A grounded theory for leveraging college athletics:
Johnson, Torie A
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Intercollegiate athletics is an increasingly pervasive enterprise within American higher education, particularly at universities that choose to compete at the highest NCAA level. Regardless of level, however, the attention dedicated to student-athletes and coaches often dwarfs that given to faculty members and scholars. Also, some research has shown that the ebbs and flows of college team performance might impact student applications and private donations at some institutions. But, despite the inherent relationship between universities and their intercollegiate athletic programs, the two entities have at times appeared to operate independently of one another, causing some to challenge the presidents’ ability to provide effective oversight of these unique programs. In this qualitative study, which included a two-phase research design that relied on document and interview analysis, a grounded theory emerged that explains how presidents, along with their provosts and directors of athletics, position universities to leverage their high profile intercollegiate athletic programs in order to support the university mission. The Leveraging College Athletics theory is built on the five tenets of Experience, Understanding, Appreciation, Acceptance, and Integration. It posits that at these universities, administrators often have prior Experience at institutions with high profile intercollegiate athletic programs, and this prior experience fosters an enlightened Understanding of the operations and goals of the intercollegiate athletic program. With an enlightened understanding, administrators begin to Appreciate how the intercollegiate athletic program might benefit the university. While they appreciate the positives associated with the program, they also Accept the negative consequences such programs might bring to the institution. Once administrators accept the realities of the high profile intercollegiate athletic program, their aim is to Integrate it as much as possible into the university culture in order to support the university mission.