Point/Counterpoint: Paying College Athletes


The notion of paying college football players has been an ongoing debate since the early 1900’s. With current television revenue resulting from NCAA football bowl games and March Madness in basketball, there is now a clamoring for compensating both football and basketball players beyond that of an athletic scholarship. This article takes a point/counterpoint approach to the topic of paying athletes and may have potential implications/consequences for college administrators, athletes, and coaches. Dr. John Acquaviva defends the current system in which colleges provide an athletic scholarship that provides a “free college education” in return for playing on the university team. Dr. Dennis Johnson follows with a counterpoint making the case that athletes in these sports should receive compensation beyond that of a college scholarship and forwards five proposals to pay the athletes.

Key words: pay for play, athletic scholarships

Introduction: History of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

The idea of paying college athletes to compete dates back to what is considered to be the first intercollegiate competition. In a regatta between Harvard and Yale Universities, Harvard used a coxswain who was not even a student enrolled at the Ivy League school (5). Much like today’s universities whose appetites for appearances in corporate-sponsored “big money” football bowl events; Harvard may have used the non-student to please regatta sponsor Elkins Railroad (23).

In the late 1800’s, football played by college teams was a brutal sport but enjoyed by many fans. However, from 1900 to 1905, there were 45 players who died playing the sport (22). This prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to summon the presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and threaten them with a ban unless the sport was modified. As a result of that meeting, a group of 62 university presidents convened to form the Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1906. This group evolved into the NCAA in 1910, but as a group it only possessed supervisory power (22).

College football became even more popular in the period of 1920-1940. This was a time when commercialism in the educational system was being questioned on a variety of levels. One such fundamental question was posed in 1929 by Howard Savage, a staff member of the Carnegie Foundation. He raised a question in an article entitled Athletics in American College (originally published in 1930 but reprinted in 1999) “whether an institution in the social order whose primary purpose is the development of the intellectual life can at the same time serve an agency to promote business, industry, journalism, and organized athletics on an extensive commercial basis? More importantly, the report asked “can it (the university) concentrate its attention on securing teams that win, without impairing the sincerity and vigor of its intellectual purpose” (9, p.495)? Savage also states that “alumni devices for recruiting winning teams constitutes the most disgraceful phase of recent intercollegiate athletics” (9, p. 495). In sum, the original 1929 report claimed that “big time” college sports were not educational, but were entirely financial and commercial.

Athletes during the early and mid-1900’s were routinely recruited and paid to play; and there were several instances where individuals representing the schools were not enrolled as students. For example, there is one report of a Midwestern university using seven members of its team that included the town blacksmith, a lawyer, a livery man, and four railroad employees (5). Other athletes at colleges were given high paying jobs for which they did little or no work. In 1948, the NCAA adopted a “Sanity Code” that limited financial aid for athletes to tuition and fees, and required that aid otherwise be given based on need (5). In the early 1950’s, with the threat of several southern schools bolting from the NCAA, the code was revised to allow athletic scholarships to cover tuition, fees, and a living stipend.

However, by the mid-1950’s many schools were still struggling with the issue of offering athletic scholarships. Some university presidents ultimately decided to maintain the principles of amateurism and further serve the mission of higher education. Those were presidents of universities that today make up the Ivy League. They concluded that it was not in the best interest of their universities to award athletic scholarships, and have remained steadfast even today.

After passing Title IX in the mid 1970’s, the NCAA absorbed the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and began to govern women’s sport at the collegiate level. Over the past 50 years, the NCAA has also expanded into three divisions with a multitude of championship events on a yearly basis (20). There are more than 1,300 member institutions that represent an estimated 400,000 student athletes who participate in sport (21). The result of this growth and development are enormous increases in revenue. NCAA President Mark Emmert reports the NCAA revenues for the 2010-11 fiscal year is projected at $757 million, of which $452.2 million will go to Division I members (14).

While seemingly operating in a purely capitalistic/professional atmosphere, the NCAA continues to endorse an amateurism concept in college athletics. These competing, and often contradictory, values lead some college athletes in big time football and basketball programs to question the status quo of the present system through their words and actions. For example, many athletes are still attempting to get their “piece of the pie,” albeit under the table. And so it leads to our point-counterpoint.

Point: College Athletes Should Not Be Paid

The intensity of the argument to pay college athletes has escalated in the past few years. Perhaps it’s because of the current economic climate and everyone, including amateur athletes is looking for ways to make money? Or maybe it’s because many higher learning institutions have given the public access to their annual budget and readers focus on the profit of select athletic programs? Or maybe it is due to the absurd coaches’ salaries and the money that colleges make from football bowl games and basketball tournaments? Regardless, this has magnified the fact that the athletes see none of these profits and thus begs the simple question: “Where’s my share?” Perhaps a fair question, but to understand this argument better, a healthy debate is needed. So, here are some points to consider.

Point #1: Education is Money

Colleges and universities provide an invaluable and vital service to our communities: education. A now-famous bumper sticker once read: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” To address that very slogan, the U.S. census bureau, as reported by Cheesman-Day and Newberger (7), expressed this best when they reported that the lifetime earnings for those with a college degree are over $1 million dollars more than non-graduates. Despite such a statistic, essays and op-ed columns continue to pour in from those who favor paying student-athletes while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge or accept the value of a college education. Is a college education priceless or not?

A sports-journalist in a recent national radio interview proposed that any argument against paying college athletes based on the sole reason that education is the prize is “antiquated”. But what seems antiquated and even shortsighted is the belief that paying a college athlete some (or even a lot of) money will solve all or even some of student’s long-term issues. The fear of the NCAA, as it should be, is that the mere notion of paying college athletes undermines the university’s primary purpose – education, something far more valuable than a modest annual stipend proposed by many. If it currently appears that the universities “don’t really care” about the athlete, paying them would intensify that belief, not dissolve it.

The irony in this dispute is that student-athletes do cost the university a substantial amount of money each year. For example, a full scholarship over four years can range between $30,000 and $200,000 depending if the institution is public or private (29). But let’s address this main point head on: There is an obvious lack of appreciation of a college degree from those in favor of paying athletes, and until a genuine gratitude for this concept develops, this argument will probably continue to linger.

Point #2: There Are Problems with Payment

Despite the well-documented scandals and corruption in college athletics (30), many would probably agree that paying athletes would exponentially increase the need for intense NCAA oversight – an enormous task by all accounts. Plus, there are the practical issues to consider. For example, how much should the athletes get paid and will payments be based on performance? What if the athlete gets hurt? What if the athlete is a bust and despite remaining on the team, doesn’t start or even play at all? – Issues that seem to raise far more questions than answers. But perhaps most important – What will happen to the non-revenue sports at the colleges who lose money from all of their sports programs – including football and basketball? It has been shown that only a fraction of Division I football and men’s basketball programs turn a profit (24, 20). The other Division I football and basketball programs as well as sports such as baseball, softball, golf, hockey, women’s basketball (minus a couple of notable programs), and just about all Division II sports not only fail to make money, but actually drain their athletic budgets. The outcome here would be inevitable: Forcing athletic departments to pay its football and basketball players would result in the eventual elimination of most, if not all, of the non-revenue sports. Is that what we want?

We cannot afford to be myopic on this issue. That is, there are only a limited number of programs that make big money, but yet there are hundreds of schools who absorb big losses at the cost of providing athletes a place to compete and earn a degree. The purpose of the NCAA, along with Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), Little League, and dozens of other organized forms of amateur sport is to provide a venue to play these sports – something we should not take for granted. The problem is that some have shifted in thinking that playing an organized sport is a right, whereas it still stands as a privilege.

Point #3: The University Offers More Than an Education

Concerts, lecture series by prominent people, on-stage productions, movies, intramural sports, fitness facilities, and a variety of clubs are all part of the typical university experience. Most students agree that colleges are self-contained acres of learning and socializing, all which takes place in a safe environment. It’s common for schools to subsidize the above-mentioned on-campus activities by adding fees to the tuition – which means that it’s free to a full-scholarship athlete. Other benefits to the athlete include the regular use of pristine gyms, well-manicured fields, athlete-only (and often team-only) workout facilities, sports medicine care, the opportunity to travel via away games, specialized meal plans and free foot gear and athletic attire. In addition, athletes are improving their trade from the best coaching minds in the sport; not to mention having access to some of the best nutrition and strength/conditioning personnel. And perhaps the most overlooked benefits are that the school provides the player with high-profile name recognition, a dedicated fan base, media exposure, and a competitive atmosphere with proven rivals, all of which took decades, effort and money for each institution to establish.

Point #4: The Athletic Department Has Its Role

Keep in mind that student-athletes are not employees of the university, rather they are students first and athletes second. The university can indeed make money from the sports programs; however, for those that do, the money simply goes back into the athletic program to fund the non-revenue sports (24). In fact, every year the NCAA sponsors over 80 national championships in three divisions, demonstrating the range and depth of their organization (20). While it is true that the champion in football and men’s basketball (and most other sports for that matter) seem to come from a relatively small pool of universities, it might be safe to assume that paying athletes would create an even bigger disparity since so few universities actually make money. Let’s face it, we are an underdog-loving country, and paying athletes would all but ensure that teams like Butler University, who made it to the Final Four in consecutive tournaments (2010 and 2011), will never do it again.

Point #5: Athletes Know the Deal

From the moment the full-scholarship papers are signed, each participant’s role is very clear: Schools accept the responsibility of the student’s tuition, meal plan, and boarding, while the athlete is provided with the opportunity to earn a degree, engage in college life and play their favorite sport in a well-organized, and often high profile fashion. The document signed by each student-athlete describes this agreement in an unmistakable manner. Although wordy and at times complex – a necessity due to the nature of the agreement – there’s no vagueness in the general arrangement or a hidden agenda from either party (10). A failure to honor the basic premise of any such contract would cause all forms of business – big or small – to crumble. If for some reason the university could be held liable for entrapment or some other form of dishonesty, then their athlete’s argument would stand on firmer ground. But frankly, the details of this agreement are well known by all involved, and rather strangely, no one seems to mind when signing them.

In conclusion, it should be noted that any NCAA improprieties or blatant corruption may have a carry-over effect into empathizing with the position given here. While corruption and other related-concerns are legitimate and need investigation, paying college athletes still remains a separate debate. It is vital to this process to view each NCAA issue independently and avoid making judgments on them as a whole. The position here is that, like many organizations, the NCAA should not be dismissed or discredited on one issue due to the mishandling of others. Further, if the contention is that many student athletes enter college unprepared or that athletics takes up too much time to excel (or even earn a degree), those are separate, but much needed arguments, and are not related to the issue of paying athletes.

Now more than ever, we live in an era of entitlement. At one time our country viewed the chance at higher education as a priceless commodity. However, it now seems that a college education is not held in the same esteem and worse yet, some see it as simply an opportunity to earn money. Although it is now evident that there has been a failure to convince much of the public of the true value of an education, keeping college athletes as pure amateurs remains the right thing to do.

Counter Point: Athletes in “Big-Time” Sports Should Be Paid


The argument that a college athletic scholarship is an equal quid pro quo for a college education has been utilized since athletic scholarships were approved by the NCAA in 1950’s. My colleague makes one point that is totally accurate – a college graduate can in fact make a great deal more money over a lifetime when compared to non-graduates. However, the remainder of the author’s points are half-truths and in reality just plain falsehoods. For instance, a “full athletic scholarships” do not provide a “free” education (as it does not cover all costs incurred from matriculation to graduation. In many cases, the university does not live up to its end of the bargain of providing an education; as evidenced by the dismal number in the graduation rates, especially among African Americans. Furthermore, the athletic scholarship is only a one-year (renewable) agreement that can be terminated by the coach or university in any given year for any reason.

In debating the pay-for-play issue in college athletics, the history of the governing body (i.e., currently the NCAA), their mission and view of amateurism, the past history of college athletes benefitting financially, and the degree to which athletes benefit from the university experience must all be examined. The counter point section of this paper addresses each point made by my colleague. Using the Eitzen (12) analogy comparing the NCAA and big-time athletic programs to the old southern plantation system will be the underpinning wellspring for the subject of athlete exploitation and the financial benefits enjoyed by the university derived from that plantation-like exploitation. An economic viewpoint will be presented to demonstrate the cartel-like atmosphere held by the NCAA while maintaining the illusion of amateurism.

Finally, five proposals that outline means to promote pay-for-play in NCAA Division I football and men’s basketball will be presented. The arguments that follow are specifically tailored for those two sports at schools who receive bonus money from the NCAA, as those universities and their coaches enjoy considerable revenue from TV contracts and sponsorships generated by bowl games and “March Madness” appearances.

Point #1: Athletic Scholarships Provide a “Free Education” is not correct

As mentioned, in the 1950’s the NCAA approved adding living stipends to athletic scholarships that previously included only tuition and fees. Today, the “full ride” scholarship can only include tuition, fees, room, board, and books. And as mentioned in the previous section, in some cases, depending on the school attended, that scholarship can be worth anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000, although the figures $20,000 to $100,000 over a four year period might be more accurate. In any case, that still does not cover the full cost of attending college.

The Collegiate Athletes Coalition (CAC) estimates that NCAA scholarships are worth about $2000 less than the cost of attending a university, as it does not account for expenses such as travel and sundries. Former Nebraska head football coach and United States Congressman, Tom Osborne (R-NE), calculates the gap between scholarship funding and the actual cost of attendance to be closer to $3,000. Even former NCAA President, Myles Brand, indicated that he favored increasing scholarship limits: “Ideally, the value of an athletically related scholarship would be increased to cover the full-cost of attendance, calculated at between $2,000 to $3000 more per year than is currently provided, I favor this approach of providing the full cost of attendance” (23, p.232).

So yes, the scholarship can be seen as pay for play, or at the very least, a quid pro quo for services rendered during a four year period. However, even with a full scholarship, an athlete will have to pay somewhere between $8,000 and $12,000 out of pocket to bridge the cost-of-living gap. Therefore, the full athletic scholarship does not provide a “free” education. Thus question remains: is the full scholarship a fair and equitable deal for the athlete?

Athlete Exploitation-The Plantation System

Eitzen (12) among others (27) makes the analogy that the NCAA operates like the “plantation system” of the old south. The coaches are the overseers who get work from the laborers (players) who provide riches for the masters (universities) while receiving little for their efforts. Perhaps slightly over-stated (obviously the athlete is not a slave, but maybe an indentured servant), the student–athlete is dominated, managed, and controlled, and they don’t receive a wage commensurate to their contribution as expressed in dollars earned by the university. Eitzen notes that athletes are sometimes mistreated physically and mentally and are often denied the rights and freedoms of other citizens. Ultimately, they have no real democratic recourse in an unjust system.

There are other similarities to the plantation analogy. Slaves were not free to leave the plantation much like an athlete cannot get out of a letter of intent (without penalty) and/or transfer without the penalty of sitting out a year. Much like the slaves who had no right to privacy, athletes are subject to mandatory drug testing (even though their coaches/masters are not tested), room checks, and limits on where they can and cannot go in the community. The athletes can be prohibited from political protests and the right to assemble. And finally, they can be subjected to mental cruelty and physical abuse (e.g., early morning torture sessions), all in order to create obedient slaves; student athletes.

Furthermore, collegiate athletics is often the only game in town for many of these athletes. For instance, football players must be in their third year of college or over the age of 21 to enter the National Football League (NFL). Basketball players, on the other hand, must attend college for one year or ultimately sit out a year before they can enter the National Basketball Association (NBA). Thus, the college game has become a “feeder system” similar to a minor professional league and it is in reality, “the only game in town.”

Point #2: Athletes Don’t Know the “Real” Deal

My colleague is partially correct in that most student athletes know that they are getting a scholarship that will allow them to go to school and play a sport. However, many don’t know the “real deal” as they generally have very little understanding they are about to enter a “plantation-like” system in which their scholarship in not guaranteed (i.e., renewable yearly) and can be terminated at any time. Student-athletes are also a led to believe that they will play and receive a college degree while possibly picking up a few fringe benefits along the way.

Take, for example, the recent stories regarding players like Reggie Bush, Cam Newton, or the players at Ohio State who received money and/or other benefits as a result of playing football. Even though student athletes know they will not get directly paid for playing, many desire and even expect some form of compensation. Slack (25) surveyed 3,500 current and retired football players in 1989 only to find that 31% had received under the table money during their college careers and 48% knew of others who had received payments. This seems to imply that while many recruits may indeed know “the deal”, they display their discontent by accepting payments or other benefits not currently allowed by the NCAA.

In reality, the statement “athletes know the deal” with regard to academic achievement and degree completion seems to lack substance. Dr. Nathan Tublitz, co-chair of the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletes, an organization of 51 faculty senates whose purpose is to remind college presidents, athletic directors, and coaches that student athletes are students first. He points out that:

“…schools aren’t doing these kids any favors by admitting them when it’s unlikely that they will succeed academically. We bring 17 year-old kids, some of them from the inner city and we wine and dine them. They have female chaperones. We put them up in fancy hotels. They come here and see an incredibly fancy locker room with individual TV screens, air conditioning and videogames. They go in and see the new football stadium and the new $200 million basketball arena. They see a medical training facility that is stunningly beautiful with waterfalls, treadmill pools, and the sate-of-the-art medical and dental equipment. They come here and are treated like royalty. Until they break a leg or get put on the second string and they get set aside. Many don’t earn a degree. They don’t have the training or the skills to be independent after they leave the university. They’re lost (28, p.D10).”

When the scholarship is signed, the athlete and his family have reasonable expectations which include efforts by the coaching staff and university administration to meet all obligations of the contract. Additionally, my colleague notes, “that failure to honor the basic premise of any such contract would cause all forms of business – big or small – to crumble.” If the NCAA and athletic departments in higher education are a business, why are they allowed to act in a cartel-like fashion? And finally, do student athletes really know the “deal” when they penned their name on national signing day? It appears they don’t.

Point #3: The University Offers More than Education-It’s Possible-But Not Probable

Academic Detachment. My colleague also makes the claim that the university offers more than an education (e.g., concerts, lectures, intramurals, and clubs) in settings that enrich the college experience. Due to the plantation effect, however, many athletes are not able to take advantage of those events. For instance, few if any of the scholarship athletes would be allowed to play in an intramural contest for the coach’s fear of injury. Student athletes are also over-scheduled with study halls, practices, weight training sessions, film study, individual workouts, more practice, travel, and competition; all in an attempt to help athletes maintain focus on their sport.

Adler and Adler (1) spent five years recording systematic information regarding the athletes’ lives in a big-time college basketball program. After observing, interviewing, and traveling with them, they concluded that big-time basketball and being seriously engaged in academics were not compatible. They also found that freshmen had a period of optimism regarding academics when they first arrived on campus, but after about two semesters they found that the social isolation combined with the fatigue of training kept them from becoming involved in academic life.

Positive feedback these basketball players earned was always athletic-related and not academic. They soon learned what they had to do to stay eligible. Coaches made sure they scheduled classes that did not interfere with practices. Ultimately, the researchers realized that academic detachment was encouraged by the peer culture, and because of their social status (e.g., big man on campus), it became difficult for them to focus on academics.

Coakley (8) reported that not all of the athletes in the Adler & Adler (1) study experienced academic detachment. Those who entered college well-prepared with appropriate high school courses, strong parental support and an ability to develop relationships outside of sport were able to succeed in the classroom. It’s important to note that too many minority athletes from low socioeconomic environments struggle in academics – an issue that is often perpetuated by the coaches. For instance, Robert Smith, former running back for Minnesota Vikings and pre-med student while at Ohio State, needed two afternoon labs in the same semester. Since the labs conflicted with practice, coaches suggested that he drop them because of the commitment he made to play football. Against the wishes of the coaching staff, Smith took the classes but was forced to sit out the season as red shirt athlete; a further example of the plantation effect.

Benson (3) noted that one perspective was missing from the literature included a full expression from the black athletes point of view. Benson conducted a qualitative interview study of 12 African American students at a DI football program where the graduation rate was 31-40% for black football players compared to 60-70% of white football players. The results in this instance cannot be generalized due to the small sample size (N=12), but it does provide a snapshot of the thoughts regarding education and athletics of this group. Further, they reflect the results obtained by Adler & Adler (1).

Another major finding of the Benson (3) study was that the marginal academic performance was created by a series of interrelated practices engaged in by all significant members of the academic setting, including peers, coaches, advisors, teachers, and the student athletes themselves. It began in the recruitment, and continued through the first year. Black student athletes received the message that school was not important, and that as time passed, they had no real control over their destiny in the classroom. It was simply a matter of survival to keep the grade point average (GPA) to a point to be eligible. They all felt like the coaches did not “walk the talk” in terms of academics. They would just talk the academic game in public but then in reality they would have “fits” if classes ever interfered with the program. Simply put, student athletes learned it was a matter of survival and a basic expectation to maintain a GPA just high enough to remain eligible to compete (3).

“The Black Dumb Jock”. Harry Edwards (13) discussed the creation of the “black dumb jock” image prior to studies completed by Alder and Alder (1), Benson (3), and Coakley (8). He (i.e., Edwards) theorized that they were not born, but rather systematically created. The previous mentioned studies serve as evidence to support his statement (1, 3, 8). The exploitation of athletes is not solely an NCAA issue but a societal one. For example, Fred Butler was passed on through elementary, middle, and high school because he was a good football player. He graduated from high school reading at a second grade level and went to El Camino Junior College. There he took a number of physical activity classes while hoping to be drafted into the NFL. When no offer came, he played at California State University-Los Angeles for a year and a half. When again no offer came and his eligibility expired, he failed out of school within months with no degree, no offers to play pro ball, and no skills to use for employment. And he still could not read! (18). Similarly, Former NFL player Dexter Manley testified before a Senate Committee that he played four years at Oklahoma State University, only to leave the school illiterate. And the sad feature is that academic detachment from the university athletic department perspective doesn’t seem to be an issue because there are always more impoverished (and usually minority) kids waiting to come in and play.

Thus, student athletes in many cases cannot take advantage of the many extras offered by a college education. Why do athletes accept a diluted academic experience or the corruption of doctored transcripts, phantom courses, surrogate test takers, and tutors writing papers? Perhaps it is because they are disenfranchised under the current system, and will lose scholarships, starting roles, and eligibility if they complain. George Will argued that “College football and basketball are, for many players, vocations, not avocations, and academics are unsubstantiated rumors” (12, p.5). So do full scholarship athletes get a chance to take advantage of all the extras of the university experience? More than likely it is not the case especially when they can’t even hope for a meaningful degree.

NCAA as a Cartel. Kahn (16) examined the operation of the college football and basketball systems of the NCAA and offers lessons about the determinants and effects of supply and demand. Specifically he utilizes economic principles to calculate the value of college football player to a university. He notes that total ticket revenues for football and men’s basketball were $757 million in 1999, total value that exceeded the total ticket sales for all of professional baseball, football, and hockey that year. A figure indicating that the NCAA is a very successful business entity engaged in capitalism.

According to the cartel theory, the NCAA has “enforced collusive restrictions on payments for factors of production, including player compensation, recruiting expenses, and assistant coaches salaries; it has restricted output; and it has defeated potential rival groups (16, p. 211).” He notes, along with others (11, 15, 16, 30), that the NCAA can impose sanctions that range from scholarship reductions, elimination from post-season play to program death penalties (e.g., Southern Methodist football); and possibly even threaten a school’s academic accreditation. However, restriction of pay to players is the main way in which the organization acts to restrict competition.

Economists who have studied the NCAA “view it as a cartel that attempts to produce rents, both by limiting payments for inputs such as player compensation and by limiting output” (16, p.210). When looking at the rent values based on college football or men’s basketball players’ performances, they are paid below a competitive level of compensation based on estimates of marginal revenue product produced of these players (6). Their analysis considered the total revenue for a school and the number of players that were eventually drafted by a major professional league. Utilizing this framework they concluded that in 2005 dollars a draft-ready football player returned $495,000 to the university, while a draft-ready basketball player was worth $1.422 million for men’s basketball. And all of this compared to the approximately $40,000 paid in scholarship worth. This indicates that the NCAA does indeed use cartel power to pay top athletes less than the athlete’s market value.

Based on a workload of 1000 hours per year and an average scholarship value, economist Richard Sheehan (16) calculated the basic hourly wage of a college basketball player at $6.82 and a football player at $7.69. Coaches’ hourly wages, on the other hand, ranged from $250-$647 per hour (depending on salary). Again, using the Eitzen metaphor, the masters accumulate wealth at the slave’s expense, even though the athlete/slave’s health is jeopardized by participation (12).

Parent (23) notes the hypocrisy of the amateurism construct when looking at these capitalism issues. He notes that the former president of the University of Washington, William Gerberding, said, “As one contemplates the obvious fact that so many of the most gifted athletes are economically and educationally disadvantaged blacks, this becomes less and less defensible. I have become increasingly uncomfortable about having a largely white establishment maintaining an elaborate system of rules that deprives student-athletes, many of whom are non-white, of adequate financial support in the name of the ideals of amateurism” (p.236).

So, why do athletes tolerate this system? They do mainly because they are disenfranchised and fear losing their scholarships and eligibility if they complain. In essence, this pay-for-play discussion revolves around amateurism, as advertised by the NCAA, and its competing capitalistic drive for income. According to Tulsa Law School professor Ray Yasser, the best option for athletes to change the system for their benefit is to unite and “file an antitrust suit…against the NCAA and their universities, with the claim being that the NCAA and their universities are colluding to create a monopoly over the athlete’s ability to share in the profits generated from college athletics” (23, p.236).

While the points for maintaining the status quo were stated previously, there has been sufficient evidence presented in this section to stimulate discussion of paying players. The “play for a diploma” agreement is not happening in many cases, as the athlete failure rate indicates. Another example is national champion Connecticut men’s basketball program losing two scholarships for the upcoming season as a result of a poor Academic Performance Rating (APR) from the NCAA (11). Thus, the following pay for play proposals are being submitted for consideration.

Pay Proposals

It would appear that NCAA should get out of the commercial business of football and basketball and follow the Ivy League example of providing an environment that is truly amateur where student athletes actually are students first. That move would certainly place the student first in the student athlete term. However, it doesn’t seem pragmatic that either the NCAA or any of the major universities are in any hurry to turn away millions of dollars per year in profits. Therefore, it is time to consider some pay-for-pay proposals. California and Nebraska have already passed state legislation that would enable colleges to compensate athletes; however they are blocked by the NCAA from doing so (23). Therefore, I submit five proposals that could possibly be implemented:

    1. Big Ten Plan and/or Work Study Proposal: At the very least, the NCAA should follow former NCAA President Miles Brand’s suggestion and allocate athletes include a $2,000-$3,000 cost of living increase to full scholarships. Since athletes are supposedly only allowed to spend 20 hours per week involved with sport-related activities, this might actually be paid as 20 hours of work study or as a monthly living stipend. This would provide the athletes with the needed income for clothes, laundry, sundries, travel, and other small item expenses.
      Officials from the Big Ten are currently discussing a similar proposal that would help their athletes meet expenses not covered in an athletic scholarship. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany reports league athletic directors and university officials have seriously discussed using some of their growing TV revenue to pay athletes more. This proposal which would give athletes a $2,000-$5,000 per year living stipend also has the support of current NCAA president Mark Emmert (2).


    1. SEC Game Pay Proposal: The Southeastern Conference, another of the big time football conferences recently entered into the pay for play discussion. University of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier put forth a proposal at the recent conference meetings to pay players $300 per game. The proposal was supported by several other coaches.
      This type of a proposal could pay athletes anywhere from $300-$1000 per game based on time played per game. Since most players do not play more than 30 minutes a game, a player could be paid on a per-minute of competition basis. At a rate of $20 per minute a player could net $600 for a game and approximately $6000-$7,000 per season.


    1. Professional League Proposal: Ron Woods (27) puts forth a proposal submitted by Peter Plagensa, visiting professor at Middlebury College, regarding the pay-for-play issue. He appears to agree with the likes of Stanley Eitzen that the current practice of colleges and the NCAA do in fact “amount to a little more than a plantation system” (27, p. 67). He suggests that the big time college football and basketball maintain the million-dollar industry by making them an age 23 and under professional league. This proposal would allow universities to hire players as college staff (much like the cafeteria or groundskeepers) at moderate salaries plus room and board. Universities could also grant the athletes free academic classes until they earn a degree (even after playing days are over).


    1. Revenue Sharing Proposal from TV/NCAA Proceeds:

      “College basketball players watch the coach roaming the sidelines in his $1,500 custom-make suit. They read about his $500.000 salary and $250,000 perk from a sneaker deal. They watch the schools sell jerseys (and T-shirts) with the player’s numbers on them. They see the athletic director and NCAA officials getting rich and you wonder why they might ask; hey where’s my share? What am I, a pack mule” (17, p.46)

      Tim Tebow related on the Daily Show (26) that he joked with his college coach prior to a national championship game about getting a cut of his bonus money to ensure a victory. This brings another revenue sharing possibility to the surface: coaches sharing their bonuses and other performance incentives with the players.
      Most coaches in big time programs are paid huge bonuses based on team record and ranking, all a result of player performance. For instance, according to 2009 IRS income tax reports, Mike Krzyewski received $2,222,543 in bonuses and incentives (4). Coaches under this proposal would be required to share 25-50% of their bonuses with the players. Isn’t it reasonable to expect the athletes to get a cut of the bonus money? After all, they (i.e., the players) are the ones who put the coaches in a position to earn those bonuses.


My colleague has argued in point #2 that paying athletes raise a myriad of other issues, such as how much should they receive, what happens if an athlete gets hurt, and so on. That is a discussion for another time. First, we must agree that it is fair to compensate NCAA Division I football and basketball athletes beyond that of an athletic scholarship; then and only then may payout details be chronicled. Note: a reminder that we are only discussing compensation for the NCAA Division I-A football and basketball players; not the athletes in the AAU, Little League or other truly amateur venues of organized sport.


Throughout the history of the NCAA, college athletes have routinely received compensation beyond that of a full college scholarship (e.g., room and board, tuition, books). While such compensation is illegal, athletes like Reggie Bush and others receive under-the-table benefits as evidenced in the Slack survey (25).

Additionally, many athletes in “big time” programs do not receive a degree for their efforts in the athletic arena. Universities routinely admit students based on their athletic skills that are academically ill-prepared for success. As seen in the research (1, 3), many athletes that aspire to be academically successful soon lose hope with the over-scheduling and pressures of sport preparation. As a result, many college athletes, a majority of which are minorities, fail out of school once coaches have utilized their eligibility.

The NCAA functions like a cartel, keeping cost down while increasing profits. Rents for a draft-ready athlete earn the university somewhere between $500,000 for football and $1.422 million for men’s basketball (16), leading to a pseudo-plantation system where the coaches oversee the athletes demanding work and controlling their schedules on and off the field. This unbalanced system allows athletes to earn the equivalent of $6.80-$7.69 an hour (12) while coaches like Nick Saban of Alabama or Mack Brown of Texas earn over five million dollars a year (4).

If the NCAA continues as a corporate entity and acting in a cartel-like fashion making millions of dollars a year, implementing a plan to pay student athletes for playing must be considered. Otherwise, America’s institutions of higher learning should follow the Ivy League schools’ example and eliminate athletic scholarships, get out of the big time sport business, and get on with providing students with a complete educational experience.

Applications in Sport

Few discussions within sport are more common or controversial than the debate to pay college athletes. Some arguments are well thought and articulated, while others lack insight and are simply driven by passion. The purpose of this article is to provide the reader with a new perspective and some historical insight – all supported by the literature – regardless of their stance on this issue. Moreover, readers who may actually be heard by the NCAA may offer a position that has yet to be considered. The concession here is that despite any decision by the NCAA in the near future, we can be assured that college administrators, coaches, and athletes will continue this debate. However, their arguments may now be seen as relevant and more reasoned.

POSTSCRIPT: According to Michelle B. Hosick at the NCAA.org, the NCAA board of directors has moved on two issues discussed in this article since its submission. In April (2012), the board moved to implement a $2,000 allowance to an athlete’s full scholarship. They also voted to grant multi-year scholarships. However, both measures have been put on hold with the threat of an override vote by member institutions. On January 14, 2012 at the NCAA convention the board delayed implementation of the $2,000 supplement and sent it back to committee for revision at its April meeting. The multi-year scholarship issue will continue to be implemented on a conference-by-conference basis. And so the pay-for-play discussion continues.


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  12. Eitzen, S. D. (2000, September). Slaves of big-time college sports: College athletes. USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), 125.
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  14. Emmert, M. (2011). How it all adds up. NCAA Champion Magazine, 4 (2), 5.
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Risk Management Plans: Existence and Enforcement at NIAAA Member High School Athletic Departments


The purpose of this study was to explore the current scenario of interscholastic athletics in terms of the existence and enforcement of risk management plans within high school athletic departments. Another purpose was to identify the common practices related to risk management currently utilized. The present study had a response rate of 16.7%. The results showed that 76.2 % of the respondents (N=816) conduct interscholastic activities with the support of risk management plans, but there are still 23.8% of those interscholastic athletic departments where risk management plans are nonexistent. In addition, from those who indicated having a risk management plan, 28% do not enforce it. A majority of respondents seem to be employing risk management best practices consistently, but there is an indication of a less than desired level of adoption of some practices (i.e., informed consent forms, pre-season sport specific meetings, ADA compliance, coach evaluation and written criteria, safety training, accessibility of AED’s, and warning signs). The results of our study showed a statistically significant relationship between the athletic directors’ years of experience and the adoption of certain risk management practices (i.e. coach evaluation, evaluation criteria, risk management enforcement, and hazard abatement), but (surprisingly) not to the adoption of other similarly important practices. This study provides high school athletic administrators and principals with relevant information that can be used to support their decision to adopt and enforce risk management plans for interscholastic athletic activities.

Key words: Risk Management Practices, Risk Management Plan, Interscholastic Athletics, Athletic Directors.


In college athletics, risk management plans exist in order to reduce medical costs, prevent liability and to help schools afford insurance (Anderson, 2006). What about high school? Today, suing the schools, their coaches and officials for any reason is very common. Thus, high schools have to be prepared to defend themselves against legal claims, especially those related to interscholastic sports. Millions of teenagers participate in organized school-sponsored interscholastic sports programs each year. Competitive sports are an integral part of the lives of high school students and have the potential to offer them many benefits. Increased participation and rapid body changes make the risk of injuries for high school students engaging in interscholastic athletics a real threat (Ballard, 1996). In addition to the well-known mental, physical, economic, and spectator benefits provided by high school sports, the possible costs or hazards of interscholastic athletic participation are always present (Lipsey, 2006). Supporting that idea, an epidemiologic study commissioned by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System showed that 55.5% of American high school students participated on at least one sports team, and 21.9% of those students reported seeking medical treatment as a result of their activities (Eaton, Kann, Kinchen, et al., 2007). These data justify the need for increased efforts in developing and implementing strategies to identify and treat potential risks related to interscholastic participation. With that in mind, it is important for interscholastic athletic administrators to become familiar with commonly utilized best practices related to risk management in high school sports.

Gray (1995) studied risk management at physical education and athletic programs at the high school level in the state of Iowa. He investigated high school principals’ perceptions of a 20 item list of best practices related to risk management and principals’ supervision of programs. The author found that these administrators perform most of the risk management behaviors within the survey in a consistent basis. He also found that the size of the school had little influence on the behavior among the surveyed principals.

A similar study conducted by Bezdicek (2009), examined 463 high school athletic directors in Minnesota. The study was conducted to determine to what extent do athletic directors develop, implement, and manage a risk management plan for their athletic department, and the levels of familiarity that athletic directors have with risk management standards. The study revealed that the majority (56%) of athletic directors in Minnesota did not have a written risk management plan. In addition, the reasons for not having a risk management plan, as expressed by the respondents, were: lack of time (26.3%), lack of expertise (20.8%), and no need for a plan (19.7%).

Mulrooney and Green (1997) determined that the following characteristics must be present for a risk management plan to be considered bonafide and functioning: (1) a staff member is the risk manager, (2) a written risk management plan should outline policies and procedures in detail (including audit checklists), (3) periodic risk audits are conducted by staff, (4) periodic staff training programs related to risk management should be in place, and (5) the risk management plan is created with legal counsel.

Doleschal (2006) points out that: “ongoing risk management programs, the preparation of written material to be disseminated to coaches, participants, and parents or guardians, signed informed consent forms, inspection of equipment, etc., are examples of proactive steps that can be taken by school districts and their athletic programs” (p.295). He argues that unfortunately “many schools either do not have/use a risk management plan or do not follow good risk management practices” (p. 295). To assist interscholastic athletic departments in developing efficient risk management plans, Doleschal (2006) recommends 14 duties of care (proper planning, proper supervision, eligibility assessment, safe playing conditions, equipment maintenance, proper instruction, proper matching of athletes, proper conditioning, risk warning, proper insurance, emergency care and response plan, safe transportation, and proper selection, training and supervision of coaches) which schools should incorporate in their plans as preventive steps to minimize possible liability for the school or coaches.

Due to the nature of interscholastic athletic activities, coaches and schools constantly deal with the risk of litigation. Thus, it is important that they understand following the steps laid out in a risk management plan is instrumental to minimizing risks and reducing loss. The choice of either not having or not enforcing a risk management plan puts schools and their staff at risk of experiencing the anguish and pain involved in the time consuming process of defending a lawsuit (Doleschal, 2006). A good risk management plan is not an absolute guarantee that litigation will be avoided. However, good risk management practices can be effective aids in developing not only safer programs, but also act as an effective defense, should litigation occur (Doleschal, 2006).

With a good risk management plan in place, the identification and treatment of risks becomes much more effective. According to Stier et al. (2008), “risk management implies the assessment of risks associated with one or more activities or events and planning for the worst-case scenario”. (p. 32). Cotton (1993) points out that there are four essential elements to any risk management plan: identification of real and potential risks, assessment of the identified risks in terms of their causes, determination of appropriate courses of action to take in dealing with these risks if they occur, and establishment of effective and efficient risk prevention measures.

Finally, it is important to emphasize the athletic administrators’ role in the implementation and management of a risk management plan. A significant number of lawsuits are negligence claims taking place after the accident and the initial injury of an individual. Thus, the administrators’ ultimate goals must be to provide the safest environment possible for everyone involved, and to be prepared to deal with accidents and injuries if and when they do occur (Stier et al, 2008). Despite the fact that “no plan can be completely effective in preventing all injuries or accidents” (p.32), administrators are still responsible for enforcing and maintaining a meaningful risk management plan (Stier et al, 2008).

For high school athletic administrators, the challenge becomes providing sport programs which take safety seriously. In other words, the task is to effectively manage the many risks to which students-athletes are exposed. To do so, schools should rely on risk management plans and best practices to ensure that all school employees involved with athletics are fully prepared to prevent losses and to deal with losses when they occur (Appenzeller, 2005). However, is that really the case? Do high schools across the country actually have a risk management plan and truly enforce it? What are the most common practices related to risk management currently utilized by athletic departments at the high school level?

The purpose of this study was to explore the current scenario of interscholastic athletics in terms of the existence and enforcement of risk management plans within high school athletic departments. Another purpose was to identify the common practices related to risk management currently utilized. This study provides high school athletic administrators and principals with relevant information that can be used to support their decision to adopt and enforce risk management plans applied to interscholastic athletic activities.

To achieve such purposes, the following questions must be answered:

  1. How frequently high schools have and enforce risk management plans which are tailored to their athletic programs?
  2. What are the best practices used by high school athletic departments to address the inherent risks to the athletic activities they provide?
  3. Is there any relationship between athletic directors’ years of experience and existence/enforcement of specific risk management plan practices?


An online survey instrument was developed and distributed to high school athletic administrators for the purposes of examining risk management practices for high school athletics.


The subjects were high school athletic directors belonging to the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA). The NIAAA granted permission to the researchers to conduct the study. At the time of the survey, the NIAAA membership totaled 5,758 (while there were few email delivery failures, the amount was negligible). The first page of the online survey presented the participants information about the study and an informed consent form. Continuing to take the survey served as the respondents’ consent. The survey was available to the participants for six consecutive weeks, starting late Fall 2010.


The survey instrument consisted of twenty-four questions related to risk management policy and practices as well as eight demographic questions. Questions were broken down into three categories: policy and procedure, supervision and personnel evaluation, and safety. The policy and procedure category consisted of questions related to Title IX, athletic association rules, insurance, informed consent, preseason meetings and ADA compliance. The supervision and personnel evaluation category consisted of questions related to coach certification and evaluation, supervision of events, and policy enforcement. Lastly, the safety category focused on emergency training, equipment and procedures, hazard inspection, game equipment, venue signage, and security and team transportation. The questions were a combination of Likert-type and open-ended. Directions for the survey were imbedded within the survey itself. Directions were placed for each section and coincided with any question format changes. Content for the questions was developed using previous literature related to risk management policies and procedures. Content validity was established using a panel of individuals chosen for their expertise and experience in risk management policy and procedures. The instrument was also tested for issues of readability using student focus groups.

Data Collection and Analysis

Using a modified Dillman (2007) method, the final version of the survey was sent to the NIAAA membership which totaled 5,758 at the time of the survey. The instrument was sent by email with a letter explaining the purpose of the study and informing them that participation was voluntary. Participants were assured of their anonymity as respondents, and also were given electronically generated respondent ID numbers by the survey program. There were 5,758 surveys sent out with 962 surveys returned for a 16 .7% response rate. Of the 962 surveys returned there were 816 fully completed and useable surveys. The researchers agree that 16% response rate seems low. However, it is important to point out that this is an exploratory study reaching out to a very large population. The group of respondents represents diverse geographic regions and a variety of school sizes. In addition, the complex and high-demand nature of the job performed by those athletic directors is a very reasonable justification for their low response rate.

Descriptive analysis was used to explore demographic information related to the administrators, and the frequency of legal action related to injuries and adoption of risk management best practices. Chi-square tests were performed to investigate the existence of relationships between the risk management practices and administrators experience.


The athletic administrators surveyed represented schools ranging in size from 41 students to over 8,000. The mean enrollment of schools represented in the survey was 1,182. These schools fielded an average of 18 different athletic programs.

The administrators themselves were a majority male (83.9%). From all responding administrators, 2.6% held a doctorate, 74.6% held a master’s degree, 18.2 % held a bachelor degree, and 2 % represented other levels of education (associate or high school degree). These administrators had an average of 11.7 years of total experience with an average of 8.0 years being employed at their current school.

Policy Provision and Injury

In terms of injuries and risk, these schools have seen very little legal action related to injury (less than 1%), with (on average) three catastrophic injuries over the last five years requiring hospitalization. In light of this finding it is important to note that during this time, approximately one quarter of the sample either did not have a risk management policy (17.3%) or didn’t know if one existed at their school (6.5%). Of the schools possessing a risk management policy, 28 % said the policies were not enforced.

Risk Management Practices

To examine risk management practices, a series of questions were asked related to standard practices involving risk minimization for athletic program participation. In all categories (policy and procedure, supervision and personnel evaluation, and safety) 78% or more of respondents answered that they engaged in the practice often or always, with the exception of the item inquiring about the presence of visible risk warning signs at venues (46.9%) (Table 1). In the policy and procedure category, 10.5% of the respondents rarely, if ever, required consent forms for athletic participation. Also, only 86.4% conducted sport-specific pre-season meetings for athletes and parents. Lastly, 11.3% indicated that ADA guidelines were seldom met.

Within the supervision and personnel evaluation category, the results showed that less than 83% of the respondents evaluate their coaches on a regular basis. To compound this issue, only 85% had written criteria with which to evaluate those coaches. In addition, only 81.9% respondents indicated that their athletic department had someone responsible for enforcing the risk management plan.

The safety category results presented the largest concerns: 20.6% of the respondents indicated that emergency safety training is not provided to coaches and staff on a regular basis, and only 78.6% have AEDs within easy access at athletic activities. Having proper signage at sport venues with visible risk warning signs was also lacking, with less than half (46.9%) of administrators indicating adequate signage.

Risk Management Practices and Administrators’ Experience

A series of chi-square tests were performed to look at relationships between the risk management practices and administrators’ experience (Table 2). For the purposes of this analysis, administrators were categorized into two groups: those with fewer than eleven years of experience and those with eleven or more years. Significant associations were found between experience and the risk management practice variables of coach evaluation, evaluation criteria, risk management enforcement, and hazard abatement.

There was a significant (χ2 (1) = 12.75, p<.001) albeit weak (Phi = .126, p<.001) association between the level of administrator experience and whether the coaches were evaluated on a regular basis. Based on the odds ratio, the odds of administrators with 11 or more years of experience evaluating coaches on a regular basis was twice that of administrators with ten years or less experience.

The association between level of administrator experience and written evaluation criteria was also significant (χ2 (1) = 5.37, p<.05) and weak (Phi = .08, p<.05). The calculation of the odds ratio indicated the odds of administrators with 11 or more years of experience having written evaluation criteria were 1.6 times that of administrators with ten years or less experience.

Administrator experience and whether the athletic department had someone responsible for enforcing a risk management plan showed a significant (χ2 (1) = 5.30, p<.05) and weak (Phi = .08, p<.05) association. The odds ratio indicated the odds of administrators with 11 or more years of experience having a dedicated person responsible for risk management plan enforcement was 1.5 that of administrators with ten years or less experience.

Lastly, there was a significant (χ2 (1) = 5.15, p<.05) and weak (Phi = .08, p<.05) association between the level of administrator experience and whether identified hazards were repaired correctly and timely. Based on the odds ratio, the odds of administrators with 11 or more years of experience repairing hazards timely and correctly was twice that of administrators with ten years or less experience.


The first goal of this study was to determine the frequency with which high schools in America have and enforce risk management plans applied to their athletic programs. Regarding the existence of a risk management plan, the results showed that 23.8% of the respondents either did not have a risk management policy or didn’t know if one existed at their school. In addition, among the schools possessing a risk management plan, 28 % said the plan policies were not enforced.

These figures are unexpected and very concerning. The concern is based on interscholastic athletic stakeholders’ expectation that schools and programs to be fully committed to the safety of athletes and fans, through the presence and enforcement of a solid risk management plan as the utmost symbol of that commitment. As such, it would be only reasonable to expect a much higher percentage of existence and enforcement of risk management plans. However, despite the increase in participation and the litigious character of our society, it seems that a significant number of interscholastic athletic administrators (or, in some cases, the local school board) choose to put their students and their schools at constant risk of major loss and liability (Bezdicek, 2009; Eaton et al., 2007; Gray, 1995; Lipsey, 2006; Stier et al, 2008). It is also surprising that, despite so many interscholastic athletic departments reporting absence of either a risk management plan or the enforcement of one, less than 1% of the respondents had legal action related to injury requiring hospitalization over the last five years. Perhaps, this could be a possible explanation for the less than desired level of adoption and enforcement of risk management plans among the respondents.

The administrators who have and enforce risk management plans will continue to reap the benefits of loss prevention and reduction (Bezdicek, 2009; Eaton et al., 2007; Gray, 1995; Lipsey, 2006; Stier et al, 2008). The same cannot be said for to the administrators who either do not have or do not enforce risk management plans. One can only hope that, by becoming acquainted with the information provided here, they may adopt practices that will certainly lead them to risk and liability reduction (Appenzeller, 2005; Bezdicek; Cotton & Wolohan, 2007; Eaton et al.; Gray; Lipsey; Stier et al).

The second goal of this study was to identify the best and most frequently used practices to address the inherent risks to interscholastic athletic activities. As expected, the survey results showed that most administrators followed these standards of risk management the vast majority of the time. However, the results presented a few points of concern, which could be another possible explanation for the low percentage of schools with risk management plans.

Initially, the fact that 10.5% of the respondents rarely required informed consent forms may place these schools in a defenseless position if facing negligence claims related to injuries occurring during participation in schools’ interscholastic activities (Appenzeller, 2005; Cotton, 1993; Doleschal, 2006). Dealing with the same liability category, 13.6% do not conduct sport specific pre-season meetings for athletes and parents. According to Doleschal (2006), “parents/guardians and athletes have a right to information regarding the possibility of injury, paralysis, and death that is inherent in all sports” (p.318).The provision of such information is a duty the institutions legally owe to the families. The lack of signed informed consent and sport specific pre-season meetings prevent participants (and their families) from being fully educated on the risks involved in the specific sport in which they desire to participate, and make the defense against a negligence claim very difficult (Appenzeller; Cotton & Wolohan, 2007; Doleschal).

ADA compliance at interscholastic venues is also an issue. 11.3% of the respondents indicated that ADA guidelines were seldom met. This lack of compliance not only prevents the access and participation of people with disabilities at those venues, but also provides strong legal claims to those affected by such lack of compliance to the law (Appenzeller, 2005; Cotton & Wolohan, 2007). One can only hope that such lack of compliance is due to the fact that those venues were built before ADA legislation was enacted (Appenzeller, 2005; Cotton & Wolohan, 2007). Despite being able to receive tax breaks for making the necessary corrections to be compliant with the law (Appenzeller; Cotton & Wolohan, 2007), it appears that the schools choose to hide behind the age of their venues rather than to take action and become compliant with the law.

Other concerning issues identified were the lack of written criteria with which to evaluate coaches (17.2%) and actual evaluation of those educators (15%). Combined, these two issues expose high schools to potential negligence and contract liability (Appenzeller, 2005; Cotton & Wolohan, 2007; Doleschal, 2006). On one hand, coaches’ various negligent actions may cause major injury and loss to all stakeholders. Such losses can be prevented if coaches’ evaluation and training are truly executed and based on written criteria (Doleschal, 2006). On another hand, the lack of written coaches’ evaluation criteria and an evaluation process following such standards may also place schools in violation of contract laws, specifically when coaches’ have to be disciplined or terminated (Appenzeller, 2005; Cotton & Wolohan, 2007; Doleschal, 2006).

Safety training, AED accessibility, and warning signs were also identified as concerning issues. Lack of safety training for coaches and staff on a regular basis (20.6% of the respondents) may expose students and spectators to a wide range of risks of injury and loss (ranging from failure to warn and equipment malfunction, to poor response to catastrophic injuries) that could be easily prevented with appropriate training (Doleschal, 2006). The absence of easily accessible AED equipment (reported by 21.4% of the respondents) adds to the major liability claims that certainly will come as a consequence of poor response to catastrophic injuries (Appenzeller, 2005). Lack of proper signage (reported by more than 50% of the respondents) may also expose students and fans to unnecessary risks and generate costly lawsuits against the schools. It is the schools’ duty to warn spectators and participants of potential risks involved in the activity through all means possible (i.e., verbal warnings, signage, and public announcement system) (Blumenthal, 2009; Girvan & Girvan, 1993; Lee, Farley & Kwon, 2010). Under any of these circumstances above, schools may be held liable.

The third goal of this study was to identify if there is any relationship between athletic directors’ experience and existence/enforcement of risk management plan practices. No significant relationship was found between experience and the existence of risk management plans. Such a result was expected, considering that the existence of a risk management is too important in preventing injury and loss at any institution to depend on the athletic director’s experience (Appenzeller, 2005; Cotton & Wolohan, 2007; Doleschal, 2006). However, significant associations were found between experience and the adoption of risk management practice variables. More experienced administrators (11 or more years) had higher odds of conducting coach evaluations, having evaluation criteria, risk management enforcement, and hazard abatement among their adopted risk management practices than administrators with less experience. The existence of such associations is not surprising. It is reasonable to expect that the experiences acquired through years on the job would lead administrators to the adoption of these best practices.

The use of written evaluation criteria and coaches’ evaluations may be a result of years of experience dealing with (either by themselves or by learning from others’ struggles) injuries, property loss, and financial loss suffered due to the lack of written evaluation criteria, and coaches’ evaluations. The existence of an enforced risk management plan and timely hazard abatement seem to be related to experience as well. By assigning the enforcement of the plan to a staff member, the administrator not only promotes injury and loss reduction, but also ensures that the plan is updated as venues and policies related to the athletic department change (Appenzeller, 2005). Regarding hazard abatement, experienced administrators know their facilities very well, including their maintenance history. Such knowledge should allow those administrators to treat hazards even before they appear, contingent to budget availability (Appenzeller, 2005).

As mentioned above, the fact that significant associations were found between experience and four of the risk management practice variables (coach evaluation, evaluation criteria, risk management enforcement, and hazard abatement) is not surprising. Intriguing is the fact that the other risk management practices did not present a similar relationship. One possible explanation is perhaps experience is less of a factor in adopting the practices that did not show a significant relationship. Another possible explanation is less experienced administrators may feel either uncomfortable or unprepared to conduct coaches’ evaluations, develop evaluation criteria, enforce a risk management, and/or deal with hazard abatement.

Recommendations for Future Research

The results of this study revealed that a significant percentage of high school athletic departments surveyed either do not have or do not enforce a risk management plan. It would be interesting to conduct a qualitative study among various state high school associations to learn their perspective on the situation and their perceived reasons for such lack of risk management plan existence and enforcement. To complement the study, athletic directors could be surveyed on their perceptions of the reasons suggested by the state high school associations’ leadership. After comparing the results from both groups, a list of potential actions to help increase risk management development, implementation and enforcement could be composed.


The present study demonstrated that interscholastic activities could be conducted with the support of risk management plans in a larger number of high schools. There is a significant amount of interscholastic athletic departments where risk management plans are either nonexistent or unenforced. A large majority of respondents seem to be employing risk management best practices consistently, but there is an indication of a less than desired level of adoption of some practices (i.e., informed consent forms, pre-season sport specific meetings, ADA compliance, coach evaluation and written criteria, safety training, AED’s accessibility, and warning signs). It also appears that the athletic directors’ years of experience plays a role in the adoption of certain risk management practices (coach evaluation, evaluation criteria, risk management enforcement, and hazard abatement), but (surprisingly) not to the adoption of other similarly important practices. It is the researchers’ hope that the evidence presented here opens the athletic directors’ minds to the importance of the adoption of a risk management plan as possibly the only reliable way to minimize loss to athletes, spectators, and institutions.

Applications in Sport

The results presented in this study are valuable to those in leadership positions at any high school in the United States. High school principals and athletic directors armed with this information would be able to (1) adopt and enforce a risk management plan, if they do not have/enforce one; and (2) review their policies and practices related to risk management and adjust them to industry standards. Other benefits to institutional leaders include the ability to provide athletes and spectators with a safer experience, and to reduce the risk of athletes’ injuries. These benefits will consequently help minimizing legal claims against high schools and their officials.

Tables with Captions

Table 1

Percent of Administrators Engaging in Risk Management Practices on a Regular Basis

Category Practice Percentage
Policy and Procedure Title IX Requirements are met 95.70%
State HS Athletic Assoc. rules are followed 99.00%
Athletic Activities are fully covered 93.30%
Participants sign sport-specific consents 89.50%
ADA requirements are met at venues 88.70%
Pre-season sport-specific meetings with parents 86.40%
Supervision and Evaluation Evaluate coaches on regular basis 82.80%
Written evaluation criteria to evaluate coaches 85.00%
AD attends home athletic contests 96.80%
Coaches are certified/qualified in sport they coach 91.10%
Dedicated person responsible for risk plan enforcement 81.90%
Safety Medical emergency procedures exist 97.50%
Emergency safety training provided to coaches and staff 79.60%
AEDs are easily accessible at athletic events 78.60%
Identified hazards are repaired properly and timely 93.80%
Adequate equipment is provided for athletic activities 98.60%
Venues and equipment are inspected regularly 93.50%
Adequate game security is provided 93.90%
Safe transportation is provided for away contests 97.00%
Venues have visible risk warning signs 46.90%

Table 2

Chi-square analysis of Administrator Experience (>11 years vs. 11 or more years) and Risk Management Practices

Category Practice χ2 value p value
Policy and Procedure Title IX Requirements are met .199 .726
State HS Athletic Assoc. rules are followed 2.905 .088
Athletic Activities are fully covered 1.008 .315
Participants sign sport-specific consents 2.216 .137
ADA requirements are met at venues .956 .328
Pre-season sport-specific meetings with parents 2.733 .098
Supervision and Evaluation Evaluate coaches on regular basis 12.75 <.001*
Written evaluation criteria to evaluate coaches 5.37 <.05*
AD attends home athletic contests .139 .710
Athletic activities are supervised .034 .854
Coaches are certified/qualified in sport they coach .001 .970
Dedicated person responsible for plan enforcement 5.30 <.05*
Safety Medical emergency procedures exist 3.116 .078
Emergency safety training provided 2.430 .119
AEDs are easily accessible at athletic events .011 .916
Identified hazards are repaired properly and timely 5.15 <.05*
Adequate equipment is provided for activities 1.619 .203
Venues and equipment are inspected regularly 2.261 .133
Adequate game security is provided 1.908 .167
Safe transportation is provided for away contests .485 .133
Venues have visible risk warning signs .203 .652

* Significant relationship


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Corresponding Author

Mauro Palmero Ph.D.
Sport Management Graduate Coordinator
East Tennessee State University
Department of Kinesiology Leisure and Sport Sciences
P.O. Box 70654
Johnson City, TN 37614

A Study of Golfers in Tennessee

### Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate preferred shopping behaviors of golfers in the state of Tennessee. While much research has been done on retail shopping behavior in general, little exists regarding shopping behavior in sport retail, and more specifically golf retail. While golfer behavior has been researched in other areas such as tourism, it has not been fully researched in the sport or retail literature. Since this segment of consumer spends millions of dollars per year, this study was conducted to fill the gap in the literature regarding this unique consumer. An online survey was distributed among a state-wide professional golf organization regarding preferred shopping and golf course attributes. Results showed a significant relationship between some variables, including brands/designers offered. This research will be helpful to golf retailers, golf merchandisers, golf marketers and managers, who sell, buy or deal with golf apparel and/or related merchandise to better tailor marketing and promotional activities and ultimately increase revenue. This paper is unique and applicable in the fact that golf has not been fully researched in the marketing or retail area.

**Key words:** golf, marketing, consumer behavior, retail

### Introduction

Sport and leisure have been researched in many capacities over many years. Topics encompass marketing (42), travel style (40), satisfaction (49), retail (12), behavior (72) religion (65), gender-based (38), product involvement (6), sport (74) and many others that have been analyzed to better understand this phenomena. Understanding sport and leisure and its many facets are important not only to extend retail-based research, but to present possible opportunities to uncover more about some of the still underdeveloped theories of retail and consumer behavior within this area. It has been shown that consumers will spend significant amounts of money on leisure (28). Consumer shopping behavior has been proven to be important and relevant in other industries such as the tourism industry (50, 11).

Due to the significant nature of money spent on sport and leisure by consumers, sport marketers, merchandisers and others realize the need to segment the different types of sport consumers. Some studies have addressed and studied the specialized segmentation of the sport consumer. Not only do sport consumers hold specific values and attitudes (46), but they require marketers, retailers and others to take note of their unique spending habits. Other traditional consumer behavior concepts apply to the sport consumer such as brand loyalty (8), emotional attachment (67), and brand equity (20).

#### Golf Industry

Because the sport consumer holds some of the same behavioral traits as traditional consumers, it is important to investigate the behaviors of the sport consumer in more detail. Many sports have been investigated in regard to its consumer such as the brand loyalty of baseball, wrestling (32) and football (41). To continue to investigate the sport consumer, this paper will attempt to identify golfer consumer-based behaviors. This may help all stakeholders, to include retailers, merchandisers, academics and golf managers to better understand, serve and recognize golfer segments and to determine segmentation and/or marketing strategy for applicable segments. Though this type of study has been conducted for other entities (professional golfing organizations, for example), it has not been conducted in this manner, thus adding to the small current body of literature in this area of retail study.

Participating in a sport while partaking of a leisure activity, such as a vacation, has been found to be a growing occurrence (27). Further, one activity that has received some attention is the golfing industry. Golf’s popularity continues to increase with as estimated 28.6 million participants as of 2009 (48). In fact, in 2008, golf generated approximately $76 billion in goods and services (21). Another report indicated that golfers spent $4.7 billion on equipment alone and $19.7 billion on green fees in 2002 (22). But, surprisingly, golf has been noted to be an under-researched activity (14), especially considering the impact it can make to the local and state economy. Golf travel, tourism, facility management and golf-related real estate (73) are a few of the important areas of the golf industry. It has also been estimated that the average dollar amount spent per person per golf trip was $452 with an almost 40 million golf trips taken (64). In addition, golfers spent $26.1 billion a year on golf travel (22). Research has been conducted to learn about different aspects of the sport. Topics that have been studied have included golfer’s satisfaction (53, 54) destination choice (27, 14, 34), golf course development (69) and seasonality (18). Golfing lifestyles have also been a focus of research inquiry. One study found four distinct tourist typologies within the golfing industry which were: quality-seeker, competitor, high-income and value-seeker. These typologies were chosen using many attributes and demographics such as course layout, availability of tee times, fees, income, gender and age (70). A recent article even investigated the willingness of golfers to pay for a higher environmental quality of the golf course (37). Other research has focused up on the economic impact of golf to include pricing (63, 47, 39). More specifically, several studies have been conducted that focused upon individual states and the economic impact of golf. For example, the golf industry in Florida (25), South Carolina (17), Arizona (58), Oklahoma (59) and Georgia (13) have all been studied and each revealed a significant impact to the state economy. One study indicated the economic impact of golf in Tennessee was significant. With over 200 golf courses in Tennessee, the golf industry directly employed over 5,000 people, with annual wages estimated at $97 million and a direct economic impact of over $313 million (26).

Golf is a sport that has been subject to study in regard to segmentation and thus marketing strategy. Petrick (53) found that several different segments of golfers exist by examining past behavior and experience level. Differences were found, too, in perceived value, satisfaction and intention to revisit. Golfers have also been segmented by spending habits, with heavy spenders being especially transparent in their habits (60). Another recent study found that certain segments of golfers tend to pay attention to different store attributes such as cleanliness and store appearance (36). Even length of stay in regard to the golf traveler has been noted to be of significance when analyzing different segments of golfers (4). Image of the golf destination was found to be different among different golfer segments (51). Therefore, it is important to continue to study golfers and how different segments of golfers consume and behave because the shopping behavior of consumers can impact profitability and revenue of many facets of the golf retail industry.

#### Shopping attributes and involvement

The concept and theory of involvement has long been studied and analyzed in numerous areas of research and has been proven to be connected to shopping behavior. It has been found to be important in many ways to include web site design (75), persuasion (33), and product experience (5). Product involvement in such areas as leisure studies has been described even more specifically by being termed enduring involvement which is the “the central notion is that of an abiding interest in, and attachment to, a product class which is independent of purchase or other situational factors” and has been found to be linked to leisure in three main ways: enthusiasm, experience and satisfaction. Product enthusiasm connects the consumer with the leisure activity and the products associated with the activity which transcends most one-time purchases which has been the bulk of most research regarding involvement (6). Therefore, studying golfers and their enduring involvement with golf-related products and services are important. Golfers may become involved with numerous products such as equipment, facilities, shopping behaviors, particular brands or store attributes. Enduring involvement has also been correlated to participation in the activity or product (45) and has been found to have a relationship with situational involvement (57). Enduring involvement has also been studied specifically in the golf environment. It was found that enduring involvement (activity, length of participation, attraction and risk consequence) had a positive relationship with length of participation when studied with the variable of seasonality (24). In addition, involvement has been shown to have a predictive power in regard to usage of the product (52). Involvement was also found to be important in the golf environment when determining level of involvement, the psychological commitment to a brand and attitudinal characteristics (30, 31). Golf has been studied with enduring involvement with the attribute of gender. It found that women are involved with golf for different reasons than men to include purpose, leisure entitlement and status (43).

A main variable that may influence a customer of sporting activity are store attributes. Many studies have shown that store attributes such as pricing (62, 23), atmospherics (55), product/brand selection (61), quality (9), salespeople (19), convenience (16), location (15), and image (29) all influence purchase behavior in some manner. One study found that people, who are involved in a particular sport activity every day, will most likely participate in that same activity while on a vacation (7). In addition, product involvement has been positively associated with leisure in regard to sporting activities. For example, product involvement and leisure have been shown to have a relationship in such sporting activities such as biking (68), yoga (10), boating (35) basketball (1) golf (44) and skiing (2).

However, one area ripe for development in leisure study is the consumer’s involvement and shopping behavior in regard to the consumer’s chosen sport activity. Further, one leisure activity that has shown evidence of growth and importance in regard to consumer involvement and shopping behavior is golf. It is important to understand the different types of golfers and how they behave for several reasons. First, the golfer market is a significant one since golfers worldwide number in the millions. Further, within those millions, different segments exist (53). Therefore, understanding those separate segments is important to determine leisure, marketing, retailing or other business strategy. For example, different golfer segments may be segmented by frequency of play, shopping behavior or purchase behavior. Since so little is known about different golfer segments, it is important to study these golfers and learn how to better serve them. Learning more about golfer segments will encourage, increase and generate revenue which will ultimately be beneficial to the golf retail industry, golf merchandisers and golf managers.

#### Conceptual Framework

Based on the existing literature and the lack of it in regard to combination of the variables given of store attributes, involvement and golf, an exploratory conceptual framework is offered. The following conceptual framework is posited to attempt to explain how sporting activities, such as golf, may be impacted based on involvement, specific store attributes and the patronage/re-patronage of products that may be associated with golf. This model begins by suggesting that the golf consumer’s involvement commences with a golf product or service. Thus, after becoming involved with the sport, the consumer will engage and become further involved with golf-related attributes. These attributes may be such items as the golf course itself (design, condition), the facility (pro shop, practice) staff and facility product offerings such as apparel, hard goods or availability of lessons. Because of a golfer’s proven connection with the different attributes of golfing products/services, patronage is likely to occur. Further, since golfers have been proven to be psychologically connected to a brand, it is suggested that this involvement with the golf-related attributes of the product or service, will transcend into usage or patronage of the product or service.

#### Research Objectives

While attempting to develop a business strategy for a golf retailer, golf course or destination, many variables, such as store image, cleanliness of the store, friendliness of the salespeople, frequency of play, course design or course location, must be considered. Just as any traditional retail establishment utilizes segmentation techniques to tailor their marketing to a particular target market, golf retailers and destinations in Tennessee may also like to use these techniques. Through all golf literature, little research exists regarding the analysis of golfer shopping behavior and consumption patterns. Therefore, the purposes of this study are to:

* Segment the golfing population in Tennessee to categorize golfers by shopping behavior characteristics and preferred golf course attributes.
* Present a competitive advantage strategy for golf courses regarding golfers’ shopping behavior and preferred golf course attributes in Tennessee.
* Assess the potential benefit to the relevant stakeholders of promoting golfing based on shopping behavior and preferred golf course attributes in Tennessee.

### Methods

The data were collected via an online survey as distributed by a statewide golf association in Tennessee on behalf of the researchers. The online survey was adapted from a tested and valid survey (70). The survey was pre-tested before distribution to a convenient sample of male and female golfers of all ages and resulted in no refinements.

The online survey was sent to every registered member of the golf association in the state of Tennessee. Approximately 15,000 surveys were distributed with 1,123 returned, yielding a return rate of 7.5%. Each golfer who completed the survey was given the opportunity at the end of the online survey to register for one of two $100 Visa gift cards. The participants were asked to give an email address where they could be reached if they were randomly chosen the winner. However, to maintain anonymity, the email address was given to the golf association, where the participant was then contacted by the association and not the researcher. The winners were chosen randomly using Research Randomizer (56). The data collection lasted six weeks with one reminder email sent from the golf association at the halfway point.

The questions were divided into three major sections including shopping behavior characteristics, preferred golf course attributes and demographic information. The first section asked participants, in ordinal scale format, how important particular attributes were when shopping for golf apparel and merchandise. Attributes questioned were store’s physical design and appearance, overall positive store image and reputation, and offers some type of “experience” beyond just shopping and others. Other shopping behavior questions asked about the participant’s preferred location to shop for golf merchandise and how much they spend on golf clothing and golf footwear. The second major section of the online survey consisted of preferred golf course attributes. Again, the participant was asked, in ordinal scale format, how important certain golf course/destination attributes were to them, personally. Some of the attributes on the online survey were course design, location, type of facility, discounts available and many others. Other questions were then asked regarding golf behaviors such as with whom the participant plays most often, average score, golf trips taken per year and others. The final section of the survey asked basic demographic information such as gender, age, income and zip code.

### Results

#### Participants

Demographic information was collected from 305 survey participants (due to an online survey glitch, not all participants were provided with the demographic questions). The responding participants were 88% male. The most common age range as well as the median was 50 to 59 (32%). For the 272 who reported their annual household income, the most common response was 37% indicating an income over $200,000 followed by 35% indicating it was $100,000-$199,999. The income result is reflective of other studies (71, 66) and may accurately represent the population in this study.

#### Frequencies

Due to the exploratory nature of this research, it was important to begin with frequency analysis of the behavioral questions which were survey questions one through twelve. The first question asked about ten attributes regarding shopping behavior of the participant. Knowledgeable salespeople were ranked the most important attribute followed by brands/designers offered. (Table 1.)

Question two asked the respondent to state where they mainly purchase golf merchandise. Pro shops and golf specialty stores were the main choices for purchasing golf-related merchandise. (See Table 2.)

Questions three and four asked how much the participant spends per year on golf apparel and footwear. The results showed that forty six percent (46%) of respondents spend over $250 per year on golfing apparel. Almost thirty-three percent of respondents (32.8%) answered that they spend between $101 – $150 on footwear yearly.

Question five was formatted much the same as question one. However, the main focus of this question asked not about shopping attributes, but golf course attributes and how important those attributes were when choosing where to play. The question asked about sixteen different attributes as shown in Table 3 which indicated course conditions and speed of play were ranked the highest.

The remaining behavioral questions (6-12) asked about particular behaviors of the golfers in regard to different specific important golfer attributes. Table 4 shows the most popular answer for each question which indicated the respondents tend to play with friends, play 8 or more times per month, mostly in Tennessee and at the same course.

#### Crosstabulations

Several of the survey questions were examined further to see if they were related. First, average score was examined in relationship to how much was spent on golf-related clothing and footwear. Both were significantly associated, with those having better scores spending more as shown in Table 5 and Table 6.

Question 10 (score) was also associated with responses to Question 5 (Please mark how important the following items would be when deciding where to play golf in Tennessee: course design). Those with better scores reported that course design was more important than other participants as shown in Table 7.

Fourth, Question 10 (score) was associated with Question 1 (When deciding on a place to shop for golf apparel and merchandise, how important are each of the following factors: well-known brands or designer products are offered). Those with better scores thought brands and designers offered were more important. (See Table 8).

Finally, Question 3 (How much do you spend in an average year for golf clothing?) was associated with Question 1 (When deciding on a place to shop for golf apparel and merchandise, how important are each of the following factors: well-known brands or designer products are offered). Those participants that spent $201 or more on golf clothing were more likely to indicate brands or designs offered were important or very important than were other participants.

### Tables

#### Table 1
Responses to Ten Ordinal Scale Statements Regarding Shopping Behavior Attributes

When deciding on a place to shop for golf apparel and merchandise, how important are each of the following factors?

Very Important
Neutral f(%)
Very Unimportant
Store’s physical design and appearance 65 (6) 509 (45) 392 (35) 112 (10) 45 (4) 4
Well-known brands or designer products are offered 393 (35) 548 (49) 112 (10) 40 (4) 30 (3) 4
Store specializes in golf products only 150 (13) 382 (34) 395 (35) 157 (14) 33 (3) 3
Neatness and cleanliness of the store interior 317 (28) 636 (57) 126 (11) 15 (1) 22 (2) 4
Overall positive store image and reputation 298 (27) 682 (61) 104 (9) 19 (2) 19 (2) 4
Accessibility and parking 163 (15) 574 (51) 311 (28) 52 (5) 18 (2) 4
Days and hours open for shopping 175 (16) 611 (55) 262 (24) 40 (4) 25 (2) 4
Offers some type of ‘experience’ beyond just shopping 125 (11) 340 (30) 375 (34) 201 (18) 78 (7) 3
Attitude and enthusiasm of salespeople 321 (29) 555 (50) 177 (16) 36 (3) 27 (2) 4
Knowledgeable salespeople 549 (49) 444 (40) 69 (6) 19 (2) 31 (3) 4

Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors

#### Table 2
Responses to Statements Regarding Where Participants Shop for Golf Merchandise

Purchase Location Percentage
Pro shop 59
General sporting goods store 25
Discount 3
Golf specialty store 37
Online 27
Other 8

#### Table 3
Responses to Sixteen Ordinal Scale Statements Regarding Golf Course Attributes

Very Important
Neutral f(%)
Very Unimportant
Condition of fairway and greens 623 (56) 462 (41) 14 (1) 3 (3) 21 (2) 5
Course ambience 157 (14) 742 (66) 193 (17) 19 (2) 12 (1) 4
Course design 228 (20) 700 (62) 162 (14) 23 (2) 11 (1) 4
Price/Fees 283 (25) 542 (48) 233 (21) 43 (4) 20 (2) 4
Practice facility 133 (12) 464 (41) 397 (35) 99 (9) 28 (3) 4
Speed of play 397 (35) 559 (50) 131 (12) 19 (2) 17 (2) 4
Tee time availability 306 (27) 649 (58) 130 (12) 11 (1) 20 (2) 4
Location 229 (21) 625 (56) 217 (20) 27 (2) 16 (1) 4
Type of facility (municipal, resort, etc.) 82 (7) 342 (31) 530 (48) 105 (10) 51 (5) 3
Staff (salespeople, golf pros) 99 (9) 452 (41) 412 (37) 122 (11) 31 (3) 4
Availability of lessons or clinics 21 (2) 78 (7) 415 (37) 373 (34) 226 (20) 3
If you are a member of the course or not 159 (14) 281 (25) 393 (36) 185 (17) 89 (8) 3
Availability of GPS system on course or cart 33 (3) 147 (13) 416 (37) 292 (26) 227 (20) 3
Choice to walk or ride 165 (15) 335 (30) 394 (35) 134 (12) 84 (8) 3
Discounts available (such as TPGA PassKey or GolfNow.com) 55 (5) 261 (23) 477 (43) 202 (18) 119 (11) 3
Pro shop merchandise 21 (2) 213 (19) 513 (46) 223 (20) 144 (13) 3

Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors

#### Table 4
Responses to Statements Regarding Golfer Behavior Attributes

Golfer attribute Most popular answer Percentage of most popular answer
Who the golfer plays with the most Friends 84
How many rounds played per month 8 and over 53
How many played in Tennessee Most 71
How many played at the same course Most 69
Average 18 hole score 7-12 over par 39
Golf trips taken per year (overnight) 0-2 61
People in residence who play golf 1 50

#### Table 5
Relationship Between Score and Amount Spent on Clothing

Score and amount spent on clothing

0-49 50-100 101-150 f(%) 151-200 201-249 Over 250
Par to 6 over 1 (.5) 9 (4) 21 (10) 32 (15) 27 (13) 123 (58)
7 to 12 3 (.7) 29 (7) 42 (10) 81 (19) 73 (17) 197 (46)
13 to 18 3 (.9) 26 (8) 44 (14) 70 (22) 47 (15) 129 (40)
19 or above 0 (0) 13 (9) 26 (17) 31 (21) 24 (16) 57 (38)

Chi-square = 27.929; p = .022

Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors

#### Table 6
Relationship Between Score and Amount Spent on Footwear

Score and amount spent on footwear

0-49 50-100 101-150 f(%) 151-200 201-249 Over 250
Par to 6 over 7 (3) 33 (16) 60 (28) 37 (17) 44 (21) 32 (15)
7 to 12 20 (5) 86 (20) 147 (34) 100 (23) 50 (12) 25 (6)
13 to 18 28 (9) 83 (26) 113 (35) 61 (19) 17 (5) 17 (5)
19 or above 10 (7) 50 (33) 47 (31) 25 (16) 13 (9) 7 (5)

Chi-square = 79.542; p = .000

Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors

#### Table 7
Relationship Between Score and Course Design

Score and course design

Very Unimportant
Neutral f(%)
Very Important
Par to 6 over 2(.9) 2 (.9) 21 (10) 130 (61) 58 (27)
7 to 12 3 (.7) 8 (2) 49 (11) 273 (64) 96 (22)
13 to 18 4 (1) 9 (3) 55 (17) 199 (62) 52 (16)
19 or above 2 (1) 4 (3) 37 (24) 92 (61) 17 (11)

Chi-square = 36.070; p = .000

Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors

#### Table 8
Relationship Between Score and Brands/Designers Offered

Score and brands/designers offered

Very Unimportant
Neutral f(%)
Very Important
Par to 6 over 6 (3) 3 (1) 12 (6) 83 (39) 109 (51)
7 to 12 12 (3) 15 (4) 34 (8) 212 (50) 155 (36)
13 to 18 9 (3) 12 (4) 40 (13) 164 (51) 94 (30)
19 or above 3 (2) 9 (6) 26 (17) 86 (57) 28 (18)

Chi-square = 58.700; p = .000

Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors

#### Table 9
Relationship Between Amount Spent on Clothing and Brand/Designers Offered

Amount spent on clothing and brands/designers offered

Very Unimportant
Neutral f(%)
Very Important
0-49 0 (0) 3 (38) 1 (13) 0 (0) 4 (50)
50-100 3 (4) 4 (5) 15 (20) 40 (52) 15 (20)
101-150 3 (2) 9 (7) 25 (19) 73 (55) 24 (18)
151-200 8 (4) 7 (3) 22 (10) 104 (49) 72 (34)
201-249 5 (3) 6 (4) 19 (11) 76 (44) 65 (38)
Over 250 10 (2) 11 (2) 29 (6) 252 (49) 213 (41)

Chi-square = 92.079; p = .000

Items may not total 100 due to rounding errors

### Figures

#### Figure 1

![Figure 1](/files/volume-15/455/figure-1.jpg)

#### Conclusion and Applications in Sport

There are several articles that have investigated the game of golf. Some have emphasized golf’s economic contributions on a regional or state level. Other research attempted to study the tourism and travel behaviors of golfers. However, this article has provided an overview of shopping behaviors of golfers specifically to the state of Tennessee. In addition, it has also attempted to identify golfer preferred shopping attributes, present possible competitive advantages and assess potential benefits to stakeholders in relation to golf course attributes in Tennessee. This research begins to identify shopping behaviors of golfers to aid in the attempt to better market to golfers and provide the golfing consumer with desired products and services.

Golf courses, golf pro shops, golf associations, such as the Association of Golf Merchandisers (3) and retail stores must develop strategies to better market to Tennessee residents (and other states and regions) who play golf. In the current study, several implications exist that may help golf managers, buyers and others who manage or sell golf products and services. First, it was found that knowledgeable salespeople were the most important attribute for a facility. Therefore, it may be important for managers to focus upon intense training of employees in regard to products and services offered. Since golf is typically a seasonal sport, employees may also be only hired for seasonal employment. This may be a problem since the employee may come and go faster than the management could train the employee. However, by training before heavy playing times, and continually training full-time staff (pros, greenskeepers, etc.), the staff can remain current in all golf trends. The second most important attribute, which was brands/designers offered could imply that the facility should research as to which brands are the most desired and/or to possibly increase brand choice. According to this survey, many golfers spend a considerable amount of money on golfing merchandise per year (almost half spent over $250 annually on apparel alone). Additionally, the literature and this study show that many golfers have a high income. Therefore, the opportunity to spend in the pro shop, where this survey reveals is where most golfers shop, has the potential to be a source of high revenue. Typically, local pro shops are small in square footage, therefore making every inch of floor space crucial. Thus, being aware of which brands are current (those seen in golfing magazines, what players are wearing on television, etc.) should be of utmost importance to managers, buyers, etc. It should be noted that the significant relationship between the amount spent on apparel/footwear and score, indicated that better scorers are willing to spend more than other players. Therefore, the manager/staff should be aware of their better scoring players and focus on them specifically by offering special promotions in which they most likely will participate.

Another important implication from this study emphasizes the importance of what attributes of a course to promote and market. According to results of this survey, course conditions and speed of play were ranked the highest in regard to course attributes. Therefore, any promotions in Tennessee should focus upon these attributes by emphasizing exemplary course conditions and course rules surrounding speed of play. Further, it was found that better scorers thought course design was most important on choosing where to play golf in Tennessee. By promoting course design (course designer, yardage, etc.) to better scoring golfers, revenue may be increased by attracting those golfers to the course. All of these strategies are highly tailored and personalized. However, these strategies adhere to current marketing trends of tailoring promotional activities to specific customers.

It is important to recognize how golfers behave in regard to shopping behaviors. Acknowledging and targeting these shoppers help managers know how to better manage their dollars in regard to marketing, determining product assortment or addition/deletion of services. Next, knowing what golfers buy is crucial to produce effective and profitable outcomes. In addition, managers should know what attributes golfers shop for when they shop for golfing goods and services. Lastly, identifying where golfers shop for merchandise and services is important for allocation and effective use of monies and resources. Knowing as much as possible about their customers will help in the construction of segmentation, targeting and customer service strategies.

It may be useful to replicate this study on a national level. One limitation of this study is that the sample did not encompass every golfer in Tennessee. However, golf is continuing to grow as a sport, a recreational activity and as tourism destinations (4). Therefore, golf is being recognized as a significant source of economic impact and revenue for local communities, states and regions. Further, additional research is needed to help retailers and other golf stakeholders not only in Tennessee, but other areas, to successfully market and sell golf products and services to potential and current consumers.

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### Corresponding Author

Kelly Price, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Marketing
East Tennessee State University
Department of Management and Marketing
P.O. Box 70625
Johnson City, TN 37614
(423) 439-4422


Kelly is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at East Tennessee State University. Her research consists of issues related to golf and consumer behavior. Her professional experience includes twelve years of retail management including golf management, buying and marketing.

Acute Effects of Combined Elastic and Free-weight Tension on Power in the Bench Press Lift

### Abstract

The present study investigated the acute effects on power following the bench press exercise with a combination of elastic band and free-weights vs. free weight only. Eight college-aged males and females participated in this study. All 8 subjects were college track and field athletes that participated in throwing events. The participants performed two bench press training sessions that consisted of three sets of five repetitions. One session used a combination of elastic band (15% of total resistance) and free-weight exercise (85% of total resistance), while the other session consisted only of a free-weight exercise (100%). Power was measured twice at 50% of their one repetition maximum (1 RM) at the conclusion of each lifting session. Analysis via repeated measures Ancova (Treatment by Time covaried for gender) revealed a significant effect for Time (F= 5.951, p=0.05) and a significant two way interaction for Treatment*Time (F=54.093, p<0.001). The present investigation demonstrated an initial power measurement that was greater for the combined group rather than the free-weight only group. This information is potentially beneficial for many different groups of trainee’s.

**Key Words:** Elastic tension, Strength Training, Acute Training Effect

### Introduction

Recently, there have been a number of investigations that have assessed the impact of combined elastic band and free-weight exercise. These bands have been shown to provide predictable variable resistance when applied to free weight exercises such as the back squat and bench press (5,7). Exercise professionals are continually trying to discover novel ways to increase strength and power gains. Wallace et al. (12) demonstrated that power was acutely increased in the back squat exercise with the addition of elastic tension. It was suggested from this research that an 80% free-weight/20% elastic tension ratio might be optimal. Stevenson et al. (10) also found that the combination of elastic band and free-weight exercise during the back squat can significantly increase rate of force development. Experienced power lifters and strength and conditioning professionals have claimed elastic band resistance combined with traditional training produces strength gains for several years (4,8,9). Anderson et al. (1) demonstrated an increase in the bench press and squat exercise strength after training with the addition of elastic tension for an athletic population. In this study, the back squat 1-RM improvement was nearly three times higher for the combined group. In addition, the bench press increase was doubled for the combined group. Furthermore, the combined group’s lower body average power increase was nearly three times better than the free-weight only group. Anderson et al. (2008) used the 80/20 ratio that was suggested by earlier studies. Anderson’s study demonstrated that combined elastic band and free-weight exercise was a viable option to use to train experienced lifters. That study also demonstrated that the group using the combination exercise experienced slightly less resistance at the bottom of the movement when the joints may be under maximal stress in free-weight training. Thus, band training may also provide reduced risk in back squat and bench press exercises.

Triber et al. (11) concluded that the combination of elastic and free-weight exercise provided beneficial effects on strength and functional performance in college-level tennis players. The experimental group experienced significant gains in both internal and external rotation torque. That same study concluded that an elastic band training program strengthened the rotator cuff muscles of collegiate baseball pitchers (11). Band training has the unique ability to target specific muscles, which can be beneficial for numerous sports teams. Using a combination of elastic band and free-weight exercise can also mimic the strength curve of most muscles better. A muscle’s strength curve denotes the alteration in strength of that muscle during the entire range of motion in a certain movement (13). Along these lines, it has been reported that combined elastic and free-weight exercises provided greater force during the first 25 percent of the eccentric phase and last ten percent of the concentric phase of a lift as compared to free-weights alone (3).

Elastic tension has also been reported to impact the neuromuscular performance. Page and Ellenbecker (6) claim that elastic band exercise imparts a higher neuromuscular control resulting in improved balance, gait and mobility. As stated, the gains resulting from the combination of elastic band and free-weight exercise are abundant and the use of this treatment is growing among professionals; though the acute effects on power have yet to be documented. Therefore, the purpose of the present investigation was to determine how if at all, combined elastic tension applied to a normal bench press training session affects power.

### Methods

The present investigation was approved by the local institutional review board and employed a within subjects design, with random assignment. The participants gave informed consent prior to participating and included: four male (age: 20.5±2.1yrs, height:1.82±0.07m, weight: 112.68±15.03kg) and four female (age: 19.9±1.7yrs, height: 1.76±0.05m, weight: 100.78±28.47kg) college track and field athletes involved in the throwing events (shot put, discus, hammer). The participants performed in a counterbalanced within-subjects design, two bench press training sessions that consisted of 3 sets of 5 repetitions at 85% of their 1-RM. The athletes had recently undergone a 1-RM assessment as part of practice; which was supervised by the research team and the weight selected for the treatment was based on this assessment.

One session consisted solely of resistance provided by a standard Olympic barbell with plates, which equated to 85% of the athletes previously determined one repetition maximum, the second session consisted of combined resistance where 85% of 1 RM was derived from 85% tension provided by an Olympic barbell with plates and 15% provided by Elastic Bands (Jump Stretch Inc., Youngstown, OH.). The 85% free weight and 15% elastic tension treatment was based upon previous research performed in our laboratory that suggested that this was an appropriate split for effective training between the isotonic tension provided via free weight and variable resistance by the elastic bands (2).

Immediately after the training sessions, the participants were asked to bench press 50% of 1RM at maximum velocity, in order to generate the greatest amount of watts possible. The participants performed two lifts at 50% of 1RM after each treatment, separated by a rest period of 90 seconds. The two sessions were separated by a 72 hour wash out period as to avoid undo fatigue affecting the results. The order of treatment was randomized so that half the participants lifting under the combined elastic band and free weight condition went first, with the other half lifting in the free weight only condition went first. During the second visit the participants lifted under the other treatment.


Power was measured twice, with a minimum of 90 sec rest between measurements at 50% of 1-RM, following the conclusion of both lifting sessions, using a Max Factor tether type potentiometer (Max Rack Inc, Columbus, OH.). This instrument demonstrated reliability in pilot testing with Intraclass correlations of greater than 0.99 on repeated measures testing.

Statistical Analysis

Results of the present investigation were analyzed via a treatment (Combined free-weight and elastic tension vs. free weight only) by time (attempts 1,2) repeated measures Ancova (covaried for gender). The inclusion of the covariate was necessary based upon the natural differences in strength that existed between the male and female athletes in the present investigation. All statistical tests were performed with the use of a modern statistical software package (SPSS ver 17.0 for Macintosh). The criteria for statistical significance was set a priori at alpha <0.05.

### Results

Intraclass correlation analysis suggested good reliability on all measures for the present investigation (>0.99). Analysis performed via repeated measures Ancova (Treatment by Time covaried for gender) revealed a significant main effect for Time (F= 5.951, p=0.05) and a significant two way interaction for Treatment*Time (F=54.093, p<0.001).

The subjects initial measurements of power immediately following the training session was higher in the combined elastic treatment (437.5+34.89 watts) as compared to the free-weight only condition (391.88+41.01 watts). (see Table 2)

### Discussion

The current study extended previous studies by using both male and female participants that were college track and field athletes. All 8 subjects were involved in throwing events and therefore trained regularly with resistance exercises such as a bench press with the involvement of both elastic and free-weight training. The present investigation revealed a differential response in power following training sessions that utilized combined elastic and free weight tension as compared to free weight only.

Affects have been seen with a combination of elastic band and free-weight tension in the past. Bellar et al. (2011) reported around a 5lbs increase in 1RM bench strength after only 3wks of training with a combination of elastic bands and free weights. Anderson et al. (2008) reported changes in power production with athletes who utilized a combination of elastic and free-weight tension. The current study builds upon these findings and notions by experts in the field (Mannie 2005, Simmons, 2007) who suggest adding elastic tension can have acute effects. Based upon these data, during the course of an upper body lifting session it appears that athletes are able to maintain more power when training with a combination of elastic tension and free-weights.

The recorded power was notably different between the sessions that used a combination of an Olympic barbell and an elastic band and those that only used an Olympic barbell. The difference between the two separate 50% 1-RM power assessments for the combination group was only 1 watt, while the difference between the free-weight only group was close to 46 watts. This finding is notable as the attempts post combined training were essentially identical, whereas the first attempt under the free weight only treatment was lower than the second by 46 watts. This suggests that the free weight only treatment may have acutely resulted in a reduction in power production capability that was washed out by the second attempt. The first power output between the two treatments differed by almost 35 watts. After the 90 second rest, the second power output of each group was extremely close, differing by 10 watts. The initial measurement of power following the training was higher for the group that performed the bench press with the combination of the elastic band and the free-weight, but the two different groups seemed to retain the same amount of power at the end. The overall results of the study suggest that in the immediate period following bench press training, athletes who use combined elastic and free weight tension will be better suited to activities that rely on greater power production, such as throwing a shot put. This finding is important as coaches often pair activities in complex training schemes.

### Conclusions

The present investigation has shed light onto the acute affects of combining elastic tension with free-weight exercise on power production in athletes. Further research should continue to explore the effects of power, strength, rate of force development, velocity, eccentric activity and neuromuscular stimuli when performing combination activities with both elastic band and free-weight exercises. It is plausible that given the data from the present investigation, chronic adaptations to training with elastic resistance in combination with free-weights may have been caused by lesser reductions in power during acute training sessions. If this acute effect does manifest in this fashion, then it would have ramifications as to the training volumes athletes utilize with this modality to gain maximum adaptations. The current research on the topic of combining elastic and free weight training is very limited and mostly focused on the back squat and bench press. Hence, investigations and applications on diverse exercises should be considered in forthcoming research.

### Applications In Sport

Based upon the present investigation, it would immediately appear at the conclusion of a training session that athletes retain more power production post combined elastic and free-weight training as compared to free-weight training alone. This information is potentially beneficial to professionals who work with athletes, as complex training is often incorporated into the program design. This form of training often involves the performance of a skill related activity post-resistance training bout.

### Tables

#### Table 1
Participant characteristics given in Means ± SD.

Gender Age (yrs) Height (m) Weight (kg)
Male (n=4) 20.5 ± 2.1 1.82 ± 0.07 112.68 ± 15.03
Female (n=4) 19.9 ± 1.7 1.76 ± 0.05 100.78 ± 28.47

#### Table 2
Watts Produced by Treatment and Attempt given in Means ± SD.

Treatment Attempt 1 (Watts) Attempt 2 (Watts)
Combined Elastic and Free-weight 426.5 ± 257.0 427.5 ± 229.2
Free-weight Only 391.9 ± 206.3 437.5 ± 242.6

### References

1. Anderson, C.E., Sforza, G.A., Sigg, J.A. (2008) The effects of combining elastic and free weight resistance on strength and power in athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(2), 567-574.
2. Bellar, D., Muller, M., Ryan, E.J., Bliss, M.V., Kim, C-H, Ida, K Barkley, J.E., Glickman, E.L. (2011) The Effects of Combined Elastic and Free Weight Tension vs Free Weight Tension on 1 RM Strength in the Bench Press. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(2), 459-463.
3. Israetel, M.A., McBride, J.M., Nuzzo, J.L., Skinner, J.W., Dayne, A.M. (2010) Kinetic and kinematic differences between squats performed with and without elastic bands. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1): 190-194.
4. Mannie K. Strike up the band training, the benefits of variable resistance. (2005) Coach Athletic Director, 75, 8-13.
5. Neelly, K., Carter, S.A., Terry, J.G. (2010) A study of the resistive forces provided by elastic supplemental band resistance during the back squat exercise: a case report. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, in press. Epub ahead of print retrieved June 20, 2011, from <http://journals.lww.com/nscajscr/Abstract/2010/01001/A_Study_Of_The_Resistive_Forces_Provided_By.119.aspx>
6. Page, P., & Ellenbecker, T. S. (2005). Strength Band Training. In Strength Training with Elastic Resistance [Excerpt]. Retrieved from Farnsworth Group website: <http://www.champaign411.com/sports_fitness/excerpts/strength_training_with_elastic_resistance>
7. Shoepe, T.C., Ramirez, D.A., Almstedt, H.C. (2010) Elastic band prediction equations for combined free-weight and elastic band bench presses and squats. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1), 195-200.
8. Simmons, L. (2007, March 5). Advanced programs for beginners. In Elite Fitness Systems [Article]. Retrieved March 22, 2011, from Elite Fitness Systems website: <http://totalphysiqueonline.com/2007/03/05/advanced-program-for-beginners/>
9. Simmons, L. (2009, July 15). Training athletes vs. full meet powerlifters [Web log post]. Retrieved from <http://www.wannabebig.com/training/powerlifting-and-functional-strength-for-athletics/q-a-with-westside-barbells-louie-simmons/>
10. Stevenson, M. W., Warpeha, J. M., Dietz, C. C., Giveans, R. M., & Erdman, A. G. (2010). Acute effects of elastic bands during the free-weight barbell squat exercise on velocity, power, and force production. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(11), 2944-54.
11. Treiber, F. A., Lott, J., Duncan, J., Slavens, G., & Davis, H. (1998, July). Effects of theraband and lightweight dumbbell training on shoulder rotation torque and serve performance in college tennis players. Am J Sports Med, 26(4), 510-15.
12. Wallace, B.J., Winchester, J.B., McGuigan, M.R. (2006) Effects of elastic bands on force and power characteristics during the back squat exercise. J. Strength Cond. Res., 20(2), 268-27.
13. Woodrup, J. (2008). Band Training for Explosive Vertical Gains. In Vertical jumping [Article]. Retrieved March 22, 2011, from Vertical Jumping website: <http://www.verticaljumping.com/band_training.html>

### Corresponding Author

David Bellar
225 Cajundome Blvd
Department of Kinesiology
University of Louisiana Lafayette

### Author Bios

#### Sara Prejean

Sarah Prejean is an undergraduate student studying exercise science in the department of kinesiology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

#### Lawrence Judge

Lawrence Judge is an associate professor and coordinator of the graduate coaching program at Ball State University. Dr. Judge has a long-established background in coaching track and field athletes and an extensive research background in coaching behavior, moral issues, and competitiveness versus participation in athletics, specifically in youth sports.

#### Tiffany Patrick

Tiffany Patrick is an undergraduate student studying exercise science in the department of kinesiology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette

#### David Bellar

David Bellar is an assistant professor and director of the human performance lab in the department of kinesiology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Bellar has a background in coaching track and field athletes, and researching performance attributes within this population.

Qualitative Analysis of International Student-Athlete Perspectives on Recruitment and Transitioning into American College Sport

### Abstract

Recruiting international athletes is a growing trend in American intercollegiate sport, and international student-athletes play an increasingly prominent role in NCAA competition. This research answers the following questions regarding the recruitment of international student-athletes and their transition to college life: (1) what is the most difficult aspect of the international university experience?; (2) what do international athletes identify as the most important factor for a successful transition to American college?; (3) how did international athletes hear about athletic opportunities in the United States; (4) what advice would current international athletes give international athletes considering a move to the United States to participate in intercollegiate sport?; and (5) what would the athletes have done had they not played college sports in the United States? The researchers solicited the assistance of CHAMPS/Life Skills coordinators at 15 Division I schools who distributed surveys to student-athletes, who in turn completed the survey, sealed it in an envelope, and returned in to the coordinator. A total of 355 athletes completed the survey, including 192 international athletes. Homesickness and adjustment to the U.S. culture were identified as the most difficult aspects of the university experience for international athletes, while the most important elements to a successful transition for international athletes were a strong support system from teammates and coaches and also from friends and family in their native country. Only one-fourth of respondents learned about athletic opportunities from coaches in the U.S., while one-fourth of the respondents learned about these opportunities from friends, family, and other athletes. The top piece of advice given by respondents was to realize that playing sports in the U.S. will require important traits like focus, dedication, hard work, and persistence in order to succeed. The results of this study highlight the importance of transitioning international athletes into college life. Once international athletes are on campus, a member of the athletic department staff should oversee the athlete’s transition into college life, focused on combating the top three challenges identified in this research: homesickness, adjustment to U.S. culture, and language. This staff member should serve as a liaison between athletic department personnel and other campus resources to facilitate a smooth transition.

**Key Words:** international student-athletes, recruiting, transition to college

### Introduction

Recruiting athletes from outside of the United States is a growing trend in college athletics as international student-athletes play an increasingly prominent role in NCAA competition (6, 9, 22). For coaches, who must recruit talented athletes in order to be successful, “the pressures to win, and the penalties for losing, are exacting. Many Division I coaches’ jobs are predicated on the strength of their programs, causing them to recruit the best talent they can find, in many cases from the international pool” (19, p. 860). Evidence of a worldwide search for talent is found in the 17,653 international student-athletes that competed in NCAA competition during the 2009-10 school year, a large increase from the just under 6,000 that competed a decade prior (11). Among Division I schools, over one-third of the male and female athletes in both tennis and ice hockey, and over one-eighth of male and female golfers, were born outside of the United States (11). In addition to increasing participation numbers, international athletes have dominated in individual sports like tennis and golf, and led teams to championship performances (13, 22). However, international athletes face many challenges in adjusting to the language, coursework, dorm life, food, cultural expectations, coaching, paperwork, and the style of play in the United States. As international athletes continue to leave their mark on NCAA sports, coaches and administrators benefit from understanding what difficulties come with transitioning to life as a student-athlete in the U.S. and how international athletes learn about the recruitment process.

Previous research has examined the adjustment process for both international students and international athletes to college. While researchers have noted that a lack of groups with which to socialize is a problem for many international students (7, 10, 20), international athletes have the advantage of being immediately placed within a team structure (14). However, athletes may still face similar obstacles to a successful transition including culture shock, cultural differences, academic adjustment, homesickness, discrimination, and contentment (5). Ridinger and Pastore (17) were the first to create a model of adjustment for international student-athletes, which included four antecedent factors (personal, interpersonal, perceptual, and cultural distance), and five types of adjustment (academic, social, athletic, personal-emotional, and institutional attachment), resulting in two outcomes (satisfaction and performance) to define successful adjustment to college.

Researchers have also examined the recruitment of international athletes. Not only can coaches create winning programs through the recruitment of international athletes, but coaches can also maintain successful teams with international athletes through the establishment of talent pipelines (3-4, 21). Bale (3) identified talent pipelines in which concentrations of athletes from certain countries were found in particular NCAA institutions, with coaches hoping that friend-to-friend recruiting will result in attracting elite athletes from a particular foreign country. Bale (3) noted that institutions unable to compete for homegrown talent, due to lack of prestige or unattractive campus location, established talent pipelines with a foreign country. For example, a talent pipeline of elite track and field stars from Kenya was found at schools like University of Texas El Paso and Washington State University, and a pipeline of track talent from Nigeria was identified at the University of Missouri and Mississippi State University (3). Talent pipelines are an important recruiting strategy, particularly when coaches are unable to compete for local athletes or local talent is not available for certain sports (21).

This research seeks to provide answers the following questions regarding the recruitment of international student-athletes and their transition to college life: (1) what is the most difficult aspect of the international university experience?; (2) what do international athletes identify as the most important factor for a successful transition to college?; (3) how did international athletes hear about athletic opportunities in the United States; (4) what advice would current international athletes give international athletes considering a move to the United States to participate in intercollegiate sport?; and (5) what would the athletes have done had they not played college sports in the United States?

### Methods

The sample for this study included N = 355 athletes from 15 NCAA Division I institutions, including n = 192 international athletes. Schools selected for this study were based on a need to collect data from purposive clusters of Division I institutions, given certain factors may influence international student-athletes’ experiences at their United States institution such as school size, the size of the community within which the school is located, and the geographic location of a school (3). Seven schools were members of the Football Bowl Series (FBS) conferences, while eight were not. Eleven conferences were represented in the study. Eight schools were located in large metro areas with populations over 400,000, while seven were located in communities with populations under 170,000. Six schools were located in the eastern third of the U.S., six were located in the Midwest, and three were located in the western third of the country.

The researchers solicited the assistance of CHAMPS/Life Skills coordinators from the 15 schools via phone to see if they would agree to participate in the study. The researchers then collected the names of all international student-athletes listed on website rosters. The coordinators were instructed to distribute the surveys to the student-athletes, who in turn completed the survey, sealed it in an envelope, and returned in to the coordinator. Participation in the survey was voluntary and a letter indicating the participant’s rights were included, per the approval obtained by the university Human Subjects Review Committee.

A total of 192 athletes representing 57 countries responded to the survey for a response rate of 39.6%. The top three countries represented were: Canada, 24%; England, 8.3%; and Puerto Rico, 7.8%. Males accounted for 45% of the sample and females accounted for 55%. The responses from the open-ended questions in the International Student-Athlete Survey were content analyzed. Two raters independently examined the data and codes were developed to categorize written responses (18). To test intercoder reliability, the coders independently examined 20% of the sample. The codebook and coding protocol were clearly understood, as the correction for chance agreement (Scott’s Pi) exceeded .8 for all but one question, which yielded an acceptable .77 (23).

In addition to frequency counts for each question, chi square was utilized to examine differences between demographic variables, including: gender, native area of origin (Canada, Europe, South America), length of time in the United States (0-2 years, 2.5 to 3.5 years, 4+ years), type of sport (team or individual), class standing (freshman/sophomore and junior/senior), whether or not the athlete used a campus visit, number of schools considered (0-2, 3+), and whether or not the athletes had a full scholarship.

### Results

Ten variables were identified for the first question, “what is the most difficult aspect of the international university experience?” Homesickness was the most difficult aspect, accounting for 24.1% of all answers, followed by adjusting to the U.S. culture, 20.5%; and adjusting to the language, 14.7%. Table 1 displays all ten coded answers for question 1. In order to examine the difference between various demographic variables through chi square analysis, the ten answers in Table 1 were re-coded into four variables (language and cultural adjustments, homesickness, athletic and academic transitions, financial and logistical difficulties, and other). First, chi square analysis revealed that European athletes were more likely to note language and cultural adjustments as a difficult aspect of the international university experience than non-European athletes (χ2 (4, N = 278) = 12.1, p = .017). Second, Canadian athletes were more likely to identify financial and logistical difficulties than non-Canadian athletes (χ2 (4, N = 278) = 29.8, p = .001). Third, athletes participating in individual sports were more likely to identify language and cultural adjustments as a difficult aspect than athletes on team sports, while athletes participating on team sports were more likely to identify homesickness than athletes on individual sports (χ2 (4, N = 278) = 11.4, p = .023). Finally, freshman/sophomore athletes were more likely to identify language and cultural adjustments than junior/senior athletes (χ2 (4, N = 278) = 11.7, p = .020).

Seven variables were identified for the second question, “what were the most important factors in helping you transition to university life in the United States?” Over one-third of respondents indicated that a strong support system from teammates and coaches on their college team was important, and 20.2% indicated that a strong support system from friends and family in their native county was important. Table 2 displays all seven coded answers from question 2. The answers in Table 2 were re-coded into two variables (support system identified as important, support system not identified as important). First, chi square analysis revealed that athletes from the Carribean/South America were less likely to cite the need for a support system from coaches, family, and friends than athletes not from that area (χ2 (4, N = 267) = 7.3, p = .006). Second, junior/senior athletes were more likely to identify the importance of a support system from coaches, family, or friends than freshman/sophomore athletes (χ2 (4, N = 265) = 6.9, p = .006).

Eight variables were identified for the third question, “How did you first learn about opportunities to earn university sports scholarships in the United States?” One-fourth of the respondents learned about these opportunities from friends, family, or other athletes, while another one-fourth indicated they learned from individuals who had previously participated in U.S. sports. Only 23.9% learned from personnel related to U.S. college sports (i.e. coaches and administrators). Table 3 displays all 8 coded answers from question 3. Chi square analysis revealed that athletes playing team sports obtained information regarding U.S. college sports differently than athletes participating in individual sports. Team sport athletes were more likely to obtain recruiting information from those involved in U.S. college sports (i.e. coaches and recruiters) than individual sport athletes (χ2 (1, N = 180) = 4.4, p = .030). Additionally, athletes participating in individual sports were more likely to learn about scholarship opportunities through personal relationships with family, friends, and athletes, while team sport athletes are more likely to learn about scholarship opportunities through those involved with the institutional sport structure (i.e. coaches, administrators, recruiting services) (χ2 (1, N = 180) = 4.9, p = .02)

In a related question, international athletes were asked to compare the athletic facilities and athletic opportunities in the United States and their home country. The respondents overwhelmingly indicated that both the facilities and opportunities were better in the United States. Only ten percent of the international athletes believed that either the facilities or opportunities in their home country were better than what was available in the United States.

Fourteen variables were identified for the fourth question, “what advice would current international athletes give international athletes considering a move to the United States to participate in intercollegiate sport?” However, only four variables occurred in greater than 7% of the responses. The top piece of advice given by one-fifth of the respondents was to realize that playing sports in the U.S. will require important traits like focus, dedication, hard work, and persistence in order to overcome challenges. Second, 18.9% encouraged prospective international athletes to do adequate research on schools before deciding which school to attend, such as getting to know the coaches, athletes, and athletic facilities. Third, 14.2% recommended making the decision to play in the United States because it was such as an excellent opportunity. Fourth, 11.8% indicated it is important to consider academics and majors that can be used to obtain employment in their native country, meaning it is important to find the best overall fit between academics and athletics when deciding on a school.

Finally, international athletes were asked, “what would you be doing now if you had not had this opportunity to play for an NCAA university?” Responses were categorized by what the athlete would be doing (i.e. working, attending college, playing sports) and where they would be living (i.e. native country, United States), as presented in Table 4. Only seven athletes indicated they would be attending college in the United States, while 105 respondents indicated they would be attending college in their native country and only 33 would have continued to play sports in their native country.

### Discussion

American NCAA Division I universities provide opportunities for elite athletes from outside the U.S. to pursue their university degree while continuing to train and compete at a high athletic level, an opportunity not possible in many other countries. However, international athletes face challenges in adjusting to life as a student-athlete. It should come as little surprise that international athletes felt the most difficult aspects of playing university sport in the U.S. were dealing with homesickness, cultural differences, and language barriers. Many cross-cultural sojourners find themselves dealing with similar issues once the initial excitement of being submerged in a new culture wears off (1, 12). In fact, the greater the cultural distance between the sojourner’s native country and the host nation, the greater the adjustments international athletes would be expected to make (17). As was demonstrated in the results, Canadians, whose native country is culturally quite similar to the U.S., were much less likely to indicate a concern with homesickness, cultural differences, and language barriers (for many Canadians, the language barrier is non-existent). Canadian athletes were much more concerned with financial and travel logistics. The results also indicated that freshman and sophomores struggle with these issues more than experienced athletes in their junior and senior years.

The respondents to the survey revealed two key strategies to overcoming these difficulties and successfully transitioning into life as a student athlete during the first year on campus. First, international athletes indicated the high importance of understanding what international-student athletes are “getting themselves into” before committing to an NCAA school. Advice dispensed by the sample in this study focused on understanding the dedication and commitment required of an NCAA Division I athlete, knowing the differences between schools, coaches, and athletic programs at various universities, and learning which schools and academic programs could offer international athletes the best opportunities back in their home country after their college career is complete.

This strategy aligns with prior research. Craven (8) suggested the more athletes and coaching staffs are prepared and educated about the cultural differences they may experience while submerged in another culture, the easier their transition and adjustment to the new environment will be. In Bale’s work, several of his subjects suggested the U.S. college experience was not what they thought it would be, as over 30% encountered problems with U.S. coaches, nearly 25% had difficulties adjusting to the climate in their new location, and over 20% lacked motivation with academic work (2). When offered the chance to be a varsity athlete at an NCAA Division I school, many international athletes are initially so excited about the opportunity and chance to travel to the United States that the location and environment of the specific school they attend is not a key factor (15-16). As the results of this study indicate, however, current international athletes believe it is important for international student-athlete prospects to consider many issues beyond just an opportunity to compete in the U.S. college system before making the commitment to attend a U.S. university.

The second key factor in transitioning into life as a student-athlete is the development of a support system first built on teammates and coaches, but also built on family and friends back home. It is important for coaches and teammates to understand that international student-athletes identified developing a support system with them as the most important element of a successful transition. It is clear the relationships developed with the people international athletes spend the most time with are a key determinant to a successful transition. Coaches should also ensure international athletes have the technical support to maintain relationships with those at home through various video, chat, and online communication resources.

Another key finding in this study was that most of the respondents would not have moved to the U.S. or continued to participate in sports without the opportunities presented through American intercollegiate sport. One of the attractions of U.S. college sport is access to high quality facilities and abundant opportunities. Results indicated that the respondents felt the athletic facilities and athletic opportunities available to them as an NCAA Division I athlete were superior to their options in their native country. This finding could potentially be skewed as young athletes who did have access to better facilities and opportunities in their homeland may not have considered playing in the U.S. college system. However, this finding has key implications for sport managers outside of the U.S. Administrators of sport clubs in non-U.S. countries may lose elite athletes at the peak of their career as those athletes choose to accept an NCAA scholarship. If such club administrators hope to retain these athletes, they may need to examine the attraction of competing in the U.S. collegiate sport system (namely competitive opportunities and facilities) and attempt to replicate those factors in their native country. More research examining this specific issue is needed.

Finally, one surprising finding from this study is only a quarter of respondents indicated university athletic department staff, such as coaches and administrators, were the key source of information regarding the opportunity to compete in the United States college system. As illustrated in the introduction to this paper, recruiting is arguably the most important element in developing an elite college athletic program and many university athletic departments dedicate a relatively large percentage of their resources towards this endeavor. Yet the recruiting process does not seem to be overly efficient in reaching international prospects. Many of the respondents in this study indicated family, friends, and acquaintances that had competed in the U.S. college system were more important sources of information about playing opportunities at NCAA schools than were the coaches whose job it is to recruit these athletes. This study illustrates the need for coaches to more effectively and efficiently recruit the international landscape.

### Conclusions

American college sports provide an opportunity for athletes from countries outside the U.S. to continue their playing careers and educational training in the United States where high-level athletic facilities and strong competitive opportunities abound. International student-athletes must overcome many challenges and obstacles upon arrival on campus, including homesickness, adapting to the culture, and learning the language. Coaches and teammates play an important role in helping international athletes develop a support system that will assist in the successful transition to a student-athlete. Athletic administrators also play a key role, as discussed in the next section.

### Applications In Sport

Once international athletes are on campus, a member of the athletic department staff should oversee the athlete’s transition into college life, focused on combating the top three challenges identified in this research: homesickness, adjustment to U.S. culture, and language. This staff member should serve as a liaison between athletic department personnel (i.e. CHAMPS Life Skills coordinators, compliance, eligibility, coaches) and other campus resources (i.e. academic advising, international office) to facilitate a smooth transition. The liaison can coordinate paperwork deadlines, information updates, cultural sensitivity training in the athletic department, and any programming that might benefit the international athletes. Such programming could include a peer mentoring program, utilizing transition to college coursework, placing international athletes with experts in teaching the English language, offering open forums for athletes to socialize with athletes from other teams, developing information packets with multicultural resources in the community and university, and establishing relationships with host families in the community (under the supervision of the compliance office). Acquainting athletes with American college life should begin as soon as possible, either on an official visit or having international athletes arrive on campus as early as possible to adjust to the language, culture, food, teammates, and academic expectations. Finally, developing a strong relationship with the international office is important in order to ensure all government paperwork is completely in an accurate and timely fashion.

Finally, in contrast to domestic athletes who take official and unofficial visits and have many other opportunities to develop relationships with coaches who are recruiting them, international athletes rely on their personal support system (i.e. club coaches, former athletes, family, friends) to gather information on U.S. colleges. NCAA coaches must continue to improve their international recruiting connections with former athletes and club coaches because they are still the top source of information about competing in the U.S. college system. If NCAA coaches want to successfully recruit international athletes, they should focus on improving recruiting connections with key members of an athlete’s personal support system. Previous research by Bale (2-4) has established some institutions are able to develop talent pipelines where information about an institution is disseminated by athletes who competed for a particular school in the past.

### References

1. Adler, P. (1975). The transitional experience: An alternative view of culture shock. The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 15, 13-23.
2. Bale, J. (1987). Alien student-athletes in American higher education: Locational decision making and sojourn abroad. Physical Education Review, 10(2), 81-93.
3. Bale, J. (1991). The brawn drain: Foreign student-athletes in American universities. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
4. Bale, J. (2003). Sports geography (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
5. Berkowitz, K. (2006). From around the world. Athletic Management, 18(6). Available online at <http://www.athleticmanagement.com/2007/01/15/from_around_the_world/index.php>
6. Brown, G.T. (2004, Dec. 6). Foreign matter: Influx of internationals in college swimming tugs on bond between campus and country. The NCAA News, p. 5.
7. Chapdelaine, R., & Alextich, L. (2004). Social skills difficulty: Model of culture shock for international graduate students. Journal of College Student Development, 45, 167-184.
8. Craven, J. (1994). Cross-cultural impacts of effectiveness in sport. In R.C. Wilcox (Ed.) Sport in the global village, (pp. 433-448). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology, Inc.
9. Drape, J. (2006, Apr. 11). Foreign pros in college tennis: On top and under scrutiny. The New York Times, p. D1.
10. Furnham, A., & Bochner, S. (1986). Culture shock: Psychological reactions to unfamiliar environments. London: Methuen.
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12. Oberg, K. (1960). Cultural shock: Adjustment to new cultural environments. Practical Anthropology, 7, 177-182.
13. Pierce, D., Kaburakis, A., & Fielding, L. (2010). The new amateurs: The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s application of amateurism in a global sports arena. International Journal of Sport Management, 11(2), 304-327.
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15. Popp, N., Love, A., Kim, S, & Hums, M.A. (2010). International student-athlete adjustment: Examining the antecedent factors of the Ridinger and Pastore theoretical framework model. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 3, 163-181.
16. Popp, N., Pierce, D., & Hums, M.A. (in press). A comparison of the college selection process for international and domestic student athletes at NCAA division I universities. Sport Management Review.
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### Tables

#### Table 1
Most Difficult Aspects of International University Experience

Response Frequency Percent
Homesickness 67 24.1
Adjustment to U.S. culture 57 20.5
Language adjustment 41 14.7
Adjustment to being an athlete 23 8.3
Other 21 7.6
Time management 19 6.8
Academic transition 18 6.5
Financial insecurity or finding a job 15 5.4
Paperwork 12 4.3
Finding transportation 5 1.8
Total 267

Note: Respondents could have multiple answers in their written response

Intercoder Agreement: Scott’s Pi = .89

#### Table 2
Important Factors for Successful Transition to University Life

Response Frequency Percent
Strong support system from teammates and coaches 91 34.1
Strong support system from friends and family back home 54 20.2
Possess of key personality traits (experience, desire, patience, etc.) 49 18.4
Strong support system from academic advisors, tutors, professors, and administrators 25 9.4
Adapting to U.S. culture and the English language 20 7.5
Other 15 5.6
Time management and organization 13 4.9
Total 267

Note: Respondents could have multiple answers in their written response

Intercoder Agreement: Scott’s Pi = .82

#### Table 3
Source of Information Regarding Athletic Opportunity in the United States

Response Frequency Percent
Family, friends, and athletes 45 25
Individuals who had participated in U.S. athletics previously 44 24.4
Coaches and recruiters involved in U.S. college sports 43 23.9
In native country from high school coach or administrator 29 16.1
Personal research 10 5.6
Other 5 2.8
Sport recruitment service 4 2.2
Total 180

Intercoder Agreement: Scott’s Pi = .87

#### Table 4
Life without American College Sports

Working Attending College Playing Sports Total
Native Country 14 105 33 152
Not Specified 9 15 13 37
U.S. 0 7 0 7
Total 23 127 46 196

Intercoder Agreement: Scott’s Pi = .85

### Corresponding Author

Dr. David Pierce
Ball State University
School of Physical Education, Sport, and Exercise Science
Muncie, IN 47306