About the USOPC College Sports Sustainability Think Tank

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee College Sports Sustainability Think Tank is a first-of-its-kind effort to address the loss of collegiate Olympic and Paralympic sport opportunities in the wake of COVID-19. As an early result of the pandemic, more than 100 Division I programs were dropped, exposing the need for creative and collaborative management within the Olympic and Paralympic sport ecosystem. Led by University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland, this project included Division I athletics leaders, Team USA athletes and coaches, National Governing Body and USOPC executives, NCAA leaders and sport industry experts. The yearlong effort included large-group sessions and project-area working groups; it culminated in September 2021, following the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

View the full USOPC Think Tank roster.

The collegiate connection into Team USA is deep. At the Tokyo Olympic Games, more than 75% of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team competed across 171 schools, and more than 50% of the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team competed across 76 schools. On the winter side, more than one-third of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team competed across 48 schools, while 25% of the 2018 U.S. Paralympic Team competed across 14 schools.

Preserving the opportunity for athletes to grow and thrive through collegiate Olympic and Paralympic sport programming will benefit not just Team USA, but athletes around the world. International student-athletes also thrive in our country’s athletic system, as it provides a worldwide training ground for personal and athletic development. In Tokyo, more than 640 college athletes represented 117 countries in the 2020 Olympic Games.

USOPC THINK TANK CONCEPTS

Following robust discussion in the fall of 2020, the USOPC Think Tank established four working groups to further ideate around concepts that encourage sustainable, broad-based varsity programming. The four concepts - sport sustainability, sport structure, vertical partnerships and Paralympic inclusion - served as the framework for actionable recommendations that were finalized in the fall of 2021.

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Sport-Specific Sustainability Efforts

Roundtable discussions occurred in 2020 and 2021 to vet sport-specific sustainability concepts for field hockey, men’s gymnastics, track and field, men’s volleyball and wrestling. These efforts included collaboration across NGB/USOPC staff, coaches associations, national team athletes, and collegiate leaders. Discussions from each group helped inform the USOPC Think Tank’s seven recommendations and included a review of additional sport-specific priorities; discussion summaries are located below.
USA Field Hockey and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee convened the Field Hockey Sustain and Grow Committee to consider creative interventions to support the collegiate field hockey infrastructure. In November 2020, USA Field Hockey identified short-term priorities to advance collegiate collaboration in the areas of: (1) sport efficiencies (season, rules, etc.), (2) cooperation strategy (alignment, messaging, etc.), and (3) event collaboration (championships, youth events, etc.). View the field hockey progress report: PDF | Google Docs.
USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and the Gymnastics Coaches Association assembled the Men’s Gymnastics Collegiate Sustainability Committee to explore the existing men’s collegiate landscape and determine areas to sustain the low-sponsored sport. Through various discussions, the committee identified three priority areas: (1) management efficiencies, (2) collegiate and national team event alignment, and (3) sport growth. View the men's gymnastics progress report: PDF | Google Docs.
USA Track & Field and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee convened the Track and Field Collegiate Sustainability Roundtable in the wake of program drops as a result of COVID-19 financial recalibrating. The roundtable discussions centered on: (1) increasing awareness of the sport’s value, (2) advocating for programs via campus best practices and policy adjustments, and (3) formalizing alignment of collegiate and USATF leaders to drive long-term vision and direction. View the track and field progress report: PDF | Google Docs.
USA Volleyball, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and the American Volleyball Coaches Association organized the Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Sustainability Committee to ideate around keeping boys' and men’s volleyball strong in our country. The committee identified three priority areas: (1) membership and sport format review, (2) championships collaboration and revenue growth, and (3) exposure (messaging and broadcasting). View the men's volleyball progress report: PDF | Google Docs.
"I didn't know I could be an Olympian until I arrived into the collegiate scene and I started to wrestle at a really high level."

Jordan Burroughs, University of Nebraska