Our main observation in 2017? Activities in athletic departments that have historically happened in-person–things like workshops, career fairs and mentorship networking events–have started to move online where they’re easier to manage, improve and scale.

Happy New Year to you!

2017 was an amazing year for college athletics.

What stood out to us?

An amazing statistic—class of 2017 student-athletes reached record graduation rates of 87%!

We know success like this was years in the making—the hard work by academic professionals on campus, investments made by athletics departments into resources and technology, and, of course, an immense amount of hard work by the athletes to balance the rigors of college athletics while achieving so much academically.

So say ‘so long’ to the days of the ‘dumb jock’—congratulations again!

As we turn the page to 2018, academic success like this signals to the market a movement to “what’s next”. So, at Game Plan, we’re calling 2018 the “Year of Student-Athlete Development.”

Here are 9 predictions for the year ahead—how many would you agree with?

  1. The growing gap in budgets between Power 5 and Non-Power 5 will reveal itself prominently in student-athlete development programs this coming year.
  2. For Power 5 athletic departments, student-athlete development success will be predicated by how an athletics department manages a ‘high-class problem’: how will the athletic department manage significant investment made into the branding of student-athlete development, including adding coaching staff members (primarily football and basketball) all while delivering measurable results for the entire athletic department?
  3. Conversely, mid-major athletic departments will need to work innovatively and efficiently to stretch dollars in challenging budget times yet still deliver the student-athlete development outcomes the market demands.
  4. Broad, conceptual branding of student-athlete development programs will ultimately give way to data measuring real outcomes throughout an athletes’ time on campus.
  5. Sexual violence prevention is the first of many ‘must-have’ educational topics that will be required for athletics departments to educate their athletes and their stakeholders on.
  6. College athletics in 2018 officially has its first buzzword – ‘workshop fatigue.’ The time demand legislation and genuine pressures associated with athletes’ schedules will force athletic departments to think innovatively on how they deliver educational programs and content. The athletic department that finds the best blend of in-person and online delivery of education will ultimately provide their athletes more growth opportunities.
  7. Athletic organizations who break down the silos of the athletic department and create comprehensive student-athlete development will create competitive advantage and enhance the student-athlete experience.
  8. The market will demand technology cooperation, which may lead to potential consolidation. Platform fatigue is real. It impacts users, it’s expensive and ultimately a management nightmare. Athletic departments will define technology ‘must-haves’ and the market will respond.
  9. The athletic department who uncovers more ‘natural resources’ will thrive. These resources include innovatively engaging traditional sponsors and alumni into student-athlete development opportunities such as job creation and mentorship.

Happy new year again to you—we wish you a wonderful year of outstanding student-athlete development!

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