State of Sports Hiring 2021 Cover

College Athletics Hiring on the Upswing Going Forward into 2022

September was a busy month for WorkInSports. Since releasing our inaugural State of Sports Hiring Report, VP of Content and Engaged Learning Brian Clapp broke down some of his takeaways on the WorkInSports Podcast. He also held a webinar to help employers prepare to recruit effectively in the coming months. We also created a handy video breaking down the top 10 findings of the report.

In addition to discussing the broad view of the recruiting arena provided by the State of Sports Hiring Report, we’ve been taking a closer look at the realities of working in college athletics. In fact, college athletics jobs account for roughly 20% of the over 29,000 jobs posted on our platform today.

In the first part of my series sharing data from hiring managers representing athletic departments across the country, I got a clearer picture on what the overall landscape looks like in college sports after an unorthodox year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a follow-up, I shared how forced innovation due to the pandemic has made college athletics more agile in handling sporting events, mainly because remote work is not intrinsic to sporting event management and gameday operations. Today, I look at the opportunities that are available to make an immediate impact working in college athletics.

College Athletics Opportunities Abound

As mentioned above, nearly 6,000 college athletics jobs are posted on our job board, with fall schedules in full swing. People are also looking for work, as evidenced by the 58.1% of respondents in the State of Sports Hiring Report’s survey who reported that they are either passively or actively searching for a new job while currently employed. Another 32.5% of survey respondents said they were unemployed and searching for a new job, over three-quarters of which are searching within the sports industry.

Our survey also showed that job seekers are extremely online, as respondents’ preferred search destinations included general job boards (47.8%), industry-focused job boards such as WorkInSports (18.3%), and company websites (10.5%). Clearly, employers posting jobs on these outlets are getting a lot of eyeballs on their digital ink.

Despite the sheer volume of opportunities available, some schools are struggling to build back their staffs, similar to other industries, as the economy tries to put the COVID-19 pandemic in its rear-view mirror. With 18% of unemployed respondents stating they lost their job due to the coronavirus, a statistically significant 22.4% of job seekers in our survey are discovering they are overqualified for the sports jobs they are applying for.

Auburn University Assistant AD for Marketing and Fan Engagement Dan Heck’s most recent hiring experience supports that struggle, which is something he believes will be commonplace while the hiring market course corrects after the initial staffing shakeups caused by the pandemic.

Flexible Arrangements Key to Preventing College Athletics Burnout

College athletics necessitates a heavy time commitment due to the number of events held on nights and weekends, along with the hours of preparation required to put on a quality gameday experience. While certain aspects of working in college athletics require being on-site and in person, the pandemic has brought the need for a more flexible approach to the job in all fields – and sports is no exception.

For someone who makes their living outside of traditional office hours like University of Oklahoma Assistant AD for Event Management Mike Beirne, creating space for employees to strike a balance between work and home is an unquestionably positive direction the industry has taken.

It may be easy to make flexible arrangements for the larger staffs in athletic departments at Power 5 programs like Auburn and Oklahoma, but it is arguably more important for smaller staffs at schools without as deep of pockets to prevent the burnout that comes with the long hours. For Central Michigan Deputy Athletic Director Rachel Blunt, being able to accommodate workers throughout the pandemic and beyond is critical to limiting turnover at schools that are used to a heavy amount of it.

How Does College Athletics Hiring Look Today?

In a recent WorkInSports Podcast episode where Heck was a guest, Clapp acknowledged that sports has gotten by in its employment practices with the “cool factor.” Since the sports industry puts workers near memorable moments and exciting atmospheres, applicants have traditionally overlooked lower pay and the necessary long hours to put on those events. Following the pandemic, that is no longer sufficient, as 37.6% of respondents in our State of Sports Hiring Survey have difficulty finding a position that meets their salary demands. Couple those salary concerns with the realities of the long hours, and administrators such as Blunt are starting to wonder if their current hiring model needs to change.

There are plenty of positions available in college athletics for those wanting to get a foothold in the industry. While the amount of competition people will face for some positions may be daunting right now, Heck believes that things the hiring market will normalize over time as universities begin filling positions.

Author’s Note: Chad Twaro spent 12 years working as an Athletic Communications professional with four schools before the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. He reached out to contacts from various points of his career to provide perspectives from college athletics professionals who navigated an unorthodox 2020-21 school year and the lessons they are applying going forward.

by: Chad Twaro
October 01, 2021

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