HEA Think Tank

The HEA Think Tank will innovate to help college athletics catch up (eventually) and get ahead (finally) of industry challenges.

The idea of the HEA Think Tank is to become the conversational research arm of college athletics and provide ADs an invite-only, secure online membership platform with voting and direct input on deep dive white papers, focus groups and opinion polling. 

Qualitative Research. Members will have monthly access to actionable qualitative research (with straight-to-the-point summaries) and deep dive white papers on various topics facing the industry now and into the future. Using mostly video and mobile technology, Travis Smith will deploy one-on-one interviews, recurring large focus groups and continuous public polling of industry practitioners, current or prospective donors/fans, college students/faculty/staff, and the general public. Members will have access to audio files (with identifiable information removed), transcripts and session notes. Members can vote on and suggest what needs to be studied next. And if you have an idea that requires an expert - HEA finds the expert(s) and reports back to the individual or membership directly.
Online AD Community. HEA has created an invite-only, secure online membership site accessible to D1 athletic directors. While understanding some decisions will be considered institutional trade secrets (NIL), with member-wide or private message capabilities and group topical discussion threads, members can share opinions or strategies without it ending up in the daily newsletters. And as more athletic directors join it will become an easier way to communicate directly with your colleagues around the country and keep the pulse of the division. Members are placed into three groups: Subdivision; Conference; and All-AD. Travis Smith will verify and onboard members and manage the online membership platform. 

How Does It Work?

Why Join The HEA Think Tank?

Examples of Topics to Study

Qualitative Research Methods

How Does It Work?

  • Sign Up and Verification. Click the image above or fill out the Sign-Up form to join the Think Tank.
  • Initial Onboarding Meeting. Travis Smith will set up a quick Zoom to walk new members through the site, answer any questions, verify identity and account creation. This first conversation allows HEA to know your areas of concern in the industry.
  • Post & Engage. Talk with other members on the front page or through private messaging. Participate in the topical threads. Members can rank and vote on the next industry ideas/study topic.
  • Receive Research. Members will receive a monthly digital publication directly on the site for their athletic departments. More urgent and special requests will be made available sooner for the membership and/or individual ADs.
  • Quarterly Check-In. The quarterly check-in call is an opportunity for you to tell HEA how the think tank can be a better value-add for you and share what new topics to study.

Why join the HEA Think Tank?

  • Private and Simple Experience. Your information is not shared and, outside of sharing the research, HEA will only initiate contact with you directly at the scheduled quarterly call.
  • AD Access. Talk in groups or private w/ other ADs. Bounce ideas or discuss industry changes/proposals w/out being quoted in the newsletters. Or meet in the think tank and talk outside of it using the tank as a connector.
  • Suggestion Box. If you have a question or topic you want included in studies or polling, just submit it directly to me and I will make sure to include it. 
  • Discounted Institution Research. While more broad HEA Think Tank research will have location capability, member schools that need a school-specific HEA Research project will receive a 50% discount from the listed price.
  • Affordable. Annual price before October 1 is $2,000 and then the annual price will be $3,000. Members that join from August to the end of October will keep their annual fixed price for years two and three as a gesture for initial adoption to this start-up model. Discount and customized pricing available for LRI.

Example of Topics to Discuss & Study.

Transformation Committee Scenarios. Choosing NCAA Presidents & Boards. Federal Gov Involvement. Student Athlete Compensation Models. Transfer Portal. Alternative Governance. Title IX. Separation of Football from NCAA. Men’s Basketball Tournament Changes. Growing Women’s Sports. Protecting Olympic Sports. Conference Realignment. Sports Betting. Uniform Patch Sponsorship. Phasing Out Student Fees. Head Coach Contract Models. Consolidating & Cost-Sharing Services. Testing New Ideas & Revenue Streams. Travel Costs & Regionalized Competition. Understanding Web3. Worst Case Scenario Planning.

What Do I Mean When I Say Qualitative Research?

In a world obsessed with numbers, don’t overlook the powerful insights of conversational and observational data. Why I love qualitative research is its ability to lead to a deep dive instead of just a surface level conversation about a topic or trying to find out what the numbers mean. And the sudden availability in video technology allows me to do video recorded sessions without the added cost of travel. I will deploy the qualitative research methods below to industry practitioners , current or prospective donors/fans, college students/faculty/staff, and the general public.

  • Interviews. Sometimes people would prefer to do a one or two person recorded interview session instead of a larger focus group. Interviews can be a great way to build up better Focus Group questions, especially with very outspoken individuals so they don’t highjack those group sessions and prevent others from sharing their experiences. For each study I will use scripted interview questions and then be guided by the direction of the conversation. You will have access to transcripts and session notes, excluding any identifiable information.
  • Focus Groups. For each study I will conduct several focus groups consisting of 10-15 people with scripted questions and follow-up questions from moderating the sessions. I then analyze those recorded conversations, look for body language observations, too, and package them into a final report. You have access to the report and my session notes, excluding any identifiable information.
  • Public Polling. We’re used to seeing public polls around political events. There is an incredible interest right now from the public in changes to college athletics. I will use phone, email and in-person communication to the general public in various towns, cities and states. Your input and my experience in the industry will help me attempt to shape an accurate understanding of college athletics to the public while I sit back and listen to their feedback. Public polling will be a continuous post on the site where you can see weekly updates and have location access to see how close the data is to you. And it should help you better communicate with your fans, supporters and critics.