A new survey of Division I college athletic directors offers insights as to their top concerns as the ongoing pandemic continues muddling their best-laid plans.
The survey by engagement platform Teamworks polled senior leadership across NCAA Division I institutions to gather feedback on current issues facing collegiate athletics including the transition back to campus, the impending football season, and establishing financial security amidst COVID-19
“COVID-19 has disrupted the sports industry in unprecedented ways, and collegiate administrators are being forced to make decisions for their athletic departments without a historical standard to reference,” said Zach Maurides, CEO and founder of Teamworks in a statement. “As we all navigate this uncharted territory together, we felt it necessary to capture the primary concerns and real-time decision-making collegiate administrators are facing going into the fall season. It is clear maintaining student-athlete physical and mental well-being is still a top priority and one that will continue to require deep engagement and transparent communication from coaches and staff to ensure student-athletes have the resources they need.
“Administrators remain optimistic that, at a minimum, conference football will be played during the 2020-21 school year,” said Maurides. “As athletic departments continue to enact a multitude of operational changes and safety precautions to prepare for the upcoming year, what can be assured is that college football, if played, will look different than in years past and the safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff will continue to carry the most weight in decision-making processes.”
Below are key findings from the Teamworks “Impact of Coronavirus on Collegiate Return to Play” survey.
Student-athlete physical and mental well-being remain top concerns
Similar to the “State of Athletics in the Face of Coronavirus” survey in April, Teamworks’ follow-up survey shows that collegiate administrators continue to remain very focused on supporting student-athlete physical and mental well-being. More than 70 percent of respondents listed sport performance and mental health as the top two issues impacting student-athletes. Academic progress was ranked as the third most impacted by respondents.
Strong return of student-athletes to campus
Nearly 80 percent of respondents have offered a voluntary return to on-campus training for student-athletes. Fully 40 percent of respondents indicated that at least 50 percent of their student-athletes have elected to return to campus. While the majority of respondents have seen positive COVID-19 tests amongst both student-athletes and staff, with higher numbers for student-athletes, 81 percent indicated that they have not had to temporarily suspend workouts as a result of positive COVID-19 tests. Departments have introduced a wide range of preventative measures, including socially distanced training and daily wellness screenings, to proactively limit the spread.
Confidence in a 2020-2021 football season
More than 55 percent of respondents believe that, at a minimum, conference football will be played across either the fall or spring. Only 5 percent of respondents believe no fans will be allowed this season, but more than 85 percent of respondents plan to have their stadiums filled at less than 50 percent capacity.
Bracing for a significant financial impact
In the 2019-20 fiscal year, 60 percent of respondents experienced a 20 percent or less decrease in their department’s revenue. In comparison, 70 percent of respondents predict over a 20 percent decrease in 2020-21 revenue, with 40 percent of those respondents predicting a decrease over 30 percent. 67 percent of respondents believe they will have to reduce team operating budgets, and 22 percent anticipate furloughing staff as a result of a shortened or canceled football season. Yet, even with a shortened or canceled football season, institutions remain confident they will not have to eliminate or suspend varsity sports programs.