Sports Finance Report: Mike Leach’s Playoff Expansion Proposal, Howard Hughes Corp, Topps Now

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The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) has announced plans for a new 10,000 seat ballpark in downtown Summerlin, NV, where the company is working on a massive master planned community (MPC) for 160,000 people. The new stadium, to be ready for the 2019 season, will house the Las Vegas 51s; a minor-league baseball team HHC acquired controlling interest in earlier this year. HHC also announced this week that ESPN has signed a multi-year, 19,000 SF lease for a NYC studio at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17; their $731 million waterfront redevelopment project.

Howie Long-Short: HHC owns the land the stadium will be built on, they have an $80 million stadium naming rights deal in place and replacing a 34-year-old park, with a state-of-the-art facility will certainly increase team revenues come 2019. So, I like this project. The 51s are just a small piece of the $5.16 billion (market cap) conglomerate though, as the company develops and operates MPC’s and mixed-use properties across 14 states.

Fan Marino: ESPN has said the NYC facility will have 2 studios for television and 1 for radio, though they’ve yet to announce which shows will be broadcast from the pier. As for the network’s often-discussed SC6 show, Michael Smith will be hosting the show solo for the balance of Jamele Hill’s 2-week suspension for her 2nd violation of social media policy.

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Washington State Coach Mike Leach went on a 10-minute rant, calling for expansion of College Football’s Playoff. Leach believes the playoff format should consist of at least 16 teams (he prefers 64), proposes the games be played during the month of December (which is currently vacant on the CFB calendar between the end of the regular season and the start of bowl season) and isn’t concerned that adding 15 games (in a 16-team format) would water down the TV product (as oversaturation has hurt the NFL). The outspoken Coach explained his system would even tie-in existing bowls, saying the number of bowl games “works out almost perfectly” with the number of additional playoff games (in a 64-team format).

Howie Long-Short: The only way for CFB to keep revenues on an upward trajectory is to increase the value of its broadcast rights; by expanding the playoff system and the number of must-see games broadcasters can carry. ESPN (DIS) is currently paying $7.2 billion over 12 years (expires in ’26) for 7 games/season; 4 major bowl games, 2 semi-final games and the national championship game. Under Leach’s “proposal”, CFB would add 8 playoff games/season (2 Saturdays that would be scheduled in early December). There will be pushback from those concerned about the physical and academic well-fair of the student-athletes, but ultimately it comes down to money. An 8-team playing is coming. 16 will follow. 64? That’s classic Pirate, pushing the envelope.

Fan Marino: I’m firmly against CFB playoff expansion. As the system currently stands, you need to win your conference championship game (in just about every scenario) to qualify. Once you get to 8 teams, you are now adding teams to the playoff that were not good enough to win their own conference. Those teams don’t belong playing for a National Championship. As for oversaturation, Leach is talking about 8 games between the Top 16 teams in the country; replacing low-level meaningless bowl games with high-level elimination playoff games. Where is the issue?

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The Topps Now on-demand trading card program has reached 1 million cards sold. Launched in 2016 to commemorate MLB’s biggest moments of the season, the program offers fans the opportunity to purchase physical collectors cards of a given moment, for a 24-hour period, never to be offered again. Topps Now cards will be produced throughout the post-season and sold exclusively at

Howie Long-Short: The vast majority of trading cards created after 1970 hold little value. There simply are far too many in circulation. Unlike the 1910 T206 Honus Wagner, they should not be treated as an investment. They do make great collectibles though, and I love the idea of commemorating the games’ biggest moments in real-time.

Fan Marino: This season’s best selling card set a single-card record for the Topps Now program. The card featuring Aaron Judge’s record breaking 50th rookie home run sold 16,138 copies, besting the previous record by nearly 5,000 cards (Ichiro’s 3,000th hit – 11,550 sold). Judge cards alone have accounted for nearly 100,000 of the 1 million sold to date. No one should be surprised that a record-setting rookie slugger, who happens to play for the Yankees, is moving collectors cards.

What is JohnWallStreet?

JohnWallStreet is not a person or location, but a destination for the educated sports fan.

While we won’t be publishing “hot takes” on LeBron’s relative greatness to Jordan, we will be offering up the most relevant sports related finance news, in easily digestible bites, with commentary from both the equities analyst and sports fanatic perspectives.

We’ll cover publicly traded professional teams & stadiums, television networks, apparel & footwear companies, equipment companies, ticketing companies, content and facilities providers. If it trades on Wall Street, and has a sports angle, it’s in our wheel house.

Howie Long-Short and Fan Marino will be providing their expert opinions on each story. They have slightly different areas of expertise. Fan Marino is a firm believer that the SEC is the premier football conference. Howie Long-Short knows it as the Security & Exchange Commission. Fan Marino lives and dies with the college selection of 5 star, blue chip recruits. Howie Long-Short spends his days analyzing blue chip stocks. Howie Long-Short knows that Black Monday occurred on October 19th, 1987. Fan Marino swears it happens every January after Week 17. You get the point.

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