Future of Varsity Sports

September 5, 1975

Report Outline
Challenges Facing College Athletics
Evolvement of the Varsity System
Prospects for Change in College Sports
Special Focus

Challenges Facing College Athletics

Signs of Hard Times and Reaction of Colleges

Of all the american institutions currently threatened by inflation and recession, none is more ail-American than intercollegiate athletics. Varsity sports are suffering from murderously high costs and greatly increased competition for the public's sports-entertainment dollar. The situation was summed up by Frank Deford, who wrote in Sports Illustrated on July 28 that if intercollegiate athletics were sold on Wall Street, they “would be down 100 points and the Securities and Exchange Commission would have suspended trading.”

According to Deford and others, 90 per cent of all U.S. college athletic departments are losing money, and “every indication is that it will get worse before it gets lots worse.” An omen of things to come emanated from Kansas State University recently. Long a member of the Big Eight and for years one of the nation's leading basketball powers, Kansas State revealed that as of June 30 it had accumulated a deficit of $365,000 in its men's athletic programs. To make ends meet, the athletic department was forced to borrow $204,000 out of anticipated revenue from football tickets, and ordered deep cuts in all sports budgets except basketball's. Golf, tennis, gymnastics and wrestling were left with no money at all, and 1975–76 schedules were cancelled. Kansas State has the lowest athletic budget of any school in the Big Eight, so its deficit is seen as a particularly ominous harbinger of hard times.

The economic pressures on intercollegiate athletics have reached such intensity that the delegates to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (ncaa) meeting on economy, held in April, called for a special convention this summer. The convention, which met in Chicago Aug. 14–15, was devoted exclusively to financial issues, with the emphasis on cost-cutting. Acting with unusual speed, the organization's members passed unprecedented resolutions to reduce the number of athletic scholarships and coaches, limit the size of traveling squads and reduce contact with recruiting prospects. Ncaa Executive Director Walter Byers said he believed that the new rules will save at least $15 million for Division I and II schools—those with “big-time” and medium-sized varsity programs—over the next year. Major football schools may save up to $200,000 each. Another special session on finances will be held before the ncaa's regular convention meets, Jan. 14–16, in St. Louis.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
College Sports
Apr. 24, 2020  Compensating College Athletes
Jun. 03, 2016  College Athletics
Jul. 11, 2014  Paying College Athletes
Nov. 18, 2011  College Football
Mar. 19, 2004  Reforming Big-Time College Sports
Mar. 23, 2001  Sportsmanship
Aug. 26, 1994  College Sports
Aug. 15, 1986  College Sports Under Fire
Apr. 15, 1983  Changing Environment in College Sports
Sep. 05, 1975  Future of Varsity Sports
Sep. 10, 1952  Commercialism in College Athletics
Sports and Recreation
Undergraduate and Graduate Education