College Sports: Will it Survive?

This conversation is happening in every collegiate athletics department around the country right now. My answer as to will college sports survive is yes, but…

The only way college sports will survive is if every department evaluates what is truly at the heart of what they do, recognizes what is most important and makes that a priority.

Every. Day. Of. The. Year.

What might you ask is at the heart of college sports? Community.
What is most important? Real connections with real people. Again, community.

Make that the focus and the priority and everything else will fall into place. College sports will survive if each department recognizes what really makes them great and what they really stand for. Every employee. Every day. All year. All conversations. With everyone you meet.

Is the competition aspect important? Yes. But it’s not everything. The community is everything.

College sports are unique and some legendary programs now span centuries of active existence and participation. And yet for some that legacy is in jeopardy. For others, they’re more confident now than they’ve ever been and they continue to reinvest in their communities.

I’ll say it again: College sports will survive if the executives in charge put community at the heart of everything they do and make their work about the community and nothing else.

Is money important. Yes, absolutely.

Are expenses real and growing every year, if not every month or day? Yes, absolutely.

So what do I mean by community?

I mean the collection of people who all believe in something greater than themselves. The community of alumni, employees, friends, fans and citizens that come together to celebrate the culture that exists around the competition.

This topic is somewhat controversial and may stir some people the wrong way, but over the next few months, I’ll be exploring why and how I think college sports can survive. The grand summary of how college sports will survive is community.

Community is service to others.
Community is acceptance.
Community is celebration.
Community is core values.
Community is academia and business coming together.
Community is people connecting at a higher level.

Community is love.

Athletics Equipment Manager Part 4 of 4

Bill Peck at ND Stadium, Aug 2008
Bill Peck at ND Stadium, 16 August 2008

If this is your first time reading this blog, you might want to check out part 1, part 2 and part 3. This post will pick up where part 3 left off.

I started my professional experience at the University of Notre Dame in July 2007 under the title of Assistant Equipment Manager. In that role my job description and responsibilities changed over the 3+ years I was there, so I pulled out my most recent job description to write this post. The main duties involved were:

– Equipment room

– Student Managers Organization

– Game management

– Monogram Club

– Internal operations

“Equipment room” is a very brief way to describe the countless things I was responsible for as an equipment guy including inventory, shipping, receiving, ordering, planning, oversight and control in addition to interaction with both internal and external constituents as it related to anything having to do with equipment and/or apparel for our teams, coaches and athletes. This was the core function of my job, but one of the duties that drew me to the field of equipment management in general was the fact that I’d get to work with student managers and specifically at Notre Dame, the SMO. As a former manager myself, I was very excited to be on the supervisor end of that relationship and was ready to give back for all the great experiences I had as a student manager.

“Game management” at Notre Dame was a very unique responsibility. Because many of the other staff have been working there for so long, many aspects of the events on campus simply take care of themselves. My job was to make sure they had everything they needed, including access to the facilities in which we’d be working and higher level support in case anything went wrong. As the game day administrator for many of the Olympic sport events during my tenure, the two most stressful times were when we had to evacuate a hockey game during a tornado warning and when we thought we had a natural gas leak at a lacrosse game. If you ever want to hear more about those two situations, send me a message or leave me a comment below.

In terms of the Monogram Club, the letter winners organization at Notre Dame, I was responsible for all the various awards and their inventory, tracking, ordering, storage and distribution as well as the athletes who had earned, ordered and actually picked up their awards.

“Internal operations” was also something unique to my position at Notre Dame that perhaps other equipment or general athletics staff  at other universities might not have on their radar. The Notre Dame equipment room was in many ways at the center of much of what was going on in the athletics department. Through personal history and relationships, as well as the physical location and responsibilities associated with the equipment, we were involved with many different aspects of the department, especially in terms of outreach and hospitality. When special guests were invited to campus (something that happened regularly during football season), we were often involved in setting up displays or putting together welcome packages for them upon arrival.

Something else I was fortunate enough to be a part of was to give private tours of Notre Dame Stadium (football) to special guests while also serving as the personal contact for visiting athletics directors on football game days. I knew enough about the history of the school, the team and the nuances that most people didn’t, I fit in easily in that role. In addition, as an equipment manager, I had access to most of the athletics facilities and enjoyed being the guy in the background, supporting the work of others and working toward the University’s goals and mission in alignment with its core values – something that cannot be understated and will be saved for a future blog post.

In closing, I loved my time as an equipment manager and am very grateful for the opportunities I had to pursue that line of work. If you ever want to know more, I’d be happy to talk about it more with you. Stay tuned for another post next week, right here on Bill’s Sports Business Blog.

Go Forth!