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The Changing Face of College Sports: Challenges and Opportunities

Photo by Marc Bryan-Brown
The last panel of the Day 1 featured a diverse group of executives who shape the intercollegiate sports landscape.

Here were some of the topics they covered:

The Maryland effect and realignment:
Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said he was ”surprised by the timing, but not the result” of the exit of Maryland from the ACC. When asked if it made him rethink the decision for Notre Dame to join the conference, he said it did not. IMG College president Ben Sutton said believes we haven’t seen the end of realignment, and ESPN’s Burke Magnus added that, from ESPN’s perspective, “instability is bad for business. Every move that has been made costs ESPN money.”

Magnus, on the future of the Big East and negotiations with ESPN:
“It’s a different time then it was almost two years ago at this point. We’re having discussions and we don’t intend to cut off those conversations for any reason despite the recent activity. We still think there’s content that we could see value in. Not to mention the fact that our company and the Big East are nearly exactly the same age to the day. We have a 30-plus year history together, so before that ceases to exist from a relationship perspective, we’re going to take a good shot at keeping that going.”

Changing Face of College Sports

Bill Hancock, BCS
Mark Lewis, NCAA
Burke Magnus, ESPN
Ben Sutton, IMG College
Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame

On the current BCS:
Swarbrick on Notre Dame’s BCS Championship ticket requests: “There’s a limit to how many tickets can be made available with 17,000 to each school, and we’ve had over 100,000 requests ten days after we qualified and it continues to grow. So it’s a challenge, but it’s a great success problem to have.”
BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock on Northern Illinois being in a BCS bowl: “The rules are the rules. Everybody knew the rules going in. It was set up for access for teams that may not otherwise get it.”

The four-game playoff:
Sutton: “Four is the right number. It’s hard for me to imagine it going past four, because the regular season in college football is the greatest 14 weeks in sports in the United States of America. Period.”Hancock on progress of the BCS:
“We do have a framework (on a revenue-sharing model). The next big step is the selection committee, who’s on it, how many (people), and what are their procedures. The first venue will probably follow that and it will be selected pretty quickly.”

Swarbrick on Notre Dame and the refusal to allow advertising in facilities:
“Every school is different. We tend to talk about university business models as if they are all one. They are very different from school to school. “

Hancock on whether college football can reclaim New Year’s Day:
Hancock: “You bet we can. I don’t really know what’s to reclaim. New Year’s Day is college football and I hear that all the time.”

On meeting the needs of new fans:
Sutton: “We’re very fortunate because we’re in a business where we get to introduce the next generation of fans to every freshman class. No other professional sports league can say that. (Young fans) expect to be bombarded by content. We’ve got the opportunity to develop this new generation, but we’re actually not meeting the needs and expectations that they have of us for their fan experience.”

Panelist predictions for the biggest change in college sports five years from now:

Sutton: “Massive growth. You’ll see greater viewership, more content and, quite frankly, college sports is on a foundation now where if the bandwidth is great enough and enough rights are aggregated in the right places to go out and compete with the National Football League. And that’s really the only competition college sports ought to have…not in a gradual trajectory – a meteoric trajectory.”

Magnus: “One small thing and one bigger thing: I’m going to say it because I kind of want to see it happen. I’ll say there’ll be a Final Four in an arena. [Also], I can think you can see something spectacular happen from a governance perspective. The notion of student-athlete compensation.”

Hancock: “We will change the nature of New Year’s Eve in this country with our playoffs. It will become a national holiday.”

NCAA’s Mark Lewis: “The fact that none of us have attention spans anymore means the games have to change. Popularity is a fleeting thing. College sports will stay popular, but we’ve got to reflect that we just don’t watch things in person or on TV the same way anymore.”

Swarbrick: The big one is, as the difference in business models, on a university-by-university basis, increases, whether membership in a single association continues to make sense. Time will tell, I’m not predicting that will happen, but the differential’s going to grow and that’s going to create stress on the system and it’ll be interesting to see what happens. The more narrow ones are issues related with how student-athlete well-being and safety, especially in football, are going to have significant changes to the game.”

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Related Topics:

IMG, ESPN, Ping, NCAA, Champion, Champions, Football

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