Abington athletics director noted expert on cost of college athletics

Karen Weaver, athletics director at Penn State Abington, is a much sought-after expert when it comes to the question, “Who pays for college sports and at what cost?” As this topic has become an ever-growing concern for colleges and universities across the country, Weaver has found herself in the middle of the media spotlight since 2009, having been interviewed and quoted by several national and regional outlets on the much-discussed topic.

Weaver is no stranger to Division I athletics and the media, having worked in both areas for years. She received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 with a well-received dissertation titled, “The Launch of the Big Ten Network: How 11 Universities Created their Own Television Network and Changed the College Sports Landscape.” College presidents, conference commissioners and journalists have contacted Weaver for the manuscript, as it has come to serve as a “road map” for launching a conference-wide television network. Prior to her current position at Abington, she served as an associate athletics director at the University of Minnesota. She was the broadcast announcer and assistant producer for men's and women's field hockey at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently working with the Big Ten Network as a color analyst.

Since Weaver’s manuscript was released, she has been called upon by USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Orlando Sentinel, the Detroit Free Press, and other major outlets to talk about the broadcast media revenues pouring into big time athletics. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and Minnesota Public Radio, and authored guest editorials that have appeared in print and online editions around the country. The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has praised and circulated her research.

In a recent interview Weaver explained her ability to link the concept of spending in mid-sized Division I programs trying to “move up” the ladder with the never-ending chase to compete with the traditional athletic powerhouses.

“Fundamentally, it’s an issue of affordability. With the limited resources that many small to mid- sized Division I programs have, trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ in our current economic climate is a real challenge for these schools. The answer can be for some schools to find new revenues, but for others, those revenues may not be there. My goal is to move this discussion off of the sports pages and into the general dialogue about higher education.”

Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of the PBS newsmagazine show, “Need to Know,” in which Weaver is interviewed by journalist, Rick Karr. This particular episode is due to air in the Philadelphia market at 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25 on WHYY. For more information, go to PBS online.

In a Philadelphia Inquirer article dated Feb. 12, Weaver weighed in on the important decision facing Villanova University -- whether to move their football program from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision, which would place them in competition for the BCS trophy. Although Villanova has been in the Big East conference for years, most notably in basketball, the suburban Philadelphia school is considering elevating football to the mix at a cost of nearly $5 million in just the three years leading up to full membership into the conference.

“The discussion they have to be having (is), ‘Where do the revenues come from, not just to get there, but to sustain it,’” Weaver said.

In the most recent issue of Change, a higher education publication, Weaver authored the cover story, “A Game Change: Paying for Big-Time College Sports.” In the detailed and well researched article, Weaver addressed the broadcast media rights that are driving up the costs of competing in top tier programs. Along with accelerated spending in athletics -- including run-away coaches’ salaries and the expense of updating or replacing athletic facilities -- she articulates a strong case for changing the rules of the game.

To read the full story go online to, http://bit.ly/dXt704 online.