Leadership: Featured Writer Blogs
Blog: Women’s Soccer and Return on Investment
by Emily Attwood July 2015
In the days after the U.S. Women’s soccer team’s World Cup win, we’ve heard a lot of back and forth over the issue of how much the players were paid. The women’s team received a record-setting $2 million for their win… record-setting for women, that is. Last year, the German men’s team earned $35 million for its World Cup win.
“But it’s all about the revenue!” claim those who justify the discrepancy. The women’s tournament brought in a mere $17 million in sponsorship revenue compared to $529 million for last year’s men’s World Cup. Thus, because the men bring in more revenue, it only makes sense that they get paid more.
When I was in college, I interned for an editor at a book publishing company. I recall, among the editor’s many tales of the publishing world, the story of how he signed one particular new author and set her up for success. Her work was good, he said, but she was relatively unknown and still new.
For those more familiar with coaching contracts than book contracts, book contracts typically pay an advance, anything as low as a couple thousand dollars (J.K. Rowling was given a £1500 advance on the first Harry Potter book) to upwards of $100,000, if you’re an established name. If a new author doesn't go over well with the audience, the publisher hasn't lost much. If they're good, the publisher simply ups the advance on the next book.
Rather than offering this new author something at the lower end of the spectrum as would befit the situation, the editor swung big. I don’t recall the exact dollar amount, but I think it was at least $20,000 (chump change for a pro athlete, but a big deal for a struggling writer).
His reasoning? The more the publisher invested in an author, the harder it would work to ensure her success, giving her a preferred launch date, better marketing and visibility. Part of this was about recouping the investment — book advances are paid against royalties, which means a larger advance needs to be offset by greater book sales if the publisher wants to come out ahead.
What does this have to do with soccer?
I’m not in the sports marketing business. I’m not even in the book marketing business. But I do know that a product’s success is as much about the effort that goes into marketing it as the quality of the product itself.
Don’t justify lower pay for female athletes by pointing to the lower revenue they generate — they’re not the ones negotiating sponsorship contracts or selling commercial slots. In the case of women’s soccer, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke attributes the lower revenues to women’s soccer being a newer sport than men’s.
“We played the [20th] men’s World Cup in 2014, when we are now playing the seventh women’s World Cup,” Valcke said in December press conference. “We have still another  World Cups before potentially women should receive the same amount as men. The men waited until 2014 to receive as much money as they received.”
Or, how about this: Pay the players what they’re worth, and then put in the effort to back that investment up.
Blog: Diddy, with a Kettlebell, in the UCLA Weight Room
by Stuart Goldman June 2015
The Diddy attack at the UCLA training complex on Monday has taken on a life of its own. What have we learned? We’ve learned that a kettlebell can be used as a deadly weapon.
Blog: No Need to Rename Bruce Jenner Sports Complex
by Stuart Goldman June 2015
Before Caitlyn Jenner’s introduction as a transgender woman, she was, of course, Bruce Jenner, who shot to superstardom by winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics.
A Response to Critics of Soaring College Rec Spending
by Emily Attwood June 2015
“LSU Faces Dramatic Budget Cuts While It Builds An Expensive Lounging Pool” This was the headline of an article that appeared in The Huffington Post this past May criticizing Louisiana State University’s spending of $84.75 million on an overhaul of its recreation facilities despite a threatened $55.5 million funding cut from the state.
Last week New Jersey governor Chris Christie admonished what he considers wasteful spending in the higher education system, denouncing “extras” such as lazy rivers and climbing walls.
"Some colleges are drunk on cash and embarking on crazy spending binges,” he said.
If you work in college recreation, the incidents made you cringe.
The cost of higher education is going to get a lot of attention leading up to the 2016 election, and unfortunately, that’s going to come with a lot of misguided scrutiny of campus recreation programs.
What both incidents overlook — as anyone working in college recreation will immediately recognize — is that a university’s education budget and recreation budget are two entirely different things. Campus recreation centers are not built at the expense of science labs or classrooms. For most universities, such projects are funded (and maintained) from students fees.
"The funds for the project come directly from the student fee and can only be used for the project," LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard told The Huffington Post. "Similar to donations to the university or funds from the state for capital projects, these types of funds can't be shifted to fill in budget holes or be used in another way. They can only be used for what they were originally designated for."
The impact of such facilities on the price of a college education is actually minimal, according to David Feldman, economics professor at College of William & Mary.
“Lazy rivers are only a tiny piece of the costs,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “These lazy rivers are not the reason why student debt is soaring seemingly out of control. The big problem that higher education faces today, at the public side, is cuts in state spending.”
Some argue that cuts in spending are actually driving the construction of bigger and better recreation amenities, as universities look draw in more out of state students. According to research from the University of Michigan, “wealthier students [are] much more willing to pay for consumption amenities.”
Despite its negative headline, The Huffington Post article went on to admit as much, quoting a 2013 article in which former Miami University president James Garland explains, “We took advantage of low interest rates for municipal bonds and invested in rehabilitating our residence halls and eating facilities and putting in more recreation -- workout rooms and lounges, and the kinds of accouterments that really dressed up a campus and made it a much more comfortable and familiar place for upper-middle class students. So those students started applying to us in droves. Application numbers went up, we became more selective, and the SAT scores of the entering class became higher."
So, in the face of a $55.5 million budget cut (avoided, thankfully) LSU would need to rely more heavily on the appeal of its non-academic offerings to bring in more students and more revenue. As Jane Wellman, a finance expert with College Futures Foundation, told Inside Higher Ed, the issue is not of how colleges spend money, but the priorities of schools.
“The sense is that college costs are going up too rapidly, and institutions aren’t doing enough to control them,” she says. “The critique underneath that is the critique of the decision-making culture in higher education.”
Rather than ask why LSU would spend $85 million on a recreation center, maybe politicians should be asking why the state of Louisiana was mulling a $55 million cut to education.
We won’t get into the other complexities of campus recreation facilities, such as the positive economic impact of construction (According to NIRSA, $1.7B was spent on 157 recreation construction projects in 2012), the employment opportunities afforded to students, the educational programming opportunities, the importance of recreation to students' quality of life (and GPA), the role in building a schools’ reputation, or any number of issues.
Unfortunately, neither will the politicians pinning the climbing costs of higher education on climbing walls.
Head Injuries Impacting All Football Levels
by May 2015
My 11-year-old godson is a tough kid. He plays big for his size (by comparison, my just-turned nine-year-old daughter is taller) and has shown enough ability to have his family — and me — believing he has a real future in sports. But that sport won't be football. After sustaining two concussions, his parents made the decision to pull him out of football despite his love of the game, and his relative success at an early age.
Blog: Keep Athletics About Student Development, Not Revenue
by Andrew Barnard May 2015
I recently attended a conference regarding the future of college athletics sponsored by the Big XII and featuring four young, bright and successful student-athletes. The focus was primarily on issues affecting the Power Five Conferences: student-athlete stipends, image and likeness rights, the role (and cumbersome overreach) of the NCAA, etc. Esteemed members of a second panel discussion featured media personalities (all of whom played collegiate sports), a highly successful coach, a university president and the conference commissioner.
Blog: Winning Fuels Seahawks in Frank Clark Case
by Stuart Goldman May 2015
The Frank Clark story just won’t go away. That’s because The Seattle Times won’t let it go away.
Reflecting On My 2014 as I Turn Forty
by April 2015
One of the best (and worst) parts of working in the athletics, fitness and recreation industry is personally witnessing how many of my readers have gotten better with age. At the 2014 Athletic Business Conference & Expo, the exhibit hall was packed with veteran single-digit-body-fat attendees testing the latest and greatest in fitness equipment. Even Fast Company cofounder and keynote speaker William Taylor tweeted that it was the fittest audience he'd ever addressed.
Blog: Living in the Wild, Wild ISC West
by April 2015
Being a first-time ISC West attendee, I had been warned to prepare for a “monster.” Boasting more than 1,000 exhibitors and close to 30,000 attendees, ISC West is the largest security tradeshow in the United States, and last week, I went toe-to-toe with the “monster” in Las Vegas. Yes, in a town built on gambling and taking risks, I was going to a show built on mitigating or eliminating risk.
Blog: Can Today's Buildings Withstand Test of Technology?
by Andrew Barnard April 2015
I recently attended a regional conference for the Society of College and University Planners (SCUP). It’s interesting to hear about the wide range of issues that affect planning on college campuses, many of which translate to private development as well as to other institutions.