One of the aspects I love the most about college athletics is the fact that there are so many sports from which to choose from, both to participate in as well as to watch. Have you ever considered how your favorite college team, or even your employer if you work for a college, came to support and sponsor the sports that they do?
Chances are the sport choices are a result of geographical location, time or era of the century they were founded and of course, financial constraints. For example, many coastal locations and states at lower longitudes (and subsequently better, more reliable weather) are able to sponsor unique sports like sand volleyball and surfing. For those schools whose location are land-locked or covered in ice and snow most of the year, you won’t find any surfing champions but perhaps ski and snowboard champions instead.
Indoor sports are likely to be the only sports sponsored by newer schools, as it is much easier to find the land-space for a basketball court than a football field. Both of those spaces though could be used by multiple sports, which also lends itself well to a university sponsoring more than one sport option by nature of being able to utilize the same playing surface (in full compliance with Title IX too by the way!).
In terms of finances, cost is probably king for most schools in determining what sports they are able to offer their students. Sports that require a smaller number of athletes and that also require a smaller investment in equipment would likely be the first options – think basketball and soccer. Taking that a step forward, there are checks and balances for every sport administrator – consider the differences in cost for golf and tennis teams as opposed to volleyball, swimming, or, in some cases, rowing. Golf and tennis teams are usually smaller teams of fewer than 10 athletes, but very equipment intensive. Without a good sponsorship deal, those costs can rise quickly. Volleyball and swimming are less equipment intensive, but with more athletes, costs can rise quickly as well. Rowing might be an outlier actually, even though you may be able to put a team out on the water with only a few boats in your arsenal, rosters can be as high as 100 athletes or more at some schools.
At any rate, this will be a topic I will continue to explore in future blog posts – and I hope you’ll subscribe and join me in the conversation about how college athletics departments are unique. Some of these are how alumni involvement plays a factor, legal implications such as Title IX, as well as marketability and the more traditional business aspects of profiting off of some sports in order to support others. Subscribe now and never miss a post!