Temporary changes in college sports may be needed due to coronavirus, athletic directors survey indicates
A new survey of major-college athletic directors indicates that some have interest in short-term changes to the pay of highly compensated employees and to the NCAA’s academic rules as their programs deal with impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The survey’s overall picture of college sports’ current financial landscape — including the prospect of a disrupted football season — has some athletic directors also wondering about a temporary change in the NCAA’s requirement that Football Bowl Subdivision schools have at least 16 varsity teams, the leader of the AD’s organization that co-sponsored the survey said in an interview with USA TODAY.
Forty percent of respondents said they believe, or strongly believe, that “high earners should voluntarily offer to make a personal financial sacrifice during this crisis,” according to results unveiled Thursday by the LEAD1 Association, which represents athletic directors at the NCAA’s 130 FBS schools, and Teamworks, which provides internal communications software for many college sports programs.
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Forty-five percent of respondents said they were neutral on his notion.
The survey was taken last week. On Tuesday, NCAA president Mark Emmert informed the membership that he and other top executives of the association are taking 20% pay cuts. Wednesday evening, Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard announced a one-year temporary pay cut for coaches and certain staff, as well as a one-year suspension of incentive bonuses for all coaches. In addition, Wyoming AD Tom Burman said on Twitter that he will be taking a 10% salary cut through Dec. 31.
The new survey also showed that nearly 90% of the respondents said that academic progress is one of their top three concerns for their athletes over the next three months, an outcome that shows possible sentiment for a temporary change in the NCAA’s academic-progress regulations as campus closures have moved all students into distance learning.
The survey provided other insight into FBS programs’ financial situations:
►Nearly 70% of respondents said their worst-case scenarios for the 2019-20 fiscal year involved a revenue decrease of no more than 20%.
►But more than 60% of respondents said their worst-case scenarios for the 2020-21 fiscal year involved a revenue decrease of at least 20%, including 35% who said their worst-case involved a decrease of more than 30%. That’s without knowing whether the football season will be impacted.
►More than 55% of respondents said their programs do not have a financial reserve to help them through this situation.
The 15-question survey was conducted electronically from March 23 through March 27, and 111 AD’s responded, according to LEAD1. Of that group, 48 were from schools in the Power Five conferences, 62 from schools in the Group of Five (one did not indicate a classification). That means the number of respondents skewed somewhat toward lower-revenue schools. Respondents did not have to answer every question, and no question was answered by more than 100 respondents.
LEAD1 President and CEO Tom McMillen highlighted athletic directors' concern about athletes’ academic progress. While he said his organization was not yet advocating for temporary changes to NCAA academic rules, he said online-only class situations, combined with disruption to normal academic-support routines and some schools’ increased use of pass-fail grading for the spring semester “changes the whole calculus” of the NCAA’s Academic Performance Rate system.
The APR measures the academic eligibility and retention of athletes. Teams must meet a benchmark to be eligible for postseason play. The NCAA also has rules that require athletes to make various rates of progress toward their degrees with certain minimum grade-point averages.
On the broader financial picture, McMillen said: “Folks are torn between the mission of college sports — providing as many broad-based opportunities to participate as possible — and the business side, relative to making budgets balance. Some of them are saying, ‘Sixteen sports — can’t we have a break on that for a while?’ Everything is dependent on football."
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