Villanova, St. Joe’s, Temple athletics executives discuss changing landscape of sport
Three leading Division I athletics administrators recently visited the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management for an Executive Panel exploring a variety of issues, from the financing of intercollegiate athletics and regulatory compliance to conference realignment and the rise of, and response to, social media.
Villanova University Athletic Director Vince Nicastro, entering his 14th year in the role, was joined by Renie Shields, associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator at Saint Joseph’s University, and Pat Kraft, deputy athletic director for Temple University, for the April 14 discussion, moderated by longtime KYW Newsradio anchor Harry Donahue, who also serves as the voice of Temple football and basketball.
“It’s great to be back here on campus. I haven’t been back…” Donahue said, pausing for comedic effect. “In about two weeks.”
Sponsored by STHM and the Sport Industry Research Center, the candid discussion touched on the importance of fundraising for athletics and the recent developments, stemming from Northwestern University, of student-athletes attempting to unionize.
“I think that’s a fair and appropriate conversation to have,” Nicastro said of labor issues for collegiate athletes. “What construct or model that takes is uncertain. It’s fair to say student-athletes will have a stronger voice.”
Waves of conference realignments were also a topic of discussion, as each school was affected. Temple joined the American Athletic Conference, Villanova remained in a redesigned and basketball-centric Big East, and St. Joe’s saw schools come and go in the Atlantic 10, including longtime member Temple.
While schools in the American must travel nationwide for conference games, Kraft said it has taken “the Temple brand in major cities, and that was something we did not have.”
Before the panelists took questions from students, the conversation touched on the increasing popularity of social media, including mentoring of student-athletes on appropriate usage of the platforms and the exploding opportunities for teams to reach fans directly via social channels.
Kraft said Temple’s athletics department was in the process of interviewing finalists for a social media position, and Nicastro said two athletics administrators at Villanova are assigned to social media roles. The exploding popularity of smartphones, not just for social media usage but also for second-screen viewing, has impacted various aspects of college sports, including arena renovations.
“It’s a trend we’re all planning for to ensure we’re adapting to the viewing experience young people are accustomed to,” he said.