Experience Management

The Future of College Sports: New Study Reveals How Athletic Directors and Administrators Can Enhance the College Football Experience

The future of sports is facing an experience transformation. The events of 2020 forced leagues to think differently and create new ways to engage with fans and staff.

Externally, the fan experience was forced out of stadiums, and into living rooms via computer, television, and mobile screens. Internally, leagues continue to struggle as they figure out how to keep fans and athletes healthy and safe while continuing operations.

Now, as leagues work to rewrite their playbooks, they will need to lean on insights from fans, athletes, coaches, staff, and other stakeholders to understand what challenges need to be addressed, and how they can pivot strategies to meet those needs.

On a collegiate level, rethinking the experience means finally addressing the concept for a more centralized model, with 70% of FBS Athletics Directors saying the league needs a specific leadership panel to lead and align the FBS Conferences.

In 2020, Qualtrics partnered with Purdue’s Associate Athletic Director, Tom Moreland, to ask athletics directors, deputy athletics directors, and football administrators from nearly every FBS school across college football about their thoughts on a college football commissioner, different governing bodies around FBS college football, and what can be improved to create a better experience for fans, athletes, coaches, staff, and others.

Here is what we found:

A Dedicated Leadership Panel will help Align the FBS Conferences

When asked if college football (FBS) needs a specific leadership panel to lead and align the conferences, 70% of FBS Athletics Directors agreed, further highlighting the need for greater standardization throughout the league.

Current Big Ten Commissioner, Kevin Warren said the pandemic made it clear that different conferences have different approaches. “It became very clear last year (during the global pandemic), that each conference has different philosophies on how they approach critical elements like recruiting, academics, testing, etc. This makes it very difficult to align all these inherent elements.”

And former Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delany, also said: “When people struggle with how to address certain challenges, they look to a larger entity to help fix the problem. The pandemic has likely highlighted the idea of a more central model for college football.”

Delany further added, “Centralization, what are you willing to give up, retain, what are your expectations.  It really is up to the schools. The question is why? Ultimately a more central model will come from boards, integrated with directors, commissioners, coaches, and faculty.”

A College Football Commissioner can help Standardize the League

When asked if college football needs a Commissioner or similar leadership position to lead and align the FBS conferences, 69% of all participants agreed that the college sports league would benefit from a centralized place for decisions. In contrast, 16% disagree that the FBS needs a commissioner or similar leadership (15% were neutral).

Snapshot of breakdown by role:

  • 2% of deputy athletic director or football sport administrators agree or strongly agree in the need for a college football commissioner
  • 4% of athletic directors agree or strongly agree in the need for a college football commissioner

Competitive Match-ups Enhance the Experience for Fans and Players

Though many sports leagues work collectively to create game schedules for the season, college football has a less centralized approach. Despite the business case points on the value of competitive matchups, 46% of respondents disagree with having a centralized location for non-conference scheduling.

 Snapshot breakdown by role:

  • 2% either agree or strongly agree vs. 45.6% either disagree or strongly disagree
  • 7% of AD’s either agree or strongly agree vs 42.6% either disagree or strongly disagree
  • 7% of Sport Administrators agree or strongly agree vs 52.7% either disagree or strongly disagree

Unified Medical Protocols can better Protect Athletes

When asked if FBS needs a unified medical advisory board to implement and create the same medical protocols across the FBS conferences, 73% of all participants agreed.

Snapshot breakdown by role:

  • 67% of AD’s either agree vs 22.2% disagree
  • 76% of Football Sport Administrators agree vs 9% disagree

The Qualtrics XM Platform is used in all major professional sports and across college sports to help design and improve the experience those leagues are delivering to fans, athletes, coaches, staff, and others.

To learn more about Qualtrics, please visit www.qualtrics.com.


Fan experience benchmarks: MLB, MLS, NASCAR, NBA, NFL, NHL, and WNBA

Comprehensive Study:

Additional details on the College Football Alignment study can be found on the D1 Ticker.  Including business case points from TV ratings from 993 games, comprehensive analysis on 250,000+ ticket sales data points, 3,486 game contracts, and additional insights from industry leaders. 

Methodological approach:

This study was sponsored and conducted by Qualtrics in partnership with Purdue’s Associate Athletic Director, Tom Moreland. It was fielded between November 27, 2020 - December 18, 2020. Respondents included athletics directors, deputy athletics directors, and football administrators from nearly every FBS school across college football.

A breakdown of participants are below:

  • 94 FBS universities represented
  • 53 FBS Athletics Directors
    • 31 Group of 5
    • 22 Power 5
  • 54 Deputy Athletics Director / Football Administrator
    • 27 Group of 5
    • 27 Power 5
  • 21 Director’s of Football Operations
    • 10 Group of 5
    • 11 Power 5

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics is the technology platform that organizations use to collect, manage, and act on experience data, also called X-data™. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action, used by teams, departments, and entire organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee, and brand—on one platform.

Over 12,000 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics to consistently build products that people love, create more loyal customers, develop a phenomenal employee culture, and build iconic brands.

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