While pondering the 40-year history of Athletic Business magazine, it became increasingly clear just how much times have changed for organized sports. Consider the following:
...there were just short of 6.5 million student-athletes participating in high school sports in America, with more than twice as many boys competing as girls. Today, the total number of participants is pushing 8 million, with roughly 1.3 million more girls participating today compared to 40 years ago.
...the NCAA was still three years away from publicizing participation data. The 1980-81 academic year saw 231,445 student-athletes compete at all three division levels, with males outnumbering females by more than 100,000. The overall participation total has more than doubled since, and women's participation has nearly quadrupled.
...there were 13 college football bowl games, 30 fewer than today (not counting the National Championship). Thirty-two men's basketball teams made the NCAA tournament field, playing without a shot clock (which wouldn't debut until 1985) or a three-point line (1986). Sixteen teams filled the women's tournament bracket, with the national champion crowned not by the NCAA, but by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
...the Olympic Games still celebrated amateurism (in theory).
...six Major League Baseball teams are playing in the same parks they occupied in 1977. The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins have retired two stadiums each since then. Most MLB teams employed an organist. Double-headers dotted the season schedule, and not because of rain's influence. Four teams — four! — reached the postseason. Large-scale video screens wouldn't be seen for another three years. Night games at Wrigley Field were still 11 years off.
...seven stadiums that hosted NFL teams in 1977 still do so today. ABC Monday Night Football's most legendary broadcast combination of Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and Don Meredith reunited for one final season in 1977. A 30-second commercial during Super Bowl XII on CBS cost $163,300 (compared to more than $5 million on Fox this year).
...two arenas predating 1977 are still used by NBA teams. In fact, they are the only two arenas predating 1988. Twenty-seven NBA arenas have been built since then, with another three scheduled to come online within the next three years.
...three NHL arenas are still serving their 1977 tenants (27 new NHL arenas have opened since 1993). Just one NHL franchise — the Atlanta Flames — could be found farther south than St. Louis in 1977. With the league's coming expansion to Las Vegas, that number is now 10 (despite the departure from Atlanta of not only the Flames to Calgary in 1980, but also the Thrashers to Winnipeg in 2011).
Perhaps most importantly to you — as you're reading these words — the number of publications in April 1977 dedicated to constructing, outfitting and operating sports facilities increased from zero to one.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Athletic Business with the title "What a difference 4 decades makes" Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.