The Wolfpacker

Sept.-Oct. 2020

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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50 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER T he pause was long and uncomfortable, like a blind date conversation. It is a question all sports fans will have to come to terms with, if and when the COVID-19 pandemic abates and the world returns to some sense of normalcy: Will anything actually be better? The seconds ticked by, and a friend of more than 30 years — one of the most prominent voices in sports in the country — uttered the inevitable "No." Other responses were similarly bleak, as athletics begins to think not just of ending seasons, locking out fans or playing in a short-term bubble. We now must consider the permanent effects. Historically, we really only have one thing to compare it to, the global Spanish Flu pandemic near the end of World War I. The ends of those two deadly events were among the best things that have ever hap- pened to college and professional athletics, ushering in the "Golden Age of Sports" in the 1920s. Postwar prosperity came in the form of shortened work weeks, disposable income and greater mobility, all of which were a great boon to athletics. Most sports have been on an ascending trajectory ever since. Before WWI, NC State and North Car- olina hardly ever competed against each other. They were forced to out of necessity, and now the mostly friendly rivalry is an Old North State expectation in every sport. It all seems different now. There have been valiant efforts to reboot, restart and re- tool everything we know about how to con- duct sports safely and properly. However, NC State won't have women's soccer as a varsity sport this fall and, at least through September, there will be no fans in Carter- Finley Stadium. The entire world, of course, has been changed. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. Economies have been wrecked. Sports are but a minor part of it. Still, it's one of the few things that brings like-minded fans together. So how different will it be? (Note: None of this takes into account the social justice movements that have come with the civil unrest many cities have seen this summer. With no college games being played since the beginning of those move- ments, and attendance being limited or dis- allowed completely, it remains to be seen how political activism will affect college athletics.) • Athletics departments will be smaller: Some schools have already used the finan- cial losses caused by the shutdowns to elim- inate sports. There's no doubt that the facili- ties arms race that has resulted in billions of dollars in new constructions, upgrades and renovations will be dramatically reduced for years to come. • Scholarships may be cut: Since almost all scholarships are paid for with annual donations, the financial crisis may make it difficult to raise the $15 to $20 million a year most schools need for scholarships. Schools can reduce this number by elimi- nating sports or the NCAA could reduce maximums, like the 85 grants every football team is allowed. That would have the addi- tional benefit of relieving pressure to meet federal Title IX requirements, which are badly skewed at most schools by football. • Paying student-athletes is still just a dream: As the court cases regarding name, image and likeness rights were resolved in favor of the student-athletes, the bottom fell out of world economies. • The era of exorbitant coaching sala- ries may be over: The market will always reflect established value, but can a school really justify paying a coach more than $10 million a year when it is laying off dozens of $50,000-a-year jobs, as has happened at ACC schools like Wake Forest, Florida State and Clemson? • Luxury travel is a thing of the past: Even when flights begin again, are schools going to be willing to send their teams across the country for a three-day trip? Will football teams still need to spend Friday nights be- fore home games at a local hotel or provide five-star meals and accommodations every road trip? • Students, especially those whose fami- lies have been hit hard by economic shut- downs, will reevaluate their willingness to pay growing fees: For all the money earned from media rights and conference payouts and other forms of revenue, the bulk of most building expenses come from the annual fees every student pays for athletics. • Television revenues will likely suffer: This is another area that was about to burst before the pandemic hit. The NCAA and Power Five conferences have made endless amounts of inventory available to ESPN and other sports broadcasting networks. As ca- ble television loses viewers and cable com- panies lose the lucrative monthly fees, the money coming in now might not be there when television rights are renegotiated, put- ting a strain on departments that cashed out future revenues for current needs. • College athletics will become less inter- esting: Media access, on the wane for nearly a quarter century by school choice, will be- come even more limited. Even daily Zoom calls or online press conferences don't help the few remaining reporters covering col- lege athletics find and tell stories of depth and interest. Surely, some unconsidered good will come of this, even if it is just getting a bet- ter handle on the profligate spending by athletics departments and colleges around the country. The only thing that is for cer- tain: college and professional sports are in for significant changes in the near future. ■ Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker and can be reached at The challenges facing NC State and director of athletics Boo Corrigan, and every other school in the country, are numerous due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PHOTO BY RYAN TICE PACK PERSPECTIVE What Will Be Different In 2020 And Beyond

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