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March 9, 2023 — An era of restlessness in college sports

Two months ago, a study was released by the NCAA. The study looked at survey results of more than 6,000 colleges in NCAA sports at all levels.

A number of figures have been pulled from the data. But for the purposes of this blog entry, we’re looking at the mental health concerns of the surveyed coaches. Some 40 percent of head coaches say they have “constantly” or “most every day” felt mentally exhausted. One in three have trouble sleeping. The number of coaches overwhelmed by their workday is around 37 percent.

At the same time, think about a couple of statistics that UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma threw out during media availability a couple of years ago. He said that there were approximately 1,000 female basketball players in the portal, and some 200 of them were never contacted by any college.

Behind the excitement, behind the pageantry, behind the color and sound and action of college sports, I think there are an awful lot of very unhappy people.

Indeed, when you look at the world of college sport, there’s only one team per level per sport that finishes off an ultimate winner at the end of the season. That’s an awful lot of losing teams, and players, as well as coaches who feel as though they are not getting the requisite support from their athletic administrations.

Today, The Great Retirement in college coaching has claimed 47-year head coach Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, a coach in a high-revenue sport: men’s basketball. This is a man who survived an early 90s period of probation to win his lone national championship 20 years ago, then saw a number of blocks shifting around him as the school went to the ACC and the team’s home, the Carrier Dome, get a major refurbishment and a new corporate name.

But Boeheim seemingly has become the latest veteran head coach who lost the confidence of an athletic administration and/or the group of players in that locker room. Many coaches who have been interviewed have cited players as the major reason they have decided to quit. Much of that stems from players’ contacts with name, likeness, and image companies and the ability to use the transfer portal.

This is turning the offseason in many sports into something resembling a Spanish-language telenovela. And I don’t think that’s the best thing to happen to college sports in America.

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