Are college sports sustainable after the pandemic?

This has been a bleak year in the empty stadiums on America’s college campuses. First, the pandemic canceled games, and then the lingering shutdowns and postponements threatened the model for college sports.

Empty stadium seats indicating no spectators at a sporting event.

Penn GSE’s Karen Weaver is an expert on the role of sports at colleges at every level. In addition to her research, she has previously served as an athletics administrator at Division I and Division III universities, and is a member of the NCAA Committee on Athlete Biometric Data.

Weaver discusses how COVID-19 might reshape the college sports landscape, and how to help college leaders prepare to oversee athletics departments.

“I’m paying attention to the dynamics between public health, the politics of 2020, and who has the power to get done what they want to get done,” says Weaver. “And how that power to act is limited within the conference and NCAA structures.”

“There is no one-size-fits-all rule for college sports or college leaders,” she adds.

With the pandemic heavily reducing revenue from sporting events, colleges will have to adjust what is offered to student athletes in place of tuition money.

“I think athletic departments are going to create incubators for athletes to come in and develop their own brands to earn money on their name, image, and likeness as NCAA rules open up,” says Weaver. “They’ll give them access to experts who will help athletes develop a brand, an image, and come up with potential targets. That’s going to be the very basic [framework]. And it’s already starting to happen with a few companies.

“This is going to be a whole new level of recruiting. We’re not just saying come here because we have a nice locker room. Come here because we have something tangible beyond the field to offer.”

Read more at Penn GSE.