NexGen founder Kevin Minderhout responds to criticism from USA Ultimate's Will Deaver -- who said the proposed league would have a "major negative impact" on the sport -- and explains why teams are attracted to his proposal.
January 4, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in Featured, News with 7 comments
Before the holidays, Will Deaver, USA Ultimate’s Managing Director of Competition and Athlete Programs, spoke with Ultiworld and sharply criticized the NexGen league plan that threatens to remove 18 of USAU’s top — and most marketable — teams out of their Club division.
NexGen founder Kevin Minderhout responded to some of that criticism and explained why teams are attracted to his proposal in an interview with Ultiworld earlier this week.
One of Deaver’s main criticisms was that losing the men’s pro and elite flights in the Triple Crown Tour “inhibits [their] ability to do things like increase visibility for the sport, promote the sport, attract sponsors, and really just drive all of [their] programs forward.” He added that NexGen’s league will not bring the same kind of visibility to the sport.
Minderhout strongly disagrees, arguing that you don’t have to come out of the gate with a national broadcasting plan to develop a lot of interest in the sport.
“We’re going to be doing that on the local level,” he said. “We’re not going to be start by trying to pop out onto the national scene. We are starting on a smaller scale, definitely. We want to develop the brand within the ultimate community first, because that’s where we’re going to start. And that will be combined with developing the sport in the local communities.
“That’s our five year plan. We’re going to have strong media relationships outside of the ultimate organization. So to say that this league that I’m proposing isn’t going to increase visibility, I think that’s kind of flawed.”
But Minderhout is also open to the idea of partnering with USA Ultimate, and he hopes to discuss that with the Board of Directors within the next week. “To me, a partnership would be where this league exists independently, but would work closely with USA Ultimate to help them achieve their goals,” he said. “If they want to pay the money to get those teams on national TV, that could be part of the partnership.”
He is concerned, however, that USA Ultimate’s real goal isn’t necessarily increasing the visibility of the sport. “The question for me is: does USAU want control over the elite ultimate division, or do they want to increase visibility for the sport?” he explained. “I don’t think it’s a partnership if it’s about controlling the elite open division.”
Deaver also raised concerns about the financial viability of the NexGen league, calling it “incredibly risky.” Again, Minderhout disputes that.
“There’s built in room for failure,” he argued. “It doesn’t require everything to go perfectly. Things are going to go wrong, and we have to plan for that accordingly…A big part of USAU’s stability is that they’re externalizing the costs and making players pay for everything.”
He did acknowledge that there is some risk, but that his plan is designed to encourage stability. “Part of the risk [the teams] are going to take is the reward that they won’t have to keep paying for it,” he said.
Minderhout revealed some more details about his league proposal, including some changes that developed on his road trip. Teams will not pay bid fees for tournaments, but will — for now — front the cost of travel. The league will handle merchandising for the teams.
The planned schedule is also different. Teams would now play their conference rivals just once and would play out of conference twice. That means teams would play at least 11 of the other teams in the league in a given year. The eight teams with the best record would head to the playoffs.
Although Minderhout says the reduced travel and zero bid fees are attractive to teams, he doesn’t think that is the main motivation for those that have signed letters of intent to join his league.
“I think it’s about the long-term vision,” he said. “I think that the structure is nice, but I think they can see the positive changes it will bring to the type of ultimate that they’ll be playing. They can see where we’re going, and they like that vision. A big part of that is money, but a lot of it is how we treat elite ultimate.”