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Last week, I shared a more personal newsletter on burnout. I received more emails and more texts after publishing that story than anything else I've ever written for Extra Points. Clearly, writing that I struggled with feeling completely exhausted struck a nerve with many of my readers.

Just based on regular ol' conversations with industry folks, I knew that many were struggling with feelings of exhaustion and burnout. But I'm just one guy. I didn't really have a great understanding of the scope of those feelings.

Last Sunday, my colleagues at our sister publication AthleticDirectorU shared the first part of a multipart study, commissioned in partnership with Athlete Viewpoint/GamePlan.

The responses from their surveys were stark. Across all levels of the college athletics industry, from entry level positions to senior leaders, almost everybody is struggling with exhaustion.

That's a lot of burnout!

To put it another way:

Over 85% of the respondents were at risk of exhaustion!

Why is everybody so burnt out?

I asked Michael Cross, a board member at GamePlan, a longtime college athletics administrator, and the lead analyst on the study, why he thought the numbers were so high.

Cross cautioned me that "Exhaustion and Disengagement aren't exactly the same thing," but that they are certainly related.

On the exhaustion front, Cross suggested that one particularly taxing factor could be the fact that athletic department personnel, increasingly, "don't completely control their schedules." In other industries, most workers have at least a pretty good idea of what their schedule will be like, but athletic department employees are often at the mercy of outside circumstances. Athlete gets in trouble? You're working at 1 AM. Coach calls an evening practice? Trainers better cancel their evening plans. Statehouse considering new college sports regulations? Well, better drive down to the capital.

As one survey respondent put it, "I find it very hard to have energy to socialize - it seems that all I do is go to work, go home to bed, repeat."

There's also the fact that, increasingly, there isn't really an "off season." The college softball season ended last night, and college baseball is still going on. College athletes are increasingly asked to stay on campus during the summer, which means athlete support staff needs to be there and engaged as well. Smaller departments have employees working multiple roles, and before you know it, any chance to recharge, or even rethink, is shrunk down to a handful of days.

Plus, none of this happens in a vacuum. While athletic directors and senior department leaders often make very comfortable salaries, especially at the P5 level, that isn't the case for the legions of athletic trainers, SIDs, operations staffers, and other employees that make this entire operation go. When you're working long hours for only $48,000, and see your gas prices double, and face instability with child care options, and can't effectively plan for your future...well, who could blame you for feeling pooped? There is a lot going on!

As another survey respondent put it, "I find the job less fulfilling now than ever and much of it seems really pointless now, in the big picture."

Cross told me that high levels of exhaustion can lead to disengagement. Disengaged staffers don't have the capacity to think critically, to innovate, or to really improve, all qualities that college athletics desperately needs at the moment.

Possible solutions are complicated. Athletic departments properly staffing to meet increasing demands would probably help. Comments on the study would seem to indicate that quality of leadership and management can go a long way towards managing burnout risks. As NIL, transformation committee and athlete labor law questions reach some tentative conclusions, perhaps predictability in the industry will be a teensy bit easier.

But this hasn't been an industry where folks worked 40-hour weeks in years, and hey, college sports can't fix child care concerns, or inflation worries, or {points to society}. If I KNEW how to fix this, well, I'd be doing it.

But if nothing else, it's nice for me to read some data confirming what I've been feeling and what I've been hearing from sources. And if nothing else, maybe these studies help inspire some tough conversations that could make this industry a little bit more sustainable for the future.

I also want to quickly highlight today's Going For Two. As part of our college athlete NIL series, we interviewed Jack Betts, a WR at D-III Amherst. Jack isn't just an engaging interview who was happy to chat about his journey from Texas to Massachusetts, but is a bit of a rarity in the NIL space. Despite playing at D-III school, and despite not having a massive NIL following, he's become one of the highest earning athletes in D-III.

In our conversation, we talked about his approach to finding NIL opportunities, his advice to other D-II or D-III athletes, his favorite deals (you know, besides this one), the NIL Summit later this month, and more. Also, we talked about computers, and he made this 35-year-old feel roughly 3,000 years old.

I mentioned my first computer was a 386DX. Surely I'm not the only one here that remembers those, right? Right??

Going For Two is the free podcast of Extra Points, which drops every Wednesday and Friday. You can find it via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. If you enjoy the show, please consider leaving us a nice review, or perhaps letting your internet friends know about it.

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For my new readers, Extra Points publishes five days a week, with original reporting, deep analysis and a unique perspective into the off-the-field stories that shape all of college athletics. We also produce Going For Two, a twice-a-week free podcast, covering similar topics.

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