Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.
Remember what things were like in college sports around this time last year?
It was brutal. Nobody had any idea if football was going to be played that fall. Nobody really understood if students were going to come back to campus, or what the academic calendar was going to look like. COVID presented not just a clear physical threat to the health of many communities, but a financial one as well.
By early June of last year, 13 D-I institutions announced they were cutting at least one sports program. By the end of 2020, that number would balloon to 34, thanks to data collected by Steve Dittmore of the University of Arkansas, to say nothing of the problems dropped at the D-II, D-III and NAIA level. Heck, multiple institutions closed last year.
But in 2021, the environment is different. COVID vaccinations appear to be very effective, and most institutions are planning on full stadiums and full dorm rooms. Aggressive federal aid programs like the CARES Act gave many schools a badly needed infusion of cash to help ward off immediate financial emergencies. The short-term financial future of nearly every high level athletic department looks better in 2021 than it did in the summer of 2020.
Plus, thanks to invigorated fundraising, the threats of Title IX lawsuits, or some combination thereof, many of those 34 schools decided to restore at least some of those previously dropped programs. Clemson, for example, will restore Men's Track. La Salle is bringing back their Men's Swimming program. Stanford will restore all 11 previously dropped sports. If I am reading Dr.Dittmore's data correctly, 10 of the 34 D-I schools have announced that at least one of their previously dropped sports will return.
So I have to ask...is the worst over? Is sports sponsorship going to come back on the upswing?
Before we can answer that question, it's worth taking a closer look at the data.