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Volume 27 No. 87

SBJ College: Key Takeaways From 2020

We look back at this past year in today’s issue; we’ll look ahead in the next SBJ College on Dec. 29.

 

Here’s what was cookin’ on campus.

Athlete Empowerment, Fragile Budgets Among Big Issues In 2020

One of the most memorable moments in 2020 was Marvin Wilson’s tweet that called out his first-year coach at Florida State, Mike Norvell, for being less-than-honest about his communication with the team. Norvell said in an interview after George Floyd’s murder that he had been in contact with each player following Floyd’s death. Wilson, a senior defensive lineman, fired back on Twitter: “This is a lie” and that the players were “outraged.” Norvell publicly apologized for his misleading comments. That was the first case I recall about college athletes using their voice, a trend that gained steam throughout the year.

Just as Black Lives Matter and social injustice issues were reaching a crescendo, college athletics was getting a healthy awakening. The name, image and likeness debate was becoming a national priority for the NCAA, while college conferences showed a renewed interest in diversity and inclusion. Most notably, the West Coast Conference created the groundbreaking Russell Rule, a mandate for its schools to include someone from an under-represented group to be among the finalists for coaching and higher-level administrative jobs.

We also were reminded that athletic budgets are extremely fragile when hit with unexpected events. Most ADs would concede, even pre-pandemic, that the business model in college athletics was built on a fault line. Athletic departments spend what they make, which doesn’t leave much room for error when events are canceled or normally predictable revenue streams run dry. Financial losses in 2020 combined with layoffs, cutting sports and general downsizing will impact college sports for years to come.

 
 

Stanford men's volleyball is among the sports being eliminated due to budget deficits