College coaches, census and 'Atlas Shrugged' movie release

Sunday, April 3, 2011

College basketball and football coaches not only get paid for their coaching abilities but also their related win/loss records, post season games, and the ability to create an economic money machine.

Thus the background for the following excerpt from an article by Chris Bahn in the Arkansas Business Weekly about the firing of Arkansas basketball coach John Pelphrey (and their opening of the door for hiring Missouri Tiger coach Mike Anderson).

Financial losses loomed large in Pelphrey firing

University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long listed a number of factors that led to the recent dismissal of basketball coach John Pelphrey. The failure to make the postseason for a third consecutive season seemed to weigh heavily into the decision.

Ultimately, the program was becoming increasingly difficult to sell. Unsold tickets and unrealized marketing opportunities were a byproduct of three consecutive seasons with no postseason tournament appearances. The Razorbacks failed to achieve a winning record in the Southeastern Conference for three years and ticket sales suffered.

Northwest Arkansas TV station 40/29 recently reported that Arkansas was losing $4.5 million in ticket sales. Another $88,000 was unclaimed in potential luxury box revenue. Add in lost concessions and memorabilia money, and that number exceeds $5 million in unrealized revenue.

While Long said empty seats in Bud Walton Arena didn't outweigh any other factor, money undoubtedly played a role. Simply put, the Razorbacks couldn't afford to keep Pelphrey around for much longer.

"I wanted to give John every chance possible. ... I had very high hopes John could be successful," Long said. "I think he could be successful in another situation, but it wasn't happening here at Arkansas."

Pelphrey's record in four seasons was 69-59 overall and 25-39 in the SEC. He won 23 games in his first season, but dropped to 14 wins in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 before rising to 18 wins in 2010-2011. Meanwhile, estimated actual attendance in 19,200-seat Bud Walton Arena dipped from 17,148 to 16,043 and then from 13,182 to 12,022 in Pelphrey's four seasons.

Academic progress and an incoming Top 5 recruiting class were signs of progress, Pelphrey said a day after his firing. He felt like the Razorbacks were close to making a breakthrough.

"I would have liked more time," Pelphrey said. "We were really close to reaping the rewards."

Financially, the rewards simply weren't there like they had been previously. Arkansas ranked No. 14 last year on Forbes' list of most profitable programs, but that ranking was expected to drop with the lack of ticket sales. Prior to the season the Razorbacks were already projecting at least $500,000 in losses from the year before.

Long said he would be conscientious with the school's money. Currently, the school is scheduled to pay football coach Bobby Petrino an average of $3.5 million until 2017. Arkansas is not expected to get quite that high for a basketball coach.

-- Excerpts from Arkansas Business Weekly by Chris Bahn

The census reported that waves of blue state blacks fled the stagnant job opportunities, high taxes and rotten social conditions of the mostly blue northern states to seek better lives for themselves in the south...

The three states blacks left in largest numbers don't just include snake-bit Michigan; the other two are Illinois and New York. Within those states, Chicago and the city of New York (widely considered among the most successful cities in the country) are the places blacks are deserting. Seventeen percent of the black flight from Big Blue is from the Empire State; after almost a century of trailblazing social policy, New York has succeeded in creating the most hostile environment for Blacks in the country...

The failure of blue social policy to created an environment which works for blacks is the most devastating possible indictment of the 20th-century liberal enterprise in the United States. Helping blacks achieve the kind of equality and opportunity long denied them was more than one of many justifications for blue social policy: It was the defining moral task that has challenged and shaped American liberalism for the last 50 years.

The census tells us that in the eyes of those who know best, these well intentioned efforts failed. Instead of heaven, we have hell across America's inner cities. Blue economic policy has cut the creation of new private sector jobs to a trickle in our great cities, while the high costs of public union urban services (and policies that favor government employees over the citizenry at large) impose crippling taxes and contribute to the ruinously high costs that blight opportunity. All the social welfare bureaucracies, diversity counselors and minority set-asides can't make up for the colossal failure of blue social policy to create sustainable lower middle class prosperity in our cities.

-- Walter Russell Mead, March 27, American Interest website

I don't want people who want to dance.

I want people who have to dance.

-- George Balanchine, choreographer

Ayn Rand wrote the best-selling book "Atlas Shrugged" more than 54 years ago. Because of the length, the complicated story line and for years Rand's refusal of proposed scripts or production costs, the book is one of the few best selling novels that has never had a film or television miniseries made.

That's being rectified this month as "Atlas Shrugged Part 1" (of a projected three movie series) is opening in twelve major target markets (St. Louis or Memphis not included at this time) the weekend of April 15 to 17.

The film was made as an independent project. It does not have a major studio to promote and distribute it and is a low budget production.

One of the Wall Street Journal's most popular columns ever was written two years ago in the Wall Street Journal by Stephen Moore, senior economic writer for the Journal's editorial page.

It was titled '"Atlas Shrugged': From fiction to fact in 52 years."

The following is an excerpt from that column:

"Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that 'Atlas Shrugged' parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

"Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated 'Atlas' as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.

"For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs. ... and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

"In the book, these relentless wealth redistributionists and their programs are disparaged as 'the looters and their laws.' Every new act of government futility and stupidity carries with it a benevolent-sounding title. These include the 'Anti-Greed Act' to redistribute income (sounds like Charlie Rangel's promises soak-the-rich tax bill) and the 'Equalization of Opportunity Act' to prevent people from starting more than one business (to give other people a chance). My personal favorite, the 'Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Act,' aims to restrict cut-throat competition between firms and thus slow the wave of business bankruptcies. Why didn't Hank Paulson think of that?

"These acts and edicts sound farcical, yes but no more so than the actual events in Washington, circa 2008. We already have been served up the $700 billion 'Emergency Economic Stabilization Act' and the 'Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act.' Now that Barack Obama is in town, he will soon sign into law with great urgency the 'American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.' This latest Hail Mary pass will increase the federal budget (which has already expanded by $1.5 trillion in eight years under George Bush) by an additional $1 trillion -- in roughly his first 100 days in office.

"The current economic strategy is right out of 'Atlas Shrugged': The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to 'calm the markets,' another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as 'Atlas' grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate 'windfalls.'"

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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