What It Means to “Win” in Small College Athletics: Strategic Contingency Theory and Alternative Success
Keywords:NCAA Division II athletics, athletics sucess, student-athlete experience, enrollment goals
The purpose of this study was to gain a deep understanding of how athletics success is defined and operationalized for small colleges in Division III athletics. Strategic Contingency Theory was utilized as a framework to examine and better understand how the small college athletics department operates “successfully.” The underlying premise of Strategic Contingency Theory is that an organization must adapt in order to survive. In-depth interviews were conducted with NCAA Division III Athletics Directors, campus administrators (e.g., President, Provost, Vice President for Enrollment Management), and Faculty Athletics Representatives to better understand how university and athletics administrators define athletics program success at small colleges. In all, 33 interviews were conducted across seven states at 11 different Division III institutions where student-athletes comprise 20% or more of the student body.
Andrew, D. P., Pedersen, P. M., & McEvoy, C. D. (2011). Research methods and design in sport management. Human Kinetics.
Bandré, M.A. (2011). The impact of financial aid on the enrollment and retention of student athletes at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III colleges and universities: A review of the literature. Journal of Student Financial Aid, 41(1), 38-45.
Barr, M. J., & McClellan, G. S. (2010). Budgets and financial management in higher education. John Wiley & Sons.
Bonvillian, G., & Murphy, R. (2014). The liberal arts college adapting to change: The survival of small schools. Routledge.
Bouchet, A. & Hutchinson, M. (2011). Organizational escalation and retreat in university athletics: brand insulation in Birmingham-Southern College’s transition to Division III athletics. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 4, 261-282.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.
Cooper, C.G. & Weight, E.A. (2012). Maximizing organizational effectiveness: NCAA Division III administrator core values and departmental culturization. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 5, 339-353.
Covell, D.D., Pelosi, M.K. & Lemoi, J. (2013). Joining the team: A case study identifying and assessing critical factors influencing NCAA Division III student-athlete matriculation. Journal of Applied Sport Management, 5(1), 31-56.
Daft, R. L., & Weick, K. E. (1984). Toward a model of organizations as interpretation systems. Academy of management review, 9(2), 284-295.
Demirel, E. (2013, October 1). The D-III revolution: How America's most violent game may be saving liberal arts colleges. SB Nation. Retrieved from http://www.sbnation.com/longform/2013/10/1/4786810/diii-football-revolution
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2011). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research. Sage.
DesJardins, S. L., & Bell, A. (2006). Using economic concepts to inform enrollment management. New directions for institutional research, 2006(132), 59-74.
Division III facts and figures. (2020). NCAA. Retrieved from https://ncaaorg.s3.amazonaws.com/about/d3/D3_FactandFigures.pdf
Divisional differences and the history of multidivision classification. (2021). NCAA. Retrieved from http://www.ncaa.org/about/who-we-are/membership/divisional-differences-and-history-multidivision-classification
Doody, O., & Noonan, M. (2013). Preparing and conducting interviews to collect data. Nurse Researcher, 20(5), 28-32.
Douglas-Gabriel, D. (2015, January 5). Students now pay more of their public university tuition than state governments. Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2015/01/05/students-cover-more-of-their-public-university-tuition-now-than-state-governments/
Duncan, R.B. (1972). Characteristics of Organizational Environments and Perceived Environmental Uncertainty. Administrative Science Quarterly, 17(3), 313-327.
Gratton, C., & Jones, I. (2004). Research methods for sport studies. New York: Routledge.
Hendricks, S.P. & Johnson, A.T. (2016). The athlete-student dilemma: Exploring the experiences of specially admitted student-athletes at a Division III university. Journal of Applied Sport Management, 8(4), 1-20.
Hossler, D. (2000). The role of financial aid in enrollment management. New directions for student services, 2000(89), 77-90.
Johnson, B., & Christensen, L. (2008). Educational research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Katz, M., Cocieru, O.C., Springer, D.L., & Dixon, M. (2021). Fan ties and friendships: A longitudinal network study of Division III sports on campus. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport. 166-188.
Katz, M., Pfleegor, A.G., Schaeperkoetter, C.C., & Bass, J.R. (2015). Factors for success in NCAA Division III athletics. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 8, 102-122.
Kerschner, D., Allan, E. (2021). Examining the nature and extent of hazing at five NCAA Division III institutions and considering the implications for prevention. Journal of Amateur Sport, 7(1), 95-118.
Kerwin, S. & Hoeber, L. (2015). Collaborative self-ethnography: Navigating self-reflexivity in a sport management context. Journal of Sport Management, 29(5), 498-509.
Lawrence, P., & Lorsch, J. (1969). Organization and Environment: Managing Differentiation and Integration. Homewood, Illinois: Irwin.
Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Sage.
Nichols, B.A., Stellino, M.B., & Smith, M.A. (2020). Factors influencing college selection by NCAA Division III men’s basketball players. Journal of Amateur Sport, 6(1), 32-51.
Nixon, W.L., Mayo, Z.A., & Koo, W. (2021). Student-athlete college choice: Division I, II, and III football players. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 14, 152-169.
Office of Post-Secondary Education: Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool. (2021). Retrieved from http://ope.ed.gov/athletics/
Paule-Koba, A.L. & Farr, N.E. (2013). Examining the experiences of former D-I and D-III nonrevenue athletes. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 6, 194-215.
Peale, C. (2013, September 16). Small colleges use sports to boost the bottom line. Cincinnati Inquirer. Retrieved from http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130916/NEWS0102/309160030/Small-colleges-use-sports-boost-bottom-line.
Riddle, M., Brint, S. G., Levy, C. S., & Turk-Bicakci, L. (2005). From the liberal to the practical arts in American colleges and universities: Organizational analysis and curricular change. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(2), 151-180.
Schaeperkoetter, C.C., Bass, J.R., & Gordon, B.S., (2015). Student-athlete school selection: A family systems theory approach. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 8, 266-286.
Shenton, A. K. (2004). Strategies for ensuring trustworthiness in qualitative research projects. Education for Information, 22(2), 63–75.
Sherter, A. (2013, March 19). State funding cuts slam public colleges. CBS Money Watch. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/state-funding-cuts-slam-public-colleges/
Size & setting classification description. (2021). The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/classification_descriptions/size_setting.php
Smith, A. A., & Synowka, D. P. (2014). Financial state of affairs for NCAA sports: a case for intangible strategic assets?. International Journal of Services and Operations Management, 19(1), 29-48.
Snyder, E., & Waterstone, K. (2015). An examination of Division III small college athletics: president and commissioner influence and change in athletic philosophy. Journal of Contemporary Athletics, 9(3), 195.
Westfall, S. B. (2006). Charting the territory: The small college dean. New Directions for Student Services, 2006(116), 5-13.
Williams, J., Colles, C. & Allen, K.J. (2010). Division III athletes: Perceptions of faculty interactions and academic support services. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 3, 211-233.
Willner, J. (2019). Private universities and NCAA D-III athletics as a general recruiting tool. International Advances in Economic Research, 25, 293-307.
Yost, M. (2010). Var$ity green: A behind the scenes look at culture and corruption in college athletics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Zdziarski, E. L. (2010). A small college perspective on institutional budget issues. New Directions for Student Services, 129, 21-27.
Zullo, R. (2021). NCAA Division III intercollegiate athletics corporate sponsorships: a systems theory approach. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 21(3), 1594-1606.
Zvosec, C.C., Bass, J.R., & Baer, N. (2021a). Student-athletes “taking the road less traveled:” Social Comparison Theory and the academically elite NCAA Division III institution. Managing Sport and Leisure, 1-17.
Zvosec, C.C., Brown, C.M., Richardson, H., & Bass, J.R. (2021b). Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 14, 22-50.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Claire C. Zvosec, Jordan R. Bass
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-ND) License
1. License. You retain the copyright for your work. You here by grant to us a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable license to:
• Reproduce, distribute and display the edited manuscript in the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport (and other publications prepared by us or on our behalf) in any media now or hereafter known (including without limitation electronic publications such as the Internet, Google Scholar, and social media)
We do not restrict your distribution or use of the manuscript following publication in the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport (in fact, we encourage it!). However, we have the right to publish the manuscript first on the journal website. Thus, the foregoing licenses are exclusive to us prior to our publication of the manuscript. You confirm that you have disclosed to us all previous or pending public disseminations of the manuscript, including without limitation any publications or acceptances by other journals or disseminations via websites or conference proceedings.
2. Other Confirmations. You confirm that you are the manuscripts sole author(s); you have the right to convey the foregoing licenses; the manuscript does not infringe any third party copyright, publicity/privacy right or other proprietary right; and the manuscript is not defamatory or otherwise unlawful. You shall defend and indemnify us against all claims based on any alleged breach of your confirmations in this contract.
Compensation: You will receive one (1) free copy (PDF) of the article published online in the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport. You will receive no royalty or other monetary return from the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport for use of the article. You do, however, have our extreme gratitude!
3. Entire Contract. This contract is the sole and exclusive agreement between the parties regarding the manuscript and supersedes all prior conversations and understandings regarding its subject matter. This contract may be modified or supplemented only by a mutually signed writing.