USOPC College Sports Sustainability Think Tank releases final recommendations
Colorado Springs, COLO. - The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee College Sports Sustainability Think Tank today announced its final recommendations to sustain the broad-based college sports model through increased collaboration and customization. Following collaborative work since the fall of 2020, the recommendations released today include seven key action items that address challenges facing Division I athletics.
"We are incredibly excited about these recommendations, motivated to see them put into practice, and grateful to all of our USOPC Think Tank members for dedicating their time and energy to this important effort,” said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland. “These recommendations lay the foundation for greater partnerships moving forward, and together we can work to keep Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities strong on campus.”
The USOPC Think Tank assembled project groups during the spring and summer of 2021 to conduct research and explore sustainability outcomes. The recommendations are intended to be piloted prior to being scaled more broadly.
“The USOPC Think Tank is proud to move these ideas into action with the NCAA national office and membership,” said Scott Stricklin, University of Florida athletic director and USOPC Think Tank co-chair. “Now is the time to think creatively to preserve our broad-based collegiate sports infrastructure.”
The recommendations are centered around four areas: sport sustainability, sport structure, vertical partnerships and Paralympic inclusion.
- Recommendation 1: Develop a customized recruiting plan for swimming and diving to initiate the recruiting process during a prospect’s senior year of high school. By delaying initial contact, limiting visits and implementing a contained recruiting calendar, the adjustments will alleviate pressures on prospects, ease the time burden on athletes and coaches, and increase operational efficiencies.
- Recommendation 2: Allow flexible engagement with prospective and elite male gymnasts by deregulating men’s gymnastics recruiting rules around clubs, tryouts, camps/clinics and national teams. These changes would allow varsity programs to partner with youth programs and USA Gymnastics to share facilities, streamline expenses and generate revenue through expanded camps/clinics.
- Recommendation 3: Build and pilot an Olympic Sustainability Membership Category, modeled after the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women structure, to test regulatory flexibility for low-sponsored sports. Flexibility may include multidivisional membership and nimble conference affiliation to ease scheduling burdens and strengthen regional partnerships.
- Recommendation 4: Formalize USOPC and NCAA organizational alignment by expanding the existing USOPC/NCAA cooperation agreement to mechanize leadership-level connections, sport-level partnerships, communications collaboration and project-specific engagement.
- Recommendation 5: Establish partnerships to achieve NCAA championships efficiencies through (1) National Governing Body/NCAA championships hosting partnerships, (2) NGB/NCAA efficiency partnerships and/or (3) NGB/NCAA auxiliary partnerships. Pilot concepts are intended to increase operational efficiencies, open revenue opportunities and enhance the student-athlete experience.
- Recommendation 6: Pilot Olympic and Paralympic Games content sharing and develop a recognition program to increase storytelling and elevate national awareness of the role colleges play in developing Olympians and Paralympians. Over time, these efforts may strengthen commercial interest in the collegiate Olympic and Paralympic marketplace.
- Recommendation 7: Bring stakeholders together to launch the USOPC/NCAA Para-College Inclusion Project. This includes conducting research on national adaptive sport programming, collectively promoting adaptive sports, and connecting school leaders, adaptive programs and U.S. Paralympic leaders to strengthen sport structures.
The USOPC Think Tank also outlined implementation steps – many of which require collaboration with the NCAA governance structure. The NCAA Division I Council assigned the NCAA Student-Athlete Experience Committee to review the sustainability concepts. The sport structure concepts will be reviewed by the NCAA Division I Strategic Vision and Planning Committee and NCAA Competition Oversight Committee. The NCAA COC will also review the vertical partnerships concepts. The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics, NCAA Minority Operations and Interests Committee, and NCAA Committee to Promote Cultural Diversity and Equity will engage in the Paralympic inclusion recommendation.
The USOPC Collegiate Advisory Council will assume the role of monitoring and implementing the USOPC Think Tank recommendations. More information on the concepts and progress can be found at TeamUSA.org/ThinkTank.