by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
David Ridpath writes for the Martin Center about the path to survival for college sports.
Without revenue from the NCAA Final Four tournament and other sources of income, it is clear that the intercollegiate athletics industry faces difficult choices from the consequences of the coronavirus. College sports will confront a continuing crisis until adequate testing is in place, along with social distancing at athletic events, or a vaccine is created.
In essence, every college athletic director must have a plan that anticipates reduced or canceled 2020-2021 fall and winter sports seasons, along with reduced institutional and student fee subsidies. Thanks to declining enrollment, the 98 percent of all athletic programs that require significant subsidies to operate will suffer from austerity measures.
Athletic departments cannot be treated as a sacred cow anymore and must share in this economic burden.
Even if the pandemic didn’t occur, higher education was already facing drops in enrollment thanks to lower birth rates and other options beyond the traditional four-year university. Tuition dollars and mandatory student athletic fees are tied to enrollment, and the future is not bright in that area.
Couple this reality with the NCAA’s decision to allow schools to determine if they can grant 2020-2021 scholarships for athletes whose sports are now canceled, and we must conclude that the financial future for intercollegiate athletics is more precarious than it has been in years. It is far better to show foresight and expect a downturn and be wrong than to create false hope.
The most obvious action of cutting sports programs, however, isn’t always the wisest option.
It is critical for universities to resist shortsighted solutions such as dropping non-revenue sports programs under the guise of fiscal responsibility. There are many other areas to cut and, candidly, should be cut before any sports are eliminated. It is time for athletic departments to adopt a framework of what they need versus what they want.