Thursday, January 3, 2008

Why Track & Field Must Upgrade

Track and field is currently an old Magnavox bubble television with rabbit ears. It’s time for a track revolution that involves throwing out that old model and upgrading to a high definition 50” plasma screen. Are you with me?

Runners sign a confidentiality agreement that precludes them from disclosing shoe contracts and appearance fees. This outdated policy needs to be dumped immediately. This old school mentality goes against the grain of American culture.

Why? It’s Un-American. Talking about celebrities and athletes income is a national past time. Americans escape by dreaming of A-Rod’s $27 million a year salary.

All major sports – even Major League Soccer – release athletes’ and coaches’ salaries. Bill Gates’ compensation is readily available, and he’s the wealthiest guy in the universe.

Do you think millions would tune into Survivor if the prize was $50,000 instead of $1,000,000? Like it or not – big money attracts attention.

The casual fan thinks that track runners are earning peanuts, and this perception diminishes understanding and interest in the sport.

There is money in the sport, but fans would never know because the information is not released to the public. In reality, elite sprinters and distance runners are well compensated and have base salaries between $200,000 and $600,000 with hefty incentives for high-place finishes and fast times. Top salaries are in excess of $1 to $2 million. Not bad for four left turns, huh?

Sure, there are plenty of athletes scraping by on low paying shoe contracts, but the top runners are certainly not struggling to pay their bills.

Performances are improving, but track lags behind in popularity in comparison to the NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball. What has to be concerning to track officials is that traditionally smaller sports such as Extreme Sports, Pro Bass Fishing and Professional Bull Riding have sprinted past track and field in popularity.

The sport needs leadership to re-organize in the U.S. by creating a marketable product that engages and entertains the casual fan. Runners should get increased sponsor attention to replace appearance fees in order to provide guaranteed income. More people will tune-in if big prize money is on the line.

Out with the old and in with the new. Change is never easy. That’s why a track evolution is needed to give fans the product we rightfully deserve. Are you with me?

By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you. I'm a former olympic trials participant and a full-time sports artist who specializes in track & field. Besides the money there are many more things that can be done to help track. Please take a moment to look at my track & field art. Thanks : )