Conflicts of Interest in the Intercollegiate Athletics Management Structure – The Impetus for Nullification of Presidential Authority

Submitted by Corey M. Turner, J.D., Assistant Professor of Business Law*

1* Department of Business, Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York, Brooklyn, New York 11235

Corey M. Turner is an Assistant Professor of Business Law and a member of the campus-wide Athletics Committee at the City University of New York’s Kingsborough Community College.


In recent years there have been numerous athletics scandals at major universities. The scandals are the outgrowth of infractions of NCAA rules and regulations committed by coaches and student-athletes. In the wake of such scandals, university presidents have asserted that they are not in control of their athletics programs, despite the fact that the NCAA changed its management structure in 1997 giving presidents full authority for the governance of intercollegiate athletics nationally. Thus, there is a perception amongst university presidents that their presidential authority in areas of intercollegiate athletics governance has been nullified despite the existence of NCAA regulations to the contrary.

The root cause of nullification of presidential control and authority is the president’s own conflict of interest between professional responsibilities and personal interests. In the contemporary environment of large television contracts and the race to increase revenues on university campuses, there has been a fundamental change in mindset that places the importance of athletics over academics. In such an environment, conflicts of interest are both prevalent and unavoidable. Thus, the key issue is not the existence of conflicts of interest, but the management of conflicts of interest.

Although there is no easy answer or simple fix for conflict of interest induced nullification, process based decision making may be strategically deployed as a conflict of interest management tool when analyzing information, evaluating choices, making decisions, and establishing conditions that such decisions must meet in order to be ethically correct.

Key words: infractions, NCAA, university, president, management structure, control, authority, governance, intercollegiate, athletics, conflict of interest, nullification, decision making. Continue reading

Differences in Collegiate Athlete Nutrition Knowledge as Determined by Athlete Characteristics

Submitted by Allisha M. Weeden, Janette Olsen, John M. Batacan, Teri Peterson

Allisha M. Weeden is an Assistant Professor in the Dietetic Programs at Idaho State University.  Janette Olsen is an Assistant Professor in Health Education at Idaho State University.  John M. Batacan is an Assistant Professor in Health Education at Idaho State University.  Teri Peterson is an Assistant Professor in the College of Business at Idaho State University.


PURPOSE:  To identify nutrition knowledge based on collegiate sport, where nutrition knowledge was lacking, and specific nutrition related concerns of collegiate athletes.

METHODS: The cross-sectional study evaluated responses to a 65-item written questionnaire.   Participants (n=174; female=88, male=86) competed in 13 different NCAA sanctioned sports.  Nutrition knowledge scores calculated from the number of nutrition knowledge questions correct then converted to a percent from the number of questions correctly answered.  Frequencies, Chi-square, and t-tests were used to report and compare nutrition knowledge scores.

RESULTS: The mean nutrition knowledge score of participants was 56.4% ± 13.4%.  Higher nutrition knowledge scores were associated with completion of a collegiate nutrition course (p = 0.015), participation in individual sports (p = 0.043), and citation of healthcare professionals as the primary source of nutrition information (p = 0.008).  Forty-two percent reported nutrition concerns related to what and how to eat healthy.

CONCLUSIONS:  Collegiate athletes lacked nutrition knowledge and expressed concerns surrounding what and how to eat healthy.  Completion of a collegiate level nutrition course may benefit collegiate athletes, especially those that do not have access to a Registered Dietitian (RD).

APPLICATIONS IN SPORT: Collegiate athletes, athletic departments, and even universities all benefit from successful sports teams.  Nutrition can be a big part of success and the use of a RD to educate athletes ensures appropriate nutrition knowledge is provided.  For universities with financial constraints collegiate level nutrition courses and small group cooking classes taught by an RD may still benefit collegiate athletes.

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Position-Specific Task, Strength, and Performance Comparisons between NCAA Division I Offensive and Defensive Linemen

Submitted by Garrett M. Hester, Bert H. Jacobson, Ty B. Palmer, Doug B. Smith and Matthew S. O’Brien


The ultimate goal of strength and conditioning practitioners is to improve performance on the field.  To date, little data exist that provides evidence of strong relationships between selected exercises and sport-specific tasks.  PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to compare the performance of a position-specific task on the MAXX Football Sled Device (MX) between NCAA Division I offensive (OL) and defensive linemen (DL) and to determine the associations among selected strength and performance variables with results on the MX.  METHODS: Offensive (n = 12) and defensive linemen (n = 14) (age 20.11 ±1.49 yrs) performed 10 “fire-off-and-drive” repetitions on the MX from a three-point stance.  Data relative to force (N) and movement time (MT) was collected for each repetition on the MX.  The duration between each repetition was automatically randomized between 6 to 10 sec.  Strength and performance data including 1 RM of the squat, bench press, and power clean, along with vertical jump, 10 yd sprint, 40 yd sprint, and body fat percentage were gathered as part of seasonal standard assessment.  RESULTS: Results yielded significant differences in body weight, sprint performances, 1 RM squat, and a near significant difference in MT (p = 0.052) between OL and DL.  With respect to performance on the MX, there were no significant associations among selected strength and performance measures and MT on the MX.  Although insignificant, force on the MX was found to have moderate associations with the 10 yd sprint (r = .457) and 1 RM power clean (r = .463).  CONCLUSIONS: Primarily, these results point out that little carry over exists between the standard exercises performed and the task performed on the MX.  Further research for the purpose of finding exercises that correlate with a position-specific task in these athletes is warranted.  APPLICATION IN SPORT: A priority among practitioners is to remain cognizant of the positional role differences and distinct physical characteristics between OL and DL.  The OL and DL positions should be categorized separately so that specific evaluative and training needs can be met for each position.
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Outsourced Marketing in NCAA Division I Institutions: The Companies’ Perspective

Submitted by Robert Zullo, Willie Burden, Ming Li

Outsourcing is a crucial tool that allows sport organizations to turn over their noncore processes to external service providers. The outsourced service providers help sport organizations focus on sales efforts to maximize revenue. The purpose of this study was to examine outsourced marketing in NCAA Division I institutions from the outsourced marketing companies’ perspective. A survey was conducted to gather information from the general managers at the primary outsourced marketing company’s property affiliated with select schools in NCAA Division I conferences. Collected data were analyzed with descriptive statistics along with qualitative responses. The study found that the outsourced marketing firms focus on revenue generation through securing corporate sponsors. Primary inventories sold included commercials during radio broadcasts of games and signage at athletic facilities. These are typically packaged with the sports of football and/or men’s basketball. The study found that many sponsorship categories remained unfulfilled. There was also growing concern by the companies regarding the escalading financial guarantees paid to the schools. The findings and recommendations are valuable to college administrators, athletic directors and outsourced marketing firms as the parties strive to find outcomes beneficial to everyone involved in the partnership.

More and more collegiate athletic departments have adopted outsourcing as a strategy which uses their corporate partners, such as State Farm, Burger King or Verizon Wireless, to help them earn additional revenue in exchange for advertising at the sporting events. Outsourcing is a crucial business strategy that allows companies to turn over their noncore processes to external service providers while the company concentrates on its core competencies (18). In the highly competitive environment of intercollegiate athletics, some schools are able to handle its corporate partnerships with in-house marketing departments. However, the growing trend for major NCAA Division I schools is to outsource its marketing efforts to an outsourced marketing company that specializes in the sales of inventory such as commercials on radio broadcasts or coaches’ television show, corporate hospitality at home sporting events, signage at athletic facilities and more (24, 38).

The athletic department will typically sit down and outline what they would like to see from an outsourced partner (2). For most schools, outsourced companies offer the opportunity to streamline operations or provide resources that might not otherwise exist, such as sales expertise (24). Li and Burden (24) add that the athletic department may want a company to produce radio call-in shows or coaches’ television shows in addition to the sales efforts. The outsourced companies would have a greater opportunity to improve the quality of the broadcast and simplify the production efforts.

Host Communications, International Sports Properties (ISP Sports) and Learfield Communications were viewed as the main outsourced marketing companies in the early 2000’s (38). Nelligan Sports was also seen as an emerging outsourced marketing company. These outsourced companies handle sponsorship sales while the in-house marketing department shifted its attention to promotions and increasing attendance and ticket sales. The outsourced company would maintain a “property” at the school with the property serving as an extension of the parent company. The property was responsible for the sales efforts and reporting back to the parent company.

The benefits of the outsourced marketing partnership are that of guaranteed and additional revenue (19). An outsourced marketing company will promise a financial guarantee of a set amount to the school’s athletic department in exchange for being able to sell the “rights” of that athletic department. Another option includes a simple revenue-sharing model for the “rights.” The rights could be in the form of a radio commercial, an on-field promotion, a giveaway at a sporting event, or signage at an athletic facility including on a video board (38).

To a lesser extent, the outsourced company will also sell advertising in game programs, on ticket backs and on the athletic department’s website. A fan might pick up a schedule poster and schedule card at a football game with a sponsor’s logo on it. That sponsor may also have a permanent sign at the football stadium visible to fans and may also host a corporate village for its clients prior to the game. In exchange for its advertising opportunities, the sponsor will pay the outsourced marketing company an agreed upon amount of money. The outsourced marketing company will then put that revenue towards the promised guarantee for the athletic department. Once the guarantee is met, the athletic department receives an agreed upon percentage of any future revenue, but it is there that the outsourced company earns its greatest financial sales commission. If this financial model is not used the straight revenue sharing of each sponsorship sold is another viable option.

As these outsourced marketing companies gain more schools under their watch, they spread their sales territory and can start to package a few schools with one corporate sponsor. For example, ISP Sports may approach Verizon about a national sponsorship deal that could reach the Northeast through sponsoring Syracuse University, the West Coast through sponsoring UCLA, the Midwest through sponsoring the University of Houston and the Southeast through a sponsorship of Georgia Tech Athletics. At the same time, Verizon may also discuss a similar deal with Host Communications through sponsoring the athletic departments at Texas, Boston College, Arizona, Kentucky and the University of Michigan. Companies might also pursue schools in a set geographic region, further enabling them to partner with corporate partners exclusive to that particular region. By strategically acquiring attractive schools (those with large market areas and large fan bases) around the country, the outsourced marketing companies can pool their resources, reduce their costs and diversify their portfolio of schools at the same time.

A number of studies have examined the perceptions of athletic directors and senior staff administrators from the institutions that partner with an outsourced company about their relationship with their outsourcing partners (10, 19, 24, 25, 38). Issues examined include details of the outsourcing contracts such as the length of the term, the financial guarantee, and the strengths and weaknesses of the outsourced partnership. This current study provided the outsourced company a chance to respond with its own sentiments about the relationship and future issues related to outsourced marketing. An analysis of the schools’ responses in conjunction with the responses of the outsourced marketing companies could help make for a better relationship in the future. The purpose of this study was to examine outsourced marketing in NCAA Division I institutions from the outsourced marketing companies’ perspective.

An Overview of Outsourced Marketing in Intercollegiate Athletics
The most significant outsourced marketing deal to date took place early in the fall of 2004 as Host Communications won the rights to the University of Kentucky athletics in a ten-year deal valued at more than $80 million. Host placed a bid of $80.475 million edging the bid of $80.35 million submitted by Learfield Communications, while ESPN Regional bid $74 million and Viacom Sports $55.25 (29). The previous deal was $17.65 million over the course of five years and expired April 15, 2005 (20). This deal established a benchmark that has since been surpassed, but clearly raised the fair market value.

To look at the origin of outsourced companies’ involvement with athletic departments, it is necessary to start in Lexington, Kentucky, and the origin of Host Communications. In 1973, Jim Host bid on the rights for the University of Kentucky in what is the first believed outsourced deal in intercollegiate athletics. Within ten years, Host had secured the rights to the Final Four after convincing then NCAA president Walter Byers that corporate marketing was the wave of the future (34). Host saw the opportunity that existed in advertising and licensing given the affinity associated with the college sports fan.

In working with colleges and universities and their marketing efforts, what Host strived for was a clean venue comparable to the Olympic Games where there was limited signage and less clutter in the advertising. The corporate partners who paid the most would receive these exclusive opportunities to advertise. Host notes that the philosophy is not applied to the Bowl Championship Series which is run outside the control of the NCAA (34).

Today, Jim Host is no longer head of the company he started, but he has enjoyed seeing the company grow to the point that it sells advertising on over 500 radio stations for the Final Four (5). This is up from the 200 radio stations the company partnered with in 1982 (12). Host also prints game programs for over 43 NCAA championships and operates most marketing and promotional aspects of the NCAA events. It annually earns over $100 million in revenue (7) and has not limited itself to just intercollegiate athletics. Event marketing in junctures as diverse as Streetball and the National Tour Association (tourism industry) have led the company to be recognized by the SportsBusiness Journal as one of the top five marketing companies in the world and the premier in intercollegiate athletics (6). In 2007, global sports marketing giant IMG purchased Host Communication, as the company exists today as IMG College (17).

In time, other companies began to surface to challenge Host Communications as the “one-stop” shopping point for colleges and universities. The companies realized what athletic departments were failing to grasp, that season-ticket holders were more than just fans who wrote a check once a year for seats to a sporting event. These fans were consumers that could spend up to $100,000 or more during a lifetime on tickets, concessions, and parking (22). In addition, the fans were loyal to their teams and everything associated with their team.

Corporate partners began to realize this and wanted to partner with schools. With money to be made and Jim Host demonstrating some early financial return on investment for the University of Kentucky, more start-up outsourcing companies wanted to become involved in their revenue opportunity. Some of the companies were locally owned and operated, but others were more regional like an ISP Sports, Learfield Communications, or Nelligan Sports. Companies and athletic departments sat down to best figure out which schools were good fits for which company and how to best utilize the relationships over the long-term. After that outsourced companies began to provide sponsorship options or packages to corporate sponsors based on what other schools were doing (22).

In creating packages of what could be sold, the typical items included signage at the athletic facilities, television rights and radio broadcast rights (14). Cohen adds that higher dollar values were attached to such sponsorship packages and enabled athletic departments to offset growing expenses including scholarships and rising facility costs. Schools would “bundle” their inventory and see more of the revenue return directly to the school instead of multiple outside parties (13). Outsourced marketing enabled corporate sponsors to visit one individual or company instead of stopping at the radio station to gain radio advertising during game broadcasts, stopping at the local television station to gain on-air advertising during coaches’ television shows, then concluding with a visit to the athletic department for additional advertising signage at the athletic facilities. This is especially true as video boards became more and more detailed in intercollegiate athletic facilities starting with the University of Nebraska in 1994 (31).

As scoreboards have been supplemented or replaced with video boards fans are now afforded instant replays and advertising messages. A full-color video board could now offer “fan of the game” or “play of the game” or “great moments in history” segments that are presented in collaboration with a corporate sponsor. It could also roll a commercial exactly like the ones seen on television at home. Steinbach (31) noted that with their addition of video boards, Michigan State experienced a sponsorship revenue increase from $400,000 in the pre-video days in 1998 to more than $3 million annually by 2002.

While these video board improvements provided new fan entertainment and sponsorship revenue, they did not come without a price. Many older fans thought the video board was too much like the television they chose to leave at home. Others felt the noise was too distracting and took away from the natural elements of the sporting event including the fans’ cheering, the band and cheerleaders (15). Athletic administrators and outsourced companies had to evolve to package their advertising in subtle fashion around trivia contests, historic moments, replays and scores from around the country. Pure video commercials advertising products were not welcomed in the stadium as it distracted from the entertainment aspect of the game itself. Furthermore, sponsors recognized that if fans were not happy with the advertising, their affinity to the sponsor would not be positive either. Too much advertising could also lead to a clutter of sponsors with their advertising messages being lost on the fans (15). The message was heard by the outsourced companies which now included Viacom Sport and Action Sports Media in the mix.

Recent Concerns in Outsourced Marketing
Arizona State University completed a study in 2004 on a small sample size that found that in intercollegiate athletics, sponsorships are typically formed in the categories of: airlines, auto parts, beer, credit cards, DSL, gas/oil, health and fitness, long distance, paging devices, and tires/auto services (3). The same group also found that categories frequently ignored include: auto parts, boats/marines, computer hardware/software, delivery services, department stores, drug stores, electronics, hardware/home improvement, music stores, pharmaceuticals, personal hygiene, video game systems and video stores. One major concern is that ignoring these categories can result in significant lost revenue. Tim Hofferth, president and chief operating officer of Nelligan sports stresses that outsourced companies cannot ignore pre-existing business relationships between schools and area businesses as those are additional sponsorship opportunities waiting to happen (23). This is particularly important as the parent outsourcing companies, with a greater portfolio of schools, pursue national sponsorships that are more financially viable to the parent company relative to the schools’ properties pursuing regional and local sponsorships. Therefore another concern is that local relationships can be impaired or even lost.

Additional research by Walker (36) noted that it is important that communication between the outsourcing property and the school remain a high priority. Because of the athletic department’s affiliation with an institution of higher education there are certain restrictions that exist that may not be as prevalent in professional sports. Such restrictions may central on alcohol, gambling or lottery sponsorships or trying to maintain a “clean” image at the sporting events to avoid concerns of excess commercialization within higher education. Goals, philosophy and objectives between the school and property must be aligned (11).

Future research needs to also explore whether the escalating guarantees paid to schools have grown too rapidly for the outsourcing companies to keep pace. After Kentucky signed their landmark deal, Connecticut, Arizona, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio State and Nebraska have since signed contracts guaranteeing at least $80 million to their schools from their respective firms (29). Wisconsin, Oklahoma, LSU and Arkansas are all guaranteed at least $73 million through their school’s contractual obligations with outsourced marketing firms.

Outsourcing as a Strategic Alliance: A Brief Overview
As competition becomes more and more intensified, individual firms have to seek out strategies to stay competitive. One of such strategies is strategic alliances (16). The age of in-house operations is quickly being replaced by the age of alliances (16).

According to Spekman and Isabella (30), an alliance is a close, collaborative relationship created between two or more firms for the sake of accomplishing some goals that would be difficult for each to accomplish alone. By collaborating, alliance partners will not act in self-interest, but will promote the partnership and foster its strengths. There are several benefits of forming a strategic alliance. According to Parise and Casher (26), a strategic alliance is characterized as “an open-ended agreement between two or more organizations which enables cooperation and sharing of resources for mutual benefits, as well as enhancement of competitive positioning of all organizations in the alliance” (p. 26).

1. Strategic alliances exist to create value. Whether or not it is in the form of new market penetration, increased profit sharing, or competitive opportunities, companies join to reap the benefits that neither partner could enjoy alone.

2. Strategic alliances are developed to create a number of advantages. Some of these advantages are opportunity-based alternatives. In other words, strategic alliances can provide firms in the alliance with many opportunities to reposition themselves in the market because the infrastructure network created by the alliance gives all members access to a range of information, markets, technologies, and ideas that would be far beyond their reach otherwise (16, 27). Due to the fact that it is often difficult for a particular firm to possess all the resources required to meet new challenges and opportunities, the formation of an alliance can be extremely advantageous (16).

3. Strategic alliances are developed to divert corporate attention away from nonessential efforts where the firm lacks expertise, cost advantage, or scale. The skills gained through new partnerships can introduce new techniques, market segments, or new geographic markets, and the addition of complementary skills also helps boost revenue opportunities by gaining greater returns from existing customers, channels, and products (1, 30).

Outsourcing within intercollegiate athletics is a viable means for an athletic department to utilize strategic alliances to create value and take advantages of skills that may not be found with the in-house marketing staff. The outsourced marketing firm can focus on revenue generation while the in-house marketing staff enhances event atmosphere and boosting attendance.


The general manager at the primary outsourced marketing company’s property affiliated with select schools in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision conferences was the original subject of this study. The select NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision conferences included such six conferences as the Atlantic Coast Conference (12 schools), Big East Conference (12 schools, including four independents), Big Ten Conference (11 schools), Big Twelve Conference (12 schools), Pacific Ten Conference (10 schools), and Southeastern Conference (12 schools). Each of these six conferences is a member of the Bowl Championship Series, the leader in the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A, post-season play. Furthermore, earlier research by Zullo has indicated that a majority of schools outside of these six selected conferences affiliated with the Bowl Championship Series do not have an existing relationship with an outsourced marketing group (19).

With the six BCS conferences, there are a total of 69 schools. Among these 69 schools, 13 handle their marketing in-house and an additional seven were marketing in-house and recently reached an agreement to start a relationship with an outsourced marketing partner (19). That left 49 schools with outsourced marketing relationships. However, seven schools used multiple companies in their outsourced marketing efforts rather than pooling their efforts bringing the number of included participants down to 42. For example, one firm may sell signage at the stadium while a second sells radio inventory. These schools were not included as this research focused on school’s exclusive outsourcing partnerships only.

The main outsourced parent companies include ESPN Regional, Host Communications (presently called IMG College), International Sports Properties (ISP Sports), Learfield Communications, Action Sports Media, Nelligan Sports, and Viacom Sports (presently called CBS Collegiate Sports Properties). An examination of these companies found an additional 19 Division I schools with outsourced marketing relationships. These 19 schools are not in the six major conferences but have been included in the study to increase the sample size to 61.

To achieve the objectives of this study, a questionnaire was designed and utilized to examine the outsourced marketing companies’ perspective pertaining to their affiliations with NCAA Division I institutions. The researcher designed the questionnaire in consultation with four account executives from two major sports marketing firms. These four reviewers were not general managers with the outsourced marketing properties thus they could freely express their suggestions and concerns. This collaboration enabled further critique, expertise and anonymous feedback to enhance the instrument’s validity. Further review by academic colleagues aided in the process of eliminating biased questions or clarifying wording. The questionnaire and consent form were then sent to the general managers of the outsourced marketing companies’ operations at 61 major NCAA Division I institutions.

Both close-ended and open-ended questions were included in the survey instrument. There were nine open-ended questions. They were (a) what is the property’s best method of soliciting sponsors? (b) what are the primary goals of outsourced companies? (c) how often do outsourced companies fail to meet their financial guarantee to their schools? (d) what inventory sells the most, the least and why? (e) what sponsorship categories are presently being sold and which are ignored in sales? (f) why do outsourced companies sell certain sports and not others? (g) what are the strengths and weaknesses of outsourced marketing companies? (h) what do outsourced marketing companies perceive as the future problems with outsourced marketing? and (i) at what level is outsourced marketing a good fit within college athletics?

Data Collection and Analysis
The survey instrument was mailed to the respective general managers with a second mailing added to heighten the response rate. Descriptive statistics, such as frequencies were used to analyze the collected data. Qualitative responses were also analyzed to identify reoccurring themes.

As mentioned previously, the purpose of this study was to examine outsourced marketing in NCAA Division I institutions from the outsourced marketing companies’ perspective. Twenty-eight general managers of the identified sixty-one NCAA Division I institutions responded to the survey, which accounted for a 46% response rate.

Primary Goals of Outsourcing Marketing Operations
In conducting their sales efforts, most surveyed properties (93%) focus on personal selling efforts as their means of reaching out to potential partners or sponsors. Telemarketing and using a database are secondary methods of soliciting sponsors or partners. These sponsorships or partnerships are secured for the primary purpose (68%) of generating revenue for the overall parent company to meet the guarantee to the school. After that goal is met then the secondary focus becomes trying to bring in additional revenue beyond that initial guarantee. This is consistent with previous literature by Burden and Li (9-10) and Zullo (38). The findings are also congruent with the strategic alliance research that place an emphasis on the value of partnerships yielding enhance values to both parties (26).

Table 1 Property’s Best Method of Soliciting Sponsors/Partners/Clients
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Table 2 Primary Goals of Outsourced Marketing Properties
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As mentioned earlier, this revenue is ultimately shared with the affiliated institution of higher education’s athletic department. It should be noted that the surveyed general managers indicated that outsourced properties focus on sales and not on the business of enhancing an athletic department’s marketing or promotional efforts. The outsourced properties responding also did not indicate a willingness to boost ticket sales or create awareness for the athletic department. This is also in line with past research by Zullo (38) and Burden and Li (9). Consistent with research in strategic alliance the in-house marketing departments focus on the areas of ticketing and brand awareness while the outsourced firms avoid such areas where they lack expertise and experience (1, 18, 30)

Duration of Relationship and Success Rates
Of the outsourced properties responding, 42% have been working with their current school for over six years and 54% have worked with their school for less than six years. There was one non-response. Twenty of the twenty-eight properties have successfully met their financial guarantee to the school’s athletic department throughout the duration of the relationship with the remaining eight respondents choosing to not answer the question. Of those eight, the subsequent question found that two of them have failed at least once to meet its financial obligation to the school’s athletic department. That is collectively a success rate of greater than 90% for the outsourced marketing properties in meeting their financial guarantees to the schools.

Table 3 Number of Years Property Has Worked With School
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Table 4 Number of Years Property has Successfully Met Financial Guarantee
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Table 5 Number of Years Property has Failed to Meet Financial Guarantee
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If one tallied the cumulative number of years that all of the respondents have partnered with their respective outsourced marketing firms, factoring in the two years the guarantee was not met, that pooled annual success rate improves further thus supporting the philosophy of such alliances as advantageous (16, 30). Why companies failed to meet their guarantee could be asked on further questionnaires to help facilitate what factors impact not meeting the guarantee. Additional questions could also explore whether the escalade in financial guarantees paid to the schools by the properties has hindered the success rate. Furthermore, questions could also ask whether joint bids have become a necessity with the higher paid guarantees. ISP Sports pursued joint bids with IMG College before the latter company acquired the former in 2010 (4).

Attractiveness of Marketing Inventory
In examining what inventory items are sold most by the outsourced properties, the respondents cited radio broadcast of games (61%) and permanent signage (57%) at athletic facilities as the best selling inventory. These findings are consistent with Cohen’s findings (13-14) and Zullo’s research in 2000 (38). Video board advertising and ribbon signage at athletic facilities are other top sellers on the second tier of inventory, along with game day promotions and print media. Steinbach noted (31) that while start-up expenses for video boards may be higher the boards can offer a significant return investment. A third tier of inventory would consist of coaches’ radio shows, coaches’ TV shows, corporate hospitality, and the athletic department’s internet advertising rights.

Table 6 Best Selling Inventory Items
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The idea of an interactive marketing area or fan zone that is increasingly being found at professional sporting events has not caught on as a popular inventory item at the college level yet. This may be due to the greater expense of such a project relative to the production of a radio commercial or one time cost of making a sign to display in an arena or stadium. An interactive area or fan zone’s costs and expenses could offer a lower financial return on investment for the outsourced marketing property.

The findings indicate that inventory provided by the athletic department and sold by the outsourced marketing company is limited. As professional sports are quick to sell more creative inventory, including corporate hospitality, ribbon stripe advertising in arenas and more fan friendly websites, institutions of higher education, athletic departments and outsourced marketing companies appear to continue to do business in the same way over the last decade as shared by Zullo’s (38) research. Athletic departments that prefer the permanent signage route over ribbon advertising or video board are not maximizing their revenue opportunities. Though accompanied by greater start-up costs, the ribbon advertising and video board messages garner greater fan interest and can be sold at a higher rate to the corporate sponsors. Outsourced companies may provide greater access to this newer technology enabling schools to add inventory they could not otherwise do on their own thus demonstrating another value of the strategic alliance (16, 27).

Category Fulfillment
In terms of which sponsorship categories have been filled by the outsourced marketing property in the last three years, 71% of the respondents maintained some form of sponsorship in the categories of sit-down restaurants, fast food, hotel, soda/cola, banking, cellular service provider, car insurance, hospital/medical center, grocery store, automobile brand, life insurance, pizza and airlines. What is notable is the wide range of categories left unfulfilled by outsourced marketing properties including: water, health clubs, credit cards, real estate, tires, military, home improvement, dairy, automotive repair, motor oil, office supply store, tools/power equipment, coffee, satellite television, batteries, delivery services, boats/marinas, and candy. These findings are consistent with the study conducted at Arizona State (3).

Table 7 Sponsorship Categories Successfully Filled in Last Three Years

There are many categories typically sold in professional sport that are ignored in intercollegiate athletics. Future research is needed to address why this is the case. Is the sponsorship not a good fit for the college setting? Have companies tried approaching these categories and failed in their sales efforts? Or are companies aware that a greater financial return can be found with select categories relative to others? Additional research is warranted in this area as strategic alliances may yield new revenue opportunities and open new markets (1, 30), but only as these questions are explored further.

Attractiveness of Sports as Outsourcing Inventories
When surveyed general managers were asked what sports sold well when working with corporate sponsors or partners, the overwhelming response indicated football first and men’s basketball second. Women’s basketball and baseball were second tier sports in the sales effort. However, football and men’s basketball sold the best because that is what the sponsor/partner demanded (79%) in the sponsorship package first and it was demanded based on the historical perception of greatest return on investment value.

Table 8 Top Three Sports Outsourced Properties Sell
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Table 9 Reasons for Selling Such Sports

Other sports simply did not garner the sponsor’s interest (71%), offer a significant return on interest (18%), or yield a past history of success in sales (11%). This was especially true of Olympic Sports and women’s athletics excluding women’s basketball. Low regular attendance at Olympic Sporting events equates to low return on investment from the sponsor’s perspective.

Table 10 Top Three Sports Outsourced Properties Did Not Sell
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Table 11 Reasons for Not Selling Such Sports
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This should not be interpreted as a dislike of these sports, but rather as a financial decision by corporate sponsors. A State Farm or AT&T corporate sponsor has the ability to reach many more fans at a football game then at a tennis match due to the larger attendance of patrons at the football games. Such a sponsor may also have the capability to advertise to a broader audience on the radio and television via the broadcast of the football and men’s basketball games. These findings are consistent with Zullo’s study (38).

Though this may be an area of concern between athletic administrators and outsourced marketing companies, most schools’ administrators understand the financial implications if an outsourced marketing company focuses too much time on selling sponsorships for a softball game instead of football or men’s basketball. The financial guarantee would not be met by the outsourced company and their services would not be retained. While the guarantee would be paid by the property’s parent company, the school would lose confidence in the property’s ability to sell and would look to partner with another company. It is a balancing act by the outsourcing marketing companies and many of these companies have offered to package Olympic Sports or women’s athletics with football and men’s basketball sponsorship packages provided that the corporate sponsor did not object. That noted, schools such as Georgia, Texas, or Stanford may need to explicitly state in their contracts with an outsourcing company that Olympic Sports and women’s athletics must be sold, given the high status of such programs at these schools.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Outsourced Marketing
Respondents noted that the major strength of outsourced marketing properties includes revenue generation (57%) with service quality ranking second. The weaknesses of outsourced marketing properties range from lack of control over content to lack of interest and promotion for certain sports. This reaffirms the previous research of Zullo (38) and Li and Burden (24).

Table 12 The Major Strengths of Outsourced Marketing
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Table 13 The Major Weaknesses of Outsourced Marketing
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Future Problems/Issues Facing Outsourcing Marketing
The respondents indicated the biggest future problem in outsourced marketing is too great of a financial guarantee for a school (50%), one that an outsourced marketing parent company may have trouble meeting on an annual basis. Smith (29) found that an increasing number of schools were surpassing the 2004 benchmark Kentucky deal as financial guarantees to school were reaching the $100 million mark. Secondary problems include clearly demonstrating a return on investment for sponsors (18%), an oversaturation of the marketplace with sponsorships, and turnover in sales personnel (both 14%). Tertiary concerns include ambush marketing, faculty concerns of over commercialization, increased operational expenses, and lack of control over the inventory and sponsorship content.

Table 14 Biggest Future Problems of Outsourced Marketing
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Overwhelmingly, the respondents supported NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision institutions (96%) and conferences (61%) when they were asked the level of intercollegiate athletics outsourced marketing that is best suited for outsourcing. Lower levels of intercollegiate athletics simply did not catch the interest of outsourced marketing properties. Their response is consistent with Tomasini’s (35) findings, as well as those of Zullo (38) and Li and Burden (24). It is hypothesized that this is due to the smaller audience in attendance at sporting events at these levels compared to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision institutions.

Table 15 Level of Intercollegiate Athletics Outsourced Marketing is Best Suited For
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Direct Practical Recommendations

Given the limited amount of research concerning outsourced marketing in intercollegiate athletics, research on outsourcing in higher education in general is important to consider when deciding whether to outsource sports marketing efforts. In examining the findings of this study and turning it into practical applications for presidents, athletic directors and general managers of outsourced marketing companies, the author would suggest the following recommendations for improving the business relationship and being pro-active in addressing future issues in outsourced sports marketing within the context of higher education:

1. Utilizing their acknowledged strengths, outsourced marketing companies should offer their consulting services in the area of marketing and sales to “smaller” Division I schools in non-BCS conferences that would not otherwise be financially attractive to partner with for an extended relationship. Their sales expertise would be considered invaluable to a smaller school and could be an extended revenue stream for the outsourced company collectively. Smaller schools could be packaged by entire conferences, or by several schools in same geographic region, or other characteristic (ex. HBCUs); outsourced companies could sell their season ending tournaments or championships, or “classic” games, etc. Smaller schools should also think in terms of packaging their entire campuses and not just the intercollegiate athletics department. This would help outsourced marketing companies address their concerns with the escalating financial guarantees paid to certain school that reduce the profit margin of the parent company.

2. Outsourced marketing companies must include new categories in their sales efforts as today’s sponsors simply have more places to spend their advertising dollars. Without a clearly defined return on investment, long term corporate partners may consider advertising elsewhere. Before this occurs, outsourced companies need to pro-actively evolve and consider alternative sponsorship categories that have been largely ignored in intercollegiate athletics as demonstrated by the research findings. This can alleviate departing sponsors due to the untapped revenue streams with new categories while also providing support in the escalating financial guarantees owed to schools.

3. In similar fashion, outsourced marketing companies need to continue to expand their inventory options in collaboration with the athletic department. As more options arise for corporate partners to spend their advertising dollars elsewhere, including professional sports, outsourced marketing companies need to be pro-active in offering new and exciting inventory and not remain stuck in the status quo option of radio commercials and permanent signage.

4. Along those lines, athletic departments who think they might not be able to afford new inventory items, particularly video boards and ribbon advertising, need to consider the option of letting an outsourced marketing company buy or finance the technology as they can earn a greater financial return on investment from the corporate partners with new capabilities.

While the arms race in intercollegiate athletics continues to press on and excessive spending in intercollegiate athletics is being criticized by detractors such as the Knight Commission (37), there exists the opportunity for compromise. As administrators in higher education begin to accept this belief as truth, Myles Brand, the former head of the NCAA, insisted that not all external involvement with intercollegiate athletics has been bad be it from alumni, supporters or corporate partners.

Brand (8) stressed that how you utilize the money contributed is of the greatest importance. He stressed that intercollegiate athletics focuses on opportunities for student-athletes namely in the means of scholarships and a quality education. It is not profit-driven like professional sports and owners of the teams. And funding for these scholarships and athletic department operating budgets can derive from corporate partnerships. The key is maintaining a clean fit for the corporate sponsor on the school itself and not just in the athletic setting (21). Outsourced marketing companies can play a vital role in these efforts through collaboration with their school’s mission thereby appeasing such groups as Faculty Athletic Representatives, the American Association of University Professors, the Drake Group, Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA), the NCAA and others.

Commercialization is not a bad thing as it occurs all over campus and it frequently comes with initial resistance. Fans and faculty may not initially like the addition of sponsorships, but it does offset the budget for the athletic department without relying too heavily on the university for financial support. As faculty groups arise around the country to denounce athletics’ place in higher education (32-33), it is important to realize that the excessive spending in big-time intercollegiate athletics is the problem and not necessarily the commercialization as that is occurring everywhere on campus.

In examining outsourced marketing companies and their relationship to colleges and universities around the nation, evolutionary and creative thinking needs to occur more frequently. If the outsourced marketing company continues to think from the mindset of the institution of higher education and not purely as a sales group, future relationships will continue to prosper. It is when outsourced marketing companies lose that train of thought that problems start to arise. Ideally, greater communication and utilization of these findings and similar research will enable future relationship between the school, the athletic department and the outsourced marketing company to create a “win-win” situation for all parties involved. In turn, this can also extend over to better benefit the corporate partners for the duration of the partnership.

Limitations and Delimitations of the Study
A number of limitations existed in this study. The willingness of the surveyed general managers to participate and answer the questionnaire honestly, and to share detailed information about their specific marketing contracts and relationship. Another limitation is that some schools may have several outsourced companies overseeing their sales efforts. One company may handle sales for the radio and television while a second company may direct the sales for the athletic department’s signage at athletic facilities. A third may manage the sales for corporate hospitality and promotions. To address this concern, only schools with a single outsourced marketing partner were selected to participate in this study. In-house marketing and multi-sourcing efforts were not addressed.

Finally, as noted above, not all schools in the six major conferences have an outsourced marketing relationship thereby limiting the initial sample size. However, this was offset with the addition of 19 schools that are not in the six major conferences but have existing relationship with the major outsourced marketing companies. All participating respondents shared the characteristics that they are Division I in nature and have an exclusive outsourcing relationship with one of the leading outsourcing sports marketing firms.


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Sport in the Magisterium of Benedict XVI


Philosophical Foundations of the Sporting Phenomenon

More than thirty years ago on June 1, 1978, at the start of the World Cup that was being held in Argentina (June 1 – 25, 1978) and was marked by bitter defeat for the Germans, the fifty year old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,already one year as Archbishop of Munich-Freising, explained the nucleus of his thought on soccer and sport in general in an interview on the Bavarian Radio program “Zum Sonntag” (Ordinariats-Korrespondenz, 1978; see also Pfister, 2006; Deutsche Tagespost, 1978; Benedetta, 2009).

I would like to use as a leitmotif of this investigation, this profound and original interview, in which the Cardinal and theologian offers a brief philosophical analysis of the modern phenomenon of sport and soccer in particular. This will help us to better understand the typically brief but numerous comments that Pope Benedict XVI has made about sport throughout his Pontificate.

It does not seem that Cardinal Ratzinger as head of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1981-2005) dealt with the phenomenon of soccer or sport in general, but he did include this interview in an anthology of texts published in 1985 and also as Pope he permitted it to be included in a publication printed in 2005 (Ratzinger, 1985; see also Benedikt and Ratzinger, 2005; “Mitarbeiter der Wahrheit, Gedanken für jeden Tag,” 1992; Benedikt and Ratzinger 2009). All of this indicates the perennial value of these fundamental reflections on the phenomenon of modern sport.

The Attraction of the Sports Phenomenon

The first aspect that I would like to bring our attention to is that the Cardinal speaks of soccer as “a ‘global event’, that irrespective of boundaries, links humanity around the world in one and the same state of tension: in its hopes, its fears, its emotions and joys” (Ratzinger, 1992). This observation, made thirty years ago, is all the more valid today given the enormous expansion of soccer’s popularity around the world!

No other event on the planet is capable of involving so many people in a similar way than a professional sporting event and especially that of soccer.According to Cardinal Ratzinger, “this tells us that some primeval human instinct is at play here” and raises the question as to the source of the spell that this games exerts.

Pope Benedict XVI will show his appreciation for this universal dimension of the sporting phenomena with its potential to peacefully unite diverse nations and races of the earth.

Sport as “Play”

The pessimist will respond to the question of why sport is a universal phenomenon by saying that it is the same as the case with the ancient Rome, where panem et circenses, (bread and the circus games), constituted “the only meaning in life for a decadent society, which does not know any higher aspiration” (Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis). But, even if we accept this explanation, we still would still remain with the question: “why is this game so fascinating that it remains equal with bread?” To answer this, we might look again to the past and see that the cry for bread and games was in reality the expression of “a longinge for the paradisal life – an escape from the wearisome enslavement of daily life.” In this context,the Cardinal reveals the profound sense of play as an activity that is totally free, without limits or constrictions, and both engages and fulfills all the energy of man. Consequently, play could be interpreted as a sort of effort to return to paradise: as an escape from the “wearisome enslavement of daily life” (aus dem versklavten Ernst des Alltags) for the free seriousness (freien Ernst) of something that should not be so and therefore it is beautiful. In this way, sport, in a certain sense, overcomes (überschreitet) daily life.

Besides this capacity to overcome ordinary life, play possesses – as we can see in children- another characteristic: that of being a school of life.Play symbolizes life itself and anticipates it in a way that is characterized by a free form manner.

Sport as a “School of Life”

According to this very original reflection of Cardinal Ratzinger, the fascination for soccer consists in the fact that it unites these two following aspects in a persuasive manner. First of all, it “compels man to exercise self-discipline,” so that he may gain control over himself, and through this control, self mastery. In turn, this self mastery leads to freedom. Soccer can also teach a disciplined cooperation with others (diszipliniertes Miteinander). In team play, one learns to insert their individuality into the service of the entire group. Sport unites people in a common goal: the success and failure of each one lies in the success and failure of everyone.

Sport can also teach fair play as the rules of the game, which all mutually obey, bind and unite the competitors together. The freedom of play- when play is according to the rules- becomes serious competition that is only resolved into the freedom of a finished game.

In watching a game, the spectator identifies himself with the game and the players. In this way, he feels himself a part of both the team play and the competition, participating in the player’s seriousness and in their freedom of action. The players become a symbol of his own life; and that works vice versa. The players know that the spectators are seeing themselves represented in them, being affirmed by them.

Threats to and Deviations to Sporting Activities

At the end of this interview, rich and dense in content, Cardinal Ratzinger discussed the temptations and dangers that threaten the world of sport. The goodness of the game can easily be spoiled by commercialism, which casts the grim pall of money over everything, and changes sport into an industry which can produce an unreal world of horrifying dimensions.

But this illusory world cannot exist when sport is based on positive values:as a training for life (Vorübung) and as a stepping over (Überschreitung) from our daily life in the direction of our lost Paradise. Both cases however require finding a discipline for freedom in order to train oneself to follow the rules of teamwork (Miteinander), of competition (Gegeneinander) and of self-discipline (Auskommen mit sich selbst).

After considering all of this, we can conclude that through sport something new about learning how to live can be gained. This is because sport makes some fundamentals of life visible: man does not live by bread alone. Yes, the material world is only the preliminary stage (Vorstufe) for the truly human,the world of freedom. But that freedom is based on rules, on the discipline of teamwork (Miteinander) and fair competition (Gegeneinander), independent of outward success or arbitrariness, and is thereby truly free. Sport as life…if we look at it more profoundly, the phenomenon of a football-crazy world can give us more than sheer entertainment.

Observations of Pope Benedict XVI Regarding Sport

We can now consider some observations that Pope Benedict XVI has made regarding soccer and sporting activity in a general way that have as their presupposition and foundation these reflections made thirty years earlier.

In addition to the numerous remarks about sport that the Holy Father has made in his greetings to pilgrims at the end of the Wednesday General Audiences and his Angelus messages, there are two speeches that he has delivered during two special audiences: one to the Austrian National Ski Team (October 6, 2007)(Benedict XVI, Insegnamenti, “Speech to the Austrian National Ski Team,” 2007) and the other to the participants of the World Swimming Championship (August 1, 2009) (Benedict XVI, L’Osservatore Romano, “ Speech to the participants of the World Swimming Championship,” 2009). As both speeches were addressed to the athletes themselves who were received by him, they offered the Holy Father the occasion to deal with the theme of sport more amply. To facilitate our analysis, I will subdivide his reflections into five points.

Virtues and Values Inherent to Sporting Activity

For consider the values inherent to sporting activity, the Holy Father’s speech to the Austrian ski team offers us an excellent program. Pope Benedict XVI observes that sports can help to foster basic virtues and values and offers an exemplary list: “perseverance, determination, spirit of sacrifice, internal and external discipline, attention to others, team work,solidarity, justice, courtesy, and the recognition of one’s own limits,and still others. These same virtues also come into play in a significant way in daily life and need to be continually exercised and practiced” (Benedict XVI, Insegnamenti, “Speech to the Austrian National Ski Team,” 2007; see also Insegnamenti, “Wednesday General Audience,” 2005; Insegnamenti, “Wednesday General Audience,” 2006; Insegnamenti, “Wednesday General Audience,” 2007; Insegnamenti, “Wednesday General Audience,” 2008; L’ Osservatore Romano, “Message with occasion of the Tour de France,” 2009).

While receiving the participants of the World Swimming Championship in August of 2009 in Rome, the Holy Father underlined again the potential values that are inherent to sporting efforts, this time enumerating a list from a complementary perspective:

“With your competitions you offer the world a fascinating spectacle of discipline and humanity, of artistic beauty and tenacious determination. You show what goals the vitality of youth can achieve when young people submit to the effort of a demanding training and are willing to accept numerous sacrifices and deprivations. All this is also an important lesson for life for your peers.… Sport, practiced with enthusiasm and an acute ethical sense, especially for youth become a training ground of healthy competition and physical improvement, a school of formation in the human and spiritual values,a privileged means for personal growth and contact with society&rdquo (Benedict XVI, L’ Osservatore Romano, “Speech to the participants of the World Swimming Championship,” 2009).

Athletes as “Role Models”

Speaking to these top level Austrian skiers, the Holy Father touched upon the fact that they are role models for the young people especially. “In fact, you, dear athletes, shoulder the responsibility –not less significant – of bearing witness to these attitudes and convictions and of incarnating them beyond your sporting activity into the fabric of the family, culture, and religion. In doing so, you will be of great help for others, especially the youth, who are immersed in rapidly developing society where there is a widespread loss of values and growing disorientation” (Benedict XVI, Insegnamenti, “Speech to the Austrian National Ski Team,” 2007).

And also in the above quoted speech to champion swimmers, he affirmed similarly: “Dear athletes, you are models for your peers, and your example can be crucial to them in building their future positively. So be champions in sports and in life!” (Benedict XVI, L’ Osservatore Romano, “ Speech to the participants of the World Swimming Championship,” 2009).

The Holy Father reminds these athletes that their “role as a champion” goes beyond the confines of their sport because their sporting activity becomes for many youth a model of a life of achievement and success. This brings with it a great responsibility because it can be a determining factor in one’s entire life project. In a time when exemplary personalities who the youth respect are lacking, the champion athlete indirectly becomes an “educator” as the young people look to them for guidance. Because of this, sporting ideals must permeate not only sport but life itself in order to be authentic and credible.

These considerations cause us to examine more closely an very important aspect for the Pontiff: the educational potential of sport and how it can contribute in confronting the growing “educational emergency” that is witnessed more in more in our time (Benedict XVI, L’ Osservatore Romano, “Letter to the Diocese of Rome,” 2009; see also L’ Osservatore Romano, “Address to the General Assembly of the Italian Bishops Conference,” 2008).

Sport as a Response to the Educational Emergency

In a Wednesday General Audience on January 9, 2008, the Holy Father greeted the directors and athletes of the level D Italian soccer league with thesewords: “May the game of soccer always be more of a means of teaching the values of honesty, solidarity and fraternity, especially among the younger generations” (Benedict XVI, Insegnamenti, “Greeting,Wednesday General Audience,” 2008).

I would like to recall another quote from the Holy Father which were directed to soccer students at a training club that forms part of the young scholastic sector of the Italian Soccer Federation (FIGC). At the end of the Sunday Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI made this appeal: “May sport be a gymnasium of true preparation for life” (Benedict XVI, Insegnamenti, “Greeting, Angelus,” 2005; see also Insegnamenti, “Greeting,” 2006).

On the occasion of the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s sport seminar (“Sport, education, faith: towards a new season for Catholic sport associations” 6-7 November 6-7, 2009), the Holy Father strongly accentuated in his message the educative value of sporting activity:“Sports have considerable educational potential in the context of youth and, for this reason, great importance not only in the use of leisure time but also in the formation of the person” (Benedict XVI, L’Osservatore Romano, “Message to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, on occasion of the International Seminar of Study,” 2009; see also L’Osservatore Romano, “Speech to the participants of the World Swimming Championship,” 2009; L’Osservatore Romano, “Address to civil and political authorities in Prague,” 2009).

In the actual educational emergency, provoked by a unilateral and exaggerated demand for personal freedom, sport can assume an important role as a means to educate many young people. Sport can demonstrate- by means of its rules and team effort- that there is an undeniable need for discipline and a shared responsibility.

In this regard, the Holy Father, in his letter to the diocese of Rome on the theme of education recalled that: “If no standard of behavior and rule of life is applied even in small daily matters, the character is not formed and the person will not be ready to face the trials that will come in the future.The educational relationship, however, is first of all the encounter of two kinds of freedom, and successful education means teaching the correct use of freedom” (Benedict XVI, L’Osservatore Romano, “Letter to the Diocese of Rome,” 2009).

Sport represents an appropriate field for finding the right balance between freedom and discipline, which is perhaps the most delicate point in the task of education today. Many young people consider sport as a positive phenomenon in their life and easily undergo the rigor and fatigue that it implies as well as its rules. Especially in the case of soccer, we see how team work groups together the freedom of each individual and the need of respecting the rules for the benefit of the common good.

As we have seen -in the context of this formative process- the Holy Father counts much upon sports men and women to be “credible witnesses” of its virtue and values. In this sense, speaking to the General Assembly of the Italian Bishop’s Conference (May 29, 2008), where the Holy Father made explicit reference to the parish recreational centers, he noted:“… precisely the current educational emergency increases the demand for an education that truly is such: therefore, concretely speaking,educators who know how to be credible witnesses of these realities and of these values upon which it is possible to build both one’s personal existence and a common and shared project of life” (Benedict XVI, L’Osservatore Romano, “Address to the General Assembly of the Italian Bishop’s Conference,” 2008).

The Unifying and Pacifying Capacity of Sport

A fourth aspect to consider is sport’s capacity to unite people of different countries and races in friendly competition as is often attested with particular eloquence in the occasion of the Olympics or the World Cup.

At the end of a General Audience on September 22, 2005, the Holy Fatherspoke these words to a delegation of UEFA and the Italian Soccer Federation present with a numerous group of children in attendance from sixteen countries:“Dear friends, … may today’s manifestation be an occasion for you to renew your efforts so that sport can contribute to building a society that is distinguished by reciprocal respect, fairness in behavior, and solidarity among all races and cultures” (Benedict XVI, Insegnamenti, “Greeting, Wednesday General Audience,”2005).

Once more, after praying the Sunday Angelus on February 12, 2006, a few days before the winter Olympics in Turin, the Pope expressed his desire that“this great sports competition be imbued with the Olympic values of fairness, joy and fraternal relations and in doing so, contribute to fostering peace among peoples” (Benedict XVI, Insegnamenti, “Angelus Greeting,” 2006; see also Insegnamenti, “Angelus Greeting to the Interamnia World Cup,” 2007; Insegnamenti, “Wednesday General Audience,” 2008; Insegnamenti ,“ Wednesday General Audience,” 2007).

Also in his greeting to the participants in the 29th edition of the Summer Olympics in Beijing, the Holy Father placed the accentuation on the pacifying dimension of sport: “… I am following with deep interest this great sports event – the most important and anticipated in the world – and I warmly hope that it will offer the international community an effective example of coexistence among people of the most different provenances, with respect for their common dignity. May sports once again be a pledge of brotherhood and peace among peoples!” (Benedict XVI, L’Osservatore Romano, “Angelus, greeting with occasion of the forthcoming Olympic Games in Beijing,” 2008).

These considerations of the Holy Father want to recall that an excessive nationalism and racism are contrary to the ideals of sport (“Olympic values”) as they destroy this unifying and pacifying capacity. Especially the Olympic Games and the other global sporting events can easily miss this opportunity and become the occasion, as has happened in the past, for a display of power and superiority of one nation’s political system over another’s. In these cases, sport is not an occasion for uniting, but is in opposition to the entire peoples as well as to the single individual. The Holy Father does not only ask this from “others”, but he also directs this appeal in a particular way to groups within the Church, especially Catholic sport associations. Benedict XVI asks them to be active in promoting a balanced appreciation of sporting activity in conformance with the sporting ideal and a Christian vision of the human person.

The Contribution of the Church and Catholic Athletes

The greatest asset the Church has to offer to the world of sport is her own insights regarding the overall phenomenon of sport that is enriched by a vision of the human person rooted in Christian anthropology and also in the light of the faith (Benedict XVI, L’Osservatore Romano, “Message to Cardinal,” 2006).

For the Pope, sport is not simply the exercise of one’s physical qualities but rather something that regards the entire person. Along these same lines, in his speech to the Austrian skiers already quoted above, he affirms:

“Body, spirit and soul form a single unity and each component must be in harmony with the other. You know how necessary this interior harmony is in order to reach sporting goals at the highest levels. Consequently, even the most demanding sports must be rooted in a holistic view of the human person, recognizing his profound dignity and favoring an overall development and full maturity of the person. Otherwise, if sport is only focused on mere material performance, it will fall short of realizing its necessary social dimension. In the end, sporting activity must help one to recognize their own talents and capacities, their very efforts and their own very life as gifts that come from God. For this reason, sport should always have God our Creator as its ultimate point of reference. It is in this sense that the Apostle makes reference to sports competition in order to recall man’s highest calling: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one”(1Cor. 9: 24-25) (Benedict XVI, “Speech to Austrian National Ski Team,” 2007).

Speaking to the participant of the swimming championship, the Holy Father included in his speech a reflection on the transcendent dimension of the human person, bringing out the loftier aspects of our creaturely status and concluding with what could almost be considered a prayer of thanksgiving to God:

“Watching these swimming championships and admiring the results achieved make it easy to understand the great potential with which God has endowed the human body and the interesting objectives of perfection it is able to achieve. One then thinks of the Psalmist’s wonder who in contemplating the universe, praises the glory of God and the greatness of man: “when I behold your heavens”, we read in Psalm 8, “the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have set in place what is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him?” (vv. 3-4). Then, how can one fail to thank the Lord for having endowed the human body with such perfection; for having enriched it with a beauty and harmony that can be expressed in so many ways?” (Benedict XVI, L’Osservatore Romano, “Speech to the participants of the World Swimming Championship,” 2009).

With respect to the many time quoted educational emergency, the Holy Father has pointed out those task that belong to the Church, especially to her pastors and the educational institutions and sport associations. It is significant that Pope Benedict XVI, during a meeting with the clergy of Rome, regarding the theme of the parish recreational center, had this to say:

“Of course, an after-school center where only games were played and refreshments provided would be absolutely superfluous. The point of an after-school catechetical and recreation center must be cultural, human and Christian formation for a mature personality. … I would say that this is precisely the role of such a center, that one not only finds possibilities there for one’s leisure time but above all for an integral human formation that completes the personality. Therefore, of course, the priest as an educator must himself have received a good training and must fit into today’s culture, and be deeply cultured if he is to help young people to enter a culture inspired by faith. I would naturally add that in the end, the central point of orientation in every culture is God, God present in Christ” (Benedict XVI, L’Osservatore Romano, “Meeting with Clergy of Rome,” 2009).

Along this very same line of thinking, in his message to our recent seminar of study (Vatican, November 6-7, 2009), he underlined this point:

“Through sports, the ecclesial community contributes to the formation of youth, providing a suitable environment for their human and spiritual growth. In fact, when sports initiatives aim at the integral development of the person and are managed by qualified and competent personnel, they provide a useful opportunity for priests, religious and lay people to become true and proper educators and teachers of life for the young.

In our time when an urgent need to educate the new generations is evident it is therefore necessary for the Church to continue to support sports for youth, making the most of their positive aspects also at competitive levels such as their capacity

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for stimulating competitiveness, courage and tenacity in pursuing goals. However, it is necessary to avoid every trend that perverts the nature of sports by recourse to practices that can even damage the body, such as doping. As part of a coordinated, formative effort, Catholic directors, staff and workers must consider themselves expert guides for youth, helping each of them to develop their athletic potential without obscuring those human qualities and Christian virtues that make for a fully mature person” (Benedict XVI, L’ Osservatore Romano, “ Message to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontificial Council for the Laity, on occasion of the International Seminar of Study,” 2009).

While acknowledging that not all athletes share the same vision of the human person down to its last detail, the Church would like to offer her assistance in furthering a more profound and integral vision of the sporting phenomenon, in order to avoid the error of valuing this beautiful, but penultimate, reality as the ultimate end supreme activity of man. This service could help to reduce the temptation to use in appropriate ways («unfair play», corruption) or means(«doping») that contradict the very essence of the nature of sport.

Some might be surprised to find these words of the Holy Father regarding sport, as their first impression might be that of considering Pope Benedict XVI distant from the world of sport, especially if we consider his lack of participation in sport during his youth (Ratzinger, 1998).

However, as we have been able to see, already as the young Archbishop of Munich he dedicated himself to this theme with a philosophically profound reflection, pointing out the potentiality of sport for the integral development of the person on the individual level and its capacities on the national and global levels.

Cardinal Ratzinger – and also as Pope Benedict XVI – inserting sporting activity into a broader anthropological context, sought to bring these debate out of a dead end path of pure entertainment or sterile self-autonomy. I myself was surprised to find that the Holy Father, in the first two and a half years of his pontificate (2005-2008) touched upon the theme of sport in various ways no less than fifty occasions (Insegnamenti di Benedict XVI, 2005-2008).

Nor is it purely a coincidence that it is during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, that a delegation of the Holy See participates in an Olympic Congress-that of Copenhagen last October 3-5, 2009, with a reflection on the theme of «Olympic values». For, as we recalled elsewhere, the Servant of God, John Paul II in the beginning of the year 2004, instituted the section “Church and sport” to insure a more direct and systematic attention to the vast world of sport on the part of the Holy See. And as we have seen from the above reflections, during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, the interest and concern of the Universal Church to the vast world of sport continues as it seeks to dialogue with the renowned sports institutions at the international level while fostering a renewal of pastoral work in and through sports at the level.


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