This column has been formulating in my mind over the past several months. Debates related to name, image and likeness; NCAA future direction; LIV Golf; and the PGA Tour have positioned the debate more clearly in my mind as I sit down to write this.
The central theme of today’s column is there are certain decisions that you could elect to do or not to do and similarly, there are certain considerations related to those decisions that you should consider acting upon or passing on. If you work in an organization that encourages debate before decisions are made, you will be familiar with identifying and considering alternatives. However, if your organization is more autocratic, you might be more familiar with second-guessing, Monday-morning quarterbacking or to borrow from Robert Frost, simply regret for the road taken (or not taken).
The great golf debate: Charl Schwartzel (below) resigned from the PGA Tour and won the first event of the LIV Golf series, while Rory McIlroy won on the PGA Tour the same weekend.getty images
Let’s take the case of the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour.
■ If you are a PGA Tour player: You could elect to resign from the PGA Tour and join LIV (as in the case of Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na and many others).
■ Or you could elect to play in LIV events and not resign from the PGA Tour (as many players have done).
■ On the should side, the decisions might be: Should I take a guaranteed financial package that could eclipse my potential earnings on the PGA Tour, or should I pass on the opportunity because of the Saudi record on human rights and how I might be perceived?
■ In the case of the PGA Tour, it could ban players for a length of time — even a lifetime ban — or it could grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis.
■ For sponsors, it might be a debate about how decisions might affect their relationship with the PGA Tour and its events as well as the perception of their brand and the impact upon their products and services.
Another illustration is the course of action taken by the NCAA that led to the current NIL situation.
■ The NCAA could have read the “tea leaves” after the O’Bannon decision and began exploring alternatives for player compensation.
■ Congress could have intervened like the NCAA wanted and passed legislation, but they felt they shouldn’t.
■ Collectives have formed because they could, but should the NCAA or member schools intervene to stop this obvious booster involvement?
■ Power Five schools could elect to leave the NCAA, or they could remain members of the NCAA for all sports except for football — but what should they do?
Often, the could portion of the debate has definite financial implications for the organization, while the should consideration often has ethical, moral, or simply perceptions related to what is right. For example, professional teams that have won championships have in some cases eliminated all ticket plan options except for full-season tickets because, based upon demand and yield, they could. This decision then limits buyers who have supported the team in the past and can no longer continue to do so because of cost or time considerations. The should argument is interesting because the questions about what is right enter into the argument. But there is also a business argument that having only season tickets negatively affects fan growth and development, as there are no buyers being developed as there is no opportunity to “wade into the pool” with a smaller plan and to be “forced to jump into the pool” with a full-season plan.
Finally, there is a could/should dilemma that I have never been able to understand. I’m sure we can all embrace the need to be inclusive in our ticketing products. This is something that all organizations should do because it makes good business sense. So why do we always see a Family Four Pack offer when the average American family is 3.1 people? The offer also excludes a single parent and one child because while they are a family, they don’t fit the parameters of the offer. And it obviously doesn’t take into consideration larger families. Obviously, any organization could make this change and should make it for because it is the right thing to do and because it would be a sound business decision. (Note: The Pittsburgh Pirates recently have made the change and now promote their family pack as starting with two people and encouraging the prospective buyer to bring the whole family, and The Aspire Group encourages its clients to do the same and have named its family plan the Modern Family Plan). I must admit that after years of advocating for this change, I am puzzled why organizations continue to stick with four as the magic number. If you have a reason for four that I might not understand, I would love to hear from you.
Obviously, there are many more examples of the could/should dilemma, as almost any decision with any level of complexity may involve differing points of view and alternatives that must be considered. Could/should decisions also involve expected and unexpected consequences, which should be anticipated but unfortunately can be more easily overlooked or underestimated. Do you think college athletic directors anticipated all the changes and opportunities that NIL has unearthed?
Like everything in life, balance is critical, so just make sure when you are considering what you could do you have also considered what you should do.
Bill Sutton (email@example.com) is director emeritus of the Vinik Graduate Sport Business Program at USF and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.
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