declare bankruptcy, the major professional and college sports associations are working tirelessly to prevent this in the future. These athletes are handling significant amounts of money at increasingly young ages, and it is incredibly important that they are responsible for it. With the help of financial literacy lessons and advisors, hopefully, the financial state of retired/injured athletes will begin to improve. This is a very serious issue within the industry, and the governing bodies like the NFL and NCAA are finally starting to treat it as so.

It is once again that time of year. Football season is winding down and basketball season is revving up. Soon enough there will be thousands of students lining up outside of Pauley Pavilion waiting three-plus hours just to get inside. Camping out in line will all be worth it to see the basketball team, adorning their fresh Jordan brand jerseys, lacing up their new, clean white kicks, and starting off a season overrun by lofty expectations. After last year’s historic final four-run, the UCLA men’s basketball team is hungry to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.

 The 2020-2021 regular season campaign was a tumultuous one in which the Bruins lost All-Conference First Team senior Chris Smith to injury. Additionally, they went on a late losing streak in January and saw themselves get eliminated from the PAC-12 Tournament in the semi-finals to an overperforming Oregon State team. However, UCLA was ready by the time tournament season came around. They ultimately looked like an entirely different team, a team that was firing on all cylinders. A team that was led by Mick Cronin’s impressive coaching and Johnny Juzang’s lights-out shooting. That’s the team that every Bruin fan is anxiously waiting and hoping to see come firing out of the gates this 2021-2022 season. 

After only losing two players from last year’s roster, both of which had already been phased out of the Bruin’s roster rotation midway through the season, the Bruins bring back an entire starting lineup and supporting cast that is stacked on paper and full of chemistry. 3rd-year student and floor general Tyger Campbell makes his return to captain last year’s 11th most efficient offense in the nation. Additionally, Campbell looks to lead the team in assist rate (30.2%) again while averaging 13.7 points and 4.7 assists per game in the late stages of the tournament. Campbell’s high level of basketball IQ and ability to control the pace and play of the game make him a valuable asset to the Bruin’s starting five.

Few players in the country will enter this 2021-2022 season as touted as Johnny Juzang himself. After flirting with the idea of entering the NBA draft, Juzang ultimately decided to run it back with the Bruins and the student body couldn’t be more grateful. After an abysmal shooting performance all season, Juzang broke out in the tournament and his hands got hot, falling just four points shy of setting UCLA’s all-time record for most points by an individual in the tournament, 141 versus 137. All eyes are on Juzang this year as the rest of the country wonders if he is capable of leading this Bruins team on yet another deep tournament run as he also vies for the Naismith College Player of the Year honors.

While Johnny Juzang is certainly the star, none of UCLA’s success would be possible without his right-hand man, the team’s leading rebounder Jaime Jacquez Jr. Additionally, Jaime Jaquez led the team in minutes played, starting all 32 games, producing 21 double digit performances and averaging marks of 15.0 points, 6.3 boards, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Jaquez maintained the highest offensive rating on the team and is prepared to be a serious contributor this year as well, hopefully en route to a second final four appearance and maybe a national championship. 

After a shaky start to the season offensively, Jules Bernard really kicked into high gear later on. Bernard ended the season with nine double-digit games in the final 12 and helped improve the Bruin’s spacing and defense while providing reliable ball control in place of Campbell and Juzang. In his final season as a Bruin, Bernard hopes to hold on to his starting lineup spot but has a bench with high star recruits eager to take his place. 

The Bruin’s center position will almost certainly be filled by Cody Riley, however, he is going to have to perform to keep his starting role. After playing and starting in 31 games last year, after being used in a higher percentage of possessions than anyone else on the roster, and after tallying 19 double-digit nights, Riley has secured his job. However, nobody would be surprised to see Cronin mix up the lineup at some point in this season as he is anxious to debut four-star Rutgers transfer, Myles Johnson. Johnson has become a highly anticipated transfer due to his status as one of the deadliest shooters and rebounders of all Big 10 posts. The recent graduate transfer logged an impressive 68.2% shooting clip while averaging 8 points and 8.5 rebounds. Johnson and Riley will make a very formidable, strong defensively, and reliably offensively center duo.

The Bruins bench and role players are chock full of athletes ready to contribute to the team’s success. David Singleton is ready to serve as an elite shooter and defensive wing for the team. Jake Kyman is prepared to hit his threes and hopefully continue with some of the success he found in big moments his freshman year. Jalen Clark had a very impressive second half of the season. He is emerging as one of the conference’s youngest, best, and most reliable defenders and is said to have improved drastically on offense this offseason. Clark should see an expanded role on this team and will hopefully be able to capitalize on it. 

Arguably the most highly anticipated UCLA Bruin would be the incoming recruit, 5 star Peyton Watson. Watson was the highest-ranked basketball player in the state of California and courtesy of his 6’8” stature will be competing for minutes at forward. Watson is expected to be offensively and defensively and is a projected lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft. Hopefully, he is able to restore UCLA’s athletic glory and bring a national championship to Westwood before he is drafted. Additionally, with recent commitments from the class of 2022, the Bruins seem to have success on the basketball horizon. Bringing in two top 20 players from the national rankings, the Bruins will be led by 5-star recruits Amari Bailey and Adem Bona. This wave of success will only further improve UCLA’s commits and lockdown talented players from the class of 2023 and 2024. Mick Cronin and the Bruin’s look to be in the midst of rebuilding the UCLA basketball dynasty and it all starts with this year. Sitting at number 2 on the preseason power rankings and with expectations of a Pac-12 championship and deep tournament run, this season is certainly going to be one for the ages. Four’s Up! Let’s go win a national championship.

“If we restart youth sports from zero and rebuild it based on children’s physical and emotional needs,” Mark O’Sullivan, a researcher, soccer coach, and youth development expert asked, “would it look like it does today? Hands up for no.”

O’Sullivan asked this question to a large audience of parents to the children of Wasatch Soccer Club and MetaSport FC, two highly competitive soccer clubs based in Utah. These parents pay hundreds of dollars for registration, plus uniform fees, referee fees, state league fees, and more, all in the hope that their kids are getting the best development possible. The most competitive of parents spend thousands of dollars on private training and dedicate hundreds of hours to their children’s athletics. And yet, when O’Sullivan asked this question, every single hand rose to the sky as murmurs of the word “no” spread throughout the crowd. 

Ultimately, American youth sports are on a steep decline as the “pay to play” ideology becomes increasingly intertwined with the youth sports culture. From 2011 to 2017, according to the Aspen Institute, the number of kids aged 6-12 who regularly participate in team sports dropped from 41.5% to 37%. Furthermore, the institute noted that the percentage of kids who participate in high-calorie-burning sports has declined from ​​28.7% to 23.9%. As sports participation levels decrease at the youth level, high school sports participation in 2018-2019 saw its first decline as well since 1989. While youth sports were once dominated by pickup basketball and recreational baseball, today’s youth landscape is increasingly focused on exclusivity, specialization, and professionalization. Almost impossibly, the youth sports industry has grown to an unfathomable $17 billion, bigger than Major League Baseball and the National Football League. 

This pay-to-play aspect of youth sports is creating inequalities throughout the sport as wealthy families shell out thousands of dollars on one-on-one training from pro athletes, weeklong camps, and leagues made up of super teams. On the other hand, low-income families are finding it harder and harder to financially support their children to play. According to the Aspen Institute, just 34% of kids from families earning less than $25,000 a year played a team sport at least one day in 2017, compared to 41.9% in 2011. But among families that earn over $100,000 a year, participation has risen from 66.4% to 69%.

With all these financial barriers being constructed, youth across the country are missing out on many of the benefits that youth sports offer. One of the things young athletes enjoy most about youth sports is the relationships they build. After playing together year after year, traveling together, and growing up together, youth sports serve as a means of allowing so many children across the country to meet their best friends. Additionally, youth sports allow for children to develop a strong work ethic and healthy competitive drive. 

Recently, the Changing the Game Project has announced its goal of “returning youth sports to our children.” They are attempting to have the 10,000-hour rule become the bedrock philosophy of youth sports, encouraging athletes to train for 10,000+ hours in order to become a top player. This rule motivates parents to force their children into specializing in one sport rather than getting a taste for all of them. While specializing in a single sport can be seen as a child’s healthy aspirations to succeed, “extrinsic influences” were common in these situations. 

Due to the extreme amounts of money in the youth sports industry, parents need to be aware of questionable operations and programs. Reputable programs are in must-win positions at all times and if they lose, they risk losing money as well as some of their most talented players. In too many of these programs, winning is a higher priority than player development, demonstrating a flaw within the youth sports system. Additionally, these programs are incredibly volatile as they are always at risk of losing their most talented players to other, more successful programs. This can lead to what is known as the “cascade effect” were supporting players follow the most talented players in an attempt to develop amongst the nation’s best youth and win more tournaments.

Arguably the most toxic component to modern-day youth sports would be the cutthroat nature of their search for prestige, bragging rights, and success on the future level. Hundreds of thousands of athletes alongside their increasingly competitive and involved parents, vying to be the 2% of high school athletes that receive a college scholarship. This cultivates a system in which coaches are forced to tell a kid when they aren’t good enough or that they don’t have a viable future in the sport. While youth sports used to be a casual way for children to exercise and have fun, it has now become a system that applies immense pressure in order to breed athletes who have that slight potential for stardom at the collegiate or professional level. 

On the other end of the spectrum, new national recreational leagues have developed to offer varying forms of youth sports. Leagues like i9 Sports offer for-fun games until athletes reach high school in order to promote a reduced pressure athletic experience. Additionally, these leagues offer the less talented players a chance to get a starting role versus playing limited minutes in some of the highly competitive leagues. 

While youth sports will continue to evolve, it is important to ensure that your child is in the right league setting for their own mindset and development. The pressure and stress caused by these competitive leagues can be detrimental to certain youth, inciting O’Sullivan to make the claim that the common model of youth sports is “linear.” While it may work for some, it doesn’t work for all of the nation’s youth. His point could be likened to someone throwing a bag of eggs at a brick wall. If one of them doesn’t break, we’d hold it up and proclaim, “Look! The system works!” However, Sullivan deems it necessary to develop a new system of youth sports that is encouraging to all participants and fosters a more inclusive and supportive environment for families of all socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds. 

About a year and a half ago, Rudy Gobert became the first National Basketball Association (NBA) player to test positive for COVID-19, forcing the league to shut down. After months of an NBA hiatus and the development of strict health and safety protocols, the season resumed and culminated in a Los Angeles Lakers championship. Now, with the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, the NBA is attempting to return to its normal state with fewer protocols and restrictions. However, a growing movement of NBA players is fighting the vaccine and standing up against the NBA’s attempted mandate. 

In early October, the NBA declared that all coaches and staff are required to get the vaccine (with medical and religious exemptions), however they were unable to enforce this mandate throughout the NBA Players’ Association. The union is attempting to look out for the player’s rights, however the NBA believes that public health crises like these demand a take it or leave it approach. Currently, about 90% of the players across the league have received both doses of the vaccine, meaning there are about 40 players yet to be vaccinated. These players will undergo strict health and safety protocols similar to the “NBA Bubble” in Orlando as well as the 2020-2021 season. Furthermore, these players will be ineligible to play in New York, San Francisco, Toronto and any other city that decides to require a person to show proof of vaccination in order to enter certain indoor entertainment venues. Additionally, practically every stadium will require fans to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in order to enter the stadium, with increasingly strict regulations for those sitting within 15 feet of the court or benches. 

All time NBA leading point scorer and UCLA alumni Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a very definitive stance on the issue: get the vaccine. He firmly believes that it is an irresponsible decision on behalf of any player deciding to jeopardize their own health, their team’s health and potentially even their success.

“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in a Rolling Stone interview. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research. What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”

NBA superstars such as Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and Andrew Wiggins are leading this charge against the vaccination. Andrew Wiggins, who sought religious exemption from the vaccine, is now required by San Francisco law to get the shot. If not, he will be ineligible to play or attend practice. Frustrated with this development, Wiggins believes that he doesn’t owe anybody an explanation for his own personal beliefs. 

“Who are you guys where I have to explain what I believe, what’s right or what’s wrong,” Wiggins said to a group of reporters. “We are two totally different people. What you think is not what I think. What I think is not what you think.”

Famous for conspiracy theories, Irving is at it again. After being widely ridiculed for thinking that the Earth is flat, he is now liking and commenting on Instagram posts and accounts that claim COVID vaccines are a “plan of Satan” to connect Black people to a master computer. This misinformation is the exact lack of research that Abdul-Jabar was referring to, jeopardizing the health and safety of the league. But, with New York’s new vaccine requirements, Irving has been indefinitely banned from team practices, meetings and events. He will also be ineligible to compete at all home games, making this a pivotal decision in his career and sparking retirement rumors. But to him, it is bigger than basketball. 

“I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream over this mandate and what’s going on in this world,” Irving said on an extended Instagram Live broadcast. “I love the game. Sometimes you really have to make choices that ultimately can affect that. It’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are in 2021. I am a bona fide hooper. My legacy will be written forever. I’m grateful to be given this talent to be able to perform on a high stage. But it’s not just about that at this point. It’s bigger than the game.”

In an effort to minimize the push back against the vaccine mandate, the NBA is inciting strict salary penalties for all unvaccinated players. This scare tactic consists of withholding pay for all games missed, simple as that. This means Kyrie Irving will lose about $425,000 per home game. Both Irving and Wiggins would be expected to lose over $15,000,000 in salary. The NBA hopes that these harsh salary reductions will help motivate the anti-vaxxers and bring the league vaccination rate to 100%. 

At the end of the day, the NBA is a business and they need to protect their image. They are returning to a normal 82 game format, meaning there will be limited room for COVID-19 postponements. Both the NBA and their sponsors would stand to lose millions of dollars and millions of impressions on rescheduled games. Ultimately, mandating the COVID vaccine is the smart financial decision as it will prevent these issues, but more importantly, it is the right thing to do as an individual. Every athlete should be vaccinated for the health and safety of the league, their teams and their communities and the NBA won’t rest until this is accomplished.

What is the value of a 2.5 by 3.5 inch piece of cardboard? To most, it is relatively worthless. But to the rapidly expanding, previously niche market of trading card collectors, those 8.75 square inches of cardboard are practically priceless. While it seemed as if technology and sports video games had rendered trading cards invaluable, this recent spike in popularity begs to differ.

A main contributor to trading card’s resurgence was the COVID-19 pandemic. People were stuck at home and finding new ways, increasingly profitable ways to spend their time. Trading cards became one of these avenues. As world renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that collecting serves as a means of imposing order in the world, and amidst the pandemic, people longed for normalcy. Additionally, Holly Schiff, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders, explains this theory more thoroughly.

   “One element of collecting has to do with the ability to gain and exercise control, especially in uncontrollable circumstances — which the pandemic was the epitome of.”

The internet has also played a fundamental role in re popularizing trading cards. Card collectors no longer need to go to the store and buy a pack with the hopes of getting their favorite player, but ultimately only receiving a conciliatory stick of gum. Instead, trading card enthusiasts can now take to the internet and find their favorite players and rarest cards at their fingertips. This increased access to buying and selling trading cards has allowed for the market to develop and the collector’s economy to prosper. 

At the close of 2020, eBay released a report titled “State of Trading Cards” Report, detailing the rapid growth of this niche market sector. In 2020, eBay’s platform saw a 142% growth in their trading category as well as a 4,000,000 card increase in sales. In the past few months, countless records regarding trading card sales have been broken. With a 373% increase in sales, basketball cards have skyrocketed in value, allowing for LeBron James’ card to set the record for basketball cards, selling for a whopping $5.2 million. While baseball cards have always been the most popular form of athletic trading cards, their value has soared as well. Recently, a 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card sold for a record-setting $5.2 million. Additionally, cards from popular games such as Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering had an approximated 574% increase in sales.

In order for these trading cards to hold their value, they must undergo a thorough inspection and grading process. The Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is responsible for the grading and authentication of all trading cards, before they are able to be assigned a value. Getting a card graded requires both time and money, with fees going for about 20 to 100 dollars per card and express fees ranging from 150 to 10,000 dollars. This process usually takes 5-6 months, but due to the impact of the pandemic it could take as long as a year. But if your card is graded a perfect PSA 10, it will be well worth it.   

When grading cards, in order to obtain a PSA 10, the card must exhibit sharp corners, sharp focus, and pristine gloss. The card can’t be stained, worn, torn, and the image must be perfectly centered on the front and back. The PSA inspector will study these minute details with magnifying instruments, gloves and intricate focus as they go down their laundry list of grading specifics, before passing it on to a second set of eyes to do the same. They study your card at a microscopic level in order to observe every little detail that goes unnoticed by the naked eye. Once your card is graded it can officially enter the market and be sought after by other collectors. While every collector aims for a perfect PSA 10, that state of Gem Mint condition is quite rare. Much more frequently, cards get grades of mint, near-mint, excellent, good or for the few collectors who let their cards get damaged, they might receive a poor grade, rendering their card practically valueless. 

With the increase in technology and downtime due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trading cards saw their resurgence in 2019-2020. Reaching peak popularity in the late 1980s, trading cards have come a long way since then and have become a viable investment option. With the popularization of other rival collectibles such as Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), it will be interesting to see how the collector’s market continues to develop and prosper for years to come. But regardless, hold on to those little pieces of cardboard, as their value truly might be priceless.

In 2001, Eric Crouch, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, violated NCAA rules and served a short-term suspension. Crouch was suspended for accepting a ham sandwich and short plane ride valued at $22.67 as a part of a brief public appearance for the university. In breaking NCAA rules regarding accepting outside benefits, Crouch became an integral part of an infamous sports debate, should college athletes be compensated?

Flash forward to 2021 and the landscape has shifted dramatically. Going into the 2021-2022 NCAAF season, University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young reportedly earned over $1,000,000 in endorsements before ever playing a single snap and Hercy Miller, an incoming freshman basketball player at the University of Tennessee, has reportedly signed a $2,000,000 deal. None of this would be possible without the NCAA’s expanded policies on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals for college athletes, providing a new world of opportunity for nearly 500,000 students across the country. 

After a 9-0 ruling in the Supreme Court Case NCAA vs. Alston, the association was finally prompted to stop resisting NIL deals. This past June, the NCAA announced drastic changes to this rule. According to the NCAA website, athletes can now engage in NIL activities in compliance with state laws and colleges can serve as a resource for NIL legal questions, athletes can use professional service providers to help navigate NIL activities, student athletes in states without NIL laws can still engage in such activities without violating NCAA rules and states, as well as individual colleges and athletic conferences may impose reporting requirements. 

Since this development, student athletes across the nation have quickly delved into the world of endorsements, signing with a myriad of different brands and providing them an opportunity to monetize their collegiate success. Athletes have signed endorsement deals with clothing brands, gyms, pet companies, and a few 300+ pound offensive linemen have even signed on to become the face of a handful of barbeque restaurants. At the heart of NIL, is social media. While being a star player on a nation’s top football or basketball team is certainly the most surefire way of expanding name recognition, athletes have begun leveraging social media platforms to collect NIL earnings. Various social media platforms including Instagram and Tik Tok have allowed athletes to develop and popularize their own personal brands in whatever creative medium they desire. This allows these athletes to gain attention and recognition, all from the power of their cell phones. 

 As student-athletes have suddenly shifted into small business owners, they have started to need outside help from accountants, attorneys and personal advisers. The NIL rules and regulations are complicated and the tax implications that follow are confusing, forcing athletes to hire additional help in order to ensure they don’t get in trouble with or suspended by the NCAA. In an effort to support this goal, UCLA has recently debuted the Westwood Ascent Program, a comprehensive NIL program designed to support the school’s student-athletes to build their personal brand and maximize their NIL opportunities. Westwood Ascent focuses on three fundamental pillars to each athlete: education, brand-building and monitoring and disclosure. These three pillars are designed to ensure these athletes success for years to come and Martin Jarmond, the Alice and Nahum Family Director of Athletics at UCLA, is expecting the university to be a leading contributor to the world of NIL deals and monetary success of student-athletes for years to come.

“We enthusiastically embrace Name, Image and Likeness,” Jarmond said in a UCLA press conference. “With the launch of Westwood Ascent, we’re well-positioned to be a leader in providing our student-athletes the tools to maximize their NIL opportunities in Los Angeles and beyond. The future is here.”

Jarmond and the entire athletic department have played an instrumental role in securing endorsement deals for UCLA athletes. Less than two months after the NCAA rule change, UCLA student-athletes had already signed over 50 endorsements. Quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson is sponsored by Cameo, Jaylen Clark created his own cryptocurrency, Jake Kyman has signed over 22 deals, Norah Flatley is sponsored by HighKey Keto Mini Cookies and Emmanuel Dean is sponsored by Big League Chew. These are just a few of the countless endorsements UCLA athletes have signed and tangible proof of the Westwood Ascent Program’s success. While NIL deals revolutionized the college sports industry, student-athletes across the nation are now capitalizing on this expanded world of opportunities that is at their fingertips.

The sports industry continues to grow exponentially year in and year out. As the industry expands, new jobs are created at a rapid pace, resulting in a growing demand for sports management majors at universities throughout the nation. This rise in popularity has left many Bruins wondering why UCLA doesn’t offer a sports management major.

Sports management serves as an excellent way for sports enthusiasts with business mindsets to enter the field. There are countless different avenues within sports management that professionals can take, causing this field to continuously broaden. The global sports industry is thriving, with a market value of $488.5 billion in 2018, according to an LSU study. Recently, the national Sports Global Market Opportunities and Strategies to 2022 forecasts this number to grow to $614.1 billion by 2022. A rise in sports sponsorships, Esports and a multitude of different sports networks have all contributed to this growth. 

As the industry continues to grow, trained professionals must be groomed and master the ins and outs of the sports world. These professionals are expected to possess a wide range of managerial skills in subjects such as finance, law, analytics, human resources and many other traditional business competencies but with a specific focus on the unique dynamics sports offer. The sports industry no longer relies on mainstream business professionals, but is instead looking to develop industry specialists, ready to further develop and understand this sector of work. These specialists should be prepared to manage athletes, create wealth through marketing and sales strategies, and manage staff for national sport organizations and global companies associated with the sport. It is a rapidly developing industry, with hundreds and thousands of new jobs and new types of jobs being created. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the industry to grow roughly 9-13% by 2025 and increase from an evaluation of $60.5 billion in 2014 to over $75 billion in 2021. The opportunities within this industry are plentiful.

There are many different jobs that classify under the umbrella of sports management. Without requiring athletic talent, these industry professionals can work in marketing, facilities management, sales, law, accounting, and business development. In addition, they might work for professional sports teams, universities, sports leagues, equipment manufacturers, or marketing agencies. 

One of the most common jobs a sports professional might delve into is an account manager. Account Managers are responsible for maintaining and building the relationships their teams have with corporate sponsors. Account managers handle partnerships with sponsors by implementing promotional campaigns, advertising, retail strategies, and event programming. Account managers in sports may use game tickets, specials events, player appearances, and stadium signage to personalize and incentivize sponsor partnerships while promoting brand awareness. This career pathway has a median income of $118,000 and is suitable for those with strong backgrounds in social media and technology.

Another common job within the industry is a sports agent, or a professional who helps athletes manage the aspects of their careers not concerned with athletic performance. Sports agents help athletes negotiate contracts, deal with legal issues, and manage their money. Since many professional athletes are public figures, sports agents also help them manage their images. Sports agents should possess strong foundations in business, finance, law, communications and public relations. Agents can choose to operate independently or with an agency and they make a median income of $110,000 with exponential room for growth. 

Different industry professionals also choose to work in countless other positions. Jobs such as athletic directors, sports facilities managers, financial managers, public relations, sports media and broadcasting are just a few of the many more jobs to choose from. Most of these jobs require a sports management, business/economics, communications, marketing or law degree and both business school and law school are said to drastically improve your chances for success in this cutthroat business. 

Multi-billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban, however, doesn’t believe that sports management is a valuable major and in fact discourages students from going down that path. He believes that learning sales and marketing will be far more beneficial within the sports industry as well as far more applicable in the rest of the business world. Cuban finds that the sports management majors are slightly too narrow and restrictive and unable to advance young professionals careers as effectively. Cuban summed it all up by saying, “Teach kids sports management and you improve their chances of getting a job at Fridays.”

John Quinones, Vice-President of Recruitment at the MLB agrees with Cuban. He understands how valuable sales are in both sports and business and how majoring in sports management can restrict your future options. Quinones values real experience and sales practice over the specificity behind a sports management degree. 

“I agree with Cuban that learning sales skills are paramount to success,” Quinones said. “Let’s focus on ticket sales careers. I think it demonstrates to employers that you are willing to really do whatever it takes to break into the sports industry. A lot of people come into my office and I ask them what they aspire to do and a lot of them will tell me that I want to be a GM of a baseball team. Ok…so there are only 30 of those jobs. How can you then prove that you are willing to do whatever it takes. I like people coming up from the minor leagues. I will ask them, ‘have you been the mascot? Will you sell tickets one day?’ Because to me that is saying that you love being around the game of baseball. That really proves that to me.”

While countless sports enthusiasts at UCLA yearn for a sports business major, Mark Cuban would argue that it isn’t the end of the world. Instead, learn the fundamentals of business, sales, marketing or law and find a way to apply those skills to this expanding industry. Furthermore, gaining hands-on internship experience for a sports franchise or business is an exceptional way of improving professional skills and developing necessary networking skills, pivotal to the industry. Regardless of your specific aspirations, sports management is an inviting industry to delve into as it continues to expand financially into the future. And joining the Bruin Sports Business Association might just be your first step on your journey towards sports agent, account manager, coach, or even general manager.