Arizona State Needs to Innovate its Way Out of a Serious Revenue Issue

Arizona State University has been very good at marketing itself. Surely you have seen the moniker “America’s most innovative university”, and in some ways they have moved past their MO of being a pure party school as a result. But a new report uncovers one very serious deficiency that will soon demand that spirit of innovation.

Arizona State’s sports departments are falling behind as per this report. However, it’s not in the traditional sense that ASU fans have seen on the field recently; it’s related to revenue. ASU has a bit of a unique problem; it has some exemplary sports programs, but the most competitive are financial loss-leaders. Typically the big ticket sports, such as football and basketball, are the serious revenue generators once television rights are considered, and those help offset the losses from the other sports.

That said, the big ticket sports teams are in a serious slump. There are signs of life from both the football team, and the basketball team still has Bobby Hurley at coach, but it’s been a rough year. Meanwhile the Coyotes left Mullet Arena, which was a significant source of revenue for the otherwise cash-burning hockey team.

Now as they enter the Big 12, they run the risk of being left behind in the face of sometimes better competition, especially on the basketball side.

So about that spirit of innovation…what to do now? Perhaps they can host more paid events as a way to utilize the facilities when the teams are not playing in them. Maybe they can better market their big ticket teams, or build more organic buzz as to the major successes of their loss-leading teams to make them more financially viable.

There are some interesting stories here. A highly successful hockey team in the desert could help soften the blows of an NHL team leaving. A men’s swimming team that is near the top of the nation in a desert is also an interesting storyline. An excellent women’s golf team should certainly be a bigger deal in an area known as a golf destination. 

There are narratives here worth promoting. While none of them will replace football and basketball being primary revenue drivers, perhaps it would benefit ASU to get creative, become more promotional and cutting edge, build a more dynamic and engaging social media presence, and help these sports lift themselves up and bring in more revenue themselves. After all, while peaks and valleys come and go in sports, and the football and basketball teams will undoubtedly rebound at some point, they shouldn’t be so singularly dependent on them either.

Ohhh, and hire a nationally-renowned athletic director. It’s about freaking time.