Tom Farrey Profile picture
16 Oct, 27 tweets, 15 min read
Thanks @NYTSports for allowing me to pump this "say what?" idea into the bloodstream. Hope it informs a conversation that will only grow as various pressures force a historic reset in the college sports model. Let me try to peel back the layers ... 1/24…
2/24 Fully recognize this is not a conversation many parties welcome, including @NCAA coaches with jobs at stake. I feel most deeply for athletes on the 250+ teams to date affected by these cuts, given other #COVID-19 disruptions to their college lives. Not what you were sold.
3/24 Most of these cuts were coming even without #COVID-19. Business model was unsustainable, at least at non-Power 5 schools in DI that lack major media deals. @williamandmary athletic department budget was already underwater trying to support 10 men's and 11 women's teams.
4/24 Further, half of W&M $30M budget came via student fees. At Old Dominion, students cover more than 60%. The $1.2B/yr in mandatory, often undisclosed fees in DI makes no sense, especially with student debt. That’s $1-3k/year per student in some places.…
5/24 This insight didn’t make my NYT essay but at the very least, former NCAA COO Jim Isch told me recently, “At some point students will get smart about this and say if we’re sending all this money to athletics, we need access to your facilities and resources.”
6/24 And college presidents will want to accommodate them – or just cut or reduce those fees and thus cost of attendance – to recruit students and their check-writing parents back to campus after devastation of #COVIDー19. 40%+ of students play club or intramurals. Most love it.
7/24 Club and intramurals offer easier compliance with Title IX, without the scholarships, travel, recruiting and other expenses to compare to men. Just help students create the activities they desire and support them equitably (with minimal investment).…
8/24 Racial equity is another rationale – nearly all of the teams cut so far are in sports dominated by whites. Or more precisely, the privileged. From higher SES homes. Only in football now will you really find more first gens than the campus average.…
9/24 Having large sport portfolios helped NCAA lobby Congress/courts to back its “collegiate model,” under the argument that a cap on athlete compensation in violation of anti-trust law is needed so football and basketball revenue can cover the costs of all those other sports.
10/24 However, senators including @SenBooker and @ChrisMurphyCT have grown uncomfortable with that wealth transfer. Looks too much like structural racism, with billions diverted from the 2 sports dominated by Black athletes to the 22 dominated by whites.
11/24 As athletes next year gain the ability to profit from their NIL and participate more in the NCAA economy, look for the contours of that economy to focus more on the most marketable sports. With pressure on NCAA to reduce its DI requirement of at least 16 teams per school.
12/24 Some schools and conferences will welcome that conversation. Count on it. Former @usavolleyball CEO Doug Beal told me, “I can’t tell you the number of conversations I had with ADs (over the years) about adding our sport who said ‘don’t think varsity, think club.”
13/24 Beal is referring to men’s volleyball, which has only 22 programs in DI – versus 334 for women due to Title IX. And that, obviously, speaks to the challenge that lies ahead for NGBs in training Olympians for @TeamUSA.
14/24 That challenge is real and will require new strategies. NGBs may have to partner with a more concentrated set of NCAA programs. The good news: @usavolleyball has done nearly as well in men’s Olympic play since 2008 (1 gold, 1 bronze) as the women (2 silver, 1 bronze).
15/24 How? Beal and former Olympic women’s coach Terry Liskevych tell me 22 coaches in DI are just easier to collaborate with than 334. @USAWrestling has partnered well with select NCAA programs such as @pennstateWREST. And you read in my essay about @WestminsterSLC/@usskiteam.
16/24 Enterprising NGBs also may want to pivot as USTA did years ago, partnering with @NIRSAlive to grow intramural then club tennis, leading to national championships. Objective: more lifelong players and fans of sport. Don't ask colleges to develop @usopen talent.
17/24 Besides, most DI players are now international. Take @uiowa men’s tennis, just cut. Eight of 12 players are foreign with 5 from England and 1 from Ireland. None from Iowa and only 2 from the Midwest (Big Ten states).…
18/24 Across all NCAA divisions, tennis been hit the hardest by the cuts, followed by golf, soccer, basketball, cross country, swimming, and volleyball. Partial list through 9/10:…
19/24 Football has largely been spared. But this week @Occidental dropped football citing health and cost concerns + falling youth participation. Could see more of that in DII and DIII, as football is by far the most expensive and bloated rosters create Title IX challenges.
20/24 Hard truth is that football excess is driving cuts to many sports. W&M carries 100+ players – nearly twice that of an NFL roster. For a sport with 11 on field at a time. And Tribe has no big media contract (or winning season since 2015).…
21/24 Football in P5 makes sense – major marketing tool and revenue driver. Below that level … hmmm. With today’s news that freshman college enrollment is down a devastating 16% this fall, presidents may ask: Is football better recruitment tool than diversity of sport options?
22/24 Regardless, club/intramurals will become a more attractive option, as complement to NCAA. That’s OK, for reasons noted in essay. Great opportunity to drive health, educational outcomes through college sports. Beal: “As a country, we have to decide what’s important to us.”
24/24 Finally, heads up that @AspenInstSports will address the impact of NCAA cuts on youth sports tomorrow 11amET at #ProjectPlay Summit with @ncaa Brian Hainline @NIRSAlive Pam Watts @SpelmanCollege Germaine McAuley. Also author Michael Lewis. Free:…
And that’s per student per year. Over the course of four years that investment by non-NCAA athletes in NCAA teams can be north of $12k. Before interest.
Clarification, thanks @ByBerkowitz — FBS programs need to have 16 teams minimum. In DI, it’s 14.…

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