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4 Trends Shaping Collegiate Sports in 2024

Trevor Bechtold
The last decade has transformed collegiate sports. Broadcasting deals, the transfer portal, the College Football Playoffs, NIL and new approaches to funding and building facilities all have played a part.

Below, we explore how these factors will shape facility design and development in the years ahead.

1. Name, Image, Likeness

Three years have passed since the NCAA policy change that first allowed student-athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). Athletic departments are still grappling with the complexities. In 2022, we predicted the cost of attracting top talent in the NIL era might temporarily impact a university’s ability to fundraise to support capital projects. That’s exactly what we’re seeing. Most top talent expects six-figure marketing and endorsement deals—expenses that add up quickly when building rosters across multiple revenue-generating sports. In turn, large-scale facility projects and NIL collectives now compete for the financial support of a limited donor pool at each school. While this might slow the pace of facility development, these projects remain crucial for universities to attract recruits.

Inevitably, we will see a push for greater regulation and transparency. Recent comments by NCAA President Charlie Barker suggest that schools may soon be able to compensate athletes directly outside of NIL parameters. This could transform college sports and deserves close attention.

In addition, schools should explore alternative funding methods for sports facilities. Training facilities could be developed in collaboration with a healthcare system that helps foot the bill, similar to the approach of several NBA teams. Corporate sponsors and naming rights deals could also help make projects happen. Hybrid facilities, like Notre Dame’s Campus Crossroads project, offer greater potential for funding by integrating academics, recreation and student health services, thus broadening the donor pool.

2. Transfer Portal and Recruiting

The transfer portal continues to shake up college sports facilities. The NCAA’s 2021 rule change granting immediate eligibility to one-time transfers created a free agency-like environment within collegiate athletics. Instead of sitting out a season, transferring student-athletes can compete right away. While the transfer portal window has been reduced to just 45 days, schools often reserve funds from boosters, collectives and donors to make attractive offers to potential transfers in the spring.

This shift, like the rise of NIL, influences the facility conversation. We’re seeing universities prioritize recovery and wellness-oriented spaces to attract recruits and support the overall success of student-athletes who are now heavily invested in their well-being.

3. Expanded College Football Playoff Field

The College Football Playoff’s expansion to a 12-team, bracket-style format is a major shift from the previous 4-team model. This change promises to increase excitement and interest. However, with the expansion comes the need for additional, neutral-site host venues. Many NFL stadiums are eager to fill this role, as these playoff games generate significant revenue and attract fans from across the nation. This expansion directly influences our approach to professional stadium design, as clients increasingly request flexibility to accommodate events like these.

4. The Rise of Developer-Led Stadium and Arena Projects

From Tennessee to Kansas, developer-led collegiate sports facility projects are gaining momentum. In the same way developers have made strategic investments in sports-anchored mixed-use developments on the pro side, they recognize the potential within collegiate sports. These opportunities extend beyond ticket sales, encompassing food and beverage, retail, boutique hotels and diverse entertainment experiences surrounding the facility. By partnering with private developers to finance these projects, athletic administrators mitigate risk while finding new revenue streams without raising ticket prices or relying on tapped-out donors. For universities with available land, this approach offers both financial advantages and the potential to elevate the game-day experience for fans.

While the world of collegiate athletics has quickly become the Wild West, one thing is certain: the demand for well-designed, efficient and recruit-worthy facilities continues to be paramount for universities nationwide. They just may need to get more creative in how they are funded.

Let’s Connect

If you have questions about designing collegiate sports facilities, contact Trevor Bechtold, a director of HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice, at

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