When a university receives a call about a bullying, hazing, or sexual assault incident on the part of one of their coaches or athletes, the wheels of a crisis are set in motion. A scan of the sports headlines shows situations like these are far too common and the cycle of events that follow is predictable if unfortunate. A new white paper by the Sports Conflict Institute addresses the cost of conflict for incidents both on and off the field. The paper uses a framework for analyzing the likely costs of an incident and compares the costs of proactive versus reactive responses to behavior issues.
Incidents in Sports are Wide Spread
Incidents of bullying, hazing, and sexual violence in sports are not isolated, nor are they reserved for the most visible athletic programs. At the end of 2014 there were 94 colleges and universities undergoing Title IX sexual violence investigations alone, ranging from Division I powerhouses to Division III ivies. These incidents and investigations have many associated costs, though not all are obvious.
“We wanted to shed light on the range of costs these incidents create, particularly in the university setting,” said Joshua Gordon, SCI Founder. “What becomes clear is that costs go beyond dollars and really start to affect reputation and performance.”
Types of Costs
The paper groups the fallout from an incident into three categories: direct costs, such as staff time, legal fees, and settlements; reputation costs, such as lost ticket sales, sponsorship withdrawal, donor erosion, and compromised recruiting ability; and performance costs, such as fewer wins and less team cohesion.
Adding together all three categories paints a picture of the total cost of an incident to an organization. In an example of a head coach hazing incident, the paper suggests that a reactionary response could be upwards of one hundred times more expensive than a proactive approach that avoids the incident.
Intangible But Important
The paper’s authors acknowledge that while it is difficult to put dollar figures on reputation, brand, and performance, it is worth thinking hard over these impacts. A negative impact in these areas can stymie potential and put a team or athletic department in rebuilding mode for several years.
“Getting in front of these issues is really the goal,” Gordon said. “It’s not easy to maintain alignment between all the stakeholders in a university department, but being proactive is the best way to limit these costs and achieve potential.”