Let's revisit my 2021 predictions. Did I get ANYTHING right?
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Speaking of end of the year stuff, I think it's only fair to revisit some of my predictions from last year. I'm planning on writing another newsletter next week with some predictions for 2022, but you'd want to see how accurate I was this year before deciding how seriously to take future projections, right?
Like I always say, if I REALLY had a functioning crystal ball, I'd charge a lot more for an Extra Points subscription. But let's see how I did:
How did we do with our College Sports Business predictions?
I predicted that "New Balance will announce new apparel agreements with multiple D-I institutions in 2021." Technically, this happened! New Balance announced an agreement with Denver in March 2021, and Boston College in April. Those two schools join Maine as the only current D-I New Balance schools. I actually thought the number would be higher, but let's see what happens in 2022 as a few more mid-major schools with hockey programs may hit the open market.
I said I wouldn't be surprised to see schools aggressively look to new partnerships to secure revenue, including one with gambling partners, like Colorado did. Several schools decided to do exactly that, including LSU, UNLV and Maryland. I also predicted schools would become more aggressive in the licensed product space, and that's also happening, especially with licensed school-specific alcohols.
"With the industry facing very challenging headwinds, and with major opportunities for advancement often hard to come by, I think you’ll see a few more D-1 athletic directors leave the industry altogether for opportunities in professional sports, or perhaps out of sports entirely." I think you could say this happened too, including with individuals who were earlier in their careers. Amy Huchthausen stepping down as the commissioner of the America East Valerie Cleary stepping down as Portland State AD, and Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall up and quitting for no obvious reason are just three of the biggest examples.
Didn't really step out on a limb with any of these, but hey, three for three!
Does that streak continue? Well....no.
How did we do with Conference realignment predictions?
I thought UC Riverside was going to drop out of D-I athletics...and to be fair, so did a lot of other industry observers. But in May, the school announced they plan to stick around, or at least, plan on buying more time to find more money.
I predicted that "we'd see at least one school pull the trigger on dropping out of D-I". That actually did happen, but Hartford was not one of the schools I thought could actually make that change in 2021.
I predicted this would be a big year in FCS realignment, and it was. But I didn't nail the specifics. I wrote that "The MEAC, ASUN, NEC, Southland and Southern will all experience at least one membership change." We did see changes with the ASUN, MEAC and Southland, but not the NEC or Southern.
I predicted that this would be the year that Boise finally left the MWC. There was a lot of noise that this was possible, and the school did look at other options, but a marriage with the AAC didn't happen.
Also, it's worth noting that I had absolutely no idea that this Texas/Oklahoma business was going to happen this year. I thought we were at least a year, if not two, away from that conversation. Anything that happened in realignment-land as a direct result of Texas/Oklahoma...I absolutely didn't see that happening back in December 2020.
How did we do with NIL predictions?
This was also a bit of a mixed bag.
In case we forgot how much the NIL world has changed in a year, back in December, only five states had passed NIL laws, and only a few more were seriously close to passing new ones. I wrote that "By late 2021, it will be more notable to point out which states are not considering such legislation.", and I think that turned out to be pretty true. Very few states with FBS institutions did not pass NIL bills.
On the congressional front, I predicted that the federal government would fail to pass any NIL bill before Florida's went into effect in July, but that "I do think something will eventually get passed in 2021." Not only has there not been any federal bill in 2021, but it's increasingly likely there won't be one next year either.
I whiffed on Alston. I wrote, "my best guess is that Alston, in practice, ends up providing a limited antitrust exemption for the NCAA, but it will be narrow enough to frustrate the current athletic establishment, and will likely invite additional litigation. Basically, nobody is going to be really happy." Instead, the court ruled 9-0 against the NCAA, and Brett Kavanaugh essentially laid out a legal roadmap for the next plaintiff to nuke the concept of amateurism entirely. I was expecting something closer to a split-decision. Instead, it's hard to imagine a worse outcome for the NCAA.
Did I get this one right?
Re: NIL, this is what I wrote last December:
Was that right? I think it's very accurate to say that a lot of athletes have really benefitted from NIL...financially, educationally, professionally, you name it. Thousands of athletes have secured at least one deal, and I'm never going to get on here and diminish the value of a college student earning five hundred bucks or something.
But there was/is still a lot of regulatory uncertainty that has limited the marketplace for both athletes and brands. I'm not sure that lawyers were as large a beneficiary in the early going as I expected, but consulting groups, marketplaces and 'experts' have done well for themselves, I think.
The more everybody understands exactly what the rules are, how to price themselves, and how to evaluate success, the more opportunities everybody will have. We're very much not there yet in December 2021.
What about the other predictions?
Re, CFP expansion, I wrote, "Widespread frustration with the 2020 season won’t be enough to change the formatting of the College Football Playoff. I’d be pretty surprised if the format expanded, or changed meaningfully, before the end of this contract." I guess I can claim credit for the fact that we won't see meaningful changes announced this calendar year, but could it happen before the end of this contract? I'm certainly more optimistic about that than I was in December.
"Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State are probably all gonna be really good in 2021. Sorry. Had to step out on a limb a little bit there." I said this as a joke, but hey, Ohio State and Clemson missed the playoff, and both head into this off season with significant structural questions! I should never tell jokes.
Anyway, looking back here, I think I actually did a bit better than I thought. I give myself a C+, which is about what my college transcript looked like. Good enough!
Here's hoping I can do a little better with next year's predictions.
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