Tag Archives: March Madness

Mega Millions and March Madness

OK. I guess at some point this morning I’ll have to get moving and put a few bucks down on the Mega Millions lottery. Hope there is no queue at the gas station. Although there might be, since it looks like Mega Millions fever — fueled by a jackpot north of $500 million — has people throughout the country taking notice.

Here’s from USA Today, “Record Mega Millions jackpot sets off ticket-buying frenzy“:

With a world record $540 million (and growing) jackpot at stake, much of the nation is gripped by Mega Millions fever.

From Vermont to Louisiana and New York to California, the jackpot has been the wistful talk of TV, social media sites, office water coolers and dreamy high rollers for the past week, electrifying ticket sales with a frenzy likely to amp up even further ahead of Friday night’s drawing at 11 p.m. ET.

The pot has grown more than $150 million since Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing failed to draw a top prize winner for the 18th consecutive time since late January.

“It’s uncharted territory,” says Buddy Roogow, director of the Washington D.C., lottery, which issued a commemorative “I Played The World’s Largest Jackpot” ticket this week. A typical Mega Millions drawing sells 250,000 tickets in the nation’s capital. “Friday, the real frenzy sets in,” says Roogow, who expects ticket sales of 1 million.

Social media users were buzzing about the jackpot on Facebook and Twitter, mostly about what they would do with the money, but also about the tiny possibility of winning the top prize.

The odds? About 1 in 176 million.

Wow. Talk about March Madness.

[Note to self: If I win, remember to delete anything favorable I ever wrote about the so-called Buffett Rule.]

Of course, the odds don’t appear to be in my favor of winning the Mega Millions jackpot. Better I was a college basketball coach. That appears to be where the money is these days.

As we move toward the NCAA finale, in some ways it’s comforting to see that the usual suspects of college sports factories are working their way toward the big prize. But the real winners appear to be coaches at even the smaller schools who are getting huge pay increases, if they offer even a hope of getting the school and alumni to the Big Dance.

Wonder what students think about all this as they pick up the tab? I digress.

Here’s from USA Today, “Even smaller schools must pay big for hot NCAA coaches“:

Shaka Smart, the charismatic men’s basketball coach of Virginia Commonwealth University, made news last week when he told the University of Illinois thanks, but no thanks — same as he told North Carolina State a year ago.

That upset the natural order of college sports. The grass isn’t always greener at major-conference schools, but the contracts almost always are. And Smart, 34, turned down more money to stay each time.

He was the hottest commodity in coaching a year ago when he piloted VCU‘s astonishing run to the Final Four. To keep him, VCU upped his guaranteed money from about $420,000 last season to about $1.2 million this season, a raise funded largely by an increase in student fees.

This season, his Rams reached the NCAA tournament’s round of 32, missing the Sweet 16 by an eyelash — and this time Smart got “a slight increase in compensation” plus more money in his recruiting and travel budgets, according to athletics director Norwood Teague.

VCU digging deep to thwart the get-Smart bids by Illinois and N.C. State is emblematic of a widening dollar gap between major-conference schools and so-called midmajors. Football TV contracts and attendance for the six power conferences of football’s Bowl Championship Series mean big money, while competitive ambitions at midmajors often outrun their athletics departments’ ability to pay for them.

“It’s a huge issue,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert, who calls rapidly rising coaching salaries “a challenge for the lower-resource schools.”

Athletics departments at such schools are largely subsidized by university funds and/or student fees. Big money for coaches there can translate to students paying higher bills and schools facing more stress on stretched academic budgets.

Some schools like VCU ante up so coaches don’t leave for wealthier programs. Others, like budget-strapped Nevada-Las Vegas, simply get outbid by them. And then there are the Cincinnatis of the world: lower-revenue programs in power conferences depending on institutional funds to help them keep coaches.

Indeed, college basketball’s marquee event is loaded with millionaires. Coaches in the NCAA tournament are making a little more than $1.4 million on average this season, according to USA TODAY’s annual analysis of contracts and other compensation documents. Among the 68 tournament coaches, USA TODAY was able to obtain pay figures for 62 — from Kentucky coach John Calipari, who is making nearly $5.4 million, to Mississippi Valley State coach Sean Woods, who is making $87,500.

The newspaper obtained 2010 and 2011 compensation information for 31 of the 34 schools appearing in the tournament both this season and last and found the average compensation for coaches at those schools increased to a little over $2.1 million from more than $1.9 million — a jump of 8.6%.

The changes in compensation range from a drop of 61% at Nevada-Las Vegas, which lost its coach to another school and hired a less expensive successor, to a 224% raise at Marquette, which paid its coach a one-time bonus of nearly $2 million. That puts the median raise at 12%.

Among public schools, the biggest raises went to Calipari, who also led Kentucky to the Final Four last year and received a contract restructuring that resulted in a $1.3 million increase; Purdue’s Matt Painter, who got an increase of more than $1 million after spurning an offer from Missouri; and Smart, whose income increased by $786,000 after he elected to stay at VCU.

With those kind of pay packages who needs to stand in a queue to buy a lottery ticket? You’ve already won!

Oh, well. As long as students and taxpayers have deep pockets, no blood, no foul. Right?

And by the way, if this turns out to be my last post, you’ll know that I came up big with the Mega Millions.


March Madness and Budget Proposals

Well, as Dutch Reagan might say, here we go again. The Republicans in the House are getting ready to unveil a new budget proposal, one that apparently will call for major changes in personal and corporate tax rates and stiff spending cuts.

My bracket selections have a better shot of coming out on top in the March Madness pool. And without putting too fine a point on it, I have no chance. Zero. Zilch.

So I wonder why in an election year the GOP wants to take the lead in heading down this road to nowhere? Hey, the Democrats in DC haven’t passed a budget in three some years. So what’s the rush? And given that the GOP is going to get its collective lunch eaten in November, it seems strange that they would invite all the Dems and other miscreants to what will be an all-you-can-eat buffett over a budget — when most don’t want anything to change if it involves them.

Well, I heard the architect of the budget plan, Paul Ryan, say on Morning Joe that it was the obligation and responsibility of lawmakers to step up to the plate on this. Well, yeah, you would think that might be the case. But politics raises its ugly head as well.

The budget proposal aims to define where the Republicans stand in a presidential election year in contrast to the guy who is currently sitting in the Oval Office. Good strategy.

Probably not.

Here’s from WaPo, “Paul Ryan’s budget is bad politics. Just ask Republicans“:

To much fanfare, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will unveil his 2012 budget plan in Washington today.

The debut of the House Budget Committee chairman’s vision for what conservative governance could and should look like might win him kudos from the conservative policy class, but it elicits only groans from GOP political professionals.

“As a campaign issue, the budget is a significant challenge for GOP candidates,” said Bob Honold, a GOP strategist and partner at Revolution Agency. “As a campaign strategy, it is so much more difficult for Republicans to communicate their responsible solutions than it is for Democrats to spook seniors with rhetoric.”

Another senior GOP strategist was far more blunt. “Didn’t they learn their lesson?” the source asked. “House Republicans are still under the mistaken impression they have to lead. It’s a presidential election year; they’re along for the ride.”

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) sought to paint the Ryan budget in the best possible political light during a briefing with reporters on Monday.

“I believe that we will get credit for effectively, first of all, having a budget, which the Democrats failed to do,” said Sessions. “I think the public will give us credit for having answers, and I think they’ll give us credit for being credible about the plight that we’re in.”

Maybe. But, the concern within Republican campaign ranks is that Ryan’s budget plays out much like it did when he put out his “Path to Prosperity” last year.

In that budget document, Ryan called for Medicare to be transformed into a voucher program — a proposal that Democrats immediately seized on and used to great effect in a surprising special election victory in upstate New York.

For their part, Republican presidential candidates did everything they could to pretend that the Ryan budget didn’t exist — expressing general praise for the idea of a conservative alternative to the Obama budget but avoiding any support for specific proposals. (The one exception was former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who offered his unequivocal support for the Ryan plan. And we saw how far that carried him.)

The debate over the politics of Ryan’s latest budget plan speak to a broader divide within the Republican Party.

Ryan as well as his fellow members of the House Republican leadership believe that, as the majority party (in the House, at least), it is incumbent upon them to produce a blueprint for how they would govern the country.

The other, more pragmatic (or cynical, depending on where you stand) wing of the party — the vast majority of political professionals are in this group — believes that there is no expectation on the part of the American people that Republicans provide any sweeping vision of what they would do if they are in power. By offering one, all Ryan is doing is giving Democrats something to shoot at, politically speaking. And that takes away from GOP attempts to keep the 2012 election spotlight shining brightly on President Obama.

What both sides in this Republican argument can agree on is that Democrats are likely to go at the new Ryan plan hard, and that if the party handles it as poorly as it did last year, it could be in serious trouble.

“The verdict depends on if Republicans can quickly define this plan among seniors before the Democrats define it for them,” said Ron Bonjean, a longtime Senate aide and now a Republican strategist. “Republicans had a turbulent practice run last year, so they should be well-prepared for the onslaught of negative attacks the other side will likely unleash.”

Well, good luck with all that. And I’ll admit it. I’m getting ready to enroll for Medicare. So the last thing I need or want is the Republicans mucking around with this program. Hey. I’m already growing my hair long so when I go before one of the Death Panels I’ll be viewed as Comrade Rob rather than Mr. Jewell.  For us pensioners on fixed incomes, a little Socialism might go a long way. Just kiddin’. [Or not]

Better the GOP lawmakers fret over the sweet 16 — or is it Kentucky and the Round of 15?



Customer Surveys: A Mad As Hell Moment

OK. I’m cranky today. My March Madness bracket is kaput — much like the hopes for a GOP candidate knocking Prez O out of the White House in November. Next year I’m making my picks based on the mascots. Grrrrrrr.

In the meantime, go Bobcats.

I’m also annoyed by what has become a really troubling practice — the deluge of customer and other surveys that hound you online and in real life. OK. Constructive feedback is beneficial. But having to take time to answer questions just about everything you do something is, well, bordering on the abusive.

When I travel, I stay at one of the Marriott properties, Residence Inns and so on. That automatically triggers a series of surveys — and if you don’t complete them, you are bombarded with others. Sigh.

As usual, I’m not the only one out of the ledge yelling, “I’m Mad as Hell.” There are actually some thoughtful people who are voicing concerns about this disturbing trend, as evidence in the NYT story, “When Businesses Can’t Stop Asking, ‘How Am I Doing?“‘

A commercial transaction, in its simplest form, involves a customer paying for goods or services. But these days, that is just the first step.

Businesses want your opinion of them, too, and their requests for feedback, like relentless tugs on the sleeve, now seem to come with every purchase, every call to a customer service department and every click of a mouse that is followed with a pop-up ad pleading with users to take a survey about the “Web site experience.”

On the telephone, in the mail, on their computers, smartphones and iPads, American consumers are being solicited as never before to express their feelings about coffeemakers, hand creams, triple-bypass operations, veterinarians, dry cleaners and insurance agents.

One reason is that software companies like SurveyGizmo and QuestionPro have made it possible for small companies to create customer surveys at a fraction of the cost of traditional surveys done by established research companies. Businesses of all sizes, desperate to lock in customer loyalty, see surveys as a window into the emotional world of their customers and a database that will offer guidance on how to please them.

“It’s like the gold rush now,” said Jonathan D. Barsky, a founder of Market Metrix, which develops systems for measuring customer satisfaction in the hospitality industry. “Anyone who can craft a customer survey and throw it on the Internet is doing it.”

There is no way to determine exactly how many consumer satisfaction surveys are completed each year, but Mindshare Technologies, a small company that conducts and analyzes on-the-spot electronic surveys, says it completes 175,000 surveys every day, or more than 60 million annually.

ForeSee, an offshoot of the American Customer Satisfaction Index in Ann Arbor, Mich., a company that measures consumer sentiment about business and government, says it collected 15 million surveys in 2011.

Consumer patience may be fraying under the onslaught. The constant nagging has led to a condition known as survey fatigue and declining response rates over the last decade.

“The frequent requests to fill out these surveys, especially with no incentives, have been so annoying that people just stop doing it,” said Richard L. Oliver, a professor of management at Vanderbilt University and the author of the textbook “Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer” (McGraw Hill, 1996). “In the old days, you felt as though you had been selected to represent the community, or even the nation. But this is the information age, and people know their information is worth something.”

If customers balk at taking what can feel like an SAT test, the fault may lie with the surveys themselves. Many businesses, often against the advice of the experts they have hired to construct their questionnaires, cannot resist the urge to ask, ask and ask yet again. Exasperated consumers, assured that the survey will take only five minutes to complete, often bail out as they approach the 10-minute mark.


Since I delete most of the surveys as soon as I see them, I’m gone long before the 10-minute mark these days.

From the flick Network, Howard Beale: I want you to go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Just sayin’.


The Hidden Meaning in Our NCAA March Madness Bracket Picks

I expect that today is one of the least productive workdays of the year. In addition to monitoring our Facebook and Twitter accounts while the boss isn’t looking, many of us will have the added stress of completing our selections for the NCAA basketball tournament.

Ah, March Madness.

And even though I’m quasi-retired, I’ll be feeling the heat sorting out the bracket picks while juggling a modest amount of actual real work. Full disclosure: last year my bracket collapsed faster than a tent in a tornado. But when you live in Northeast Ohio, hope always exists with each new season or tournament  — only to be dashed quickly and pathetically when the games begin. I digress.

Anyway, the NYT has an interesting feature this morning about what our bracket picks say about us. It’s worth a read.

There is a good chance that you will fill out an N.C.A.A. basketball tournament bracket for an office pool sometime in the next three days. There is an even better chance that you spent the last four months focused on your family and career, not glued to ESPN. Therefore, you have only a passing familiarity with most of the teams in the tournament, and your bracket selections are just a series of guesses.

Those guesses say little about your basketball acumen but speak volumes about your personality. A tournament bracket can reveal more about a person’s character than handwriting analysis, or even phrenology. Read these five classic bracket archetypes and select the one that best fits your tournament strategy. Then, discover what your bracket tells the world about you. Warning: this system is so accurate that it can feel as if we opened a window to your very soul, so make sure you are seated comfortably.

The writer, Mike Tanier, opines that our selections fall into one of five categories: The Favorites Bracket, The Underdogs Bracket, The Out-of-Date Bracket, The Expert Bracket, and The Nickname Bracket.

This be me: linked without fail to The Underdogs Bracket:

The Underdogs Bracket

You love a good upset and see no reason Norfolk State cannot make the Round of 16 this year. While your bracket includes a few nods to common sense, you find yourself scribbling South Dakota State far more often than anyone not living in South Dakota should.

WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT YOU You truly believe that one person can change the world, but you cannot comprehend that Roy Williams or Thomas Robinson is probably that person. You are an incurable optimist, though several pharmaceutical companies are working on it. You applaud at the end of children’s movies, even when you are watching at home on DVD without children present. Your bracket strategy is also your investment strategy, which is why you are wearing a sweater with holes in it, and in the unlikely event that Davidson wins the championship, you will use the winnings to help pay off that mortgage you took out in 2007.

OK. Gotta get back to work. Well, you know what I mean. LOL

Let’s see. Wonder if Lehigh can spank Duke?

March Madness: Madoff Faces the Mob

I had to delay a decision this weekend — because of the rainy weather here in NE Ohio. I’m thinking about running a half marathon in Pittsburgh May 3, but I need to start increasing the distance of my daily runs — from five miles to seven then nine or 10. Lucky to get in five Saturday and Sunday; heavy rain was bad enough, but flashing lightning at 6 a.m. gives you some reason to question things. So we’ll see what happens this weekend.

In the meantime, I’ll admit that others have bigger decisions facing them.

For instance, Bernie Madoff is expected to be in court Thursday to cop a guilty plea — and then get this, stand face-to-face with those he allegedly stole from, wiping out their savings, dreams and in some cases shutting down charities and foundations that lost all the money needed to pay staff and so on. Game on.

Wow. Talk about March Madness. And you think a crowd can get worked up over college hoops. How about a game of Ponzi — with some $50 billion at stake.

My guess is that Bernie would like to do this via Twitter — or Facebook — or some other social networking site. Let’s face it. Nobody really likes to talk face-to-face anymore. Do we? But the judge, apparently, is going to make him face the music and sing in public before an audience that will be a little less sympathetic than the one greeting the American Idol warblers. As Randy Jackson might tell the former Wall Street Wizard, “Ah, come on dog.” I digress.

Here’s from the New York Times article, “Madoff Expected to Plead Guilty Thursday“:

Under federal law, a criminal’s victims have a right to be informed about, and to attend, any court hearing involving a plea bargain by the defendant. But the courts are allowed to fashion alternative arrangements when the number of victims is so large that individual testimony or attendance would be impractical.

That is certainly the case here, prosecutors asserted in the motion they filed Friday evening. Thousands of Mr. Madoff’s known victims are scattered around the world, and some of his victims have not even been identified yet, they said.

As an alternative, Marc Litt, an assistant United States attorney, proposed that victims be kept informed about pending hearings — including the one on Thursday — through notices posted on the United States attorney’s office Web site. Links to that information would also be provided on a Web site maintained by the court-appointed trustee handling victim claims.

Judge Denny Chin of Federal District Court in Manhattan approved the proposal, specifying that “any potential victim who wishes to be heard” must send an e-mail request to the prosecutor’s office by 10 a.m. Wednesday. “The court will rule on whether, and the manner in which, victims may be heard at the proceeding,” Judge Chin noted in his order.

Requests should be sent by e-mail message to usanys.madoff@usdoj.gov. Information about future hearings will be available at usdoj.gov/usao/nys and at madoff.com.

Wow. Grab the pitchforks and head for the Big Dance. Well, we’ll see. But if people do show up at the hearing, I expect here’s a preview of the kind of commentary (shout-out?) Bernie and his defense team will hear.

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, lost his life’s savings with Madoff. And his charity, according to an article in The New York Times, lost $15.2 million. Here’s what Wiesel had to say about Madoff:

“ ‘Psychopath’ — it’s too nice a word for him,” Mr. Wiesel said in his first public comments on Mr. Madoff and the Ponzi scheme he is accused of perpetrating on thousands of individuals and charities, including the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

“ ‘Sociopath,’ ‘psychopath,’ it means there is a sickness, a pathology. This man knew what he was doing. I would simply call him thief, scoundrel, criminal.”

Oh boy. Sociopath…psychopath…thief…scoundrel…criminal. Those are the kind of descriptors typically reserved for referees during March. This is madness.

And, by the way. There is a Bernie Madoff listed on Twitter.

Go figure.