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Posts from the ‘Sport Business’ Category

From the Classroom to the Super Bowl Experience: Placement with a Purpose

By Bennett Merriman
Co-Founder, Event Workforce Group

My name is Bennett Merriman and I am a Deakin University, Sport Management graduate (2008). As a Sport Management alumni, I am writing to share my experiences on what it has been like starting a business in the sports industry since a left my final lecture 9 years ago. Similar to many students graduating from a sports degree, I was always most interested in working with an elite team or becoming a player manager. Upon sitting through multiple job interviews and realising my industry experience was far short of what employers were looking for, myself and my business partner Shannan Gove, set up Event Workforce to help current students and graduates overcome that ‘experience deficit’ hurdle upon graduation. This issue of ‘job readiness’ among sports graduates is still prominent today.

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Event Workforce Group is ‘placement with a purpose.’ For over 6 years, our team at Event Workforce Group have provided casual event and sport industry opportunities to motivated sport management students around Australia. After attending the 2017 NASSM conference I am excited by the opportunity to replicate this model to students in the USA.

Since placing our fellow Sport Management students at EWG’s first event, the 2011 Melbourne Marathon, our student database has now grown to over 25,000 students working in a range of casual work experience opportunities weekly. We are proud that over 90 of these students have now followed our pathway into full time industry work.

As we have grown, the support we have been shown by academics within the field has been fantastic. We have been welcomed into lectures to speak and have been supported by lecturers preaching our message to student’s year around.

From the University perspective, Event Workforce Group is the perfect partner. Our approach means we can work closely with careers departments and faculties to offer work placements to students within the internship program and also outside of it. In Australia alone, we have contributed over 30,000 work experience hours to students, with 90% of these hours being paid. Our involvement does not stop there. On many occasions we have coordinated class groups to volunteer at events, complete post event assessment items and earn credit from the work they have completed.

As we continue to work closer with Sport Management faculties, we have realised a number of important factors.

  1. The current administrative time spent tracking student hours, paperwork and evidence of work experience is cumbersome and time consuming.
  2. Universities find it hard to seek out meaningful work placement opportunities for all students, particularly those with larger student cohorts or studying specific event management subjects.
  3. Theory based learning can only go so far in the current job climate, students who graduate with extensive work experience significantly better their employment prospects.

How can your students get involved?

Over the coming 6 months, Event Workforce Group are set to announce a range of exciting events in the USA including opportunities for students to work at the 2018 Super Bowl Experience in Minneapolis. We are currently reaching out to Sport Management programs nationwide who may have students interested in self-funding their travel to Minneapolis for these opportunities. All roles will be paid hourly and preference will be given to students who can complete a minimum three shifts. Positions will include customer service, activation/promotional staffing and game-day attendants within the stadium precinct. All require highly energetic, motivated individuals.

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While these opportunities are not 100% confirmed due to current negotiations, we are interested in building the network should the exciting opportunities come to fruition. Please email Bennett Merriman to begin the conversation.

Further information can be found at Event Workforce Group. We are very excited about building a relationship with Universities looking to broaden the work opportunities available to their students.

T&L: Negotiation

The Inclusion of Negotiation in Sports Management Courses

By George J. SiedelWilliamson Family Professor of Business Administration, University of Michigan

I teach negotiation at the Ross School of Business at the University of MichiganI have also taught negotiation in Ross programs for athletic directors, and have received UMRossrequests from sports management and other professors to use my materials in their courses. In response to these requests, I have developed a package that includes: (1) a Teaching Note, (2) two roles, and (3) slides for your use in class.  I am sharing these materials with NASSM members and other educators interested in negotiation here.

These materials are based on an exercise called “The House on Elm Street.” I used this exercise in the program for athletic directors, and it can be integrated into any sports management course or seminar.

The exercise involves a transaction that everyone can relate to—the sale of a house.  The twist in the exercise is that unknown to the seller, the buyer is a secret agent representing a large multinational company. Each student receives a short (two-page) role as either the buyer or seller and they negotiate for 30 minutes, followed by an instructor-led debriefing.

The exercise is designed to achieve several learning goals. For example, students will learn how to:

  1. understand the different types of negotiations;
  2. prepare for negotiations using a negotiation analysis that includes a reservation price, most likely outcome, stretch goal, and zone of the potential agreement;
  3. recognize and decide ethical issues;
  4. develop and use their negotiating power through the concept of BATNA; and
  5. create value in a manner that benefits both sides.

negotiationThe Teaching Note is divided into three sections.  Section I explains how to set up the negotiation exercise.  Section II provides a script for debriefing the exercise.  The script includes copies of slides that I use in class during my own debriefing of the exercise. Section III, the final section, discusses a document titled “Self-Assessment and Feedback for the Other Side” that students can use to evaluate their negotiation skills and develop a plan for skill improvement. This plan could be used as an assignment. The negotiation, debriefing, and assessments combine to provide a powerful learning experience. As one student commented:

What a great learning experience! [I had] the chance to test and evaluate myself outside the work environment. I find myself in business negotiations and discussions on a daily basis. Yet the ability to get feedback and actually debrief a negotiation is really powerful! I considered myself rather self-actualized, but some interesting things came to light in the class discussions. I know that if I make a concerted effort to work on [my areas for improvement] it will certainly serve me well in my career—both now and in the future.

Universities and publishers typically charge $3.00 or $4.00 per student for use of roles like the ones in the package I have provided. To encourage you to develop your students’ negotiation skills, I am permitting the use of these materials free of charge. I hope that instructors find them useful.  Please email me your feedback and suggestions for improvement. Thank you.

T&L: Casework

The McCormack Case Collection: Bringing Industry-Relevant Issues into the Classroom

By Will Norton, UMass Amherst

As many of us involved in sport management are aware, any practical knowledge that students can gain in the classroom will only better prepare them for their future careers in sport. While this knowledge is frequently obtained from experiential learning projects, it can also be acquired from case studies that encourage critical thinking and address ‘real world’ issues that sport entities have faced.

Sport management educators have utilized case studies as course assignments for years, valuing how they push students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a practical scenario. Oftentimes though, the case studies we use are dated. The problem with dated case studies, of course, is that students will be best prepared to enter the sport industry by understanding the nature of the way things work today. And in today’s fast-paced world, today seems to become yesterday even quicker.

With this in mind, the McCormack Center for Sport Research & Education (MCSRE) created McCormackCenter.com, a digital education resource housing sport management case studies and other collaborative learning opportunities from across the industry. The vision is for this collection to be sourced from a collective of academics with valuable networks and experiences within the industry; thus, the endeavor will serve to diversify the in-class experience of students and pull back the curtain on issues otherwise inaccessible to the future leaders of the sport management industry. The website launched on July 1st and was constructed with careful consideration of the evolving digital landscape impacting educators and consequently, students. The online hub will focus initially on providing relevant, timely, and professionally developed case studies spanning a variety of disciplines and available for educators and students.

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The McCormack Case Collection will span academic topic areas that mirror the curriculums of many of the leading sport management programs, in an effort to further develop management case offerings specific to the world of sport business. Each case study in the collection will come with a teaching note for instructors and tap into real-time industry trends, promoting case content that is structured from a ‘real world’ issue or challenge and retrofitted for the classroom.

In addition to providing educators and students with relevant and timely content to learn from, the case study collection also serves as a means to blur the boundary between academia and industry by leveraging what is happening in practice to educate students. Commenting on the collection, Dr. Janet Fink, Professor and Chair of the McCormack Department of Sport Management, stated, “Mark McCormack (founder of IMG) would undoubtedly embrace this collection of case studies, each one designed to place future managers of the sports industry in real-world scenarios and challenge them to apply common sense, strategic business insights, and critical thinking to arrive at smart recommendations and solutions.”

Recognizing the value in incorporating the wide-ranging knowledge and expertise of sport management educators and practitioners across the world, case development is not limited to McCormack faculty. Any and all professors, lecturers, adjuncts, or practitioners who wish to contribute a professionally researched and edited case study and teaching note are invited to do so. Case authors to date include faculty from the University of San Francisco, UMass Amherst, Rutgers University, and Griffith University (Australia). The reach of each individual writer will be shared in the spirit of learning from critical case analysis.

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The initial case launch, consisting of nine case studies, is available for Fall 2017 curriculum adoption. The cases cover a range of topics, including sport marketing, sponsorship, governance, law, economics, finance, ethics, and diversity. Events and organizations included in the initial case studies include the Olympic Games, Super Bowl 50, and FIFA. Author payment per case ranges depending on the length, rigor and assigned price point of the case. Any questions regarding potential case study submissions can be emailed to the Director of MCSRE, Will Norton at wnorton@isenberg.umass.edu.

T&L: Game Scripting

Teaching Game Scripting In Class

By: Rick Smith, Assistant Professor of Sports Management Marietta College

From my days in college athletics, I remember spending hours writing, planning, and mapping out a game script for every home football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, and soccer game. More and more, we are seeing college athletics trend towards a focus on the fan experience at the game instead of concentrating on wins and losses. Game scripting is an art, and it is made easier by software programs like TSE ScriptPro from TSE Services, LLC.

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Rick Smith works with his students in Marietta College’s ScriptU program.

Working with TSE, Marietta College was able to create a unique partnership, ScriptU, which is designed to help college students learn game scripting in relevant classes, such as sports facilities and event management, sports sales and promotions, and sports marketing. Over the course of five class periods, my class met in a computer lab to learn how to write PA scripts for sponsors and how to “time” the game so that videos, music, and PA reads didn’t run past a timeout. The students were able to use their creativity to plan what they thought was a good “game flow” and balance between PA reads, videos, and on-court fan promotions/games in order to make the fan experience worthwhile.

In terms of the specific software that the sports management program at Marietta College uses, the following provides a brief background on TSE ScriptPro and some of its features:

  • It is used by hundreds of sports teams and organizations across the country, including professional sports teams and events, minor league baseball organizations, and college athletics departments.
  • The software allows multiple people to view a game script live – and make updates live on everyone’s script – through a secure internet portal. This becomes useful when a fan is chosen from the stands for an on-field/on-court contest and one person can type their name and update the script so the PA announcer in a different part of the arena can see the update in real-time on their screen.
  • Users can create multiple viewing boxes on a screen so that the “game producer” can see everything at once (e.g., what the PA announcer is saying, what audio file is next to play during the upcoming fan contest, etc.), all while allowing the PA announcer to automatically scroll to the next part of the script after they are done reading the announcement.
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Assistant Professor Rick Smith and a student discuss the TSE ScriptPro software.

When teaching my course, I heard the usual questions like, “Why do we have to learn this?” from some students. I quickly responded with, “It’s the same reason graphic design majors learn design software, or accounting majors learn spreadsheet software: if you are going to work in sports game production, you will use this software somewhere along the way.”  One student in particular, a senior majoring in marketing with a sports management minor, returned from a job shadowing experience at a Division I school a few weeks after asking why she had to learn the scripting software in my class. Upon her return from job shadowing, she told the class, “The school used ScriptPro.” It was a moral victory of sorts for me as a first-year (and at that time, a first-semester) instructor at Marietta College.

Smith, Huhn, Zaragoza TSE resizedThe main goal of teaching the software in class is to have students understand the software program to make them more qualified for entry level positions in sports marketing and sports event production right out of school. But like any assignment, there are measurable college-based assessment goals, too, such as critical thinking, communication, and integrative learning. Because of TSE’s vast array of clients, I also hope that our students can use their network of contacts in the industry to help secure internships (required for the major) while they are in school and jobs right after graduating.

Smith Wallace TSE resizedLooking forward to future semesters, I plan to teach different aspects of the script program in different semesters, such as writing PA reads and creating the game script in a first-year course called Sports Management, and then teaching the students how to manage a live game using the program in subsequent courses such as Sports Marketing or Sports Facilities and Event Management. Eventually, I hope to create a partnership with our athletics department to have students produce the game using the script program, and maybe a little longer-term, work with minor league baseball teams in the area to allow our students serve as their staff for a game or two to showcase their work in front of potential employers.

Research: Aruban Sport

Conducting research on a small Caribbean Island: How I went about getting a grant from the Aruban government

by Bob Heere, University of South Carolina

aruba[1]As part of a partnership between the University of South Carolina and the University of Aruba, I was asked to collaborate with the local faculty there on research projects during my stay teaching a course. This mandate presented a couple of challenges. The faculty at the University of Aruba had no background in sport management, and had very little affinity or interest on research in sport. Thus, any collaboration would have to be initiated by me, and more importantly ‘sold to them’. Second, it was unclear to me what role sport played on the small Caribbean island and I was hesitant to start a project that Arubans had no interest in whatsoever. This was not the first time in my career I ran into this issue. Three years earlier, my idea to do a large study in Brazil had met with polite indifference from local scholars when I flew down to meet with them. Identity was not really an issue for the Brazilians. I went home empty handed. I wanted to develop an idea that would speak to the Arubans, and one that would make a real impact on the island. For any researcher who wants to conduct a study in a different nation, I can only advise to do the same.

awcarib[1]Aruba was not a blank page for me. While it is independent, Dutch is still an official language on the island it once colonized. I also knew the island depended on American tourism. I expected a Caribbean island that would have both Dutch and American influences. It made me curious to the sport culture in the nation though, as the Netherlands and the United States could not be more different in their views on sport. One favors sport for skill development, the other favors sport for community and health. Upon arrival I realized that Aruba was indeed the best (or worst) of both worlds, in terms of food, media, and sport. In one thing Aruba was definitely more American than Dutch: obesity levels. Aruba is among the nations with the highest obesity levels, an honor it shares with the United States. Thus, I started asking what the sport participation rates were in Aruba, as they might contribute to the obesity levels. Nobody could give me an answer. Thus, my research question became: what is the role of sport on the island, and how is it used to maintain health among the population?

cruise7[1]During my stay, I was asked to provide a seminar to the industry, which contained a mixture of sport officials, government officials, and business people. I decided to compile a lecture on sport for health, and in my presentation I used both the United States and the Netherlands as benchmarks. I realized that I had been able to find a subject that I was uniquely qualified to study. I had in-depth knowledge of both nations and the subject of sport itself. It reminded me: remain true to the self. The presentation was a success, and afterwards the Director of the National Institute for Sport and Movement and the secretary of the NOC approached me. Both women were excited by the presentation and gauged my interest in establishing a project to explore sport participation on the island. I realized that this was my ‘in’ and immediately set up meetings. I also was able to recruit a University of Aruba faculty member (Kimberly Greaux) to work with me on this, who was finishing her PhD in the Netherlands in Public Health.

cruise3[1]I spent the remainder of my time on the island meeting people, and I was glad I did. Everybody was excited about doing a baseline measure study to sport participation, but nobody had money to pay for it. The estimated budget forecasted about $28,000 to do the study. Had I not met with everyone, this project would probably have died. Fortunately, one of my contacts was able to set up a meeting for me with the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, who had funding available (final tip: build a solid foundation of stakeholders for your research project, you will need them). Six months later we received the money to start our project and have now collected over 1,000 surveys and conducted about 10 focus groups. We are excited to work with the government of Aruba on this, and we can’t wait to publish our results.

Industry: Branding

Branding Matters

By Jason W. Lee & Elizabeth A. Gregg, University of North Florida

Earlier this semester, the Journal of Contemporary Athletics (JCA) announced an upcoming special issue addressing School Athletic Branding and Visual Identity.”  The purpose of the special issue to provide a forum for the dissemination of insightful articles addressing the nuances associated with educational institution branding. Academic institutions, in both the higher education and secondary schools, offer thought-provoking points of discussion regarding effective brand management. This special issue is intended to provide a forum for the academic examination of higher education and high school institution brands, including visual identity and other related marketing components associated with school-sponsored athletics. Beyond the scope of intercollegiate sport, branding considerations impacting higher education institutions are prevalent.

Every school has a unique story, as do sport management programs. Visual identity is the visible part of the story that sport management academic programs tell. Some programs have catchy names or make use of eye-catching acronyms. For example, Miami University is home to SLAM (Sport Leadership and Management). Other programs may include the names of noted individuals (i.e., founders, benefactors, notable partners) or other defining characterizes associated with the institution or program. Most programs, however, have a basic naming structure that is comprised of discipline-specific names that simply encompass the academic programs represented within (i.e., Sport Management, Sport and Fitness Management, Sport and Recreation Management).

Places are Distinct… and so are Brands
Programs should focus on guiding principles such as institutional, departmental, and program goals and missions. Program brands are to build off of strengths that exist within the structure of existing university brand strengths. Programs should be mindful of who they are, where they are, the audience they are trying to reach, and the communities that they serve. Building on institutional resources is key. Factors such as a unique geographic location, access to desirable internship sites, and opportunities for experiential learning embedded in coursework should be considered as branding opportunities.

Your Reputation Precedes You
Programs must be mindful that their reputations are a product of identity and image elements that have been developed and presented historically. Sport management programs can benefit or be viewed negatively through associations with the institution at large, a given university’s administration (and other influential decision-makers affiliated with the institution), program faculty, students and alumni, partners from the sport community, and institutional elements such as a university’s athletic program. Prospective students and other stakeholders may make associations with academic programs tangentially through experiences and perceptions of characteristics such as an athletic department’s visibility and reputation. Program faculty and those in charge of programmatic branding efforts should be cognizant of the following core program visual identity elements.

Name. Various programs carry names that were established at a time when institutional goals and programmatic focus were different than they are at present. In order to have brand strength, it is critical for the program name to be included in that of the department in which it resides. While this can be a difficult issue that involves practical and political involvement, change, and potentially financial cost – schools should nonetheless be thoughtful of program and department name attributes while considering important characteristics such as distinctiveness, fit, and description.

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UNF Sport Management Program’s Department Name (on the College Homepage)

For examples, at the University of North Florida, the department was renamed Leadership, School Counseling, and Sport Management in 2009. Program leaders believed it was critical for brand and degree awareness to include the name of all programs housed in the department.

Logo. Does your program have a logo? Some programs have logos that do not convey the proper quality of institutional visual identity guidelines. If the logo is not congruent with the visual identity of the larger institution, university administration could object to such fig2implementation, as it can result in a lack of brand uniformity and therefore visibility of the program.

Tagline. Taglines are statements that can send a compelling message, and generally are in use for an extended period of time. In the case of an academic program, including taglines could be useful in reaching desired publics. Programs that currently utilize taglines may want to assess quality and see if it still fits the desired goals and intended purposes.

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UNF’s Institutional Tagline

Note: The submission deadline for the special issue JCA is Friday, May 12th. Inquiries and submissions are to be sent to the special issue’s guest editor, Dr. Jason Lee.

Issues: Para Sport II

Narratives of Paralympic Sport: Perspectives from Rio and Beyond

Joshua R. Pate, Ph.D., James Madison University

Editors’ note: This post is the second in a series focused on disability sport and the Paralympic Games. The first post in the series, written by Dr. Laura Misener, was published on January 9, 2017.

I always enjoy and hate asking my undergraduate students this question: “How many of you have seen a Paralympic sport before?” The response—or lack of—is disturbing.

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The 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Students in the United States don’t watch the Paralympic Games because, as simple as it may sound, it’s not something on ESPN’s SportsCenter. It’s not covered by mainstream media. It’s not shoved in our faces as Americans. It’s just not present among U.S. media coverage of sport. When it is, it’s in the Lifestyles section of the newspaper or the Features segment on a nightly news program.

I hate it when I ask that question because I know the response. In a class of 38 students, less than five raise their hand.

I love it when I ask that question because I know we’re about to cover a unit in class where learning is nearly guaranteed.

Such was the case this September when the Paralympics were held in Rio. We were guaranteed a record-breaking 66 hours of coverage here in the States to be shown on NBC Sports Network, which is reportedly available in 71% of U.S. households with a television, according to Sports TV Ratings (2016).

Ratings website Sports Media Watch reported that primetime coverage of the Paralympic Games averaged 143,000 viewers, an increase of 175% from the London Paralympic coverage (Paulsen, 2016). The single broadcast that aired on NBC pulled 651,000 viewers for a 0.4 final rating. Granted, the Rio Games received 60.5 more hours of American televised coverage compared to the mere 5.5 hours of coverage from the London Games.

Yes, we have to start somewhere. Yes, 66 hours is better than 5.5 hours of delayed, commentator-dubbed footage. Yes, we anticipate even more coverage in the future if advertisers jump on board (and see what’s in it for them, such as a demographic of brand-loyal consumers that would rival NASCAR fans).

But if we’re talking narratives following the Rio Paralympics, there were none in the U.S.

I had the occasional student tell me they watched an event. I had the occasional colleague or neighbor tell me they saw something the other day on the Special Olympics. And aside from the few of us in the United States studying Paralympic and disability sport, I question the percentage of sport management courses across the U.S. that spent time on the topic at all this September … or October … or November, whether it would’ve been inclusion-related, facilities, general management, governance, etc.

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The Press Room at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi.

dePauw (1997) referred to the lack of media coverage as “Invisibility of Disability,” where athletes are invisible or excluded from sport altogether. dePauw’s spectrum of disability sport coverage expands to “Visibility of Disability” where athletes are visible but inferior to able-bodied athletes, and finally “(In)Visibility of DisAbility,” where athletes are seen as athletes first and disability is minimized.

In U.S. media coverage, disability sport is invisible. We can draw comparisons to other global sports not covered as prominently in American sports media, such as Premier League soccer. In the technologically-driven age of being able to know the Liverpool-Southampton result instantly, we have no excuse for not knowing how easily the U.S. women’s wheelchair basketball team breezed through to the gold medal in Rio.

However, we are at a critical time in academia where, as educators, we have the opportunity or perhaps the duty to not just inform students of Paralympic and disability sport but to engage them into a critical discussion of why a global event with more than 4,000 athletes is nowhere on our U.S. sport coverage agenda.

References

dePauw, K. (1997). The (in)visibility of disability: Cultural contexts and ‘sporting bodies.’ Quest, 49, 416-430.

Paulsen. (2016). More ratings: Paralympics, World Cup of Hockey, WNBA on ESPN. Retrieved from http://www.sportsmediawatch.com/2016/09/paralympics-ratings-nbcsn-world-cup-hockey-espn-viewership-wnba/ 

Sports TV Ratings. (2016). How many more homes is ESPN in than FS1 and NBC Sports Network? Retrieved from https://sportstvratings.com/how-many-more-homes-is-espn-in-than-fs1-and-nbc-sports-network-june-2016-edition/5087/

Issues: NCAA Reform

Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Why College-Sport “Reform” is Doomed to Fail

By Richard M. Southall and Mark S. NagelUniversity of South Carolina

 In 1817, philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge suggested readers willingly suspend disbelief about even the most outrageous story as long as human interest and a semblance of truth are skillfully woven into the narrative. Willing suspension of disbelief is vital to the big-time college sport enterprise. Almost from its inception, fans and reformers have willingly accepted a mythology that college athletes are simply students engaged in an extracurricular activity. They forego critical analysis and tacitly accept legal, financial, sociological, and educational fictions, which in any other walk of life they would vehemently denounce. This is one reason – among many others – why college sport “reform” will not derail the NCAA’s commercial sport enterprise.

NCAA_logo.svgIn literature, willing suspension of disbelief allows readers to enjoy fictional realities populated by zombies, hobbits and all manner of superheroes. Similarly, many college-sport reformers ignore decades of contrary evidence and “believe” in the sanctity of the collegiate model of intercollegiate athletics. This tacit acceptance of the NCAA’s paradigm allows reformers to hope “magically” college sport can be reformed if only athletic programs “truly embrace” the NCAA’s amateurism mythology. Reformers seemingly overlook that in order to maintain this educational façade, the Constitutional and human rights of profit-athletes must be violated, and long-term financial, intellectual and emotional harm inflicted upon them.

Reform groups, including the Drake Group, Knight Commission, and Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA) seemingly choose to “willingly disbelieve” big-time college sport is fundamentally a commercial enterprise designed to enrich athletic administrators, coaches, sponsors and media partners, while providing predominately middle-to-upper class consumers and student-athletes a “collegiate athletic” experience. Unceasingly, reformers contend college sport contributes to universities’ educational mission: the current system just needs tweaking.

However, any reform must occur within the shadow of the NCAA, as president Mark Emmert declared:

Student-athletes are students. They’re not professionals. And we’re not going to pay them. And we’re not going to allow other people to pay them to play. Behaviors that undermine the collegiate model, wherever they occur, are a threat to those basic values, and we can’t tolerate them (Moltz, 2011, para. 5, 11).

Emmert’s statement reflects the NCAA’s success in skillfully using institutional propaganda and rebranding strategies to create, imbed, and disseminate its collegiate model to shape and control college sport reform.

Not surprisingly, most fans and college-sport stakeholders unconditionally accept the NCAA’s collegiate model. However, it is perplexing that Congress, and the U.S. judiciary, overlook and/or ignore the enterprise’s illegality and immorality, with committee hearings and high-profile legal cases consistently eliciting logically inconsistent

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Ed O’Bannon

responses. In the initial O’Bannon v. NCAA (2014) district-court decision, Judge Wilken ruled the NCAA illegally restrained trade: a criminal conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Act. However, unlike nearly every other identified antitrust violation, instead of enacting specific measures to “remedy” the antitrust violation, the court proposed a modest “reform” ($5,000 deposited annually into a trust fund) while allowing the illegal system to remain in place. The Ninth Circuit appellate also suspended its disbelief, ignoring clear violations of law in nullifying Wilken’s injunction designed to cure specific violations and arguing any remedies must be “educational” and consistent with the NCAA’s existing collegiate model.

While it was to be expected the NCAA would base its O’Bannon strategies on its collegiate model, even plaintiffs’ attorneys consistently used the “student-athlete” nomenclature and stressed they did not seek to dismantle the current system, but simply address its marketplace inequities. Even the media consistently suspends disbelief when reporting college-sport issues. Despite Judge Wilken’s ruling the NCAA a criminal conspiracy in violation of federal antitrust laws, the media largely “buried the lead” – and focused on the business of college sport’s unchecked survival. In the case’s aftermath, media accounts consistently contained little discussion that big-time college sport is an illegal, criminal conspiracy.

Trapped within the current paradigm, reformers are left with minor victories: increased cost of attendance stipends (i.e., pay raises), the possibility of four-year grants-in-aid, and “calls for” reductions in practice schedules. What is conveniently overlooked is the legal fact: The NCAA’s century-old collegiate model of athletics (rebranded or not) is a criminal conspiracy.

A critical examination of the NCAA’s collegiate model leads to the conclusion that what is needed is not reform, but rather a revolution – a paradigm shift or conversion in which previously “normal” beliefs are discarded and replaced with fundamentally new ones. Such a paradigm shift will allow us to discard college sport reform efforts that have done nothing to prevent continual and cataclysmic difficulties. Simply put, college sport reform is doomed to fail.

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Issues: Para Sport I

Beyond Rio…Accessibility, Elitism and Sport Development

Laura Misener, Ph.D. – Western University

Editors’ note: This post is the first in a series focused on disability sport and the Paralympic Games. The second post, written by Dr. Josh R. Pate, will be published on February 20, 2017.

As a scholar in the realm of disability sport, I must confront my seemingly incongruent position of privilege as a white, able-bodied, former elite athlete with the critical discourses of disability which I interrogate. I was struck by that reality as I spent time in Rio, Brazil in the lead up to and during the 2016 Paralympic Games. I found my time in Rio both a pleasure as a sport fan, and problematic as a conscientious citizen and researcher.

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Dr. Laura Misener at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

The question remains, has this event changed anything about Rio or Brazil for the lives of persons with disabilities? This issue remains central to much of the ongoing research about so-called legacies or impacts of the hosting the Paralympic Games. I situate my own scholarly thinking about disability, on what Goodley (2013) and others argue is systemic discrimination based on ableist (i.e. able bodied as ideal) assumptions, institutions, and structures that disadvantage persons with a disability. Spaces of poverty and deprivation abound in Rio and throughout the urban landscapes of Brazil, which presented a stark contrast to the pristine, elite sporting venues of the Games. In terms of accessibility and understanding of disability, I witnessed how far Brazil must go to address some of the basic standards set forth by the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The crumbled pavements, lack of curb cuts, no audible cues in traffic, and inaccessible transportation network are just some of the ongoing physical issues that were to be addressed through the hosting of the Paralympic Games. But the expectation that such an event can meet such a colossal challenge is insurmountable, particularly in the face of such economic and political turmoil. In many ways, my experience of being in and around venues only served to further highlight the inequalities experienced by many Brazilians with a disability.

On the other hand, I felt optimistic about the event being able to highlight inequities and potentially focus on shifting negative attitudes and stereotypes about disability. But as a spectator and fan of sport, they got it all wrong. As I listened to IPC President Sir Philip Craven’s speech during the Opening Ceremony, he framed disability around the problematic inspirational narrative (i.e. supercrip) and missing the mark on the social inequities that disability often produces. Further, the Paralympic flag was brought into the stadium by a group of severely disabled children who will never access the Paralympic movement, literally puppeteered by adults was further demonstrative of the distanced understanding of disability in the everyday life. Yet, the crowd of international elite Sport Managers, Policy Makers, and Dignitaries around me loved it! It is perhaps a call for me as a scholar to work harder from within and without to demonstrate the value and importance of our work.

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Photo courtesy of Dr. Laura Misener

My time at the events was brief, but it highlighted further the poor understanding and inequalities of disability sport in this country. At Athletics, I watched a T36 (visual impairment) athlete from Portugal miss his jump time because the crowd was too loud for him to hear the coach to know when to jump. Then, after protesting, he was allowed an additional attempt and foot-faulted – yet the crowd cheered loudly applauding his failed attempt. Certainly, we can chalk this up to different cultural contexts where Brazilian crowds are supportive of all sporting efforts, but athletes know and feel the difference between educated sport fans and piteous encouragement.

I still believe that these Games and similar types of events can be an opportunity for social change. I met volunteers and local citizens from Rio who saw the Paralympic Games as the highlight event. They believed that this was the opportunity to change the way people think, understand, and act towards disability. I am not convinced that sport managers have the solutions about how to appropriately manage sport, disability sport, or mega events but I do see that we have much space as scholars for interesting conversations and the real machinations of political will to see these as social change opportunities.

Knowledge is Power: How Can We Contribute to Social Justice in Divisive Times?

Editors’ note: The following post is intended to be a conversation starter amongst NASSM members and blog readers regarding this timely sport issue. We strongly encourage readers to contribute to a thoughtful and respectful dialogue on this topic by writing your comments on this post. Please check back often to view additional comments and responses!

Christine E. Wegner, Ph.D. – University of Florida
John N. Singer, Ph.D. – Texas A & M University

redskins-protest-signsThe year 2016 has seen a number of events and incidents in organized sport that speak to social injustices in the United States in particular, from Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the systemic racism within the criminal justice system, to the reactions of both the NBA and the NCAA in the wake of North Carolina’s Hb2 law. As more and more perspectives join the conversation about social justice, we should be reminded of George Cunningham’s 2014 Zeigler lecture, calling for ways to support and create social justice both through and in sport. Given the increasing gravity of recent events, sport management scholars and researchers need to become part of the current conversation, offering their knowledge to the intersection between sport and social justice, through immediate action in the community.

We are quick to recall the importance of sport in our lives when we seek to justify our existence as a field. Therefore, when this importance serves as a platform for fighting injustice, we owe it to ourselves to reinforce that platform, a charge we too often have left to sport sociologists. As Wendy Frisby suggested in her 2005 Ziegler lecture, sport management, with a unit of analysis as the organization, can be an important part of the ongoing dialogue. What is happening today is such a force, in part, because of the power of organizations, and specifically the power of organizing in sport. We therefore must find new modes through which to engage with and contribute to the current conversation.

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In in a keynote address at the 2016 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) Conference, Harry Edwards talked about the critical difference for scholars and researchers engaging with the activism of athletes in the 1960s and those of today. The pace of the 24-hour news cycle and the actions and perspectives created constantly through social media outlets shrink the temporal window for current scholars and researchers. Writing journal articles about today’s climate, attitudes, and actions are a vital reflection of process, change, and social inquiry. However, those articles, whose contributions are slowed by the submission process, can rarely ever be part of the current dialogue, the crucial discourse that is so fundamental to progress and social change.

Discourse can be hard. It can be painful. It can force us to reflect on our privilege. Our failings. Our humanity and lack thereof. But it is necessary. In a world where ignorance has found a powerful faucet in social media, we as individuals who know history, politics and theory, owe it to the future that we teach to be a part of the immediate discourse as well, and to counter some of this ignorance.

Just as the events of the past few months and even weeks have no doubt found their way into classroom discourse as teachable moments and opportunities for dialogue, we need to continually find ways to engage in the current climate in real time. For example, Joseph Cooper’s Collective Uplift at the University of Connecticut, works to educate and empower student athletes of color directly.  As another example, organizations such as RISE combine managers, athletes, activists, and educators in its efforts toward social progress. And many programs and organizations already rely on our expertise as researchers to assess both their efficacy and understand the sources of change.

icant-breatheBut this is more than a call to join in these efforts.  We also hope to start a dialogue about innovative ways we can be a part of the social justice movement, especially in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign and U.S. election, which has left many emboldened to openly discriminate, and others in fear of their rights and lives. Where are the spaces and opportunities in which we can insert ourselves into the national and international conversation, given the role of sport and sport organizations in our world today? How can we incorporate collective action into our research to make it meaningful immediately, in addition to the knowledge it generates through our studies, manuscripts, and conference presentations?

Please join the conversation and post your thoughts on this topic below!