Becoming a “Real University
” The Strategic Benefits of Adding Football for NCAA Division I Institutions
AbstractIn the midst of an economic crisis leading to extensive cuts in college athletics, at least 38 colleges in the past five years have either added or have plans to add football to their athletic programs. Of particular interest are schools that have traditionally been known as “commuter universities.” In response to increased competition from other colleges, many of these schools are adding football as a part of a larger strategic vision for creating a “better college product.” Using resource-based (Barney, 1991) and institutional theories (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983), this study seeks to understand the strategic arguments used and the benefits sought by universities adding football on their campuses. This study employs qualitative content analysis methodology (Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Miles & Huberman, 1994) using publically available football feasibility studies from six NCAA Division I universities that have added (or have advertised plans to add) football over the past five years. Results indicate that football is seen as a vehicle for creating a sense of community and enhancing the institutional value of universities. Results also show that the dominant strategic rationale for adding these football programs is more consistent with institutional than resource-based theory. Implications of such strategy include an overemphasis on sport, and a corresponding lack of attention paid to other more innovative solutions to broader campus issues.
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