February 1, 2018 • Athletic Administration

Athletic budgets still slim, but there are signs of improvement

This is the seventh year of Coach & Athletic Director’s survey of high school athletic administrators. The results help us develop and our editorial vision, while offering readers a glimpse at the opportunities and challenges in prep sports.

When we first commissioned our survey in 2011, athletic departments were struggling. Drastic cuts to public school budgets forced athletic directors to drop many programs, and fewer teachers showed interest in coaching. During the last two years, our survey showed signs of improvement as athletic budgets began to rebound.

This year’s survey continues that trend, with roughly one in five schools reporting increases in their athletic budgets. More schools are planning capital projects, but fundraising remains a critical component of athletic departments everywhere.

Part of our annual survey focuses on the major concerns of high school athletic directors. Finding qualified coaches remains the No. 1 headache for administrators, but new challenges like competition from club sports has climbed the list.

Click here for all results of our 2017-18 State of the Industry survey.

Slimmer budgets, more spending

Athletic budgets have not returned to their pre-recession levels, but there are signs of improvement.

Our survey showed that during the current school year, roughly one in four athletic departments saw increases in their budgets. That’s up nearly 8 percent over last year.

Nearly 19 percent of schools reported decreases of at least 2 percent in their athletic budgets, which is similar to last year’s findings. More than 58 percent of athletic directors said their budgets did not change.

Though budgets are slimmer, more than one in four schools indicated that new capital projects are on the horizon, showing that districts are investing in their sports programs. More than 31 percent of athletic directors said they expected to undergo some type of stadium project over the next three years. That could include scoreboards, surfaces, bleachers, press boxes or new builds. Several schools also said they planned locker room and weight room projects.

When it comes to spending on equipment, more athletic directors said they expected to spend more on helmets. With evolving technology and concerns over serious head injuries, schools place a premium on having the most up-to-date equipment to protect student-athletes. Athletic directors also said they budgeted more money for strength training and football equipment.

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