by PETER DORFMAN
On March 17, five days after the NCAA canceled its Division I basketball tournaments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana University announced that Scott Dolson, deputy athletic director, would succeed Fred Glass as the university’s director of intercollegiate athletics on July 1.
Dolson had been deputy athletic director for 11 years, including all of Glass’ decade- long tenure, and the two had planned a normal, orderly transition. But this year, nothing has been normal in college athletics.
Shortly after Dolson’s appointment was announced, spring sports seasons were canceled. “Fred and I formed a medical advisory group during our transition period,” Dolson says. “We assumed that by July 1, everything would be back to normal and we’d be preparing for football season.”
But on August 11, the Big Ten Conference canceled its football season.
The conference reversed course in September, however, restoring a delayed, nine-game football season in front of only coaches and the parents of players. Everyone connected with the program, Dolson included, is tested daily for COVID-19. “We follow the uniform Big Ten protocols,” Dolson says. “We have the stadium announcer but not the band or cheerleaders.”
All other fall sports have been pushed back to the spring, forcing Big Ten athletic directors to improvise to make up for millions in lost income. Most football revenue comes
from television, ticket sales, and Varsity Club gifts. There are no ticket sales, and revenue shares from the Big Ten’s multiyear deal with Fox Sports, ESPN, and the Big Ten Network are down sharply. “We had a 10% operational budget cut, department-wide,” Dolson notes. “We’re honoring all our commitments to our student athletes, but we had furloughs that hit fall sports event staff the hardest.”
While no one could have prepared for such a chaotic debut, Dolson, 54, knows his way around IU sports. He’s an IU alumnus and former student manager under legendary basketball coach Bob Knight in the late 1980s. He was hired by IU shortly after graduation and has been there for almost 30 years.
The pandemic shut down was a tough break for IU athletics, but Dolson, who has lived in Bloomington his entire adult life, is grateful for IU’s relative stability. “Bloomington still feels like Bloomington,” he says. “My heart goes out to local businesses, though. We have our financial challenges here, but it’s not as make-or-break as it is for a local restaurant.”
Dolson and his wife, Heidi, also a lifelong Bloomingtonian, have five grown children between them: including Nick, 20, a junior at IU–Bloomington. “Our dog, Louie, is a 14-year-old puggle who runs the house,” Scott Dolson says. “He loves IU too.”