Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Survival and the concentrated mind

"When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

Samuel Johnson's quote (he's got a number of them) seems particularly appropriate in light of some of the significant budgetary challenges facing college athletics and higher education.  UAB football, Sweet Briar College and Cleveland State wrestling all faced down their mortality in the past few months, avoiding being cut or closed.  Each has emerged and will hopefully flourish in the future, serving as great examples of focusing the mind and in the process, staying alive.   

Akron Baseball is now facing the same fate and no doubt other programs will soon have similar challenges to their survival placed in front of them.

The future strength of Sweet Briar, UAB football and Cleveland State wrestling remains to be seen - perhaps they emerge stronger (indeed, "that which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger" - Friedrich Nietzsche, not Kelly Clarkson) - or perhaps these are temporary revivals where the damage from near death cannot produce sustainable rebirth.

The challenge we all face is figuring out how to have the focused mind - and perhaps more importantly, the focused supporters who are willing to contribute their time, talents and treasure to our programs - so that the threats of closing and panicked last minute appeals become unnecessary.  

There are many powerful and motivating emotions in the situations referenced above - love, hate, anger, and regret among them. But indifference provided the initial death sentence, until the perceived loss was so real that emotion emerged again to save the program.

If you were to have an in-depth conversation with your key supporters and ask them, "What would happen if our program didn't exist anymore?", what would they say?  And if you had the same conversation with potential or lapsed supporters who have been sitting on the sideline waiting for the right time to engage, what would they say?

Concentration that produces engagement, motivation and passion without the threat of hanging is a worthwhile challenge that may not seem very urgent.......until it is.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lessons from the Shark Tank

One of the more popular shows on television is Shark Tank.  It is built around the premise of entrepreneurs pitching their product or service to five billionaires who have the opportunity to fund the business in exchange for an equity stake in the company.

In college athletics, we are similarly seeking all kinds of investors to take an equity stake in our teams. There are numerous lessons to take from this show that apply to your team, department and institution.  Five that come to mind include:
  1. You are always on the carpet - Each entrepreneur stands on an ornate rug and pitches their concept to the five investors.  You are doing this every single day at macro and micro levels with season ticket holders, media contacts, donors, recruits and a host of other potential supporters. 
  2. You have to know your product - Each episode, there inevitably seems to be someone who isn't well educated about their own product or doesn't have a clear understanding of the business.  If YOU don't know your own product or aren't passionate about it, how can you expect others to believe in what you are selling?
  3. Simple but creative often works - Some of the best selling items on Shark Tank are remarkably simple, including the #1 seller, a smiling sponge called the Scrub Daddy.  
  4. It's important to move towards closing - As Dan Tudor points out in his recent post about recruiting and Shark Tank, knowing the right time to close the deal, and the right tone to close the sale is very important.
  5. Repeat business is crucial - Two of the common questions on Shark Tank are "What is your cost of acquiring a customer?" and "What percentage of your sales are repeat customers?" Keeping your current customers is crucial, yet we often spend more time and effort on acquisition over maintaining the supporters we currently have and letting them tell our story for us through word of mouth and social media where they tout their satisfaction to the market. 
Are you a fan of the show?  I invite you to take a moment and share your additional observations in the comments section.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Trust over Price

UltimateSportsInsider.com was a recent guest author on the intercollegiate athletics recruiting website DanTudor.com.  I'd encourage you to head over to his site to read my thoughts about the importance of valuing trust over price.  Do you have a great example in your world where you value trust over price?  Feel free to share it in the comments section.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Athletics budget update #66

Approximately half of Wichita State's Athletics staff was facing the possibility of furlough due to the inability of the Kansas state legislature to pass a budget.

Western Illinois is examining men's and women's basketball scheduling to enhance revenue for the athletic program through guarantee games.

South Carolina State continues to undergo massive athletic cuts, yet Director of Athletics Paul Bryant remains optimistic about the future of the program.

Clemson and South Carolina student fees are part of an in depth article analyzing the fee structures at various public institutions across the state.

In depth article about Louisiana Monroe and the financial challenges it faces as the school with the lowest revenues and expenditures in FBS football.

Very interesting article about $9+ million in state appropriations to IMG Academy in Florida and the businesses that are being attracted to the area due to the Academy's engagement with high profile athletes.

UltimateSportsInsider.com recently spoke at the University at Buffalo during an alumni leadership event.  This short 2 minute video gives some of the flavor of this very engaging and robust 90 minute panel discussion.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Industrial vs. Artisan Intercollegiate Athletics

If you haven't attended Dan Tudor's (@dantudor) National Collegiate Recruiting Conference (#NCRC2015) I would strongly encourage you or your coaching staff to do so.  People across all levels of college athletics came together over the weekend to exchange ideas and concepts on how to enhance their recruiting.  Three things stood out about the event:
  1. Because the majority of people in the room were coaches from all different sports, the conversations were more collaborative and genuine.  Sharing a good idea was less likely to come back and be used against you in a recruiting situation. 
  2. People stayed and participated in the event from start to finish.  Many conferences hit a point where the energy wanes and people prefer to check out the local sights and nice weather instead of sitting in the conference ballroom - that wasn't the case at this event.  The diversity of presenters, the format and pace kept attendees engaged throughout the event. 
  3. It became apparent that recruiting is a constant tension between industrial and artisan approaches. 
Industrial techniques (mass emails, data bases, pressure sales, technology evolution) allow coaches to be more efficient.  However, much of this comes from using the same techniques that we hate in our own lives - email in-boxes crammed with offers, never ending breathless calls to act now and a host of other spam-like methods that help us try to be in the consciousness of prospective student athletes.  And those things help you feel like you are being productive and provide you a mental security blanket that you are doing everything you can to get the right prospects to come to your institution.  

But the artisan techniques - the handmade, personal and genuine touches that take a little longer and require a little more creativity - define your program as distinctive and can be just as effective and crucially important.  

Ultimately, you probably need to do some of both.  But overcoming the tendency to feel safer by mass producing material and instead using targeted, personal and genuine messages will yield the recruiting dividends.  

The artisan approach doesn't just apply to recruiting - it is also just as relevant in fund raising, ticket sales, staff management and a host of other areas of college athletics that are becoming increasingly industrial and lacking unique craftsmanship.

What is your favorite example of great artisan work?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Athletic Budget Update #65

Here is the latest college athletics budget news:

USA Today with an in-depth analysis of the financial state of college athletics reports that at best (depending on accounting method), 53 of 350 Division I institutions are revenue neutral or generate revenue for their institution.

South Carolina State is facing massive budget cuts that could result in a loss of $2.5 million in financial aid for student athletes among other reductions.

St. Bonaventure, like many private institutions, is trying to figure out how to fund its institutional and athletic costs as the number of tuition paying students on its campus continues to decline.  The athletic budget as a percentage of the University budget approaches 15%.  This is a multiple part series (part 2 and part three.)

The Springfield News-Leader with an in-depth review of Missouri State's budget and cost of attendance plans.

Louisiana Lafayette may reduce its athletic budget 5-8% in order to cover the $1.2 million expense related to cost of attendance stipends.

California University of Pennsylvania is eliminating six assistant coaching positions.

UAB announced the reinstatement of its football, bowling and rifle teams.