Baltimore, 49Ers may not be NFL’s best franchises
There’s no question that the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers deserve to be playing in Sunday’s Super Bowl. They came through with flying colors when the chips were down in the recent NFL playoffs.
Super Bowl XLVII should be one of the most unique extravaganzas of the entire 47 with brothers Jim and John Harbaugh matching wits not only for the distinction of coaching the world champions, but for the honor of being the best coach in the Harbaugh family.
However, in the National Football League, success of a franchise isn’t defined solely by winning, according to an article written by Loren Steffy that appeared in the Houston Chronicle business section earlier this month.
In fact, according to Forbes magazine, two of the top five most valuable franchises in the NFL are located in our Lone Star State—the Dallas Cowboys being ranked first with a value of $2.1 billion and the Houston Texans at No. 5 with a net worth of $1.31 billion.
Forbes rankings are 1. Dallas Cowboys ($2.1 billion) 2. New England Patriots ($1.64 billion) 3.Washington Redskins ($1.6 billion) 4. N.Y. Giants ($1.47 billion) 5. Houston Texans ($1.31 billion) 6. N.Y. Jets ($1.28 billion) 7. Philadelphia Eagles ($1.26 billion) 8. Chicago Bears ($1.19 billion) 9. San Francisco 49ers ($1.18 billion) 10. Green Bay Packers ($1.16 billion).
Texans President Jamey Rootes said that the team focused on building a loyal fan base as a key to its business success producing strong ticket sales even for an expansion team.
Despite the fact it took nearly a decade for the Texans to qualify for the NFL playoffs, the loyal fans never gave up hope. Now they’re gunning for the ultimate, to be where the Ravens and 49ers are this week—the elusive Super Bowl.
“We’ve tried to be more than just wins and losses,” Rootes is quoted in Steffy’s article. “We’ve always sold out. Now from a team performance perspective, we’ve really put it all together.”
The Texans were a success long before they ever produced a winning season. The franchise should remain among the most valuable in the NFL because of an economic foundation that many other professional teams would envy.
The team is driven by a strong local economy, corporate sponsorships and a loyal fan base that has generated strong ticket and suite sales.
Reliant Stadium is another element of the Texans’ success story. Nearly two-thirds—about $289 million– of the facility was funded by public money through ticket surcharges, parking fees, percentages of hotel and auto rental taxes, and a sales-tax rebate on in-stadium spending, according to Steffy’s article.
In other cities, taxpayers may directly shoulder more of the burden, but in Houston, the stadium is primarily paid for by people who attend the games and by visitors to the city.
NFL team values calculated by Forbes include equity and debt, so the public financing component has a huge impact on the value. And although half of Forbes 10 most valuable teams made the 2013 playoffs—Houston, New England, Washington, Green Bay and San Francisco—a winning season doesn’t necessarily define a team’s value.
The Lone Star State’s other franchise—the Dallas Cowboys—shot up to the top of the list in value at $2.1 billion—despite its mediocre 8-8 record this season– when owner Jerry Jones built his palatial stadium in Arlington.
He paid $150 million for the team in 1989 and the Cowboys retained their value despite a dramatic downswing in playoff appearances since their last Super Bowl victory in 1996.
Over time a team’s record can begin to affect its value. After Jones built his glitzy stadium, he immediately raised prices for season tickets and suites in the new stadium. But with a storied franchise that was called America’s Team for so long, these fans paying those exorbitant prices expect championships.
Jones has hired and fired several head coaches, coordinators and position coaches, but mostly to no avail. And if the team doesn’t start winning consistently, fans may begin to defect, forcing the flamboyant owner to cut prices when existing suite leases expire in a few years.
Another red flag that signifies the Cowboys’ value may be backsliding is that Jones hasn’t found a name sponsor for the most opulent venue in pro sports, which probably already has cost him in the neighborhood of $100 million, according to Erickson Partners, a valuation and advisory firm that specializes in sports teams.
“He (Jones) tried to squeeze the last dollar out, and wound up losing the bet,” commented Don Erickson, president of the firm. “He’s not doing so well compared to what he could have been doing when he built that stadium.”
As a result, Erickson predicts that in the next five years New England or Washington will surpass Dallas as the NFL’s most valuable team.
And meanwhile, as the Houston Texans continue to progress deep into the playoffs, they will likely add to the team’s long-term value, even after getting bounced from the playoffs in the second round for the second year in a row.
KWICKIES…I kind of felt sorry for Orange native Earl Thomas in Sunday night’s Pro Bowl game played in Hawaii. Although his NFC team was a huge winner over the AFC, 62-35, the players were instructed by Commissioner Roger Goodell to play hard like the game meant something, but don’t hit anybody hard enough to hurt them. Poor Earl knows only one speed to play football, and that’s at full speed. So it must have been difficult for him to be going at full throttle and then having to back off when making contact. Anyhow, he played well, made a little extra money for being voted by his peers and fans to the Pro Bowl, and Orange County is very proud of him.
The high school basketball season is barely half-way over in district play and the crack of bats already can be heard around the various campuses as practice for the baseball season is already under way. That must mean that spring is just around the corner, hopefully.
The hot-and cold Houston Rockets are meandering around the .500 mark and need to play a bit better to qualify for the playoffs in a couple of months. Hopefully they will catch fire and make a run at the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs.
And while on the subject of basketball teams needing to start winning, the youthful Lamar Cardinals dropped to 0-8 in Southland Conference play when Central Arkansas clobbered the Redbirds 88-59 Saturday night in Conway. It was UCA’s first-ever victory over Lamar in 11 meetings. The Cards committed 25 turnovers that resulted in 34 UCA points. Lamar’s season record dropped to a dismal 2-18.
On a brighter note for Lamar, senior Kalis Loyd scored 25 points to break a 21-year old scoring record, but it proved to be not enough as the Lady Cards lost to UCA 67-62 in overtime Saturday to drop to third place in the Southland Conference standings. Loyd needed only seven points to become the all-time scoring leader in Lamar women’s basketball history and her 25 led all scorers.
It looks like Tiger Woods is getting back to his old form as he won the Farmers Insurance Open last weekend by a four-stroke margin despite a one-day delay for fog and darkness. It marked the seventh time he has won this event at Torrey Hills and the 40th time in 42 tourneys he won when leading after 54 holes.
The honors keep rolling in for Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt as he was voted The Sporting News NFL Defensive Player of the Year, announced on Saturday. TSN’s annual awards are the only ones voted on by the coaches and players. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson was voted the Offensive Player of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year by TSN. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was Rookie of the Year.
Ozen head football coach Jeff Nelson was suspended for the first two games in the 2013 high school football season by the University Interscholastic League last week for improperly practicing during the school day. The UIL determined that Ozen violated its two-year probation stemming from a 2011 post-playoff game fight when the Panthers practiced once last fall during school hours but outside the athletic period. The UIL extended Ozen’s probation to 2016 and left open accessing additional penalties for the latest infraction.
JUST BETWEEN US…Our Fearless Forecast for Sunday’s Super Bowl is that I’ve been riding with perennial underdog Baltimore since before the playoffs, and I’m not going to abandon them now. The Ravens beat Denver and New England after being 9½-point underdogs so now that the odds have fallen from five to 3 ½ against the San Francisco 49ers, I look for a low-scoring contest with Baltimore coming through with a 21-17 upset victory.