Podcast #5: Cole with Mark Long

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Mark Long of the Associated Press joins Cole to talk about Shad Khan’s purchase of Fulham and what it means to the city of Jacksonville and the Jaguars and whether Maurice Jones-Drew is going to his old self for the Jaguars this season, plus a bit on the Gators.

Podcast #5: Cole with Mark Long

Mark Long

Khan Expects Fulham to Play in Jacksonville

Khan Lamping Brown Fulham

by Cole Pepper

Just six days after purchasing Fulham FC, Jaguars owner Shad Khan introduced the English Premier League soccer team to the city. The city has already shown a level of excitement for the move.

“I’m delighted to see the excitement to see the excitement in Jacksonville we saw over our Fulham announcement last week,” Khan said.

There are still questions about exactly how the two teams will work together, but all indications are that there will be a close relationship. Jaguars team president Mark Lamping has already been appointed to the board for Fulham.

“The link with the Jacksonville Jaguars is probably one of the most important things,” said Martin Jol, the manager of Fulham. “We would like to be successful hand in hand.”

Khan said that he believes that

“I think there is a lot of synergies for us. Specifically for Jacksonville, Fulham playing here,” Khan said. Next year around this time, we’re going to have a great venue. If you look at the eyeballs a typical Fulham game would have, three or four hundred million people watching. It really gives us a huge amount of upside to play [in Jacksonville], especially starting with the friendlies or the pre-season games.”

Khan Mayor Brown
Shad Khan introduces Fulham to Jacksonville as Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown looks on. Khan is the only man to own 100% of and NFL team and 100% of an English Premier League team.

Khan sent out a letter to season ticket holders and sponsors reinforcing his plan and highlighting his commitment to Jacksonville.

“What happened with the London initiative last year, what happened with Fulham, everything is about revenue,” said Khan. “It applies to Fulham and its the same thing here.”

“I’ve been here a little over a year and I’ve talked to everybody–the mayor, city council, the man on the street and I think Jacksonville needs to have a higher profile to be successful long term,” Khan said. “Everything is about economic growth.”

When Sports Make a Difference

Daniel kid at sharks game
That’s 8 year old Claude with the smile of a kid attending his first live football game. Daniel Family Services Counselor Tim Decker is along side.

by Cole Pepper

Before I begin, some disclosures. I sit on the Board of Trustees of Daniel, Florida’s oldest child service agency. I’ve been involved with that charity for about six years and care deeply for the work that Daniel does for children and families in our community.

Disclosure #2. As you probably know, I call the TV play-by-play for the Sharks games on Channel 4. The Sharks pay me for my efforts.

That being said, this is a cool story.

Claude is 8 years old. He had never attended an organized sporting event.

He has been in foster care for several years and hopes to find a “forever family.”  Claude has endured struggles and overcome overcome obstacles in his short life that none of use would wish upon our enemies.

He and his sister were neglected and abused by their mother. They were placed in foster care apart from one another, to allow them the ability to have more one on one attention to heal. Eventually the biological mother’s parental rights were terminated and Claude became eligible to be adopted. Shortly after moving in with his new/adoptive family he suffered more abuse and the adoption failed. 

Not a bad way to experience your first Sharks game, huh?
Not a bad way to experience your first Sharks game, huh?

But then he came to Daniel. The staff at Daniel helped Claude deal with the issues that were holding him back and helped him cope. He was placed in a new foster home. His grades improved and he became the Claude that he was before. Happy, energetic, outgoing.

Over the past several months, with the help of his Daniel staff and foster mom, Claude has turned it all around through hard work, determination, and perseverance.  He recently received a most-improved award and was honored at the recognition ceremony with Family Support Services (FSS).

“I’ve known Claude since he cam into our care and I’ve watched him progress along the way,” said Decker. “I have told Claude on many occasions that good behavior gets you good things, and bad behavior gets you bad things.This is short and simple, but I hope that the positive reinforcement he has received for his improvements will help to ingrain this way of thinking for Claude. ”

Last Saturday, when the Sharks hosted the Spokane Shock at the Arena, Claude got to live a dream of his: attending his first football game. He and Tim Decker, a Daniel Family Services Counselor, were guests of the Sharks. Claude even got to go on the field in the second quarter and meet the players. He received a #5 Jeff Hughley jersey which he wore the entire game.

Daniel kid with sharks jerseyClaude’s review was simple, but powerful: “It was good,” he said

Claude has now realized one dream, to see a football game live and in person. That’s quite a dream. Now, Claude hopes to realize one more dream and find a forever family soon.

 

Is This the Worst Ceremonial First Pitch Ever?

Carly Rae Jepsen is best known for singing the song “Call Me, Maybe” which became an internet sensation last summer when every team or organization in the world apparently had to make a “cute” video to the song. Great for her. Her ceremonial first pitch Sunday in Tampa, however, is not so good. Check it out:

What Fulham Can Expect from Shad Khan

Khan Fulham locker
photo: FulhamTV

by Cole Pepper

Jaguars owner Shad Khan has completed his purchase of English Premier League team Fulham for a reported $300 million. I’ve already been asked on social media media and on a podcast what Fulham can expect from Khan as an owner.

If history is any guide, there will be change, but not right away.

When Khan purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars in December of 2012, the announcement was made the same day as the firing of head coach Jack Del Rio and the extension of general manager Gene Smith’s contract. While these decisions were made by Wayne Weaver, they were endorsed by Khan.

13 months later, Smith was fired and so was the coach he recommended, Mike Mularkey after just one year. Khan had spent his first season as an NFL owner learning and observing the processes and people involved with the organization. And not just on the football side.

When Weaver owned the Jaguars, he was in the office every day and served as the de facto team President (although nobody held that title). Even though Weaver had other business interests, he used EverBank Field as his center of operations and the Jaguars were his biggest business.

Conversely, Khan has Flex-N-Gate, his international auto parts business to deal with. He makes frequent trips to Jacksonville, but continues to live most of the year in Illinois, where Flex-N-Gate is headquartered. That’s why he hired a team president, Mark Lamping, to run the day-to-day business operations of the Jaguars.

Khan London Tower Bridge
Shad Khan joins Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer as NFL owners who also own teams in the English Premier League.

Also of note, from the time that Khan purchased the team, only two senior vice presidents remain. There has been huge turnover at the top of the front office food chain, as the Jaguars have brought in new people to handle sponsorship, ticket sales, legal, finance and created a new fan engagement department. These changes didn’t happen overnight. Although Khan had been pursuing ownership in the NFL for several years, he wanted to see how things worked from the inside. It’s not unlike the way he once attacked the car bumper business.

In an interview with Forbes Magazine in March, here’s what Khan said about his first season as an NFL owner, a year that saw the Jaguars win just 2 games and tie for the worst record in the league:

I don’t think just coming into the league right away you would have figured out what are the attributes for a successful head coach or what are the attributes for a successful general manager. As the year went on, meeting some of the other professionals in the sport, that was good. Certainly as the season progressed, there’s only two outcomes. You’re either going to make a change or keep people and you have to be prepared to do both.

I suspect that Khan will take the same approach with Fulham, whose Premier League season begins in August. Watch how things play out, find some people he can trust to give him some perspective on what is happening, gather information, then make a plan to mold Fulham into the organization that he believes will be the most successful. If he follows the blueprint used with the Jaguars, Khan will enlist his top people with Fulham to create a list of the biggest obstacles that are keeping the team from a championship. Then, he’ll determine the cause of those obstacles and create a plan to eliminate those causes. Those plans will likely not be subtle.

Jaguars locker room
The Jaguars new locker room is a $3 million example of Khan’s commitment to changing the perception of the Jaguars around the league.

Case in point: there was a perception that it was more difficult to lure big name free agents to Jacksonville because under Weaver’s ownership, there wasn’t as much capital to be spent on players, which over the previous several years was the case as Weaver positioned the team to be sold. Khan’s solution? Spend $3 million on a new, state of the art locker room, which is one of the best in the NFL. This off-season, the Khan is also spending money to upgrade the training and workout facilities. He doesn’t want to lose out on a prospective free agent for any reason that he can control.

The biggest business hurdle the Jaguars faced was local revenue which come largely from ticket sales and corporate sponsorship packages. Those were two major areas of focus in Khan’s first year owning the Jaguars. Khan will almost certainly assess Fulham’s biggest obstacles, both on the pitch and in business, and begin to implement a plan to improve those processes at some point within the first year of ownership. His goal with Fulham, as it is with the Jaguars, is to build a sustainable winner.

If facilities are an issue, Khan won’t hesitate to spend capital to improve them. In June, Khan announced that he would spend $20 million of his own money on a $63 million stadium improvement plan (the city of Jacksonville will pay the rest, as the stadium is owned by the city).

In short, money, or lack thereof, will not be an obstacle to building a winner. Khan’s net worth is estimated at $2.9 billion. The will to win is not a question with Khan. To me, it comes down to this: will Khan find the right people to advise him and provide him with the information that he needs to make the right decisions. If history is any indication, that answer will be yes.

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About the author: Cole Pepper spent 15 seasons on the Jaguars Radio Network as the studio host and from March, 2010-April, 2013 also worked in the Jaguars sponsorship department. He is no longer an employee or contractor of the Jaguars.

Podcast #3: Cole Pepper with Mike Dempsey

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1010 XL’s Mike Dempsey joins Cole Pepper to discuss the Jaguars upcoming training camp, the impact that GM Dave Caldwell has had on the roster and whether the London series is good for the Jaguars.

Podcast #3: Cole and Mike Dempsey

Mike Demspey

Podcast #2: Cole Pepper with Sam Kouvaris

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by Cole Pepper

Podcast #2 features Sam Kouvaris, the dean of Jacksonville sports media. No active and fulltime member of the media (I ran into David Lamm at the Suns game, but he’s not full time) has covered Jacksonville sports for longer than Sam.

He had some great perspective on Shad Khan and his impact, Khan’s pursuit of the soccer team and what he expects out of the Jaguars. We also got into the local sports TV scene which has been quite an interesting place to work the past several months.

If you have other suggestions for who you would like to hear from on the podcast, leave them in the comments below.

Sam Kouvaris

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Kids Can Learn From Former Major Leaguers

Bragan Field

by Cole Pepper

Jacksonville is hosting the Southern League All-Star Game on July 17 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (Bragan Field). Among the festivities planned for that week, a youth baseball clinic (for kids 6-16) with former major leaguers, including Episcopal head coach Mike Jones (Royals) and Rick Wilkins (11 years, 8 teams).

The clinic will take place at the Baseball Grounds Monday, July 15, 2013, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. It’s part of the “Legends for Youth” program.  Legends for Youth is a charitable program running more than 85 free events each year nationwide. Its mission is to promote the game of baseball to America’s youth using positive sports images and personalities. Southern League All Star logo

Registration for the clinic is free, but there are a limited number of spaces. As of Wednesday afternoon, around 100 spots remained.  Registration is available online here: https://secure.mlb.com/mlbpaa/events/legends_form.jsp

The hope is to partner with the MLB Alumni in the future and bring more and larger events with big name stars to Jacksonville. There are a number of former big league players living in northeast Florida, and if the city make it a priority, there could be more events featuring former big leaguers to come.