NACDA 2013: Current Trends in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration

The intercollegiate athletics landscape is rapidly changing, with conference realignment, broadcasting deals and emerging technology driving transformation within the industry.  At this year’s National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Convention, held June 5-12, athletic directors, administrators and other professionals in collegiate athletics gathered to discuss some of these key issues and trends.

The following topics were recurring themes throughout the conference, mentioned in various panels by speakers who ranged from high-profile media to athletic directors from schools of all sizes:

Social media – Generational trends and greater connectivity as it relates to social media and the in-stadium experience were highlights of the conference. In addition to its impact on the stadium experience, individuals in attendance were concerned about how it impacts athletic directors and their relationships with a fan base. With the growth of social media, the expectations of fans are evolving. The modern fan considers connectivity with individuals outside the event a necessity and the ability to share their experience with friends- through photos, video and text- key to the experience at the game.  This year, conversations centered on the use of social media and how athletic departments can engage an emerging fan base accustomed to digital connectivity.  Within NACDA, affiliate organizations have their own respective Twitter handles, allowing them to connect with their membership base and tailor content they post to those groups.  This isn’t dissimilar from university-run accounts, which frequently include accounts for various men’s and women’s sports, as well as a general account for the athletic department.  Regardless, it’s clear that social media is an opportunity for universities to engage their fan base and have a pervasive impact on the experiences and relationships with athletes and administrators, inside the stadium and out. This trend will also impact the design of collegiate athletic facilities, which must include the infrastructure to support constant use of digital devices during games and provide unique opportunities for fans to engage with other fans and the game through their devices.

Awareness and accessibility for fans – Increasingly, fans and donors seek awareness and expect availability to ‘insider’ information related to the programs they support and their respective athletic directors and student-athletes.  As designers, we must strive to refine the meaning of the integrated experience and challenge the anticipated expectations of the athletic venue.  Administrators view the influence of insider experience making within facilities as relatively parallel across the industry.  Given that intercollegiate athletic departments realize increased revenue from these unique fan experiences, Populous is primed to develop a new experience model aimed at transforming the patron experience while generating additional revenues for the athletic department. At Baylor University, we’ve designed exterior spaces that embrace game-day programmed events and are based around interaction with student-athletes, coaches, administrators and legends. In addition, the project integrated tailgating on the Brazos River into the design to create new, on campus traditions that transform the spectator experience.

Each year, the NACDA convention is one of the most informative and engaging events we attend as we leave the conference with an understanding of current trends and issues that should be factors in our approach to design. By keeping our finger on the pulse of the industry, we have an opportunity to design collegiate facilities that are exciting, innovative, relevant, revenue generating spaces for schools big and small.

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