A History of Women in Sport Prior to Title IX


Women’s opportunities for competitive physical activity were limited in America until Federal Legislation, commonly referred to as Title IX, became law. It required American society to recognize a woman’s right to participate in sports on a plane equal to that of men. Prior to 1870, activities for women were recreational rather than sport-specific in nature. They were noncompetitive, informal, rule-less; they emphasized physical activity rather than competition. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, women began to form clubs that were athletic in nature. Efforts to limit women’s sport activity continued as they became more involved in competitive sports. This paper will present a history of women’s involvement in sport prior to the federal legislation enacted to eliminate sexual discrimination in education and sport.

Early Women’s Sports

Certainly, women engaged in sport three millennia ago. Homer, c 800 B.C., relates the story of Princess Nausicaa playing ball with her handmaidens next to a riverbank on the island of Scheria. “When she and her handmaids were satisfied with their delightful food, each set aside the veil she wore: the young girls now played ball; and as they tossed the ball…” (Homer, lines 98-102). Odysseus was awakened by the shouts of the girls engaged in their sport. Thousands of years later, the shouts of girls playing ball finally awoke the United States to the need for sport-specific opportunities for women.

Prior to 1870, sports for women existed in the form of play activities that were recreational rather than competitive and, being informal and without rules, emphasized physical activity (Gerber, Felshin, Berlin, & Wyrick, 1974). A dominant belief in the 1800s was that each human had a fixed amount of energy. If this energy were used for physical and intellectual tasks at the same time, it could be hazardous (Park & Hult, 1993). Horseback riding for pleasure, showboating, and swimming became fashionable, but women were not encouraged to exert themselves. Such physical activity for a woman was thought to be especially hazardous because during menstruation she was “periodically weakened” (Clarke, 1874, p. 100). In 1874, as women were beginning to gain access to higher education, Dr. Edward Clarke published Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for Girls, which sparked a tenacious and acrimonious debate about the capacity of women for physical activity. He stated that, “both muscular and brain labor must be reduced at the onset of menstruation” ( p. 102). Manipulating science to reinforce established dogma prevailed for many years in spite of repeated examples of women who were perfectly capable of performing physical feats and intellectual tasks. Many early opportunities for women to engage in physical activity were thwarted as a result of this dogma (Park & Hult).

As more women sought to become involved in physical activity, they became more competitive. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, women began to form informal athletic clubs. Tennis, croquet, bowling, and archery were popular in clubs from New York to New Orleans. Many men’s clubs allowed women to become associates and to participate in separate activities, though without according them full status. Parallel clubs in colleges began to appear during this time, but a major difference between the social metropolitan clubs and the college clubs was that the latter frequently sponsored coed competition as occasions for social gatherings (Gerber, et al., 1974).

College Sports for Women Prior to Title IX

Early college sports for women have been largely unrecognized by historians because competition was within college between students (intramural) rather than between the institutions (extramural). Competitions included intramural, club, and sorority matches, in addition to ‘play days’. These were special dates when women competed in sports and activities against students and teams from their schools. By 1936, 70% of colleges surveyed used this as a predominant form of sport participation for women (Hult, 1994).

Women’s physical educators were aware of the problems and criticism surrounding men’s intercollegiate athletics. They were determined to keep athletics in an educational environment for women. In the early 1900s, the Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA) and the American Physical Education Association (APEA) endorsed programs of broad participation for women (Park & Hult, 1993). This occurred just as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching produced its 1929 report, American College Athletics, reporting that amateurism was being eliminated or modified from athletics at the college level as colleges turned athletics into big business. The report argued that there should be a way to give “athletics back to the boys” (Thelin, 1994). These views were uppermost in the minds of many women’s physical educators as they met to organize a governing organization for women’s sports. In the 1920s, the Women’s Division-National Amateur Athletic Federation (NAAF) was formed to organize intercollegiate competition among women (Park & Hult).

Women were not active in intercollegiate sport until basketball was introduced at Smith College in 1892 (Gerber, et al., 1974). Basketball quickly spread to other colleges, and students began to clamor for intercollegiate play. Women’s physical educators opposed such competition because they were not ready to lose control over their programs (as they perceived the men had) (Gerber, et al.). The first intercollegiate competition among women was a scheduled tennis tournament between Bryn Mawr and Vassar. It was canceled because the Vassar faculty did not allow their women’s athletes to participate in competition between colleges (Hult, 1994). The honor of being the first teams to compete in women’s intercollegiate athletics belongs to the basketball teams of the University of California, Berkeley vs. Stanford and the University of Washington vs. Ellensburg Normal School; they played in 1896 (Gerber, et al.).

Competitive events for college women increased in the early 1900s. The nature of varsity competition was in conflict with the philosophy of women’s physical educators in the 1920s and 1930s, so these events were still uncommon. This philosophical conflict contributed to a lack of support for women’s varsity athletics. The NAAF provided a forum for women’s physical educators and leaders of women’s sports to formalize their beliefs regarding competition for girls and women by issuing a policy statement of the organizations goals for women. The goals were established to “play for play’s sake,” limit awards and travel, protect the participant from exploitation, discourage “sensational” publicity, and place qualified women in immediate charge of athletics and other physical activities (Gerber, et al., 1974). The motto was “every girl in a sport and a sport for every girl.” This position was interpreted by many as negative to competition and, as a consequence, virtually all forms of competitive sport for college women decreased in the early 1900s (Gerber, et al.).

The women’s suffrage movement in the late nineteenth and twentieth century resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. The right to vote for women renewed emphasis on women’s freedoms. The first feminist movement resulted in modest gains for women in sports and intercollegiate competition, but these gains were negated by the depression in the 1930s. They would remain dormant for almost fifty years (Gelb & Palley, 1987). The depression left millions of Americans out of work, and the resulting campaign to keep women home and out of the work force left the women’s movement for broadened equal rights stagnating. The expectations of society were that a woman’s place was ‘in the home,’ which pushed aside the idea that there were psychological and physiological benefits to be gained from involvement in sport. This view remained largely unchanged until the events of the 1940s (Lucas & Smith, 1982).

The 1940s brought war to the United States and millions of men entered the military. Many women joined the military service or left their positions as homemakers to fill the void left in the work force, earning the moniker, “Rosie the Riveter.” They demonstrated that they were equal to the task. The self-esteem and self-confidence gained by women during these critical times propelled the movement for women’s equal rights. Many women believed that if they could compete successfully in the work force, then they could certainly compete on the athletic fields (Chafe, 1972). World War II also saw the advent of the first woman’s professional athletic team. The All-American Girls Baseball League was started in 1943 as an attempt to replace Major League Baseball, which had been canceled due to the war. When World War II ended, organizations for women in sport began to increase as sport became more competitive and intercollegiate and interscholastic competition spread (Gerber, et al., 1974).

In the 1950s and 1960s, the social conscience of America was changing. The push for Civil Rights, which culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, helped increase the status of women and minorities. A wave of feminist activism was born (Gelb & Palley, 1996). Feminist activism propelled the movement for women’s rights forward. The United States became embroiled in the debate for an Equal Rights Amendment. This debate raised the consciousness of those involved in women’s sport. Collegiate women seeking greater athletic opportunities moved closer to their goals in 1957, when the long-entrenched official position statement of the Division for Girls and Women in Sport (DGWS) was amended to state that intercollegiate programs “may” exist. In 1963, the DGWS view of women in sport evolved further to state that it was “desirable” that intercollegiate programs for women exist (Gerber, et al., 1974).

In 1966, the DGWS appointed a Commission on Intercollegiate Sports for Women (CISW) to assist in conducting intercollegiate competitions. In 1967, it was renamed the Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW). The women’s movement in sport was rapidly moving toward a status more in line with men’s athletics. In 1969, a schedule of national championships for women’s sports was announced that included gymnastics and track and field. Swimming, badminton, and volleyball followed in 1970 and in 1972, basketball was added. Women wanted an institutional membership organization similar to the NCAA. The CIAW was replaced by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in 1971. This set the stage for the struggle to control women’s athletics in the 1970s between the AIAW and the NCAA (Gerber, et al., 1974).

The increasingly positive attitude toward women in sport carried over into the 1970s (Hult, 1994). The AIAW began the 1971-1972 academic year with 278 charter institutions. By 1981, their membership exceeded 800. Their mission was to “lead and conduct” programs at the collegiate level that were competitive for women (Hulstrand, 1993). The AIWA focused on the female student-athlete’s education, not on athletic performance, and thus rejected the ‘win or die’ attitude of the NCAA. Instead, the AIAW emphasized participation in sport as the most important aspect and de-emphasized winning (Sperber, 1990).

The Evolution of Title IX

The new wave of feminism within the larger social reforms sought by the Civil Rights movement moved women closer to legislative action for greater equal treatment in athletics. The concept that federal legislation was to eliminate sexual discrimination was the main focus of women’s groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At their first national conference in 1967, the National Organization for Women (NOW) adopted a platform that read in part “…the right of women to be educated to their full potential equally with men be secured by Federal and State legislation” (Boles, 1989, p.643).

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was paid little attention in the early legislative efforts to codify these rights. Court-ordered busing in the other Titles of the Omnibus Education Amendments took the spotlight (Palley & Preston, 1978). It was only after Title IX was passed, when the question surrounding implementation arose, that opposition to Title IX took place (Gelb & Palley, 1987). After the passage of Title IX, Congress built in a six-year period for secondary and post-secondary schools to achieve compliance. The date for compliance by colleges and universities was 1978. Interpretation and enforcement were vested in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (Carpenter, 1993).

The critical element lacking after the passage of Title IX was the implementation legislation that would specify how it was to be applied and to whom. Passage of the implementation legislation was not easy; many self-interest groups sought to erode the legislation. In 1974, approximately sixty women’s and feminist groups formed a coalition called the Education Task Force (which would later becme the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education) (Gelb & Palley). It was largely as a result of their persistent and dedicated efforts through lobbying that Title IX was successful.

The NCAA became concerned by what it perceived to be the potential weakening of its position as the dominant and controlling body of intercollegiate athletics. If Title IX was to apply to intercollegiate sports at all levels and women were to be elevated to a status equal to the men, its financial assets and political power were threatened. The first approach of the NCAA, when faced with the threat of equality in intercollegiate athletics, was to attempt to limit Title IX’s application. The NCAA tried to offer its interpretation of Title IX (Acosta & Carpenter, 1985). It encouraged a narrow interpretation of the law, excluding athletic departments from the scope of Title IX. The NCAA argued that because athletic departments did not receive federal funds, they should be excluded from compliance. Nonetheless, when the NCAA sought to limit the application of Title IX, it began to address the issue of control of women’s athletics in earnest.

The NCAA observed the growth of women’s athletics and looked to the increased financial base and political power to be gained from exerting control over women’s intercollegiate athletics. It set out to force the AIAW out of control (Hult, 1994). The strategy was to absorb the AIAW into its current structure while offering women’s championships outside the AIAW to effectively link schools to the NCAA. Because there was no alternative mechanism for determining college-level champions, this strategy could have been successful (Stern, 1979). The NCAA decided to form its own NCAA Women’s Committee and exclude the AIAW (Carpenter, 1993). The NCAA had never shown an interest in women’s athletics before Title IX because there was nothing that required female participation at a national level. Thus, it chose not to pursue women’s athletics. “The formation of this committee was politically significant because prior to this time the NCAA had demonstrated no interest whatever in taking responsibility for women’s sports” (Carpenter, 1993, p. 83).

In the fall of 1974, the NCAA agreed to a meeting with the AIAW. The NCAA wanted the AIAW to affiliate itself with the NCAA; the AIAW hoped to form a joint committee to draw up rules. The NCAA did not consider the AIAW its equal and it would not agree to a 50-50 joint union and equal representation at all policy-making levels (Festle, 1996).

At its 1973 convention, the NCAA waived the regulation barring women from men’s events, thinking that the compromise of allowing a token female to compete in the NCAA championships would help avoid charges of sex discrimination and help avoid offending the AIAW while avoiding any real commitment to women’s athletics (Festle, 1996). The NCAA continued to be concerned about the loss of power and control over intercollegiate athletics as it began to sense that the idea of equal opportunity for women in intercollegiate athletics was the direct aim of the Federal Government. The NCAA needed to implement an acceptable policy without delay (Festle).

The NCAA was a powerful adversary for the AIAW because of its wealth, political influence, and long history. The NCAA decided to introduce women’s championships for intercollegiate sports by offering the institutions sponsoring women’s sports a proposition that ultimately led to the demise of the AIAW. The NCAA offered to: (a) pay all expenses for teams competing in a national championship, (b) charge no additional membership fees for schools to add women’s programs, (c) create financial aid, recruitment, and eligibility rules that were the same for women as for men, and finally, (d) guarantee women more television coverage. The NCAA had earmarked three million dollars to support women’s championships. The AIAW could not compete with the NCAA inducements and the loss of membership, income, championship sponsorship, and media rights forced the AIAW to cease operations on June 30, 1982 (Festle, 1996). The AIAW sued the NCAA for allegedly violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, but was unsuccessful when the courts ruled that the market for women’s athletics was open for competition, therefore no anti-trust laws had been violated (Schubert, Schubert, & Schubert-Madsen, 1991).

Subsequent to Title IX, women and girls have become much more involved in sports. College women’s athletic participation has increased from 15% in 1972 to 43% in 2001. High school girl’s athletic participation increased from 295,000 in 1971 to 2.8 million in 2002-2003, an increase of over 840%. In 2004, the average number of teams offered for females per college/university was 8.32, up from 2.50 per school in 1972 (Carpenter & Acosta, 2005). In 1981-82, women’s championships became a part of the NCAA program. Today, the NCAA sponsors forty women’s championships, thirty-eight men’s championships, and three combined championships in all three of its divisions (NCAA, 2005).

It can be seen that women’s involvement in sport was slow to develop. Opportunities for participation and recognition were almost non-existent for centuries. It was not until the advent of the equal rights movements and Title IX that women truly found a place as participants in the world of sport and in the public arena.


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Non-Economic Societal Impacts of Intercollegiate Athletics


Intercollegiate athletics impact society in numerous positive ways. A number of studies have been done seeking to establish the effects of these sports programs on athletes, their institutions, and society at large. This paper is a synthesis of the literature concerning the non-economic impacts of sports. The findings largely support the notion that athletics are beneficial, not only to athletes, but to society in general. Many important lessons and virtues are derived from athletics. Among the many benefits to higher education institutions are the concepts of attracting more admissions applications and enhancing institutional name recognition and visibility.


Athletics provide entertainment, physical development, social interaction, and business (Cigliano, 2006). They create platforms for individual recognition and institutional visibility. There are many positive externalities associated with athletic activities. Attaching monetary value to these effects is difficult, as the value is based on societal satisfaction measures that are hard to measure.

Athletics Mould Virtues

Athletics help shape the social character of participants (Rudd and Stoll, 2004). A sample of 595 students from several universities was used in a causal-comparative study in which athletes and non athletes were compared concerning social and moral character. There were significant differences between athletes and non athletes. The main conclusion was that sport helps build character in terms of teamwork, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. There is no evidence to support the idea that athletics help build moral character, though neither is it proven that they do not do so.

Yiannakis, Douvis, and Murdy (2003) studied the perceived economic and non-economic impacts of sports. The findings are based on a survey of 702 residents and students of Connecticut attending two universities. They measured the perceived impacts of sports in terms of job creation, infrastructure, image promotion, economic impacts, environmental impacts, crime, and deviancy, among others. The authors conjectured that conflicts, issues, ideologies, pain, success, and tragedy are all blended in sports. People identify with these and are able to better handle the challenges of life as they see teams fighting on the field of play.

Athletes learn the principles of self discipline, teamwork, winning and losing, hard work, and self confidence. They have their self esteem boosted (National Federation of High Schools, 2003). One athletics director at a community college within the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) said, “Athletics fulfill major commitments of our mission statement to educate the whole person, to develop teamwork and leaders, and to contribute to the personal health and well-being of our students” (Cigliano, 2006, p45).

Yiannakis et al. (2003) established that the perceptions of people regarding the positive impacts of sport differed based on whether one was a fan or not. Non fans tend to regard sports as a nuisance that causes traffic jams and pollution. Enthusiasts savor the joy brought by the victories of their teams. A relationship may exist between the degree of interest and the extent to which sports are perceived to be beneficial.

Cigliano’s (2006) qualitative study was done at two community colleges in the TBR to examine the economic, institutional, and human impacts of athletic programs. The participants from each college included the president, the athletics director, two coaches, and four student-athletes. Coaches from the colleges said they viewed athletics as vehicles that help some students stay in school. The discipline and structure in athletic programs help motivate student-athletes to take advantage of educational opportunities. The coaches spoke of employing discipline, monitoring class and study hall attendance, and using encouragement to motivate student-athletes to achieve academic goals and become academically successful. Indirectly, the study addressed the apparent conflict of goals between academic interests and athletics. As long as there is a good relationship between the sports departments and academics, goal conflict exists only as an abstract concept.

Student-athletes participating in Cigliano’s (2006) study stated the following as virtues they received: recognition, patience, becoming better persons, self-discipline, maturity, motivation, teamwork, knowing people better, working hard, perseverance, working together, self-confidence, and leadership. The presidents, athletic directors, and coaches identified leadership development, a sense of civic responsibility, loyalty, punctuality, team work, cooperation, winning and losing with class and dignity, being competitive, developing individual strengths and skills, getting along with people, obedience, discipline, learning to make independent decisions, adjusting to being on their own, and maturity as virtues learned from athletics.

In the words of one athlete:

As much as we have to be physically in shape…we definitely also need an attitude which enhances our performance. This…(is)…an inner attitude of confidence in your ability, determination to see what you can do, and delight in what may be possible. The positive vibes that surround a person with an attitude like this can spread (Depew1 , 1999).

The NFHS (2003) reported that sport promotes citizenship and sportsmanship by instilling a sense of pride in community, teaching lessons of teamwork and self-discipline, and facilitating the physical and emotional development of participants.

Bailey, Moulton, and Moulton (1999) compared athletes and non-athletes concerning levels of self-esteem and approval motivation. A sample of 492 university undergraduates participated in this study; ninety-four were athletes. The study used a multivariate analysis of variance to determine whether there was a significant difference between athletes and non-athletes on the variables of self-esteem and approval motivation. Athletes had significantly higher levels of self-esteem than non-athletes. There was also a statistically significant difference on approval motivation. Thus, athletes are “more likely to view themselves positively…and are less likely to engage in approval seeking behavior than non-athletes” (Bailey, Moulton, & Moulton, 1999).

The ability of physical exercise to eliminate anxiety in university youth was investigated by Akandere and Tekin (2002). The sample was comprised of 311 students from Konya Selcuk University of Turkey who had never been involved in physical exercise. A sub-sample of sixty students who had the highest anxiety scores was split in half, so that thirty became the experimental group (which participated in organized physical activity) and the other thirty became the control group. Participation in physical exercise and physical activities decreased the anxiety level of both sexes.

Basking in Reflected Glory

Athletic activities relax the mind and “function as psychological and spiritual havens where disorder and moral ambiguities are resolved and managed through communal sport ritual practices and traditions” (Yiannakis et al., 2003, p.5). One of the perceived impacts lies in a concept called ‘Basking in Reflected Glory’ (BIRG). In Yiannakis et al.’s study, a majority of the respondents reported feeling ‘really good’ when their teams won and feeling ‘really bad’ when their teams lost. However, the relationship between sport-induced mood states, social identity, empowerment, and pro-social behavior is not fully understood and may require further inquiry.

One of the most popular studies on ‘BIRG’ was done by Cialdini et al. (1976)2. College students were found to be more likely to use the pronoun ‘we’ and to wear clothing that identified with their schools after a successful athletic weekend than during times when they had drawn or lost. Cialdini posited that people had a predisposition to associate with positive outcomes and make them their own. When one is ‘BIRG’, the person on the receiving end would not have done anything to bring the team’s success. Theirs is just to bask in unearned grandeur. When one’s team does well, it results in feelings of happiness, well-being, and collective euphoria. It has also been suggested that ‘BIRG’ improves mood in both individuals and communities.

On the flip side of the concept of ‘BIRG’ is ‘Cutting-Off Reflected Failure’ (CORF). The main ‘CORF’ strategy is to minimize the association between oneself and the losing team via several means, including by refusing to attend the teams’ matches’ and using terms such as ‘they’ rather than ‘we’. ‘CORF’ can be said to have somewhat positive results. The pessimism that precedes crucial matches can have the positive impact of uniting fans in the face of the possibility that it can all go wrong. Such an acceptance of a possible negative outcome can have the effect of protecting fans against disappointment as a result of failure. Having a shared moan can be a way of bonding3.

Reputation and Institutional Image

The reputation of an academic institution is closely tied to its sports programs (Cigliano, 2006; Pulsinelli et al, 1989). Thrilling performances by teams score points for the institution. High ranking sporting colleges are also ranked high in the academic arena.

The majority of respondents from Cigliano’s (2006) study mentioned a variety of values of publicity that athletic programs brought to the colleges, including a sense of excitement, activity, focus, free advertising, media coverage, service area communication, recruitment enhancement, and identity for local support to the institutions. The institutional image generated was said to be very positive. Good coverage amounted to free advertising. One of the presidents commented that:

Whether it is right or wrong, many people out in the community do not see anything in your college other than athletics. I mean, you have a certain constituent group out there that will even evaluate your college on how your athletic program is and people read about athletics in the paper. (Cigliano, p62).

In the study, athletic directors noted that visibility of their colleges was due more to athletics than any other department. They pointed out that institutional recognition is a function of the athletics program.

In a 2004 study, Frank mentioned the effect that spending on big time sports has on a university’s name recognition. Because these institutions are constantly making headlines in the public media, their names become more familiar to prospective students than those which are not publicized. This is likely to influence them in the college decision-making process. In such instances, “a big-time athletic program serves much like a national advertising campaign” (Frank, p15).

While athletes are students, they are also considered role models by their fans. People identify with role models on the sports field (Yiannakis et al., 2003). James Sheridan, a cross country athlete at Kenyon College, said, “athletes represent (their institutions) across the country and the type of attitude (they) project reflects on (the) entire learning institution” (Depew, 1999).


Athletics have a positive effect on enrollment. Pulsinelli, Borland, & Goff (1989) postulated that in order for sporting teams to be self financing, athletic teams would have to ‘attract’ a certain number of non-athletic students to the university. Enrollment data for the years 1960 to 1988 were analyzed with winning percentages for football and basketball. Overall, high sporting performance was associated with increased enrollment. This study alluded to the fact that recruiting high profile athletes might increase enrollment because of the indirect ‘attracting influence’ exerted on non-athlete aspiring students. When choosing among schools that offer athletic programs, non athletes prefer schools that have winning records to those that do not.

An impact study of Nichols State University (NSU) by Coats and Cox (2004), found that athletics have an effect on enrollment apart from the economic impact. Nicholls State’s athletic programs directly supported 239 student athletes. It was estimated that these student athletes drew an additional forty-three friends or relatives to NSU. Furthermore, of the 105 members of the marching band, approximately a third would have enrolled elsewhere were it not for the existence of the athletics program. Thus, the NSU athletics and associated programs were directly responsible for attracting 322 students to NSU. These students, in turn, supported approximately fourteen faculty positions.

Toma and Cross (1996) examined undergraduate admissions applications for institutions that won the NCAA Division I-A national football championship and those that won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the years 1979 through 1992. Increases were recorded in undergraduate admissions applications in years following a championship season. Fourteen out of sixteen schools that won or shared championships in football recorded increases in the number of applications. In basketball, ten out of thirteen schools recorded increases in applications following the NCAA Tournament championship.

Frank (2004) analyzed the effects of successful athletic programs on soliciting additional applications and donations by alumni and others. He postulated that universities continue to expand expenditures when they may fail to cover direct costs because the athletic programs may generate indirect benefits in other domains of sufficient value to make up the shortfall. The study stated that, “If students are indeed more likely to apply to an institution with a successful athletic program…such schools will be more selective than others on…the average SAT scores of entering freshmen.” McCormick and Tinsley (1987) validated this by asserting that freshmen entering a school would have an average SAT score about thirty-three points higher than it would if it did not have a big-time athletic program. They estimated a multiple regression in which the average SAT score was dependent on several variables, including whether the school had a thriving athletics program. Their data came from about 150 schools for the year 1971, sixty-three of which had big time athletic programs.

The opportunity to participate in athletics is a primary consideration for students (Cigliano, 2006). One community college president stated that the athletic program attracted between eighty to one-hundred students who would not be attending college if the athletic program were not available for them. Another said that sports had a significant impact on enrollment because of the influence athletes had in attracting girlfriends, friends, and peers.

Academic Performance

Student athletes in Colorado were shown to have ‘significantly higher’ grade-point averages than their non-sporting counterparts (NHFS, 2003). Those in Jefferson County high schools were also shown to have higher grade-point averages than their non-sporting peers. The latter school district has matched the academic success of its students with success on the playing field (NHFS, 2003).

Schildnecht (2002) quoted studies by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, the Colorado Department of Education, and the American College testing services to show that students who participated in sports performed better academically. Student athletes were also found to be more likely to graduate than their non-athletic counterparts.

In one study, which goes against the idea of athletics having a positive relationship with graduation rates, Mangold, Bean, and Adams (2003) explored the impact that athletic programs have on institutional graduation rates. Data on graduation rates for ninety-seven universities competing in NCAA Division IA basketball and football were regressed on several predictors. The results of the study did not support the hypothesis that colleges with successful sports programs would have higher graduation rates for students in general. On smaller campuses, involvement in a successful sports program was suggested to conflict with academic goals. This study provides an example of the post hoc fallacy. There’s probably some third variable that explains this negative relationship.

Lucas and Lovaglia (2002) found that non athletic scholars anticipated higher benefits from academic success than athletes. Their study, for which the sample was 135 students (of which thirty-three were athletes), sought to measure the perceptions of student athletes and non athletes regarding cost, benefit, and motivation towards academic success. They reported that student athletes had a lower motivation to perform academically than non athletes. This does not, however, necessarily support the notion that athletes struggle academically as compared to non athletes, as the authors suggested.

A study was done by Meier, Robinson, Polinard, and Wrinkle (2000) to see if pursuit of athletic goals had a negative impact on academic interests of universities as reflected by scores on the SAT and ACT. The data for the analysis came from Texas school districts for the years 1997-1998. Athletic budgets were found to have no relationship with school attendance. However, the study concluded that athletic budgets had a significant negative relationship with academic performance, although the statistical significance of the variables is unknown. The study acknowledges that there are positive benefits at the individual level. Whatever these impacts may be, it is tempting to suggest that these individual benefits, across the district, could collectively override the negative results of athletics across academic institutions.


Having reviewed literature pertaining to alumni donations, Frank (2004) concluded that there is evidence that links athletic success to alumni giving. Rhoads and Gerking (2000) also analyzed the role of success in intercollegiate football and basketball in attracting donations to universities from alumni and other sources. Results from regression analysis of panel data from eighty-seven universities showed that, year to year, changes in athletic success had a positive impact on alumni giving. Other donors were not as responsive. Longstanding athletic traditions were shown to attract charitable donations.

Clotfelter cited participation in extracurricular activities and athletics as one of the factors that affected alumni giving (2001). The study utilized a data set of graduates from fourteen private institutions and sought to establish factors associated with alumni donations. The data covered cohorts of individuals who entered the institutions in the fall of 1951, 1976, and 1989. The findings showed that over half of all donations were given by only 1% of all alumni, most of whom contribute annually.

In a 2000 study of 2,822 Vanderbilt University graduates, Dugan, Mullin, and Siegfried investigated alumni giving behavior during the eight years following their graduation. A probit model and a regression were run on the data of givers and non givers. Participation in athletics was found to generate a stronger sense of attachment to the university through group membership, a factor which would have a positive effect on giving. In addition, former athletes receive solicitations from special clubs of former athletes apart from the usual appeal for alumni contributions. For that reason, they are expected to contribute more than other graduates. Students who were members of athletic teams responded more favorably to requests for donations after graduation.

A Chance to Continue in Sport and Education

The awarding of scholarships to athletes affords the chance to further academic interests (Schildnecht, 2002). Athletic directors in Cigliano’s (2006) study expressed that athletics, “provides education for a group of people who might not be able to have an education.” Dropping athletic programs from state universities and community colleges would have the undesirable effect of removing opportunities for many student-athletes to follow their career goals and obtain an education while pursuing future success in athletics. For most, this will be the peak time of their sporting careers. Few venture into professional sports after college.

Negative Effects

A few issues can be raised concerning the negative effects of participation in college sports. Athletics consume time. Often, the athlete has to cope with the stress of attending to sporting obligations while fulfilling academic requirements. They have to submit assignments at the same time as every other student. For those who are not on scholarship, their families have to bear the increased burden of giving them pocket money, since they cannot manage jobs to supplement their incomes.

Stieber (1991) mentions the presence of a black market for athletes. In this situation, a supply and demand for cheaters exists coordinated by national sports bodies. The student athlete is generally discriminated against. The market for athletes is not a free market. It is, in reality, a monopoly. The buying cartel “exploits by eliminating the bidding process among its membership” (Stieber, 1991, p446). The resulting wage is lower for the athlete than what would be obtained in an uncontrolled market. The authors of this paper believe that Stieber’s argument would only hold for the very top tier of institutions, which have major revenue streams associated with football and basketball. For the other non-football and basketball athletes in those institutions and for the athletes in the rest of higher education, a full or partial scholarship may be more than the free market would generate.

Colleges have difficulty recruiting students who are good athletes and academically talented. Cigliano (2006) mentioned an apparent lack of preparation for college work for some of the student-athletes. However, this applied for the rest of the student body as well. Thus, it is not specific to student athletes.

Yiannakis et al. (2003) stated that sports were perceived to increase pollution by 62% of the respondents. Also, crime, gambling, alcohol abuse, and other illegal activities were viewed as increasing by up to 45%. Vandalism, assaults, and drug abuse were also feared to be increasing. There is a need, however, to establish the extent to which particular sports programs have a negative impact on a particular environmental setting.


Athletics are beneficial to student athletes, to universities, and to society at large. Research points almost incontrovertibly towards the advantages associated with intercollegiate sports. National bodies responsible for sports are generally pleased with the results that athletics yield and would not support plans to reduce support for sports. However, athletes have to work under stressful conditions because of tight schedules and the demanding nature of their work. In some cases, student athletes are exploited by unscrupulous individuals and sports organizations. Ultimately, though, the benefits of athletics outweigh the disadvantages, albeit they are difficult to quantify.


1 Gelsey Lynn, a cross country runner, as quoted by Depew, R (1999).

2 As cited by Posten, M. (1998).

3 The Mental Health Foundation: Football and Mental Health (n.d)


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Clotfelter, C. T. (1999). Who are the alumni donors? Giving by two generations of alumni from selective colleges. Nonprofit Management and Leadership. Vol 12(2). Pages 119-138

Coats, R. M., and Cox, K. C., (April 14, 2004). Economic impact of NSU athletics Retrieved May 29, 2006 from http://www.slec.org/uploads/EconomicImpact.pdf

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The Mental Health Foundation: Football and mental health (n.d) Retrieved June 23, 2006 from http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/page.cfm?pageurl=football.cfm

Frank, R. H. (2004). Challenging the myth: A review of the links among college athletic success, student quality, and donations: Prepared for the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Gerking, S., & Rhoads, T. A. (2000). Educational contributions, academic quality, and athletic success. Contemporary Economic Policy, 18, 248-254.

Lucas, J. W. and Lovaglia, M. J. (2002). Athletes’ expectations for success in athletics compared to academic competition: The Sport Journal Volume 5, Number 2.

McCormick, R., & Tinsley, M. (1987). Athletics versus academics? Evidence from SAT scores: Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 95: 1103-1116.

Mangold, William D. (2003). The impact of intercollegiate athletics on graduation rates among major NCAA Division I universities: Implications for college persistence theory and practice. The Journal of Higher Education Vol.74( 5), pp. 540-562. The Ohio State University Press.

Meier, K. J., Robinson, S., Polinard, J. L., & Wrinkle R. D. (2000). A question of priorities: Athletic budgets and academic performance. The Texas Educational Excellence Project.

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Green Sport: A Game Everyone Wins


Environmental responsibility, increasingly recognized as a central aspect of corporate social responsibility, is important not only for recreational sport firms, but for all sport organizations. Three primary motivations for sport firms to embrace environmental responsibility as a management competency are advanced. First, sound environmental stewardship is necessary to halt environmental degradation, maintain livable environments, and ensure the long-term economic health of the sport industry as a whole. Second, due to their unique relationships to their customers, sport organizations are positioned to become leaders in creating environmental awareness. Third, taking informed steps toward environmental responsibility can result in substantial economic benefits to sport organizations through more efficient resource usage and an enhanced image.


In recent years, the view that corporate social responsibility is an appropriate competency for business organizations has strengthened (e.g., Hopkins, 2003; Maignan & Ralston, 2002; Medhurst & Richards, 2003; Whitehouse, 2006). Despite the increasing concern with corporate social responsibility among both businesses and academicians, relatively little literature has focused specifically on it within the area of sport management. Notable exceptions include Bradish (2006), Chernushenko (2001), and Hums, Barr, and Guillion (1999).

Certainly, business organizations in the sport industry cannot be excepted from conversation about corporate social responsibility. Like all types of enterprise, those with sport as a main focus are open systems. As such, they have relations with numerous stakeholder groups inside and outside the organization, operate within particular localities, and make use of a variety of resources. Hums et al. (1999) recognized this relevance by identifying issues related to social responsibility that confront managers in each of five major areas of the sport industry-professional sport, intercollegiate sport, health and fitness, recreational sport, and facility management.

One of the most important aspects of corporate social responsibility is the idea that business organizations have responsibilities to the natural environment (Werhane and Freeman, 1999; Wood, 1991). Such environmental responsibilities are often discussed under the heading of corporate sustainability. However, as evidenced by presentations at the 2002 Corporate Sustainability Conference in Rotterdam, corporate sustainability is evolving into a broader concept which, like corporate social responsibility, embraces social issues (van Marrewijk, 2003a). For the sake of clarity, in this paper the notion of environmental responsibility will be termed simply that.

The fact that environmental responsibility has become an important consideration for businesses is reflected in findings by Maignan and Ralston (2002), who examined the websites of large companies in four countries: the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The researchers found that 78.8% of the UK firms, 70.8% of the Dutch firms, 62.1% of the French firms, and 47.1% of the U.S. firms mentioned the environment as a concern of the firm. Though the researchers did not investigate how adequately the companies’ actions matched their communications, the findings showed that many large companies, especially in Europe, claim to take environmental responsibility seriously.

Like the broader notion of corporate social responsibility, environmental responsibility is an important issue for organizations in the sport industry. Hums et al. (1999) recognized this by pointing out that environmental issues are proper concerns for managers in the area of recreational sports management. This is especially obvious for organizations in which business revolves around one or another outdoor sport which makes use of the natural environment. Whether the recreational sport enterprise is relatively large, such as a ski resort or a golf course, or small, such as a scuba diving operation, it is in the organizations’ interest to be good stewards of that environment. Recognition of the importance of sound environmental stewardship in recreational sport is reflected in initiatives such as Course Management Best Practices Guidelines (R&A, 2006), the result of a collaboration between the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of the U.K. and the European Golf Association, and Sustainable Slopes (NSAA, 2006) produced by the National Ski Areas Association headquartered in the U.S.

But the importance of environmental issues for the sport industry goes beyond recreational sport. Every organization in every sector of the industry is necessarily embedded within a natural and a human-made environment from which the organization derives inputs and creates outputs. The nature and volume of these inputs, and perhaps especially the outputs, cannot help but have an effect on the natural environment. Moreover, if the organization does not embrace its environmental responsibilities, this effect may be unacceptably detrimental. Thus, environmental responsibility can be seen as a fundamental aspect of social responsibility, relevant not only in recreational sport organizations but throughout the sport industry.

This relevance raises a number of critical questions for owners and managers of sport industry firms. They are the same questions asked by countless other business organizations. ‘What exactly are our environmental responsibilities? Just what measures to lighten our environmental footprint should the organization take? Why? Why should our organization do more in the way of supporting environmental sustainability than is legally mandated? How is fulfilling our environmental responsibilities, whatever they may be, supposed to relate to our primary purpose of creating value for our owners?’

These are questions which can be fully answered only through the leadership of owners and managers who have intimate knowledge of their businesses and are informed by detailed knowledge of the environmental options available to them. However, several considerations can be offered to lay a partial groundwork for developing those answers. In particular, three fundamental replies to the question of why a sport industry firm should take significant measures toward environmental sustainability can be offered:

  • First, as is becoming increasingly evident, it is in everyone’s interest for all businesses, in every industry, to make environmental sustainability a management competency and an aspect of organizational excellence.
  • Second, by taking environmental responsibilities seriously, organizations in the sport industry are uniquely positioned to communicate the value of environmental sustainability to large numbers of people.
  • Third, fulfilling environmental responsibilities can help the firm gain a competitive edge and create greater value for its owners.

The following three sections of the paper will elaborate on these basic answers to the question of why sport industry firms should embrace environmental responsibility as a management competency.

Reason 1: The Ethical Reason

The ethical argument for the claim that sport management firms should become environmental champions stands on two legs. The first leg is this: the mental model which views profit and growth as the only legitimate objectives of business has, as its logical conclusion, environmental disaster. If every business organization were to continue to act according to that model, the disturbingly rapid deterioration of the physical environment that has occurred over the past several decades would continue at a rapid rate. Forest degradation, the near elimination of a number of fisheries, air pollution, ocean and beach pollution, mercury poisoning, and global warming are only among the most well known of a long litany of environmental problems. The result of failing to become good stewards of the environment would be an increasingly polluted, unhealthy, dangerous, and unpredictable environment-for us, our neighbors, our children, and their children. And this, it is widely agreed, is unacceptable. Moreover, the mental model is self-contradictory. If profit and growth at all costs were truly the only legitimate objectives of business, then the mental model would eventually defeat itself. As a number of writers have pointed out recently (e.g., Adolphson, 2004; Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins, 1999; Odum, 1996; Prugh, 1999), to not take nature into account in our business plans and processes is economically disastrous. As these and other writers have clearly recognized, the natural world is the foundation of all economic wealth. Those who do not take care of that foundation will eventually find it unable to support them.

The second leg of the ethical argument is the following. Given that we know that if no business firm takes environmental responsibility seriously, then humankind-now and in the future-will pay a terrible price, for an individual firm not to do its part in the effort is unconscionable. A firm’s directors might surmise that by letting other businesses do all the work of maintaining proper environmental accounts, the firm would gain a competitive advantage. But even if this were true-and an argument will be given later in the paper that it is not-opting out of what other businesses embrace as their environmental responsibility is generally considered to be unjust. Fortunately, the majority of business owners and managers are able to reflect carefully on the manifold justifications for taking environmental responsibility seriously, and they have the foresight and imagination to see what must be done by all together. Not to do what needs to be done is not a failure of ethical reasoning or moral imagination according Al Gini (2006), co-founder of the Journal of Business Ethics, but a failure of will.

Reason 2: Sport Organizations Have a Unique Opportunity to Be Leaders in Environmental Responsibility

The argument just presented for taking environmental responsibility seriously was not formulated especially for organizations in the sport industry. The ethical reasons are sound for any business, large or small, in any industry. But the second reason why sport-centered organizations should embrace environmental responsibility is targeted specifically to them, and it rests on their unique nature.

That unique nature is a common thread that runs through the many varieties of business in the sport industry-the fact that sport firms are distinguished from other business entities by the kind of services they provide and their relationships to their customers. Many businesses, perhaps especially manufacturing firms, have a large customer base but little direct contact with customers. Other businesses may have direct contact, but their customer base is relatively small and unchanging. However, sport enterprises generally have both-direct contact with their customers, and a continuous, often sizeable inflow of customers that purchase the firm’s services. Whether the organization’s business consists of a professional sport team, a health and fitness club, a recreational sport business such as a skating rink or a mountain biking venue, or a large sports facility, in most cases the firm deals directly with a more or less steady stream-and often quite a large one-of customers.

This provides sport organizations with an opportunity that is unavailable to many other kinds of business. By making environmental responsibility a management competency and committing to environmental sustainability, the organization has the opportunity to multiply its environmental efforts by transmitting environmental responsibility as a value to its customers. The firm need not do this in a heavy-handed way. Simply by letting customers know that it is committed to the goal of environmental sustainability and that it is undertaking substantial efforts to attain that objective, the organization will tend to strengthen the ideal of caring for the environment in customers’ minds. This is important because environmental responsibility is not just an issue for organizations; it is also a job for individuals and families. Whatever makes it more likely for those fundamental social units to increase their environmentally responsible behavior is a valuable addition to the ideal of environmental sustainability. By modeling responsible environmental behavior, the organization helps to make that behavior more likely.

It is important to note that a sport organization’s modeling of sound environmental stewardship may not foster a significant difference in most of its customers’ environmental behavior. Indeed, the extent of its effect would be a useful project for future research. However, if even a few customers were impressed by the organization’s commitment to environmental sustainability and thus embraced the ideal more strongly than before, then the organization’s efforts would be multiplied by some factor. Most sport organizations are, by their nature, uniquely positioned to have such a positive effect.

Reason 3: Environmental Sense Makes Economic Sense

The third reason for sport management firms to embrace environmental responsibility as a management competency is that it can increase profitability. This claim is based on two main considerations. First, many of the actions which a firm can take to better fulfill its environmental responsibilities can make resource use more efficient, thereby reducing waste and leading to increased savings. Second, by strongly embracing the notion of environmental responsibility and clearly communicating its stance to actual and potential customers, the firm can increase the value of its image and its brand, while making its services more attractive. Together, the two considerations can provide a distinct competitive advantage for the sport management firm. These advantages will be discussed in order.

Environmental Initiatives Can Be Savings Opportunities

A growing literature promotes and elucidates the view that what makes sense environmentally for companies can also make good economic sense (e.g., Adolphson, 2004; Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins, 1999). A major way in which environmentally friendly measures can add to the company’s bottom line is through decreasing waste. Lovins, Lovins, & Hawken (1999) furnish a number of relevant examples. For instance, over a six-week period, Dow Chemical Europe reduced paper usage by 30% in its Swiss headquarters by discouraging the proliferation of unnecessary information. At the same time, labor productivity increased because employees were reading less unnecessary information. Other cost- and resource-saving examples reported by Lovins et al. include copying only on both sides of a paper, using wood fiber more efficiently, and recycling. Indeed, measures as simple as improving insulation and managing thermostat settings can save significant energy-and thus money.

In the short term, each specific measure may lead only to relatively small savings for the environment and the company; however, a comprehensive program that addresses a variety of environmental issues can, over time, result in substantial savings for the company while significantly lessening the cost to the environment of doing business. Lovins et al. (1999) reported that Johnson & Johnson Company saved $2.8 million during a 30-month campaign of reducing paper and packaging waste, while saving the equivalent of 330 annual acres of trees.

A first step a sport organization can take to determine where energy and other resources can be used more efficiently and waste reduced is to determine inputs and outputs of all business processes. Green & Gold (1999), in an environmental management and monitoring report for large sporting events and facilities which was prepared for Sport Canada, lists areas of environmental concern that are relevant to many kinds of sport organization. Questions that sport managers can ask about these areas include the following. ‘Are there improvements that can be made in the company’s practices insofar as they reduce any adverse effects on nearby air, water, and land? How can current energy and waste management strategies be improved? Are facilities and transportation being managed in the most environmentally responsible ways?’ Each of these areas can be evaluated with an eye toward environmental sustainability to more efficiently use resources and decrease waste.

Not every environmental initiative will lead to immediate savings. Furthermore, economic payoff should not be the sole factor in deciding whether to implement environmental initiatives. However, many environmentally friendly endeavors can also be justified on the basis of economic value to the business in the short or the long term. To determine such win-win initiatives, knowledge is needed. There is a growing wealth of information about the intersection of business and environmental sustainability in books, on the Internet, and in journals such as Organization and Environment, the Journal of Environment and Development, and the Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. In light of this information, the traditional notion that it is always too costly to embrace environmental responsibility beyond government mandates is losing ground. In relation to major sport events, Green & Gold (1999) maintained that the managerial view that environmental initiatives for large sporting events are always expensive is false. “Scores of organizations are proving that good environmental management is either revenue neutral or ultimately a source of savings or new opportunities” (p. 15). Much the same can be said for the sport industry overall.

Practicing ER Can Enhance Reputation

A second economic benefit that can accrue to sport organizations by making environmental responsibility a management competency is an improved reputation in the eyes of customers. According to Maignan and Ralston (2002), recent research suggests that embracing corporate social responsibility may be an effective way for firms to enhance their image among stakeholders. Argenti, Druckenmiller, & Novelli (2003) agree, holding that corporate social responsibility can enhance corporate brand image. Since environmental responsibility is one main aspect of social responsibility, it follows that much the same can be said for firms that embrace environmental responsibility. By acting in an environmentally responsible way, the organization can be seen as being, in a sense, a sponsor of the natural environment. Given that practicing corporate social responsibility-and thus environmental responsibility-is a form of cause-related marketing (Irwin, Lachowetz, Cornwell, & Clark, 2003), making environmental responsibility an organizational cause can be a useful marketing tool for sport organizations.

In particular, several of the benefits cited by Brown (2000) as sought by Olympic sponsors can be seen as benefits that can accrue to firms that “sponsor” environmental sustainability. These include:

  • Image enhancement through association with an important cause
  • Enhanced awareness of the firm and its services
  • Differentiation from competitors
  • Connecting to a market niche (presumably quite large) concerned with environmental issues
  • Enhancement of the firm’s reputation for being socially responsible

A condition for this tool to be effective is for management to communicate its environmental efforts to customers. It is important that such promotion not be perceived as self-aggrandizing, because there is evidence that information communicated by organizations about their environmental performance and other corporate social responsibility initiatives is sometimes discounted by the public (Dando & Swift, 2002, as reported by van Marrewijk, 2003b). While noting the value of a media strategy for communicating environmental efforts, Green & Gold (1999) emphasized the importance of being open and honest about those efforts. Communicating to the media and customers the specific actions that an organization is taking to fulfill environmental responsibilities, without exaggerating, might be the most effective strategy.

Trust is the key. Siltaoja (2006) found that the most significant factor affecting company reputation is trust. One aspect of this is goodwill trust, which occurs when the company does more than is formally required. By going beyond what is legally mandated, the sport organization can build significant goodwill by publicizing, in a clear and straightforward manner, its efforts and the reasons behind them.


In sum, environmental responsibility is as important for sport-industry enterprises as it is for all organizations. This paper has highlighted three reasons for sport firms to embrace environmental responsibility. First, and perhaps foremost, protecting a natural environment that faces severe human-caused problems is every individual’s and every organization’s job. In addition, sport firms are in a position to be leaders in promulgating environmental responsibility by modeling the ideal of environmental sustainability for their customers. Finally, by fulfilling their environmental responsibilities, sport organizations can, in many instances, create opportunities for savings while enhancing their image and their brand.


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Acclimatization in High-Altitude Sport: Predictive Modeling of Oxygen Saturation as an Expedition Management Tool


A management perspective is taken in developing a predictive model to forecast blood oxygen saturation levels for trekkers and mountaineers ascending to high altitudes. Blood oxygen saturation is an important indicator of risk of acute mountain sickness and other potentially lethal health risks for high-altitude athletes. This model is based on data collected from a seventeen-person expedition to Mt. Everest. The results of the model are compared to actual saturation levels and the model is found to be a good predictor. The practical implication is that an oximeter and the results it produces are useful tools for expedition managers and base camp managers charged with the safety of a multi-person expedition.


Mountaineering expeditions can include individuals from varied backgrounds of varied levels of fitness possessing a wide range of technical abilities. They are often led by seasoned climbers and typically involve some external parties who bring needed resources to the table. Such third parties can include university-level researchers, corporate sponsors, or philanthropists who support mountaineering. Regardless of their specific interests, these third parties alter the reality of an expedition, as they have their own objectives and, due to resource contributions, possess considerable influence.

In April 2005, the authors of this paper were part of the core organizing team for a major expedition to Mount Everest – a climbing and research expedition in the Khumbu region of Nepal. The expedition – known officially as the Kanatek Expedition to Mount Everest – involved seventeen individuals, including a mountaineer summit aspirant, several support climbers, sponsors, researchers, research assistants, and trekkers. The unusually diverse nature of the team composition, in terms of goals and objectives, physical fitness, and mountaineering experience, posed many challenges for the management of the expedition.

It was in the course of this expeditionary experience that the importance of physiological measures to the overall management of a large team became clear. A high-altitude mountaineering expedition into remote locations must be self-sufficient in maintaining the health and well-being of participants, and in the logistical supports needed to keep the team moving upwards. In the harsh, highly interdependent, and under-resourced environment that is the Khumbu region, a single expedition member becoming sick may mean the end of a summit bid, the loss of key research time, and overall dissatisfaction and low momentum for the entire team. Yet practical time and cost constraints and ongoing mobility requirements act to limit the availability of information to assist expedition managers in monitoring team performance and managing risks during the ascent.

Typically, the expedition manager faces many complex decision tasks based only on scant information about altitude and weather reports for the team location and planned route, and on the apparent health and acclimatization of the team members. In large expeditions, individualistic and continual assessment of team health is not practical. It therefore is often managed by exception – progress upwards continues unabated unless a team member comes forth with a health complaint. But social pressures may conspire to hide complaints from the expedition manager, as they may entail delays for the rest of the ambitious and highly motivated team. As a result, the exception and the attendant health risk may be apparent only at a late stage, when the feasible range of mitigating actions of the expedition manager may be limited or may entail risks and costs of their own. For example, during our expedition we witnessed a case where a participant of another expedition continued to ascend despite declining health. When the situation was discovered that night, the only response available to that expedition manager was to strap the participant onto a horse obtained from a neighboring village and send the horse down precarious trails into a lower altitude valley during the dark of night. The risks to the participant and the continuing logistical challenges for the expedition manager are both obvious and severe.

It is in response to the challenge of managing team and individual progress in the face of extremely limited management information that we set out to develop a predictive tool for expedition managers – something to assist in the proactive management of health risks for participants and the logistical management of expedition resources and team progression. It is the thesis of this research that the development of a predictive model will provide valuable knowledge and key management information for researchers in mountaineering and for planners and managers of expeditions. Our purpose is to develop a predictive model of physiological acclimatization, based on empirical data from high-altitude sport, suitable for assisting with the management of expeditions into remote alpine regions. More specifically, our objective is to construct a model that can predict blood oxygen saturation based on current altitude and heart rate and on lagged values (i.e., previous values in the time series) of all three indicators.

Literature Review:

The relevant literature for this study stems from two areas: sport management and physiology of acclimatization. Each is briefly presented here.

Sport Management

As with many niche areas of sport management literature (e.g., endurance sport, action sport, etc.), limited attention has been paid to the unique aspects of high-altitude sport (Costa, 2005). Further, although mountaineers are often engaged as subjects in physiology and psychology studies, the literature targeted at developing best practices for the supporting expedition managers and marketers in high-altitude sport is non-existent. General outdoor leisure has received some attention in the literature, in studies often focused on understanding that people take part in outdoor activities seeking to partake in activities that provide ‘personal difference’, given that day-to-day work and life patterns are becoming increasingly similar amongst members of modern society (Bouchet, 1994). As Varley and Crowther point out, climbers involve themselves in outdoor recreation for four basic purposes (Varley and Crowther, 1998): (i) that their roles as participants are congruent with their expected roles as climbers, (ii) that the experience builds towards their future visions of themselves, (iii) performance and (iv) that they are becoming part of a specific community through the shared experiences and rituals that happen. Recently, the literature has evolved to include topics like ecotourism (Herbig and O’Hara, 1997) and action sports (Bennet, Henson et al., 2002). Although mountaineering is not specifically identified in much of this literature, it certainly falls under the scope of such studies.

In considering the best managerial practices for the constrained and challenging environment that is an expedition, the literature provides little direct help. Indirectly, tactics can be drawn from the literature on sport consumer behaviour. Considerable research exists on participation in sporting activities (Kahle, Kambara et al., 1996; McDonald, Milne et al., 2002; Funk, Mahony et al., 2003), although the majority of the literature is based on indirect participation (spectating) as opposed to direct participation. In most cases, the focus is on motivating fan or volunteer attendance at an event (Van Zyl and Botha, 2004). Other studies have called for increased understanding of the sport consumer in lifestyle sports to further explore the participant-spectator relationship (Schouten and McAlexander, 1995; Funk, Mahony et al., 2003).


Human activity at high altitudes, such as mountaineering and aircraft flight, exposes participants to an environment characterized by many physical hazards – reduced atmospheric pressure, reduced oxygen levels (hypoxia), reduced temperatures, and increased solar radiation. These environmental changes result in many physiological changes in the body, including oxygen consumption, pulmonary ventilation, blood oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and blood chemistry (Basu, Gautam et al., 1996). Of these, hypoxia poses several unique challenges for athletes, those exposed to high altitudes, and those exposed to hypoxia through other mechanisms (sleep apnea, cerebral trauma, etc.) (Wilson, 1996; Sajkov, Marshall et al., 1998).

Hypoxia impacts human physical performance. In a review of studies of high-altitude athletic performance, Fulco et al found that performance of many forms of exercise is impaired, and that this impairment is correlated with altitude. But they also found that this impairment becomes somewhat reduced with prolonged exposure at that altitude (Fulco, Rock et al., 1998). This reduction in negative performance is due to the body acclimatizing to the reduced oxygen levels.

More important than this negative performance impact, continued exposure to high altitude and hypoxia creates serious risks to the health of the individual. Climbers and trekkers may suffer from acute mountain sickness (AMS) or potentially life-threatening edemas. In the case of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), elevated blood pressure leads to the transport of blood plasma across the blood/brain barrier. The resulting injury to brain tissue can cause severe discomfort, cognitive impairment, coma, and death in mere hours. In the case of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), the elevated blood pressure leads to the transport of blood plasma into the aveoli of the lungs. The resulting flooding of lung structures can cause difficulty breathing and eventual death due to drowning in one’s own fluids – again in mere hours (Hackett, 1980; Bezruchka, 1994; Houston, 1998; Dietz, 2005; HRA, 2005; HRA, 2005a).

When exposed to high-altitude hypoxic environments, the body makes several adaptations over time (Houston, 1998; Green, Roy et al., 2001). These acclimatization responses can take many forms. More red blood cells are produced to carry oxygen. The lungs increase in size to facilitate the gaseous exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide (Cerny, Dempsey et al., 1973). There is also an increase in the vascular network of muscles, which enhances the transfer of gases. But these adaptations are rate delimited. Sudden exposure to high-altitude hypoxic environments, without allowing time for acclimatization, can lead to loss of consciousness in minutes. At 6,000 m, an unacclimatized individual will typically have five to twelve minutes of usable consciousness. At 7,500 m, this time is reduced to three to five minutes. At the Everest summit, only one to two minutes are available (Allstar 2004).

The physical and performance risks of extreme altitude can therefore be managed by controlling one’s rate of ascent. If the ascent is slow enough, the body can sufficiently acclimatize to mitigate these physiological risks. An ascent-rate heuristic adopted by many trekkers, and recommended by the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA), is to gain no more that 300m altitude in a single day (Dietz, 2005; HRA, 2005). Any days where the altitude gain exceeds this should be followed by a rest day in which the trekkers gain no additional altitude. During this rest day, the body can further acclimatize and the individual can be monitored for early symptoms of detrimental health issues.

The Expedition:

In April 2005, the authors participated in a research expedition to the Khumbu region of Nepal, including a trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest and an ascent of the mountain itself. This expedition was an interdisciplinary endeavour that brought together researchers and support personnel from four countries to share in the objective of obtaining data for thirteen diverse research projects. These projects ranged from tourism management studies based in the tourist areas of Kathmandu, to physiological and psychological studies conducted at high altitudes on Mt. Everest.

The journey from Kathmandu to Everest base camp involves a forty-five minute flight to Lukla airstrip (altitude 2840m), followed by a ten-day trek up to base camp (5400m). Figure 1 shows the altitude of the expedition team during this multi-day ascent, as well as the names of the various towns and villages where overnight camps were established. The long plateaus at Namche (3440m) and Dingboche (4410m) reflect the rest days that were included. These rest days allowed additional time for physiological acclimatization after unusually large altitude gains on the previous days.

Figure 1: Altitude Profile
Figure 1: Altitude Profile

In addition to adherence to the HRA heuristic for altitude gain, the expedition team monitored the oxygenation of blood for all members during the ascent. Any members who displayed a significant drop in oxygen saturation, despite not exhibiting symptoms of AMS, would be required to remain at the current altitude for an additional rest day with a support crew, and would rejoin the main expedition later at base camp. The regular and periodic monitoring of blood oxygen saturation levels was, therefore, an established protocol for the expedition, separate from the use of such data for the current study.


Participants in this study comprised the seventeen members of the research team, which had three women and fourteen men, ranging in age from 22 to 63. The range of physical fitness and outdoor recreational activity for these participants varied widely, with some subjects being multiple participants in triathlons and “Iron Man” competitions or being experienced mountaineers, and other subjects coming from thirty years of sedentary office jobs and having never before hiked in strenuous terrain. These less-active subjects had participated in a six-month training program prior to the expedition, which included weekly 300-floor stair climbs in the office towers of downtown Toronto. Eight of the participants had no prior experience of being at very high altitudes of over 3,700 metres (Curtis 1995); only two had been at such altitudes on more than two prior occasions.

Three measures were collected: altitude, resting heart rate, and SpO2 peripheral blood oxygen saturation level. Altitude was measured by reference to a topographic map (NGS, 2000), where current location was assessed by experienced trekkers on the expedition team, including one professional geographer. This altitude measurement was further validated by comparison to barometric altitude readings obtained from wristwatch devices carried by two other expedition members.

Heart rate and saturation were measured by use of a Nonin 9500 Onyx digital finger pulse oximeter. This oximeter is small and inexpensive, making it a feasible addition to the equipage for a mountaineering expedition manager. The non-invasive device is applied to a fingertip, and uses the transmission of light from an LED through the finger tissue to determine pulse and blood oxygen levels. Blood oxygen level is inferred by a spectroscopic analysis of the light transmission; simply put, oxygenated blood is a different color, and this difference can be observed by the device. After a short delay, measures of heart rate and saturation are displayed by the device on a numeric display. Such oximetry devices have a long history of use in physiological research and for high-altitude health monitoring (Wong, 1945; Powers, Dodd et al., 1989; Fearnley, 1995; O’Connor, Dubowitz et al., 2004).

Two precautionary protocols were observed for all readings to improve the reliability of the device readings. First, to account for differing levels of prior activity, each subject must have been sitting and resting for at least fifteen minutes prior to reading the heart rate. Secondly, fingertips must have been at normal surface body temperature, to prevent artificially lower saturation readings due to vasoconstriction in cold fingers (Powers, Dodd et al., 1989; Awad, Ghobashy et al., 2001). This became progressively more challenging as we ascended to higher and colder altitudes, so steps were taken ensure fingertips were at normal body temperatures before readings. The quality and quantity of data collection was unchanged as the expedition progressed higher.

These data were collected twice daily from each participant: immediately before breakfast and immediately before dinner (typically 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. respectively). At these times, all expedition members were gathered together, and would have had similar prior activity levels (e.g., general light activity around camp). Data were recorded electronically on a handheld PDA device and were later converted to an Excel file on a PC. Figure 2 shows the average blood saturation level for the team over the course of the ascent to Everest base camp, while figure 3 shows the corresponding average resting heart rate.

Figure 2: Blood Oxygen Profile
Figure 2: Blood Oxygen Profile

Figure 3: Heart Rate Profile
Figure 3: Heart Rate Profile


The data were imported into SPSS (version 12.0) for analysis and model-building, via ordinary least squares linear regression.

Since the expedition group remained together for the duration of the ten-day ascent, the same altitude measures were ascribed to all members each day. Blood saturation and heart rate measures were individually recorded, and were subsequently averaged for the group. Checks for heteroskedacity of these measures were performed through visual inspection of the superimposed individual trend graphs.

A number of simple data transformations were made prior to modeling attempts. The altitude profile of figure 1 was made linear by squaring the data. The non-stationary trend data for all three variables was made stationary by first-differencing. The resulting stationary data was checked for normality using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test (Kolmogorov 1941).

The modified data was then used to construct a vector auto-regression predictive model (Cooley and LeRoy, 1981; Pagan, 1987; Pagan, 1995). Vector auto-regression is an atheoretical approach to predictive modeling that makes no restrictive a priori assumptions about which independent variables may account for variance in the dependent variables. Rather, it assumes that all variables may have influence on all other variables, and therefore a vector of all variables is auto-regressed to lagged values of the same vector.

<tdstyle=”border-right: solid thin #000000;”>ASD1

Table 1: Regression Model Results
Model Unstandardized
t ρ
B SE Beta
Constant -.436 .803 -.543 .595
ASD2 .241 .260 .175 .928 .367
SD2 -.594 .218 -.618 -2.723 .015
SD3 .084 .268 .086 .313 .758
HD2 -.184 .109 -.375 -1.682 .112
.224 .234 .162 .957 .353
HD1 -.240 .097 -.506 -2.472 .025
ASD3 -.435 .236 -.315 -1.846 .083
HD3 -.071 .095 -.141 -.745 .467

SD1 – Dependent variables; saturation difference, current period
SD2 – Saturation difference, one period previous
SD3 – Saturation difference, two periods previous
HD1 – Heart rate difference, current period
HD2 – Heart rate difference, one period previous
HD3 – Heart rate difference, two periods previous
ASD1 – Altitude squared difference, current period
ASD2 – Altitude squared difference, one period previous
ASD3 – Altitude squared difference, two periods previous

Although vector auto-regression is an atheoretical approach, we allowed theoretical considerations to inform our choice of lags to include in the model. Both heart rate and saturation are physiological responses to increases in altitude and are subject to acclimatization of the body (Dietz, 2005; HRA, 2005). Full acclimatization can take several days, but for trekkers who make occasional gains in excess of 300m, substantive improvements in acclimatization can be achieved by resting at current altitude for twenty-four hours (Dietz 2005). For this reason, we included lagged variables for the two previous semi-daily readings (i.e., twelve hours prior and twenty-four hours prior). In effect, we created a regression model in which blood oxygen saturation level is predicted by previous values of saturation, heart rate, and altitude. The regression results for this model are presented in table 1, showing both standardized and unstandardized regression coefficients, as well as significance levels. This regression yielded an R2 of 0.706, indicating that high proportion of the variation in observed saturation levels can be accounted for and predicted by the independent variables of the model. The model is overall significant at ρ = 0.044 despite the low significance of some of the individual coefficients (see table 1), reflecting a multicollinearity common to vector autoregression models. In equation form, the model of table 1 can be represented as:

SD1 = – 0.618*SD2 + 0.086*SD3 – 0.506*HD1 – 0.375*HD2 – 0.141*HD3 + 0.162*ASD1 + 0.175*ASD2 – 0.315*ASD3 + error

Or, in terms of the measured variables without transformation:

St = St-1 – 0.618*(St-1 – St-2) + 0.086*(St-2 – St-3) – 0.506*(Ht – Ht-1) – 0.375*(Ht-1 – Ht-2) – 0.141*(Ht-2 – Ht-3) + 0.162*(At*At – At-1*At-1) + 0.175*(At-1*At-1 – At-2*At-2) – 0.315*(At-2*At-2 – At-3*At-3) + error

Where Si is saturation (%) at time i
Hi is heart rate (bpm) at time i
Ai is altitude (m) at time i

Vector autoregression is an atheoretical approach, so caution should be used in interpreting these results. Large and significant coefficients do not necessarily suggest causal relationships; they suggest relationships of high predictive validity only. In the case of the current model, the results suggest that blood oxygen saturation can be meaningfully predicted from historical saturation levels, as well as the recent profile of altitude gain and resting heart rates. The largest predictive factors are the twelve-hour changes in saturation level and heart rate, and the twenty-four hour changes in heart rate.

The regression model based on standardized coefficients was initially tested by using it to forecast the average group saturation data shown in figure 2. Figure 4 compares of the actual and forecasted saturation levels for the twenty-five forecastable measurement points (two initial points are lost due to differencing).

Figure 4: Model Aggregate Forecast Performance
Figure 4: Model Aggregate Forecast Performance

The fit of the model to the actual observed data appears very good, but may be benefiting from regression to the mean. Of greater practical importance to expedition managers would be the model’s ability to accurately predict saturation levels for individuals. Figure 5 shows the same model applied to individual data for three of the participants. The predictive ability of the model still appears to be good.

Figure 5: Individual Forecast Performance


The safety of sports recreation and sports management at high altitudes remains a challenge, especially for inherently high-risk sports such as mountaineering. The objective hazards of the alpine environment are exacerbated by subjective hazards due to choices made in climbing practices. Of these, the rate of ascent and time allowed for acclimatization are especially important, as the dangers of AMS and high-altitude edemas are ever-present and potentially very serious. To the extent that the present model can be used to make first-order estimates of expected blood oxygen saturation, it may be helpful to trekkers, climbers, and others who manage travel to high altitudes. With its limitations, the present study has yielded a model that provides a fairly good ability to make such forecasts, and might prove useful as one of many tools in a complete program of mountain safety precautions.

The development of such a model provides expedition managers with a simple and practical tool to monitor and assess the performance of teams involved in high-altitude sport activities. It provides managers with an additional tool to predict performance and acclimatization of teams and individuals and to assess their teams and prevent major issues with AMS as an ‘early warning system’. To illustrate with a specific example, we refer to the case of Participant 15 shown in figure 5. Had the present model been available to the manager of this expedition, it would have provided guidance for the proactive monitoring of this participant, and for decision-making with respect to the rate of progress for the entire expedition team. First, the model highlights a rapid decline in saturation during Periods 24 and 25, indicating a need for close medical monitoring for signs of deteriorating performance or growing safety risks. A prolonged drop in saturation could have necessitated a halt to the progress of the expedition team up the mountain, or even resulted in sending this individual and a support team down to lower altitudes to recover. Either of these scenarios would have entailed significant costs and logistical challenges for the expedition manager. Augmented with data for the next day, the model subsequently predicts a recovery of the individual saturation level to 80% by the following day, suggesting that the continuation of the team ascent was still a feasible option for the expedition manager. In both cases, the subsequent acclimatization of the individual unfolded as the model predicted. But, absent the model, the expedition manager faced a much more difficult risk management challenge.

These results, although certainly limited, suggest that an oximeter and twice-daily data analysis are useful in determining the adaptation levels of all team members and in making decisions about rate of team progress and the close monitoring of individuals. The larger the team managed, the more helpful the tool is likely to be, as regular and direct observation of all individual team members becomes more difficult in larger expeditions. Although more research is certainly required in the area, the authors feel that this study shows evidence of how science and technology can support management in a highly constrained sports environment, and they plan to continue their work in the area.


The generalizability of this model from a data analysis point of view may be limited by the variation and representativeness of the subjects that were included. While the sample exhibited significant variation in ages, fitness levels, and prior experience, it was less variable in other factors, such as gender and ethnicity. The variables included in the model were single-item measures, which raises potential reliability concerns. Moreover, validity concerns can be raised related to the control of variables that were not measured or included in the model. In particular, the depth of ventilation during or immediately prior to oximetry measurement, including the possibility of hyperventilation (either conscious or unconscious), may impact the reliability of heart rate and saturation measures. Furthermore, to the extent that conscious changes in breathing patterns may influence oximetry readings, the threat of social desirability bias also appears. Since a low saturation score carried the implied threat of being left behind by the main group, participants may have had incentive to attempt to inflate their saturation scores.


This study is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Sean Egan, an expedition team member who tragically perished on the slopes of Mt. Everest during his bid to reach the summit. Dr. Egan was a fine researcher, an accomplished climber, and an excellent human being who inspired us all.


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Introducing a Risk Assessment Model for Sport Venues


With the ‘unknown certainty’ of terrorist actions and fan behavior, it is impossible to ensure a risk-free environment at America’s sporting venues. Incidents will happen and emergencies will arise. It is a matter of how one prepares, responds, and recovers to mitigate the consequences of emergencies at a sporting venue. Sport venue managers need to be aware of risk assessment methodologies to detect threats, identify vulnerabilities, and reduce consequences. Information gathered through this process is extremely valuable for enhancing security measures. This article discusses risk assessment and analysis, addresses the need for risk assessments at sporting venues, and describes the sport-specific risk assessment model developed while conducting research through a Homeland Security grant.


Sport lost its innocence on September 5, 1972, at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany (CNN.com, 2002). A Palestinian group known as Black September crept into the Olympic Village and took nine members of the Israeli team hostage. The captors demanded a safe exit out of Germany and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails (2002). Unfortunately, a failed rescue attempt led to the death of all nine Israeli hostages, five terrorists, and one German policeman (2002). “For the first time, world sport had become a victim of terrorism, bringing with it a brutal reminder of the world’s harsher realities” (2). Terrorism struck again in 1996. A ‘domestic terrorist’ was responsible for the Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the Atlanta Games. This incident killed one person and injured more than 100 (CNN.com, 1996). Regardless of the motives for these attacks, terrorists chose to act on a world stage that offered global exposure for their cause. The incident in which an Oklahoma student prematurely detonated a bomb strapped to his body outside a football stadium packed with 84,000 in October 2005 (Hagmann, 2005), and the most recent threat of a dirty bomb attack on several NFL stadiums in October 2006 (CNN.com, 2006), emphasize the fact that sport venues are an attractive target for potentially catastrophic consequences. Besides terrorism, sport venue managers must plan for other incidents or unexpected disasters, such as fan/player violence or natural hazards.

One problem that sports venue manager’s face is determining the potential threat level, “causing leagues, teams and venues to prepare for a range of possible incidents at their facilities and to maintain close contact with federal, state and local law enforcement representatives regarding possible threats” (Hurst, Zoubek, Pratsinakis, n.d., p. 4). The risk assessment process is a way to determine risk and threat levels and identify vulnerabilities. “A good risk management approach includes three primary elements: a threat assessment, a vulnerability assessment, and a criticality assessment.” (Decker, 2001, p. 1). These assessments provide vital information for the protection of critical assets against terrorist attacks and other threats. Sport venue managers are able to identify vulnerabilities and thus harden the facility and improve physical protection systems. This may include implementing access controls, using CCTV security cameras, adding lighting, encouraging background checks, credentialing, checking backpacks, enhancing communication networks, and developing or updating emergency response and evacuation plans.

Understanding Risk

“Risk is the possibility of loss resulting from a threat, security incident, or event” (General Security Risk Assessment Guideline, 2003, p. 5). Risk is inherent in almost all aspects of life. Sport venue managers must continually attempt to minimize risk at their facilities. Risk cannot be totally eliminated from the environment, but with careful planning it can be managed. “Risk management is a systematic and analytical process to consider the likelihood that a threat will endanger an asset, individual, or function and to identify actions to reduce the risk and mitigate the consequences of an attack” (Decker, 2001, p. 1).

Risk is best understood as the product of the consequence of an event and the probability of the event occurring: Risk = Consequence x Probability (“Risk 101”, n.d). Risk increases as the consequences and probability of occurrence increases (n.d.). “In order to manage risk, it must first be identified, measured, and evaluated” (4). The Vulnerability Methodologies Report (2003) issued by the Office for Domestic Preparedness, Department of Homeland Security, identified three types of risk: mission or function risks, asset risks, and security risks. Mission risks prevent an organization from accomplishing a mission. Asset risks may harm an organization’s physical assets. Security risks have the potential to cripple actual data and people (2003).

Sport facility managers identify risks through various means. They can conduct surveys of attendees, conduct inspections of the facility, interview present employees, or ask experts in the field (Ammon, Southall, & Blair, 2004). Sport facility managers must address primary and secondary factors in order to reduce risk (2004). Primary factors are identified in the standard operating procedures. Facility staff is included among these factors (2004). An unsupervised or improperly trained ticket taker, usher, or cashier can become a risk for the facility manager (2004). “A well-trained staff, educated about proper risk management procedures, can help the risk manager to identify potential risks” (p. 108). Secondary factors of risk faced by most sport facilities include weather, type of event, patron demographics, and facility location (2004).

The essence of risk is dependent on the potential of threats. “A threat is a product of intention and capability of an adversary, both manmade and natural, to undertake an action which would be detrimental to an asset” (Vulnerability Assessment Report, 2003, p. 11). Vulnerabilities expose the asset to a threat and eventual loss. The General Security Risk Assessment Guideline (2003) defines vulnerability as “an exploitable capability; an exploitable security weakness or deficiency at a facility, entity, venue, or of a person” (p. 5). A risk analysis evaluating the potential of loss from a threat will determine whether risk should be reduced, re-assigned, transferred, or accepted (Vulnerability Assessment Report, 2003). “An acceptable risk is the risk level that an individual or group considers reasonable for the perceived benefit of an activity” (“Risk 101”, n.d., Acceptable Risk 1). An acceptable level of risk is usually determined by the asset manager or owner (2003). Severe risks that cause a high degree of loss and occur frequently should be avoided (Ammon, Southall, & Blair, 2004). Average frequency and moderate severity risks can be transferred to someone who’s willing to assume the risk. The facility manager may decide to pay an insurance company to cover physical and financial damages (2004). Some facility mangers may decide to keep or retain the risk. In so doing, they become financially responsible (2004). Facility managers can reduce risk through staff training, preventative maintenance, and development of a risk management plan to be included in the standard operating procedure (SOP) (2004). “The SOP is a set of instructions giving detailed directions and appropriate courses of action for given situations. SOP’s should be developed for all risks,” (Farmer, Mulrooney, & Ammon, 1996, p. 81).

In order to determine threats and vulnerabilities, an organization must undergo a risk assessment. The Department of Homeland Security issued a ten-step risk assessment methodology criterion (Vulnerability Assessment Report, 2003):

  • Clearly identify the infrastructure sector being assessed.
  • Specify the type of security discipline addressed, e.g. physical, information, operations.
  • Collect specific data pertaining to each asset.
  • Identify critical/key assets to be protected.
  • Determine the mission impact of the loss or damage of that asset.
  • Conduct a threat analysis and perform assessment for specific assets.
  • Perform a vulnerability analysis and assessment to specific threats.
  • Conduct analytical risk assessment and determine priorities for each asset.
  • Be relatively low cost to train and conduct.
  • Make specific, concrete recommendations concerning countermeasures.

This is general in nature and may be adapted to meet the needs of a specific organization. Several other risk assessment models exist today. For example, Sandia National Laboratories developed the RAM-Chemical to assess chemical facilities in the United States. Sports facilities in the U.S. must embrace risk management processes. Identifying the greatest threats and eliminating or reducing vulnerabilities will help minimize risk at sports events. “A sports arena is always critical as a high value terrorist target because of the potentially high casualty rate” (Durling, Price, & Spero, 2005, p. 8). Whether facing a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or unruly fan behavior, sport venue managers must pursue an effective risk management approach to protect the facility and human lives.

The Sports Event Security Assessment Model (SESAM)

In May, 2005, the Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Mississippi Emergency Management agency, awarded the University of Southern Mississippi a $568,000 research grant to create a research-based model for the security management of university sport venues. Several risk assessment methodologies were reviewed and the DHS risk assessment criterion was customized for the assessment of sport venues. The Sport Event Security Assessment Model (SESAM) was developed through the collaboration of academic and security professionals in a six-hour brainstorming session. Academic professionals with experience in the sport event security area and training in DHS threat/risk assessment participated. Security professionals included former employees of the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service with extensive background in risk assessment methods and vulnerability assessment experience in the security and sport security field. This collaborative group supported the development and field testing of the model. A seven step procedure was created to evaluate sport security operations. An overview of the SESAM is presented in figure 1.

A risk assessment was conducted of the sport operations at seven public universities in Mississippi between May 2005 and February 2006. The following highlights the critical points during each stage of the seven-step process:

1. Step 1 of the process involves the identification of a SESAT team, including all key personnel responsible for game day security. These may include the athletic facility manager, campus police chief, emergency management director, local sheriff, and/or campus physical plant facility manager. Once the SESAT is established, meetings and interviews are scheduled to provide assessment objectives and define the assessed area based on a one mile radius of the sport venue.

2. Characterization of assets and target identification are achieved through in-depth surveys and interviews at each sport facility. Campus and community assets are identified and prioritized. Critical infrastructure and existing physical protection countermeasures are also identified. The target attractiveness is finally evaluated.

3. The threat assessment focuses on potential threat elements on campus and in the surrounding community. Specific factors are taken into consideration, including the existence of a group/individual operating close to the venue, history or past activity of the group/individual, intentions of the potential threat to act, their capability to act, and the ultimate targeting of the sport venue. A threat level is assigned to each critical asset, which is identified during step 2 of the risk assessment process.

Figure 1: Sport Event Security Assessment Model (SESAM). Adapted by Robert Rolen, Walter Cooper, Lou Marciani, and Stacey Hall. The Center for Spectator Sports Security Management.

4. The vulnerability assessment is a key component of the risk assessment model involving the analysis of several key factors about the venue, including:

  1. Level of Visibility: assess the awareness of existence and visibility of the sport venue to the general public.
  2. Criticality of Sport Venue to the Jurisdiction: assess the usefulness of the sport venue to the local population, economy, or government.
  3. Potential Sport Venue Population Capacity: assess the maximum number of people at a site at any given time.
  4. Potential for Collateral Mass Casualties: assess potential mass casualties within a one-mile radius of the sport venue.
  5. Impact Outside of the Venue: assess the loss outside of the sport venue.
  6. Existence of CBRNE Elements: assess the presence of a legal WMD on the site.
  7. Potential Threat Element Access to Sport Venue: assess the availability of the sport venue for ingress and egress by a PTE.

5. The consequence evaluation component analyzes the number of potentially injured people at the sport venue who might require transportation/hospitalization. It also assesses the loss of life, loss of infrastructure, economic and environmental impact, and the potential social trauma.

6. The overall risk level of a sport venue is calculated during this step. The risk assessment evaluates the threat potential (produced during step 3), likelihood of adversary success (produced during step 4), and severity of the consequences of an attack (produced during step 5). A final risk level is determined for the sport venue based on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 being low and 5 being the greatest. It is the sport manager’s responsibility to determine what level is acceptable for the venue.

7. The final step involves the proposal of

consequence reduction

measures. These recommendations will help sport managers develop and/or enhance security policies and procedures, emergency response capabilities, and physical protection systems and capabilities at the venue. Also, suggestions for appropriate training in security awareness for staff and the sporting public are recommended.

The SESAM is a cyclical model, as assessments must be continuously completed to ensure that adequate plans and security measures are in place and maintained over a period of time. A sport venue’s threat or vulnerability level may change regarding circumstances in the country or even in the surrounding community. Evaluations of potential threats and existing vulnerabilities “are not only used to determine what dangers to prepare for and how to meet them, but also to prioritize preparedness efforts.” (Sauter & Carafano, 2005, p. 338). By determining which threats are the most dangerous, managers are able to decide where they should invest their time and effort in preparing to deal with the consequences of a potential incident (2005). The risk assessment process is also considered by most specialists “to be the most vital task establishing an effective business continuity/disaster recovery plan” (p. 338). Contingency planning will aid sport businesses in recovery efforts and continuation of operations during incidents.


“On September 11th, it became abundantly clear that stadium and arena operators needed to incorporate security safeguards at America’s sporting venues.” (Pantera et. al, 2003, 1). It is critical that all sport organizations complete a risk assessment of their sport venues in order to identify vulnerabilities and improve security measures. The sport organization should not become complacent or content with their current security practices. Sport programs in America are faced with an ongoing battle to stay alert and be prepared for the ‘unthinkable.’


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