The sport sustainability working group was charged with exploring the benefits of offering flexibility for Olympic sports to manage their operations in a customized, efficient and creative manner. Typically, these sports are managed by NCAA rules originating from football and basketball issues, having unintended negative consequences for Olympic- and Paralympic-sport athletes and coaches.

As part of the sport sustainability focus area, project work was conducted with the College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America, the College Gymnastics Association, the men’s gymnastics sustainability committee and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Specifically, UCCS contributed a multipronged research study across the collegiate men’s gymnastics landscape, which found the relationship between recruiting expenses and team performance was only moderate. The study also found many varsity programs leverage their club/camp structures to support varsity operational costs. Meanwhile, project work with the CSCAA leveraged existing survey data from coaches and athletes. The data reflected a strong need to modify the swimming and diving recruiting process to start after the conclusion of the junior year in high school.

As a result of the gymnastics and swimming and diving research findings, the sustainability group focused on amending existing policies to drive sport-specific efficiencies and spur sport growth.

Recommendation 1: Develop a customized recruiting plan for swimming and diving

The modified recruiting plan includes a swimming and diving proposal that delays start dates for communication and in-person recruiting until the conclusion of the PSA's junior year of high school. It also suggests placing limits on the number of official visits provided by the school, and establishing a swimming and diving recruiting calendar to provide a healthier and more sustainable recruiting model that allows PSAs and school leaders to make more informed decisions.

This recommendation seeks to reverse negative consequences resulting from NCAA Proposal 2018-934, which was intended to curtail early recruiting but accelerated the recruiting process and nearly doubled the annual recruiting cohort size. The proposed changes allow coaches, student-athletes and prospects to focus on the academic school year and competitive season, rather than being distracted by early recruiting pressures. This delayed recruiting approach benefits the sport given the later athletic maturation of swimming and diving athletes, and it would help alleviate concerns including coaches committing to PSAs and PSAs committing to schools prematurely.

The budgetary impact of these efforts will vary given disparities in recruiting budgets across Division I programs. It is reasonable to expect that a program would annually save 10-30% of its operating costs by reducing campus visits, and an additional 20-40% of its operating costs by containing the footprint to one recruiting class instead of two. The shortened recruiting period will allow current student-athletes more access to their coaches, as well as more time to focus on their academics and training, rather than hosting PSAs. Finally, a later recruiting timeline will enable PSAs more time to make informed college decisions.

Recommendation 2: Enact flexible prospect and elite engagement in men's gymnastics

Flexible engagement with prospective and elite engagement male gymnasts through deregulated recruiting rules around clubs, tryouts, camps/clinics and national team access would ease operations, improve athlete engagement and allow collective resources to be leveraged. These changes would allow varsity programs to partner with youth programs and USA Gymnastics to share facilities, streamline expenses and generate revenue through expanded camps/clinics. Such efforts would also allow for implementing a USAG regional development program, which - if conducted in partnership with varsity programs - could aid in creative training arrangements, event opportunities and coaching development.

Currently, NCAA recruiting and engagement rules are widely applied to maintain competitive equity across all sports. During the 2020-21 academic year, the USOPC, USAG, College Gymnastics Association and University of Colorado Colorado Springs conducted an economic study and found a statistically moderate (0.40) impact of recruiting expenses on team performance. The study also found many varsity programs leverage their club/camp structures to support operational costs. Thus, the men's gymnastics coaches and researchers believe these findings support the recommendation to relax recruiting rules as current restrictions hinder sustainability.

The recommended changes would allow programs to be more creative to spur sport growth by permitting youth to engage earlier in the men’s college and national team pathways. The fiscal impact of these efforts will vary given disparities across operations (camp revenues range from $0-$279,000 annually and club revenue ranges from $0-$266,760 annually); however, deregulation can help men’s gymnastics coaches and administrators operate within their campus structures and construct meaningful partnerships within their communities. Additionally, more interaction may increase the fanbase of the school program. Finally, PSAs would have more opportunities to advance their skills by training alongside college and/or elite athletes.

Additional Resources

  • The sport sustainability group crafted proposed legislation in swimming and diving and men’s gymnastics to provide flexibility to manage their operations in a customized, efficient and creative manner. View the draft swimming and diving legislation: PDF | Google Docs. View the draft men’s gymnastics legislation: PDF | Google Docs.
  • As part of the MGCSC, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs College of Business conducted an independent financial landscape analysis of the operations and performance of collegiate men’s gymnastics teams. View the UCCS men’s gymnastics study: PDF | Google Docs.
  • The College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America conducted research around potential recruiting changes to understand and quantify their impact on the student-athlete experience, time burdens on athletes and coaches, and operational efficiencies. View the CSCAA report: PDF | Google Docs.


Jeremy Fischer USATF Coach

Jeremy Fischer
USA Track & Field
National Team Coach

Pat Kelleher USA Hockey headshot

Pat Kelleher
USA Hockey
Executive Director

Rob Mullens Oregon headshot

Rob Mullens
University of Oregon
Athletic Director

Maddie Musselman UCLA water polo headshot

Maddie Musselman
University of California, Los Angeles
Olympian (Water Polo)

Chris Plonsky Texas headshot

Chris Plonsky
University of Texas
Chief of Staff and Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director

Jamie Pollard Iowa State headshot

Jamie Pollard
Iowa State University
Director of Athletics

Jamie Redman headshot

Jamie Redman
Yale University
Former National Team Athlete (Rowing)

Lee Reed Georgetown athletic director

Lee Reed
Georgetown University
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics

Daria Schneider Team USA Harvard

Daria Schneider
Harvard University
Head Fencing Coach and Former National Team Athlete (Fencing)

Stan Wilcox NCAA headshot

Stan Wilcox
Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs