Intercollegiate Athletics vs. Academics: The Student-Athlete or the Athlete-Student


Athletic programs at many colleges and universities are inconsistent with the school’s mission statements. The term “student-athlete” basically
means that they are students first, and then athletes. We have reached a point here it can be argued that they are instead more athlete-students.
Regardless of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules and regulations that stipulate that they are not allowed to, some student-athletes still receive
preferential treatment and extra benefits while in college. Some recruited athletes are not prepared for the cascade of academic college work along with the additional
demands that NCAA athletics require. The athletic pressures that accompany NCAA athletic scholarship can leave the unprepared student athlete with little time
for academics.
With collegiate athletics becoming a big business the rules associated with how we treat the student athlete must change. It is not unreasonable to suggest
that is the business of college athletics changes then the way we treat the student athlete must change as well. Something needs to change in the way the
NCAA conducts its business. Considering the large amount of revenue that is, and for the foreseeable future will be, generated each year in this industry,
it is only fair that some sort of a stipend system be put in place to compensate student athletes.

Athletic programs at many colleges and universities are inconsistent with the school’s academic missions. The focus on maintaining a strong athletic
program has taken precedence over the scholastic quality of the student-athlete that is accepted into the institution. For the student-athlete this can mean
lowered academic admissions standards and preferential treatment in school. On the other hand, many student-athletes are attending college but not learning,
and are being overworked and undercompensated (Ting 2009). Overall the issue here is about the big business that intercollegiate athletics has become versus
the academic missions of the colleges and universities. The term “student-athlete” implies that the individuals should be students first, and then athletes. We
have reached a point where it can be argued that they are instead more athlete-students.
Athletic programs were first incorporated into institutions of higher learning for several reasons: it was believed that participation in sports helped to
build character, it provided entertainment, and it generated positive school and community spirit. “It was also believed that athletics could contribute
to the institutional mission through resource acquisition in the form of money, widespread visibility, increased student enrollment, and enhanced alumni support”
(Gerdy, 2006, p. 46). However, it seems that ever since collegiate athletics began in the late 1800’s, there have been noted problems. In the first
organized collegiate football game Rutgers University beat Princeton, but the team included three players that were failing a math class (Igel & Boland,
2010). Over time, the problem has grown: in the 1980’s 57 out of 106 Division IA institutions (54%) had to be censured, sanctioned, or put on probation for
a major NCAA rules violation (Mandel, 2007). Fifty eight out of one hundred and fourteen did the same in the 1990’s (Friday, 2011). Because of the
current state of most intercollegiate athletic departments, particularly those belonging to the NCAA Division I, colleges and universities have become more
than just institutions of higher learning; they are now also huge players in the commercial entertainment industry (Clotfelter, 2010).
Overall, many athletic programs have become something bigger than the school itself; without the program’s success the schools would not be as attractive
to incoming students (Pope &Pope 2009). The success of these athletic programs lies in the hands of the student-athletes, and they need to be taught that success
on the field does not always mean success in the classroom or in life. Athletics should be extracurricular to the academic priority (O’Toole, 2010).
The Athlete-Student
It is not a question of whether or not the experience for a student-athlete is different from that of a traditional student. Instead, the issue at hand
here is whether or not student-athletes are students that participate in extracurricular competitive sports, or have become athletes that also go to classes whenever
their athletic schedules allow. On one hand, it can be argued that the student-athlete benefits greatly from the relationship that he or she has with the athletic
department and its stakeholders. On the other hand, many claim that the athletic departments have reached a point where they are unjustly exploiting

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and overworking
these athletes, using them to further grow their multimillion dollar corporations.

Some student-athletes still receive preferential treatment and extra benefits while in college in clear violation of the spirit of NCAA rules and regulations..
Colleges and universities routinely lower admission standards for athletes (Laderson, 2002) (Bracken, Scoggins & Weiner 2006). On average, student-athletes enter
in the bottom 25% of their freshman class (Eitzen, 2000). They may even be promised “grades” to get them to attend a particular institution. (Lumpkin,
2008) Some might argue That such unethical behavior would not be necessary if student athletes were encouraged to hold their studies as their highest priority.
Student-athletes also receive extra benefits in the form of money and gifts as rewards for attending a particular university or for a good game-time performance.
Many athletes do not attend college to learn, but rather hope to use their collegiate competitive athletic experience to land positions on professional sports teams
(Ladenson, 2002). They have a distorted idea of what it should mean to be a student-athlete, and believe it to be more like a required minor league that
allows them to get enough exposure to someday make it to the major leagues. With the focus on athletic competition and away from academics, collegiate athletics
has become simply one game after another, after another, devoid of a larger educational purpose or vision, just like professional sports (Gerdy, 2006).
Recruited athletes are not prepared for college work, and then even more athletic demands than they are accustomed to, are placed upon them that allows little
time for academics (Gerdy, 2006) (Ting 2009). Student-athletes entering their first year hold more responsibilities than the non-athletic participating student,
and it may be more difficult for them to transition through changes in athletic participation demands on top of the new social and academic changes. McEwen
(2010) conducted a study using a sample of eleven freshman female student-athletes that were interviewed at the beginning and then the middle of the season. He
found that although all successfully adapted to their new social and athletic lives, only two of eleven (18.2%) were able to transition academically as well.
Athletes spend 30-40 hours per week on their sport which is mentally and physically exhausting, allowing them little time or energy to put toward their studies.
This is one of the reasons why coaches tend to require they take “easy” courses and “easy” majors so that they have a better chance of maintaining
academic eligibility and can still compete (Eitzen, 2000) (Manzo 1994). By promoting an emphasis on athletics being more important than anything else in college,
this also sends a poor message to the future college student-athletes, that athletics provide a “get rich quick avenue from the realities of hard
work, personal sacrifice, and a commitment to excellence” (Haynes, 1990 PAGE NUMBER HERE!). This could not be further from the truth; however, as less
than one out of ten thousand athletes make it into professional sports (Haynes, 1990).
Collegiate athletics has been estimated to be a sixty billion dollar industry (McCormick & McCormick, 2006). It is interesting to note who benefits from
this enormous amount of money. The big conference coaches are allowed agents and sign contracts that bring them hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars
per year in salary alone. The NCAA and the universities benefit from the billions of dollars made and do not have to pay taxes on their earnings as they are claiming
that athletic functions are in line with their academic missions. Corporations and the media benefit as they get business from the exposure at the athletic
events. The student-athletes are the only group involved that are not able to benefit proportionally from the billions of dollars raked in each year.
The NCAA claims that student-athletes are classified as such for a few very important reasons. First, athletes need to be able to claim amateur status.
They do this by remaining academically in good standing and by also not receiving any pay or gifts for their performance or presence as a student-athlete. This
way the NCAA can require them to perform work as athletes for free because it is considered part of the educational mission, which also means that they do
not have to pay taxes on their profits (Eitzen, 2000). McCormick and McCormick (2006) claim that student-athletes at Division 1 NCAA sports at revenue generating
schools are actually employee-athletes and they argue that they should be able to profit as well. The NCAA revealed that football players devote more than
forty hours a week to practicing, playing, and training, but only twenty of those hours are mandatory. This means that putting in the extra hours is a well-known
but non-documented requirement. Being required to participate in any work over forty hours a week is the equivalent to a full time job (Smith, 2011). Like
no other industry in the U.S., the NCAA is allowed to employ one type of labor (athletic participation and performance) without paying a competitive wage for
it (McCormick & McCormick, 2006). The student-athletes instead are provided with scholarships to attend school, which is a positive, but in comparison to
the billions of dollars brought in every year, the tuition money is equivalent to payment in ‘peanuts.’ The student-athletes are being exploited
economically, making millions for their institutions, the NCAA, and other corporations but are provided only with a subsistence wage or room, board, tuition and books.

The long hours that the student-athletes are required to put in are due to the athletic department’s attitudes of having to “win at all costs.”
This can lead to heavily publicized athletic scandals of schools that will pay athletes in money or gifts to attend their schools, or grade changes in order
to keep athletes academically eligible (Lumpkin 2008). Fans and stakeholders of big time programs would rather win and later get busted for cheating than
finish 8-4 or 9-3 every year with a straight-laced program of student-athletes (Mandel, 2007).
Eitzen (2006) suggests some ways to correct the current state of intercollegiate athletics in order to align the departments with their respective institution’s
academic missions. He suggests that institutions should no longer make admissions exceptions; eliminate freshman eligibility; provide remedial classes and training;
reduce time demands; allow athletes the freedom to transfer schools whenever they would like; give them the right to consult with agents just like coaches
are able to; and give them the right to make money from endorsements, speeches, etc. Smith (2011) suggests that all scholarship athletes should be able to receive
a guaranteed undergraduate education including living expenses, for each year that they participate as an athlete on a varsity team, which they should be
able to redeem at any time. This would allow them to focus on their sport if they choose to do so. At a certain point, taking the sport to the next level
will either pan out or it will not, and at that time the offer should still be on the table for the athlete to complete their degree. The NCAA has been
somewhat receptive to changes regarding the compensation of student athletes. A reform agenda has recently been passed by the NCAA’s Division I board
of Directors that allows schools to increase aid and lengthen scholarship terms to individual athletes (Cohen 2011).


Collegiate athletics has become a big business, but athletes are expected to stay the same? How can they be expected to be responsible for contributing to
the growth of a multibillion dollar industry but be the only party to not see any benefits from it (Toma & Kramer, 2009)? Balance needs to be maximized
between academic and athletic programs. If we are going to refer to individuals as student-athletes then they should indeed be held to the highest standard
of both student and athlete. Something needs to change in the process of how the NCAA conducts its business. The NCAA is going to have to admit that the
requirements for a student-athlete, particularly in Division 1 revenue producing sports, are the equivalent of that of a full time job. Considering the huge
amounts of money that are generated each year in this industry, it would only be fair if the student-athletes were all paid a monthly stipend for their participation.
Focusing on the “athletic” aspect of being a student-athlete more than the “student” is unfair and will limit the experiences that
the student-athlete should have while enrolled at the college or university of their choice. In order for the student to be well-rounded, programs must
focus on the concepts of self-sufficiency, independence, and personal goal getting (Haynes, 1990). Almost all student-athletes will end up as a professional in
something other than sports. It needs to be ensured that the students will succeed off the field as well as on the field (Smith, 2011). College is meant to prepare
students for the real world. By failing to adequately prepare our student-athletes the institution also fails to serve this important function.
The argument can be made that collegiate athletics overshadows academia at many schools. However, many feel that the whole university community benefits greatly
from a very successful athletic program. Although preferential treatment may be given to certain student-athletes in order for them to be able to attend
and complete an academic program and play for the athletic department, many believe it can be justified. It can be argued that many of these athletes would
never make it in a higher education program if there were no sports programs to help them get there, and no motivation for them to try to attend. On a small
scale, the university, directly the athletic department, benefits from the athletes because they help in growing the program and making it a success. A large number
of the student-athletes benefit from the university because it provides them with a quality and aspect of life that they normally would not be able to experience.
It is only a tiny minority that benefit from the institution preparing them for a future in professional sports.




Brackin D.,Scoggins C.,Weiner J., (2006). Academic standards lower for U athletes,
McClatchy – Tribune Business News.
Cohen, B. (2011). Big-Time College Athletes Ask, ‘Who’s the Amateur?’ — With
the NCAA now a big business, the stars of the show want their share of the proceeds.
Wall Street Journal, 29 October 2011.
Clotfelter, C. T. (2011). Is Sports in Your Mission Statement? The Chronicle
of Higher Education,
24 October 2010. Retrieved:

Eitzen, S., (2009). Sport in Contemporary Society: An Anthology, 8th ed. Boulder:
Paradigm Pub.
Friday, W. (2001). Athletics vs. Academics: Both Sides. Matrix: The Magazine
for Leaders in Education.
Nov.-Dec., 2001. Retrieved from:

Gerdy, J. R. (2006). Air Ball: University Press of Mississippi. University,
Haynes, III, L. L. (1990). Athletics vs. Academics: A Focus on the Future. NASSP
Bulletin 1990, 74(8).
Igel, L. H., & Boland, R. A. (2010). National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA). Encyclopedia of Law and Higher Education. Retrieved from:
collegiate-athletic- association-ncaa.html
Ladenson, R. F. (2002). College Athletics: Ethics Case Study Detail, Case 81.
Eighth Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl at the Annual Meeting of the Association
for Practical and Professional Ethics in Cincinnati, February, 2002. Retrieved:
Lumpkin, A. (2008). A Call to Action for Facutly Regarding Intercollegiate Athletics.
Phi Kappa Phi Forum.
Mandel, S. (2007). Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls. John Wiley & Sons Pub.
New York.
Manzo, K. K. (1994). True Test: NCAA Questions Quality of Correspondence Courses,
Integrity of Exams. Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
McCormick, R. A., & McCormick, A. C. (2006). The Myth of the Student-Athlete:
The College Athlete as Employee. Washington Law Review Association, 81, February
McEwen, C. (2010). A Qualitative Examination of Sport Transisitions in First
Year Collegiate Female Athletes. M. Sc. Dissertation, Wilfred Laurier University
O’Toole, J. (2010). ‘Student Athlete” Should Not be an Oxymoron.
Los Angeles Times. Retrieved:
Pope, D. G. & Pope, J. C. (2009). The Impact of College Sports Success on
the Quantity and Quality of Student Applications, Southern Economic Journal75.
3, 750-780.
Smith, B. (2011). Lifetime Chits Would Allow Athletes to be Students, Too. Chronicle
of Higher Education, 57(19), A22.
Ting, Siu-Man Raymond (2009). Impact of Noncognitive Factors on First-Year Academic
Performance and Persistence of NCAA Division I Student Athletes, The Journal
of Humanistic Counseling, 48.2: 215-228.
Toma, J. D. & Kramer II, D. A. (2009). The Uses of Intercollegiate Athletics:
Opportunities and Challenges for the University. New Directions for Higher Education,

2020-06-02T11:24:59-05:00November 19th, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Facilities, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Intercollegiate Athletics vs. Academics: The Student-Athlete or the Athlete-Student

Footwear Trends: Should Sport & Fitness Enthusiasts Embrace the Minimalist Movement?


The popularity of the barefoot movement in sports and fitness activities has soared within the past few years as evidenced by a growing community of minimalist footwear enthusiasts wearing the ‘glove’ shoes in their sporting endeavors, fitness workouts, and everyday leisure activities. This emergence of the minimalist shoes, such as the Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers®, has created a wave of intrigue for those sport and fitness enthusiasts wanting a natural running experience without being subjected to the hazards of the road. Whether running barefoot, in shoes or in minimal footwear, the trends in footwear preference have caused much debate between researchers as to which form causes more injuries and/or best serves to enhance athletic performance. As sport and fitness professionals, it is important to thoroughly examine the current footwear trends to develop a ‘best practices’ approach for advising our athletes and clients.


Running has been a natural form of transportation since the beginning of time when our ancestors ran in order to hunt and gather food to survive. Since shoes did not exist at the time, people engaged in everyday activities barefoot. The evolution of the shoe has changed dramatically over time, from animal skin moccasins to leather dress-wear to rawhide boots; yet a shoe dedicated to athletic endeavors is a relatively recent phenomenon. Introduced in the 1960’s, the rudimentary running shoe (canvas and leather) provided athletes with a footwear option that is better suited for sporting events (10, 4). Since the latter part of the twentieth century, the public has been wearing running shoes everywhere: they train, compete, and wear their running shoes as everyday leisure and fitness wear.

Although the running shoe has become a way for people to express their style, many runners are converting back to barefoot running or minimalist footwear
such as the Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers shoes®. Fitness enthusiasts are participating in barefoot warm-ups and cool-downs in hopes of enhancing
their performance on the court, field, and track.

The trends in footwear preference has caused much debate among researchers as to which form causes more injuries. Researchers have observed humans running
barefoot, in shoes and/or in minimal footwear while on various running surfaces. The occurrence of injuries seemed to rely on the product, running experience,
and environment. Each study has found many pros and cons to running shod and non-traditionally. To understand shod running and non-traditional running, characteristics
need to be identified for both. Shod running is running in the modern running shoe and non-traditional running includes barefoot or the wearing of minimalist
footwear. This paper will discuss the history of running, non-traditional running, injuries related to running, and practical applications for the sport and fitness
History of Running
When did humans begin to run? This question has been intriguing researchers for years. Bramble and Lieberman (4) indicated, “the fossil evidence of
these features suggests that endurance running is a derived capability of the genus, Homo, originating about 2 million years ago, and may have been instrumental
in the evolution of the human body form” (p. 345). The physiological features of the human form included stride length, spring-like tendons, thermoregulation,
respiration, and the ability to run for long periods of time over great distances (10, 4). Unlike many animals that can run at high speeds for several minutes,
humans have the capability to run at slower speeds for long distances. In fact, humans have been identified as the only primates capable of endurance running

How People Ran Without Running Shoes
Our ancestors ran barefoot and did so for long periods of time. The evolution from walking to running, a locomotor skill that man developed in an effort to
more efficiently and effectively hunt their food, provided evidence that the human body was designed to run for long distances (4, 10). Daniel Lieberman
(10) studied populations of runners in Kenya and the United States to determine the difference in running gaits between three groups; “those who had always
run barefoot, those who had always worn shoes, and those who had converted to barefoot running from shod running” ( p. 1). The study concluded that
barefoot runners strike the ground on the middle of their foot first and shod runners hit the ground heel first. Hitting the ground heel first produced injuries
on the lower extremities of the body, including the ankles, knees, and hips. Less impact was generated in mid-foot striking because this part of the foot
naturally has more cushioning. Runners in traditional shoes “experience a very large and sudden collision force about 1,000 times per mile run ….
barefoot [runners], however, tend to land with a springy step towards the middle or front of the foot” (10, p. 1).
Olympic athletes have also performed barefoot; runners such as Abele Bikila and Zola Budd were the two most famous barefoot runners. Bikila set a new world
record time of 2:15:16 in the marathon at the 1960 Olympic Games while running barefoot. Zola Budd, another barefoot runner, twice broke the world record in
the women’s 5000m event (14). Although these runners were exceptional examples of the effects barefoot running could have on human athletic performance;
the fact is, the majority of the sporting world wears shoes. This begs the question: what are the design mechanics of running shoes that make them so different from
exercising barefoot?

Invention and Mechanics behind the Traditional Running Shoe

The Nike, Inc. (Nike) company is credited with inventing the running shoe as we know it today. Unlike other athletic shoes of the time period, the Nike shoe
was thought to be far superior due to its advanced motion control, heel cushioning, and shock absorption (17). Yet, as reported by Tweeney (17) “strong evidence
shows that thickly cushioned running shoes have done nothing to prevent injury in the 30-odd years since Bill Bowerman invented them” (p. 2).

Dr. Stephen Pribut, a renowned physician who specializes in Podiatric Sports Medicine, discussed the importance of knowing which type of shoe is appropriate
for each individual sport, as he acknowledged that the development of the traditional running shoe may have led to increased injuries in runners (16). In a 2010 Harvard
study (10), more than 75 percent of American runners who wore traditional shoes were likely to strike heel first. According to Pribut (16), “the purpose
of an athletic shoe is to protect the foot from the stresses of your sport, while permitting the athlete to achieve his maximum potential” (p. 1).
A shoe is made up of the midsole, outer heel, inner heel, fore-foot, and heel counter. These parts of an athletic shoe are designed to make running more comfortable
and safe. Yet, injuries can occur due to the basic design mechanics of the shoe; specifically, Achilles tendonitis has been known to occur in people who wear
shoes made with hard stiff soles (12, 16, 8, 10), which may lead to increased injuries in the runner.

Wearing shoes that have outlasted their life span can increase the chances of injury as well. The midsole is designed to absorb shock and loses its capacity
to do so as mileage increases. For example, a runner who routinely logs (or completes) 20 miles a week should change their shoes by week 20-25 because the
life of a shoe is typically made to withstand 350-550 miles (16). The sole of a shoe does not factor into the amount of shock absorption (16), so runners
are advised to adhere to the 350-550 mileage rule. Length and width are also important. It is recommended to have at least one finger width at the toe of
the shoe and the ‘widest past of the shoe should be at the widest part of your foot’ (16, p. 3). Tying a shoe too tightly could create sharp
pain, or even numbness, in the foot. Running with a loose shoe could create too much movement within the box of the shoe.

The design mechanics, as well as the type of shoe, can affect the overall performance of the athlete. Dr. Pribut described the differences between tennis players
who perform repeated lateral movements as compared to walkers and runners who move forward in a straight line. Racquet sports, such as tennis, badminton,
and racquetball, require a lateral motion in which the side-to-side stability of the foot must be provided by a firm shoe design (16). Having an unstable
shoe for a sport which relies primarily on lateral movement could result in greater injury to the athlete. Pribut also stated the importance of purchasing
sport-specific shoes. Knowledge of the footwork requirements of the particular activity should determine the type of shoe that is worn by the athlete (16).

Non-Traditional Running

Shoes or no shoes? For centuries, runners have been running barefoot; however, non-traditional running has made a splash in the running world. Athletes as
well as fitness enthusiasts have embraced the concept of minimal footwear by purchasing shoes like the Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers®. These
minimalist shoes give the feeling of running barefoot but with the added protection of a sole. A popular shoe retailer, Barefoot Running Shoes, touted
that the Nike Free© strengthens the lower body and feet by imitating barefoot movement (1). The same retailer also advertised the Vibram FiveFingers®
as a shoe which gives the runner the ability to experience the sensation and freedom of going barefoot with the added protection to endure in the ‘modern
environment’ (2). The question arises as to whether these types of minimalist footwear have actually reduced the number of injuries seen in runners.
Mechanics of Barefoot Running
As compared to traditional shod running, barefoot running has appeared to have more advantages, as related to health concerns and decreased injury rates. In
2004, Divert et al. (7) investigated shod versus barefoot running by examining 35 subjects while running on a treadmill for a specific period of time and speed.
The study called for 31 male and 4 female runners with leisure training experience and no injuries. Two test sessions were administered. The first session required
the subjects to run on the treadmill to become more familiar with running on the treadmill. The second session required the subjects to complete two running
periods (one shod and one barefoot) each for four minutes. The researchers used a Treadmill Dynamometer and an Electromyography (EMG) to record the results
of each participant. The EMG measured the Medial Tibialis, Medial Peroneus, Medial Gastrocnemius lateralis, Medial Gastrocnemius medialis and Medial Soleus.
The results revealed lower numbers for barefoot running in contact time, flight time, passive peak, and stride duration. The parameters measured each person
running around 60 consecutive steps. Divert et al. (7) concluded that “barefoot running leads to a reduction of impact peak in order to reduce the high mechanical
stress occurring during repetitive steps. This neural-mechanical adaptation could also enhance the storage and restitution of elastic energy at the ankle
extensors” (p. 593). Thus, the barefoot runners appeared to have a decreased chance for injury.

What Do the Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers® Shoes Offer?
The Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers® shoes are the newest invention in the world of minimalist footwear. Although running purely barefoot can increase
a person’s risk of injury by contacting foreign objects on the road or rail, minimalist footwear offers the sensation of running barefoot while protecting
the sole of the foot.
According to Wilk et al. (19) the “Nike Free© allows the feet to move through their natural range of motion which creates the feeling and effects
of running barefoot” (p. 17). Running while wearing the minimalist shoe has generated increased media attention. The researchers (19) tested runners
on a treadmill using video-gait analysis to determine if the Nike Free© running shoe allowed the foot to move naturally striking mid-foot versus heel
first. The researchers chose to use the Nike Free© rather than having the participants run purely barefoot because of the safety issues involved when
testing on a treadmill. Due to the fact that the foot, ankle, leg, and body experience a great deal of force when running, the objective was to discover
possible corrective measures to the subtalar misalignment, which often leads to injuries. The Nike Free© allowed the researchers to identify “overpronation,
supination, and other gait abnormalities” characteristic of subtalar conditions. Wilk et al. (19) concluded that the, “Nike Free©, when used with
video-gait analysis, allows for proper assessment of running biomechanical abnormalities that contribute to injury” (p. 17).
The Vibram FiveFingers® is another popular type of minimalist footwear that provides the feel of running barefoot without the constricting nature of a traditional
running shoe. This minimalist shoe fits like a glove on the foot. Author and barefoot runner, Chris McDougall (13), claimed that his problem with plantar
fasciitis was healed when he began running in the Vibram FiveFingers®. According to Tony Post, president and CEO of Vibram USA, the Vibram FiveFingers® allow
the foot to absorb shock and flex (2). In traditional running shoes, the runner’s stride lengthens and the foot strikes the ground in a heel first fashion. Tweeney
(17) concluded that runners could avoid injury by running barefoot or by wearing minimalist footwear; it was simply a matter of going ‘back to the basics’.
The Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers® shoes both offer the characteristics and design mechanics of barefoot running with the added benefit of protecting
the foot from the hazards of the road.
Injuries Related to Running
Running has steadily increased in popularity in the United States with more than 30 million sport and fitness enthusiastic participating annually
(9). Although running has been proven to improve cardiovascular health, lower leg injuries have become more and more prevalent in runners today. Some researchers
(12, 19, 16) believe the injuries may be due in part to the structure of the running shoes.
Shod Running Injuries
The modern running shoe has been designed to have more cushioning and shock absorption to prevent the force of shock waves sent up the body when the foot
strikes the ground. According to Lieberman et al. (12), the heel-toe running pattern has led to lower extremity injuries such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles
tendonitis, and knee and hip injuries. A traditional shoe limits the proprioceptive abilities and ankle motion of the foot, as well as decreases the opportunity
to strengthen the muscles of the feet. The stiff soles of the traditional running shoes have led to weaker foot muscles and reduced arch strength (12, 16, 8,
Shoes have been called the “perceptual illusion” (5) to running because they limit the feet from feeling the surface and striking the ground
in a natural movement. Researchers from The Journal of Injury, Function and Rehabilitation (8) performed a study on 68 young adult runners, 37
of them being women. All the runners ran in typical modern running shoes, had no history of musculoskeletal injuries, and ran 15 miles per week. Each runner
was monitored on a treadmill running with shoes and then running barefoot. After data was collected, the researchers discovered that the runners had increased
joint torques at the knee, hip and ankle joints compared to running barefoot.

According to the research cited thus far, traditional running shoes have been found to increase the rate of injury in runners; however, perhaps the price
of a running shoe makes a marked difference in injury rates. Walker and Blair(18) found a 123% increase in injury frequency with expensive shoes over less
expensive shoes. Similarly, another group of researchers (3) conducted a study using nine adults (six men and three women) who were injury free for at least
six months, physically fit, and were accustomed to running on treadmills. The objective was to find the affects of leg stiffness when wearing athletic shoes.
The shoes chosen for the experiment were “athletic joggers” costing $10 (low cost) and “light weight cushioned trainers” costing $65
(high cost). The results concluded that cushioned running shoes increase limb stiffness compared to running barefoot. Ultimately, Bishop et al. (3) found
that “footwear influences the maintenance of stiffness in the lower extremity during hopping and joint excursion at the ankle in running” (p. 387).
Preventing Running Injuries Through Barefoot Activity
Every year runners around the world are diagnosed with high number of injuries (9). This prevalence has brought researchers together to evaluate why the injury
rates have increased. Although there is limited research to indicate that runners and other fitness enthusiasts are less injury-prone when wearing running shoes
(6), barefoot or minimalist running is not something to just dive into without first testing the proverbial waters. The muscles are not adapted or strong enough
yet to take on the degree of strength it takes to run barefoot. Tweeney (17) warned that people should be aware that exercising while barefoot or wearing
minimalist shoes should involve a slow transition. It is recommended that those who are not accustomed to barefoot activity begin in their home and then move
outside to grass until the muscles have built enough strength and tolerance. Other options for barefoot activity include: yoga, Pilates, and group fitness
classes. The concept of going purely barefoot has not won over many podiatrists who, according to Parker-Pope (15) “cringe at the notion of unshod feet
pounding the pavement, where the risks include cuts, bruises, and unsanitary conditions” (p.1). However, proponents say barefoot training helps correct
form and reduces foot, shin, and muscle injuries (15); thus, leading to fewer injuries to the runners. Many doctors, coaches, podiatrists, and physical therapists
agree that people spend too much time in shoes (15, 14, 16) and support the idea of walking around the house, strength training, and/or running barefoot
a few times a week on a safe surface preferably in minimal footwear, such as the Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers® shoes.


Fad or New Fitness Standard
Although many professionals believe barefoot or minimalist shoes decrease the amount of injuries and increase performance, there are still those people who
believe this is a fad that will fade out in time. Fad or not, the Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers® can be seen on feet just about everywhere, from
college campuses and exclusive fitness centers to road races and hiking trails. Interestingly, the Vibram company, which introduced the FiveFingers® minimalist
shoe in 2006, has experienced tripled sales growth (6) each year since the minimalist footwear trend began.
Issues within the Sport & Fitness Industry
The minimalist shoes, Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers®, are growing in popularity in the sport and fitness world. Many athletic weight rooms
as well as fitness and recreation centers at colleges and universities are permitting the use of these shoes in their facilities. The versatility of these shoes allows
the individual to exercise in many areas, including the weight room, cardiovascular machines, group exercise classes, basketball courts, and even the rock climbing
wall. Yet, some athletic performance coaches and facility managers are strict traditionalist and insist that all patrons wear closed-toe athletic shoes, which
translates to the traditional athletic shoes rather than the minimalist footwear. Perhaps professional conferences or workshops should host sessions which address
the validity of the minimalist shoe as an approved alternative to traditional dress code policies within weight rooms and fitness centers.
The Learning Curve: How to Adjust Your Workouts
Many track and cross country coaches have long endorsed the use of minimalist shoes or even barefoot training in the running world. Barefoot activity, including
minimalist shoes, has been proposed as a prevention strategy to help prevent running injuries. Barefoot activity does not necessarily mean running barefoot,
but rather performing various activities barefoot for a period of time each day. These activities range from walking on a smooth trail to running on the
grassy infield of a track. For example, many track and cross country coaches recommend that athletes (sprinters and distance runners) perform their cool-downs
barefoot on the grass of the track infield. If these activities are performed for at least one hour each day, it can lead to increased arch height and muscle
strength. Hart and Smith (2008) reported that the activities performed when barefoot created an arch pattern that ‘mimics the typical arch observed
in barefoot populations’, which have typically reported a very low incidence of running injuries (9).
Although many fitness professionals have endorsed the barefoot or minimalist shoe movement, Krauss (2011) cautioned that those in the fitness industry should
proceed with ‘proper progression’ as a component of conditioning the feet and lower legs (11). Shanna Moody, Tarleton State University Fitness/Wellness
Coordinator, is a big proponent of going barefoot and/or wearing the Nike Free© or Vibram FiveFingers® shoes. Shanna’s philosophy as a fitness/wellness
professional goes back to the functional aspects of exercise, “taking off your shoes and strengthening from the feet up is where I think people should
begin.” As described by Ms. Moody, many clients can directly relate their pains and injuries back to the type of shoe they are wearing.


The information found on shod running and non-traditional forms of running proves to be very informative in regards to the history, benefits, controversies, and
developing interest in the sports and fitness realm. While the advantages of true barefoot running or exercise have been thoroughly documented in the literature,
it does not seem to be an ideal training concept for those in the sports and fitness industry as it relates to hygiene and safety issues. However, the increased popularity
of minimalist footwear, which has grabbed the attention of researchers as well as runners and recreational athletes, may be a legitimate alternative to the barefoot
movement. The emergence of the minimalist shoe has created a wave of intrigue for those fitness enthusiasts wanting a ‘natural’ exercise experience,
while maintaining personal hygiene in the gym. The minimalist footwear also allows runners to ‘feel’ the foot strikes and reap the physiological benefits
of running sans traditional shoe without being subjected to the potential hazards of the road. The Nike Free© and Vibram FiveFingers® shoes have also become
popular with those interested in the latest fashion trends. Many individuals are simply wearing the minimalist footwear because it has evolved as this generation’s
version of the flip-flop.

As sport and fitness professionals, it is important to thoroughly examine the various trends that may impact our athletes and clients. Are the Nike Free©
and Vibram FiveFingers® shoes simply a passing fashion fad or a fitness footwear trend that will be here for the long run? Historically speaking, humans began
running and living barefoot . . . it will be interesting to see if minimalist shoes will be a part of the human lifestyle in the future.


1. Barefoot Running Shoes (2010a). The Nike Free shoes. Retrieved from

2. Barefoot Running Shoes (2010b). The Vibram FiveFingers shoes. Retrieved

3. Bishop, M., Fiolkowski, P., Conrad, B., Brunt, D., Horodyski, M. (2006).
Athletic footwear, leg stiffness, and running kinematics. Journal of Athletic
Training, 41 (4), 387-392.

4. Bramble, D.M. & Lieberman, D.E. (2004). Endurance running and the evolution
of Homo. Nature, 432, 345-352.

5. Burfoot, A. (2004). Should you be running barefoot? Runner’s World,
39(8), 61-63. Retrieved from Consumer Health Complete database.

6. Cortese, A. (2009, August 30). Wiggling their toes at the shoe giants. The
New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2011 from…

7. Divert, C., Mornieux, G., Baur, H., Mayer, F., & Belli, A. (2004). Mechanical
comparison of barefoot and shod running. International Journal of Sports Medicine,
26, 593-598.

8. Elsevier Health Sciences. (2010, January 6). Running shoes may cause damage
to knees, hips and ankles, new study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from

9. Hart, P.M, & Smith, D.R. (2008, April). Preventing running injuries
through barefoot activity. Journal of Physical Exercise, Recreation and Dance,
79 (4), 50-53

10. Harvard University (2010, February 1). Barefoot running: How humans ran
comfortably and safely before the invention of shoes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved

11. Krauss, S.L. (2011, March). Sample class: Barefoot boot camp. IDEA Fitness
Journal. Retrieved from

12. Lieberman, D.E., Venkadesan, M., Werbel, W.A., Daoud,A.I., D’Andrea,
S., Davis, I.S., et al. (2010, January 28). Foot strike patterns and collision
forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature. 463, 531-535.

13. McDougall, C. (2011, March 29). Born to run: A hidden tribe, superathletes,
and the greatest race the world has never seen. New York, NY: Vintage Books
– A Division of Random House, Inc.

14. Nigg, B. (2009, July 23). Biomechanical considerations on barefoot movement
and barefoot shoe concepts. Footwear Science, 1(2) 73-79

15. Parker-Pope, T. (2006, June 6). Is barefoot better? The Wall Street Journal.
Retrieved from

16. Pribut, S.M. (2009, September 2). Athletic shoes: A quick look. [Dr. Stephen
M. Pribut’s Sports Pages]. Retrieved from

17. Tweney, D. (2009, July 10). To run better, start by ditching your Nikes.
Wired Science. Retrieved from

18. Walker, C. & Blair, R. (2001). An experimental review of the McMahon/Cheng
model of running. Sports Engineering. 4, 113-121.

19. Wilk, B.R, Nau, S, & DeLeon, D.A. (2007). The Nike Free as a useful
tool for video gait analysis. American Medical Athletic Association, 17.

2017-08-03T10:40:00-05:00November 19th, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Exercise Science|Comments Off on Footwear Trends: Should Sport & Fitness Enthusiasts Embrace the Minimalist Movement?

An Exploratory Study of Physical Activity Patterns of College Students at a Midwest State University in the United States


This study examines physical activity (PA) patterns in the context of global leisure activity of undergraduate students in a large Midwest state university.
A sample of students (n = 253) from a total population of 975 in the school of Physical Education Sport and Exercise Science participated in the study in
the fall of 2010. Student PA was measured using the leisure and physical activity survey (LPA). Descriptive statistics and nonparametric correlation analyses
were used to examine the relationship between five leisure and physical activities and four independent factors. Skewness and kurtosis values ranged from |.022|
to |1.794| and |.311| to |2.374|. All values were within the cut-off value of 2.58 at the .01 level, indicating multivariate normality among the data. The
highest mean value indicated that the majority (76.7%, M = 2.73, SD = 0.52) of the respondents engaged in web surfing 6 to 7 days a week. Video gaming was
the least frequently performed leisure activity (M = 1.43, SD = 0.67). Significant positive correlation (r = .15) was found between the participants’ age
and the frequency of weightlifting, indicating older participants were more likely to engage in weightlifting. Significant positive correlation (r = .18)
was found between the participants’ gender and the frequency of weightlifting, indicating male participants were more likely to engage in weightlifting. Gender
was also positively and significantly correlated with video gaming (r = .39), indicating male participants were more frequently engaging in video gaming.
However, negative significant correlation (r = – .27) was found between gender and the frequency of aerobic exercise, indicating female participants were more
likely to engage in this physical activity. The participants with a higher GPA were less likely to play video games as evidenced by the negative correlation
(r = -.14). In contrast, the participants with higher GPA were more likely to choose aerobic exercise (r = .20). Interestingly, the participants who spent
more time weightlifting engaged in both video gaming and aerobic exercises more frequently than who spent less (in minutes for both activities; r = .17 and
.19, respectively). The data from the study suggest more effective interventions should be implemented to promote PA among university students.


It is hard to imagine life without the wide variety of multimedia devices that have become so commonplace over the last few decades. This technology has become essential in almost every educational, business, community, and recreational environment. Access to electronic information and communication technology is widely available to both high school and college-aged youth students, and mastering elevant information technology is one key to success in adult life. Unfortunately, this new technology phenomenon may be having a negative impact on physical activity patterns in an increasingly sedentary population (27). According to the United States Department of Health and Human Service Healthy People 2010 report, only 22% of adults engage in moderate physical activity for 30 minutes five or more times a week and nearly 25% of the population is completely sedentary (39). In addition, only about 25% of young people (ages 12-21) participate in light to moderate activity nearly every day (36). Lack of physical activity continues to contribute to the high prevalence of overweight individuals and obesity within the United States.

Obesity and lack of physical activity (PA) have been linked to numerous medical complications and cognitive decline (22). Regular participation in PA is important to sustaining good health and has been a topic of thorough investigation since the acknowledgement of the obesity epidemic with the last 30 years (36, 37). PA promotion has been an active mission of health advocacy groups during the last three decades (3, 9, 38) as physical inactivity has become more prevalent in all age groups and is believed to be one of the leading factors contributing to the rise of obesity and associated health problems. As a result, public health groups have increasingly called for actively promoting PA in multiple levels of society including family, school, local community, and state (38). Because of the gravity of the current state of fitness and obesity, participation in PA is of great importance to universities in encouraging healthy and active lifestyles.

Physical inactivity tends to increase during the aging process with the most dramatic increase occurring in late adolescence and early adulthood. Recently, university students have demonstrated the propensity for being physically inactive (17, 21). Research has indicated that about one to two thirds of university students have not engaged in sufficient PA to accrue health benefits (7, 8, 12, 17, 21, 32). Moreover, it seems very difficult to significantly increase PA among university students (17, 18). This contention is supported by the consistent percentage of physically inactive university students (17), in spite of years of issuing calls for promoting PA on campus by the American College Health Association (3) and efforts to increase PA through new facilities and programming. As suggested by Gyurcsik, Bray & Brittain (15) and Keating et al. (17), university students remain a targeted population for more PA interventions.

The examination and identification of trends in PA among younger adults remain under-represented in the literature. In order to effectively promote PA, there is a need to fully understand university student PA patterns because they represent a unique young adult group learning to live independently for the first time in their lives while simultaneously working to attain a baccalaureate degree (5, 18). This is a particularly important inquiry given that prior studies have shown that 60% of college students do not on average accumulate the recommended amount of physical activity for an adult and are unaware that adults should exercise five days a week for 30 minutes at moderate intensities (21) in order to achieve maximum health benefits. In addition, university life includes activities that may potentially encourage unhealthy behaviors. For example, university students typically have a busy schedule with their academic, extracurricular activities, work and social lives, which is a primary contributing factor relating to the decline of PA, and additionally creates great stress for meeting high academic standards, which in turn can create various psychological complications (40). Recent research, however, has demonstrated positive acute and chronic effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive performance (6). Therefore, assessing participation in PA and understanding types of student deficits can play a critical role in helping university students maintain both physical and mental health.

A handful of research on PA patterns of university students has been reported in the literature. Besides the previously noted consistent finding that students did not engage in a sufficient amount of PA (12, 15, 32), Behrens and Dinger (5) reported that university students were more active during weekdays than weekend days and there was no significant difference in PA patterns among the sexes. Furthermore, Keating and colleagues (17) found that university students did not change their PA levels as years in the university increased. Regarding university student PA determinants, similar to what has been reported for K-12 students; age, sex, and ethnicity are also found to be PA determinants for students in higher education (12, 17, 21). In comparison to K-12 students, weekly working hours, having a family, dating, living independently, hectic social schedule, proximity to PA facilities, and academic pressure, have not been investigated thoroughly.

Many young adults on college campuses are not meeting current physical activity recommendations and therefore may not be performing beneficial activities like aerobic exercise and resistance training. While some research exists that investigates PA patterns among university students, many unanswered questions still exist. To date, very few reliable instruments exist to quickly assess the leisure activity and physical activity patterns of young, college-aged adults. The IPAQ (International Physical Activity Questionnaire) is one instrument that has been validated (11) for use with this population, but the long version of the instrument is complicated and arduous to use in a collegiate setting. This may partially explain the paucity of research in this area. For example, it still remains unanswered what types of PA university students engage in and whether changes occur with PA patterns during the duration of enrollment in a university. As suggested by Rhodes and colleagues (28), professionals in the fields of fitness, health education, and physical education have not paid great attention to specific characteristics of student PA such as frequency, intensity, duration, and PA types. This lack of information inventory hinders efforts for promoting PA on college campuses as different types of PA generate different health benefits. This PA data could provide guidance for the development of various meaningful programming interventions to better influence university students regarding PA. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine PA patterns among students at a public university from a Midwestern state.


A survey was conducted in order to assess the leisure and physical activity patterns within a “sport-minded” young adult demographic group. Among those surveyed were college students from one university in the Midwest United States. Surveyed students majored in sport management, exercise science, or sport pedagogy. All subjects were surveyed during a single fall semester. The survey instrument was composed of six demographic elements and five research-related questions, and was modeled upon a previously developed and tested instrument. This current survey was modified from the original instrument to reflect changes to the demographic elements and the addition of scaled questions related to physical activity patterns and computer use. The modified questionnaire demonstrated both criterion reference reliability (maximum aerobic capacity, handgrip dynamometry) and test-rest reliability. The demographic components included: major, age, ethnicity, gender, grade point average, and year in school. Both the survey and the research protocol were reviewed and approved by the appropriate university Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Human subject approval was granted by the university in which the study was conducted before any data were collected. Undergraduate students (n = 253) from nine classes at a Midwest public university participated in the study in the fall semester of 2010. Of the 975 students representing the total population, 253 questionnaires were returned (25.9 % return rate) and represent the subject pool for this study. The majority of the participants were male (67.2%) and juniors (47%) and seniors (47.8%) in college. The mean age was 20.55 (SD = 3.07). The majority of the participants were Caucasian (90%); the other participant ethnicities were as follows: African American (6%), Hispanic American (2%), Asian (1%) and other (1%). A relatively small number of freshman and sophomores
participated in the study. While the response rate is relatively low by traditional standards, a review of institution departmental data suggests the sample is representative of student demographics. Refer to Table 1 for detailed demographic information.

Table 1
Participants’ Demographic Information

Variables Mean (SD) Frequency (%)
Age 20.55 (3.07)
Female 32.8%
Male 67.2%
Year in college
1st year 1.2%
2nd year 3.2%
3rd year 47.0%
4th year 47.8%

Campus characteristics
The study was conducted at a Midwest university with approximately 20,000 enrolledstudents. Like most medium/large sized state universities in the United States, buses operate around the inner and outer edges of campus and into the community regularly. Courses are scheduled back-to-back with minimal break-time in between, resulting in limited time to engage in PA between classes. One large studentrecreational center and a number of outdoor exercise facilities (i.e., jogging trails, basketball courts, tennis courts, and etc.) are available for students. In addition, the university has an NCAA Division I athletic department, which consists of regionally well-known football, basketball, and volleyball sports teams. Regularly scheduled home games are held on campus on a weekly basis. Physical fitness and wellness activity (PFWL) course credits are included in the general education core requirements, and selected PA courses are available for electives within the university.

Leisure and Physical Activity Survey
The Leisure and Physical Activity survey was designed to be a quick and easy assessment of sedentary and physical activity frequency and duration in college-aged students. This self-reported survey instrument asked for class rank, gender, and grade point average. Grade point average was assessed via five predetermined ranges of answers (0-0.99, 1-1.99, 2-2.99, 3-3.99, 4.0 or above). The sedentary activity types assessed were time spent in typing/schoolwork, web surfing/entertainment, and video gaming. Each classification had further descriptors for clarification: web surfing/entertainment included (television, Facebook, MySpace, etc.), video gaming included (Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation, etc.). These activities were assessed for frequency (0-2 days, 3-5 days, and 6-7days) per week as well as duration per bout (0-15 minutes, 16-30 minutes, greater than 30 minutes). Each frequency and duration was assigned a score of 1 to 3 points for each of the possible responses. Aerobic exercise (running, walking, biking, aerobic dance, etc.) and weightlifting (machine, free weights, cross fit, etc.) were assessed in a similar fashion for frequency and duration.

Total scores for each item assessed were computed as the sum of the frequency and duration scores. This instrument demonstrated low item to total correlations (r < .20), suggesting that items assessed were not overlapping. In pilot testing, the weightlifting total score demonstrated a significant correlation (r > .80, p < .05, n = 58) to the criterion measure hand-grip strength assessed via a hand grip dynamometer (Jamar Hand Dynamometer, Sammons Prestons Bolingbrook, IL). Similar results were found for the aerobic total score and VO2 max (r > .60, p < .05, n = 12) assessed via a graded exercise test utilizing a modern metabolic cart (Parvomedics TrueOne 2400, Parvomedics, Sandy, UT). Both the weightlifting and aerobic total scores were not significantly
different pre to post in a large sample test-retest reliability study (n = 389, p > .05) that examined the stability of the survey after a one month time period.

Data Analyses
Descriptive statistics and nonparametric correlation analysis were used to examine the relationship between five leisure and physical activities (i.e., typing/schoolwork on computer, web surfing/entertainment, weightlifting, video gaming, and aerobic exercise) and four independent factors (i.e., age, gender, year in school, and GPA). Violation of assumptions was checked prior to data analyses by examining both skewness and kurtosis values. Data were analyzed via PASW Statistics 18.0.


A total of 253 subjects submitted complete and fully useable surveys, and all subjects indicated that their primary state of residence was Indiana in the United States. Skewness and kurtosis values ranged from |.022| to |1.794| and |.311| to |2.374|. All values were within the cut-off value of 2.58 at the .01 level, indicating multivariate normality among the data. The highest mean value indicated that the majority (76.7%, M = 2.73, SD = .52) of the respondents engaged in web surfing 6 to 7 days a week (television, Facebook, MySpace, etc.). Video gaming was the least frequently performed leisure activity (M = 1.43, SD = .67). The majority (66.8%) of the participants indicated that they engaged in video gaming zero to two days per week.

Table 2
Descriptive Statistics

Activity M SD
Typing/Schoolwork on Computer Frequency Frequency 1.9486 .61183
Duration 2.4980 .55366
Web surfing/Entertainment Frequency 2.7312 .51840
Duration 2.6008 .59987
Weightlifting Frequency 1.6759 .62812
(machine, free-weight, crossfit, etc.) Duration 2.4348 .78723
Video gaming Frequency Frequency 1.4325 .67350
(Xbox, Xbox360, PlayStation, etc.) Duration 1.8498 .87807
Aerobic exercise Frequency Frequency 1.8498 .69091
Duration 2.3834 .67791

Correlational analyses revealed several significant findings. Significant positive correlation (r = .15) was found between the participants’ age and the frequency of weightlifting, indicating older participants were more likely to engage in weightlifting. Significant positive correlation (r = .18) was found between the participants’ gender and the frequency of weightlifting, indicating male participants were more likely to engage in weightlifting. Gender was also positively and significantly correlated with video gaming (r = .39), indicating male participants were more frequently engaging in video gaming. However, a negative significant correlation (r = – .27) was found between gender and the frequency of aerobic exercise, indicating female participants were more likely to engage in this physical activity. The participants with a higher GPA were less likely to play video games as evidenced by the negative correlation (r = -.14). In contrast, the participants with higher GPA were more likely to choose to participate in aerobic exercise (r = .20). Interestingly, the participants who spent more minutes on weightlifting engaged in both video gaming and aerobic exercises more frequently than who spent less (in minutes for both activities;
r = .17 and .19, respectively).

Table 3
Correlation Table

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
1. Age 1
2. Sex .15* 1
3. GPA -.02 -.19** 1
4. CP(F) .07 -.05 -.01 1
5. CP(D) -.07 -.09 .05 .21** 1
6. WS(F) -.01 -.05 .04 .31** -.07 1
7. WS(D) -.12 -.04 -.08 .16* .15* .43** 1
8. WL(F) .15* .18** .10 -.12 .04 -.12 -.12* 1
9. WL(D) .05 .29** .01 -.11 .04 -.12 -.08 .61** 1
10. VG (F) -.01 .39** -.14* -.06 -.03 .11 .10 .03 .10 1
11. VG (D) .05 .53** -.12 -.04 .02 .09 .09 .16* .17** .67** 1
12. AE (F) .04 -.27** .20** .05 .11 .08 .08 .07 -.03 -.13* -.12 1
13. AE (D) -.05 -.16** .14* .02 .13* .01 .14* .10 .19** -.08 -.04 .48** 1

Note. CP = typing/schoolwork on computer, WS = web surfing/entertainment, WL = weightlifting, VG = video gaming, AE = aerobic exercise. F indicates frequency, and D indicates duration. Correlation is significant at the .05 level (*) and the .01 level (**).

Mean scores (response range 1 to 3) for weightlifting frequency and duration by grade point average are represented in figure 1. The mean response to grade point average and duration of weightlifting demonstrated that the majority of student’s reported GPA’s in the range 1-1.99 had the highest duration (2.75 hours) of weightlifting per week, with the second highest duration (2.50 hours) per week response being 4.00. The mean response to grade point average and frequency of weightlifting demonstrated that the majority of student’s reported grade point averages in the range 3-3.99 had the highest frequency (1.74) days per week of weightlifting, with the second highest frequency per week response being in the GPA range of 1-1.99.

Mean scores (response range 1 to 3) for aerobic exercise frequency and duration by grade point average are represented in figure 2. The mean response to grade point average and duration of aerobic exercise demonstrated that the majority of student’s reported GPA’s in the range 1-1.99 had the highest duration (2.87 hours) of aerobic exercise per week, with the second highest duration (2.50 hours) per week response being 4.00. The mean response to grade point average and frequency of aerobic exercise demonstrated that the majority of student’s reported grade point averages in the range 3-3.99 and 4.00 had the highest frequency (2.00) days per week of aerobic exercise, with the second highest frequency (1.87) days per week response being in the GPA range of 1-1.99.


There is a dearth of scholarly information explaining PA in college students as the trends in physical activity among younger adults remain under-represented in the literature. Given the large number of students enrolled in universities and colleges across the United States, an understanding of the relationship between computer use, PA and academic performance is of great interest. The following results warrant more attention from professionals in the fields of health education, fitness, and physical education. First, the highest mean value indicated that the majority (76.7%) of the respondents engaged in computer world wide web surfing six to seven days a week. While time spent on the Internet can be extremely productive, for some college students’ compulsive Internet use can and may interfere with daily life including grades, work, relationships, and PA. Second, since a large number of participants engaged in PA, higher than in more recent similar studies, it appears that an increasing trend in PA among students may be occurring. Given the number of universities across the country that have or are in the process of building large student recreation centers it is possible the increase in PA among university students is explained by the recent facility “arms race” occurring on many university campuses (41). Third, the data gathered demonstrated that the majority of student’s reported grade point averages in the range 3-3.99 which may indicate a positive correlation between frequency and duration of PA and academic performance. This finding
may be attributed to physiological and psychological factors. Research has demonstrated positive acute and chronic effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive performance (6). Students with higher academic achievement may have more intrinsic motivation to study and work harder which results in higher grades. However, this same intrinsic motivation may be responsible for the higher levels of PA in this population (4). Student’s reported grade point averages in the range 1-1.99 reported the second highest PA frequency per week in resistance and aerobic training. As opposed to the higher GPA students, students with lower academic achievement may exhibit higher rates of PA because they are not as focused on academic work and spend a larger amount of time on non-academic endeavors. Since above average or “middle” GPA students reported the lowest level of PA on the survey instrument, it seems plausible that this population may require additional strategies and resources for PA recruitment and Retention. Fourth, age and gender were also found to be important variables predicting resistance training patterns as older males were more likely to be involved in resistance training and females were more likely to engage in aerobic training. These results could be related to group exercise offerings like aerobic classes that are commonly heavily attended by female students. There may be a societal need for women to perform group activities (21) as women may be less likely than men to work out alone. Regardless of PA type, higher achieving students appear to have higher physical activity levels.

The Benefits of Physical Activity
Today’s college students have more personal choices than ever regarding ways to spend their leisure time, and with limited bandwidth, the choice to participate in physical activity typically requires either intrinsic or physical incentives of some type. So would students engage in more physical activity if they believed it would enhance their academic performance? Evidence supporting the association between PA and enhanced academic performance is strengthened by related research that found higher levels of physical fitness to be linked with improved academic performance among children and teens. There are several possible mechanisms by which physical education and regular PA could improve academic achievement, including enhanced concentration skills and classroom behavior. Stevens et al. (33) reported that physical activity was associated with higher achievement scores in both mathematics and reading. Though in these investigations physical activity was only one of many correlates to academic performance, increased levels of physical activity garnered through team sport or increased activity outside of physical education courses was related to academic performance. Tomporowski et al. (35) in a recent review of the findings in children suggested that exercise might enhance children’s mental functioning. The present investigation builds upon the evidence of a relationship between physical activity and exercise to academic performance by demonstrating similar findings among Midwestern university students. Fox et al. (13) reported that among a large cohort of middle and high school students, participation in team sports was associated with higher GPA’s. Laure and Binsinger (19) reported a similar finding in a large cohort of French students. It should be noted that a previous study conducted in Kuwait (2) reported no relationship between results of a health promoting lifestyle, which included assessment of reported physical activity and academic performance. However; this study examined a smaller sample of students (n = 224) and the students were all nursing majors. The limited sample size and relative similarity of population may be in part responsible for this finding. The present investigation included a slightly larger sample (n = 253) and the students were drawn from several different fields of study within the school of physical education, sport, and exercise science. Yet even though the relationships are small, academic achievement is critical for nearly all college students. Therefore, any demonstrated relationship to academic performance is an important finding.
Demographic Differences in Physical Activity Patterns
It is important to analyze the various elements that contribute to the difference in physical activity patterns in college students. Although the correlations in the present study are small in magnitude, it has been demonstrated that there are many other factors that are related to academic performance such as socioeconomic status (33). Sex and ethnicity disparity in PA has been well documented and there is a need to bridge the gap in the two variables (17, 21). The study, however, noted that the PA discrepancy of sex and ethnicity still exists. Specifically, the results of the study align with the finding that females were found to perform significantly less PA than their male counterparts (14, 21). Joining with other studies on the topic (18, 20), this study echoes the need for more attention on female student PA. Moreover, there was a significant difference in PA events participated by females, indicating the selection of PA events is gender sensitive. PA interventions should take into consideration the PA preferences of the different genders and provide male and female students with the appropriate opportunities for PA that they prefer.

Regarding ethnicity, previous studies have generated a consistent finding that whites tend to engage in more PA than other ethnic groups and African Americans and Asians are the least physically active groups (18, 21, 34). Unfortunately, no data are available to explain why Asians and African Americans are less active than Whites and Latinos. The lack of diversity and the small sample size of the subject population in the present study do not allow for findings based on ethnicity.

Increasing Physical Activity Patterns
The benefits of physical activity are well known and accepted. Providing PA information that will motivate and enable people to change behavior and to maintain that change over time is the key. Public health groups have made a number of attempts to increase PA in higher education for more than a decade (3, 37). Considerable research has been conducted in the area of exercise behavior change and the majority of recent reports suggest that exercisers progress through a set of identifiable stages before reaching the maintenance stage when they have integrated exercise as part of their lives (25, 26). It is encouraging that the percentage of students who were involved in an adequate amount of PA was higher than the percentage reported in most previous studies (17, 18, 21). Universities serve as an excellent venue to provide college students with the opportunity for daily PA. The student recreation center (SRC) at many colleges and universities has evolved from being a place to exercise and take aerobics classes to becoming a high-powered recruitment tool (27). A survey of collegiate recreation providers indicated that fitness centers are flourishing and that accommodating user demand is one of the biggest challenges facing supervisors

The present investigation helps to fill a gap in the literature by expanding previous findings among elementary, middle, and high school students in regard to the associations of physical activity and academic performance into the collegiate level. Information concerning the most frequently engaged PA can be used to guide the reform of physical education curricula in K-12 and college programs (10, 29) as one of the ultimate physical education goals is to promote PA participation as a long term healthy lifestyle (23). Unfortunately, there were not data available to explain what interventions had been implemented on campus to promote and enhance PA among the students. Since this additional research confirms the high level of interest in exercise adherence services in the current study, recreation staff and sport administrators may want to consider supporting the development of standardized assessment and adherence services to increase the likelihood of students maintaining healthy, active lifestyles while in college. The study reiterates the need for a strong emphasis on lifetime PA as suggested by Corbin (10). On the other hand, because universities are still a part of the entire education system, the unique characteristics of university students must be considered (17). University student PA patterns might be different from other young adults who are not in higher education. Surprisingly, participants in the present study demonstrated the similar PA patterns to other young adults involved in most individual PA (aerobic and resistance training).

As might be expected, university students tend to participate in a wide variety of PA. One limitation of the present study is the focus on two primary areas of PA (aerobic and resistance training). Research has indicated that PA enjoyment and the social aspect of recreational activities are two of the primary factors that attract young adults to involvement in sports-related PA (4, 28). This topic was beyond the scope of the present study and is an area for future investigation. Further, self-reported questionnaires, sample size and limited comparable data combined with the secrecy that surrounds personal practice creates difficulty in assessing result reliability (1). Empirical data have demonstrated that participants have the propensity to over-report their PA (21) and as a result, the data collected in the study are most likely skewed toward the highest level of PA (16). Some experts suppose that these attitudes may be the consequence of social desirability. That is, the participants are reporting what they think a health professional or professor might want to hear rather than their true leisure and physical activity patterns. Survey research investigating an individual practice sometimes has limitations including: answers may be intentionally false as the subjects questioned may not wish to reveal their true feelings, even if anonymity and confidentiality are guaranteed by the investigators (1). Thus, these results should be interpreted with caution.

Lack of PA continues to contribute to the high prevalence of overweight individuals and obesity within the United States. Based upon the results of the present investigation, it can be suggested that colleges focus on the provision of aerobic exercise for students, through either outdoor or indoor recreational facilities. Given the number of universities across the country that are currently building or have previously built large recreation facilities for students, it can be suggested that these centers are constructed and staffed in such a manner as to encourage aerobic exercise. While these results are promising, the data do not account for the long-term maintenance of physically active lifestyles.

Applications in Sport

There is an ongoing need to foster PA opportunities across all the disciplines of physical education, recreation, dance, and sport. Recreation and sport administrators must not only be aware of national trends, such as the fact that 67% of non-institutionalized adults age 20 years and over are overweight or obese in the United States (9), but university administrators should diligently examine their facility needs and accompanying programming. The importance of PA within the college-aged student population is well established and a renewed focus among recreation and sport administrators is not only justified but necessary. The reality: most college students do not complete the recommended amount of PA each week. In an effort to increase PA among this population, sport administrators should leverage existing physical activity space, encourage enhancements where necessary and promote physical activity. Access to PA facilities is the first step to achieving higher exercise rates among students. Collegate sport/recreation administrators must be ready to evaluate their facilities based on the needs of the student population and properly follow through with appropriate accomodations. Recreation and sport administrators should also encourage aerobic exercise by building programs around the types of physical activity college students want and need. Physical education programs are important tools for those college students who want to be physically active but are unsure of how to do so. Physical education classes offer opportunities for students to learn about different PA choices and encourage adoption of those activities in their everyday life. Continued implementation of PA programming on university campuses benefits the students, faculty, university, and community. Recreational facilities and PA programs create value-added products that deserve an expanded focus within the university.


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2016-10-12T15:04:16-05:00November 16th, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Exercise Science, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on An Exploratory Study of Physical Activity Patterns of College Students at a Midwest State University in the United States

Analysis of the Reasoning Behind the Firings of Mike Leach and Jim Leavitt


This paper is a thematic analysis of press coverage surrounding the firings of coaches Mike Leach and Jim Leavitt from the 2010. In an effort to understand
the rationale behind their dismissals, this quantitative research uses attribution theory as the basis of the analysis. While the schools stated the firings were
due to the way these two coaches questionably handled a player, the press coverage displayed other reasons. This paper contextualizes the rationale behind their
firings in an effort to explain the current high stakes of major college football.


There are very few professionals with less job security than major college football coaches. Entering the 2010 season, there were 24 new coaches in the
Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). That turnover represented 20% of all FBS programs. Two of the 24 coaches who lost their jobs following the 2009
season generated national attention from their relatively regional programs. Both Mike Leach of Texas Tech and Jim Leavitt from South Florida lost their
jobs amid controversy and intensive media coverage centering on their off-field actions with some of their players. Prior to the firings, both coaches were
hailed as successful leaders. Issues surrounding their departures cast doubt upon the official reasons stated by the universities. When perceived reality
contradicts public discourse, there is a tremendous opportunity for public relations scholarship. This paper uses thematic analysis of news coverage to demonstrate
how the meanings the universities tried to construct for these firings were essentially refuted in the sports press.

Relevance of Research

The rationale behind the firings of these coaches, beyond what was publicly stated by their employers, is an important topic for researchers
to analyze for multiple reasons. First, as it relates to the growing field of sport communication, it provides content that focuses on the expansive growth
of the college football industry, the salaries provided to coaches, and the overall investment schools are willing to make to be successful on the football
field. Additionally, this research is an important topic as it relates to the fields of mass media, public relations, and journalism. College football is
at such a prominent level in terms of revenue, advertising, and marketing that it shares an escalating symbiotic relationship with the mass media. This media
coverage helps raise the financial stakes of those schools participating at the highest level of college football. The sport has always had this relationship
but since the inception of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998, the monetary rewards have risen exponentially. The BCS is the system that selects 12 schools
that participate in the top six post-season bowl games. Those 12 slots are highly coveted since they bring the most money and media attention to the participating
schools (Dunnavant, 2004). The power of the BCS has escalated to a point where politicians are now questioning its possible violation of anti-trust laws (Staples,
2010). This past bowl season, the six conferences that received an automatic bid to a BCS game garnered $145.2 million in revenue from the BCS. That sum
is compared to the $24.7 million awarded to the five conferences that didn’t receive an automatic BCS bid (Murphy, 2011). The manner in which college football
has become such an integral part of the mass media landscape makes any controversy that occurs in the industry worthy of address by academic researchers (Oriard,

College Football and Higher Education

The rise in college sports, in terms of revenue and media prominence, creates a public relations conundrum. Under the traditional educational perspective,
still touted in their marketing materials, colleges and universities have the primary mission of educating young people and preparing them for adult life.
For the select few student-athletes competing in the high-visibility sports at the Division I level, athletics is still presented as just another outlet
that prepares them physically and mentally for adulthood. However, the financial investments schools are making in their sports programs put this traditional
model in jeopardy. Now, athletes are more than students; they are necessary participants in the school’s profit motives (Sperber, 2000).

The role of the coach is also different in the evolving collegiate sports model. With the amount of money major colleges invest in football and the turnover
rate for head coaches, it is difficult to argue that winning isn’t the coach’s first priority (Stein, 2004). Because the multi-year contracts top coaches command
typically do not permit termination just for losing, a pretext may be needed to fire a coach. While schools are often forced to fire losing coaches because
of disgruntled fan bases, it remains a difficult financial decision. For an academic institution, it would appear that firing a coach for breaking rules
should be an easy decision to make. However, there are a number of college coaches who blatantly violated university or NCAA rules but still kept their jobs. Having
a rule-breaking coach remain on staff appears to violate the principles of an institution of higher learning. Yet, on the football and basketball sidelines
there remain a number of coaches almost impervious to being fired. There must be an underlying reason some schools are willing to be more lenient with rule-breaking


From a theoretical perspective, research into the rationale behind the firings of Leach and Leavitt relates to attribution theory. An expert in attribution
theory, Bernard Weiner (1985), often wrote about the human characteristic in which people have a driving need to search for the cause of events. This theory
relates to the persuasive messages used to explain how people account for the actions of others (Woodward & Denton, 2009). Attribution theory is storytelling
and the belief that a persuader tries to figure out how certain behaviors or messages will be perceived by others. The resulting story communicated by persuaders
best suits their needs and goals (Coombs, 2007). Attribution theory relates to public relations and crises communication since responses made by an organization
during the time of crisis will frame the public perception and impact its overall reputation (Heath, Toth & Waymer, 2009). After researching the influence
Word of Mouth Communication (WMOC) has on brand recognition, Laczniak; DeCarlo and Ramaswami (2001) concluded that poor WMOC significantly devalues the public’s
perception of the brand.

Even though there is a relationship between attribution theory and crisis communications, scholarly analysis connecting the theory to sports-related issues is almost
non-existent. In fact, there is almost no academic research into the broad topic of sports coaches being fired. Most of the literature deals with the impact,
in terms of wins and losses when a coach is dismissed during the season (Koning, 2003; Frick, Barros & Prinz 2010; White, Persad & Gee, 2007). One case
addressed by a scholar was the dismissal of basketball coach Jim Valvano by North Carolina State University in 1990. Michael Selvaggi (1993) used legal
analysis to examine the lawsuit filed by the university asserting that it had proper grounds to fire Valvano because of the poor academic progress of his
players. This research determined that this was the first time a school had fired a coach because of a stipulation in his contract regarding players’
academic progress.

Legal scholar Martin J. Greenberg (1991) noted that there is no other business in which contracts are broken more often than the sports industry. Since there
is so much at stake in terms of revenue and publicity, colleges and universities are in a precarious situation when administering punishment for coaches and
players who break rules. Keeping a coach or player out of action because of a violation could endanger a school’s chance of winning a game. That in
turn would lead to economic ramifications (Stangel, 2000).

Based on the cases of Leach and Leavitt and the possibility that they were both fired for other reasons than stated by their employers, this paper will
look to connect attribution theory to each controversy. Based on the research of Laczniak; DeCarlo and Ramaswami (2001), these controversial cases impacted
the overall brand value for both Texas Tech and South Florida. The following research questions will be used to better rationalize the firings of Leach and

RQ1: Were there other reasons for the firings of Leach and Leavitt besides the rationale provided by their employers?

RQ2: How do the cases of Leach and Leavitt compare to other BCS coaches who kept their jobs after violating NCAA rules during the same time frame?


This qualitative research paper is a case study of the firings of both Leach and Leavitt in an effort to better explain the reasoning behind their dismissals.
A case study is expected to “catch the complexity of a single case” by “coming to understand its activity within important circumstances”
(Patton, 2002, p. 297). By using thematic analysis of press accounts, this paper will argue that the universities reasons for the firings of Leach and Leavitt
were not entirely supported by the media reports.

Since college football is still predominantly a regional sport, as noted by Cave and Crandall (2001), this research paper relies heavily upon the relevant
local media outlets that cover Texas Tech and South Florida football in-depth. Those outlets include the Dallas Morning News, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, and
Tampa Tribune. In order to present a national perspective to this analysis, stories from noted publications such as, USA Today, Sports Illustrated
and The New York Times were also used. These media outlets in particular cover college football in depth and often include critical coverage of off-the-field
issues. Also, these media outlets are highly regarded as the premier sources of national sports journalism.

The research obtained for this paper was a result of a thorough LexisNexis search using the terms Mike Leach, Jim Leavitt, Texas Tech football, and South
Florida football. Due to the fact that both coaches received little national media attention for their programs prior to the 2008 season, the search was
limited to the time frame from 2008 to early 2010. This allowed for the collection of press accounts that detailed the rise of both coaches and then the ensuing
fallout from their crises that occurred in early 2010.

The resulting press accounts served as the data for a thematic analysis of the crises surrounding Leach and Leavitt. This method of collecting data enables
researchers to combine and catalogue related patterns into sub-themes (Aronson, 1994). This method enables researchers to search through data to identify any
recurrent patterns. Themes are then linked together to find similar meetings and patterns. Anne Golden (2003) also utilized a thematic analysis of the sports
media when she examined the differences in the press coverage of the 2002 Winter Olympics and the 2002 Winter Paralympics. Relating to the method used for this
research, Mirca Madianou (2002) conducted a thematic analysis of television news coverage to investigate the coverage of how Greeks are identified in the

To contextualize possible motives underlying the schools’ decision-making, this paper will also compare the cases of Leach and Leavitt to four other contemporary
coaches who broke rules (during the same time frame as the incidents surrounding Leach and Leavitt) established by their employers and the National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA). The four coaches examined in this research: Pete Carroll, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer, and Nick Saban are universally regarded by
the sports media as the top college coaches in the country. Through the use of media reports, this element of the thematic analysis will exhibit the reasons
that these other rule-breaking coaches were able to maintain their employment during the time frame of the study.


Mike Leach

Mike Leach was the Texas Tech head football coach from 2000 to 2009. His Red Raiders went 84-34 with nine bowl game appearances (5-4) because of their pass-centric
offense that featured the 11 offensive players on the field lining up further apart from each other than what was commonly used by other coaches. Leach’s
success culminated with the 2008 campaign which brought the school its first ever 11-1 season that included a win over top-ranked Texas and a share of the
Big 12 Conference South division title. He was named Co-Coach of the Year in the Big 12, but the Red Raiders were left out of a BCS bowl berth because of
a little known tie-breaking rule. Texas and Oklahoma represented the Big 12 in the BCS while Texas Tech played in the lesser Cotton Bowl, where it lost
to Mississippi.

Oklahoma wound up losing the National Championship Bowl against Florida. Not making a BCS bowl game is a major issue since the Big 12, like the Big East
where South Florida resides, gives a bigger share of the game’s profit to the schools that appear in one of the top post-season games. Other conferences
divide BCS bowl money evenly among all members. This is not the case for the Big 12 and Big East. Therefore, there is a tremendous financial incentive to
be a conference representative in a BCS bowl game for a Big 12 and Big East squad (Warmbroad, 2004).

During his career in Lubbock, Leach’s name was often mentioned with coaching vacancies at other larger programs. Leach stayed with the Red Raiders as he
received a pair of contract extensions. In 2008, he signed a five-year extension worth $12.7 million. This contract gave Leach unprecedented clout at the school
(Leach, 2009).

Crisis: Leach places player in shed

Leach’s crisis began in late December 2009 when Texas Tech suspended him after allegations arose that earlier in the month he had an injured player
sent to an equipment shed as a form of punishment. The player, Adam James, the son of ESPN announcer and former NFL running back Craig James, had suffered
a concussion and was unable to practice. This unconventional move by Leach became a newsworthy topic both locally in Texas and nationally (Dodd, 2009). The ensuing
media hype continued to rise when Leach refused to apologize for his actions and James became the spotlight of local and national sports media (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal,
2009). In just a matter of one season, in the eyes of the national and local media, Texas Tech went from being the upstart program that played a compelling
wide-open offense to the school that employed a coach who humiliated an injured player. This forced the school into an on-going crisis communication phase.
Ultimately, the organization’s crisis communication management would use public relations techniques to attempt to protect the institution’s reputation.

Texas Tech officially fired Leach on December 30th. The firing came one day before Leach was due a substantial $800,000 bonus and a guaranteed $1.7 million
salary for the upcoming season (ESPN, 2009). The amount of money paid to Leach was far more than Texas Tech had spent on coaches in the past. However, it is
similar to the salaries of the major national coaches also in the Big 12. For example, Mack Brown of Texas received $5 million per year and Bob Stoops of
Oklahoma received $4.2 million per year (Rohode, 2010).

After Leach was fired he went on the media offensive criticizing the school and its athletic department. He claimed that the school “conspired”
to fire him because of the $800,000 bonus he was due. In court documents, his lawyers argued “TTU would obtain the benefits of Leach’s performance
but chisel him out of his compensation” (Associated Press, 2010). He also said the animosity between him and the school was a result of the contract negotiations
he went through the previous year (Evans and Thamel 2009). Since Texas Tech had such a productive 2008 season going 11-2, Leach’s name was constantly
attached to openings at large programs including Auburn and Washington. Subsequently, in an effort to keep Leach in Lubbock, Texas Tech was forced to renegotiate
the coach’s contract. Larger football schools must commonly increase incentives in order to keep a head coach if he wins. Texas Tech was essentially in an unfamiliar
situation from a financial perspective to be bidding against itself to keep Leach.

Leach said of his relationship with Texas Tech administrators, “It’s shocking to me that there’s people working together that were trying to
get me fired last year after an 11-1 regular season,” Leach said. He added: “I believe in everybody working together and that together we could all
accomplish great things together, but then I discover that’s not the case and that the very foundation is crumbling out from under me. Betrayal’s
really hard” (Evans and Thamel, 2010). Providing support to Leach’s claims that the school’s top administrators did not want him running the
program regardless of the James situation, the Dallas Morning News acquired internal emails from 2008 to 2010 between Tech administrators, primarily Chancellor
Kent Hance and athletic director Gerald Myers, and athletic booster Jim Sowell of Dallas during Leach’s contract negotiations. The emails display a general
lack of support for Leach even though the school was going to offer him a major pay raise. One message had Sowell recommending to Hance and Myers that Tech
should stand firm in its negotiations with the coach. “You should sign a contract that would not cost us too much to fire him,” Sowell wrote.
“He has to have a big buyout. He has shown no loyalty” (Dallas Morning News, 2010). Leach’s attorney also stated that reports show that Hance
informed an attorney investigating James’ claims against Leach that they were “too milk toast” and “too mild” (USA Today, 2010).

Leach also contended that the celebrity status awarded to James because of his father’s NFL career and status as an ESPN commentator accelerated
the firing process. (Evans and Thamel, 2010). Texas Tech officials denied these claims and fired Leach with cause because of his insubordination and lack of
assistance during the James situation and the resulting investigation (Carver, 2010). The back-and-forth claims eventually led Leach to sue the university
on a number of claims. A district judge ruled that Leach could sue on one count of breach of contract. To date both sides are still entangled in a legal battle
(Blaney, 2010).

Jim Leavitt

Leach and Texas Tech’s national rise almost paralleled that of Jim Leavitt and the University of South Florida. Leavitt was ostensibly the godfather of
Bulls football. He coached at the school from 1997 to 2009. Beginning in 1997, South Florida was a I-AA program that eventually joined I-A’s Conference
USA in 2003. After just two seasons in the conference, South Florida made another significant jump, this time to the Big East and its BCS conference status. Once
again Leavitt was at the helm as the USF program grew and won simultaneously. South Florida made five straight post-season games from 2005 to 2009.

The peak of Leavitt’s career and the height of South Florida football came in September 2007 when the program made its first-ever appearance in the
Top 25. As the Bulls kept winning that season, they made it to No.2 in the BCS rankings. Only Ohio State had a better position than the Bulls. South Florida
lasted in that spot only one week as it fell to conference rival Rutgers in a nationally televised contest. Two more losses came in ensuing games as Leavitt’s
squad eventually dropped out of the rankings. The Bulls finished the season 9-4 with a loss to Oregon in the Sun Bowl.

Even with the late season dry spell, Leavitt was rewarded with a contract extension that would pay him $12.6 million from 2008 to 2014 (USA Today, 2010). Much like
Leach, other major programs also courted Leavitt prior to his signing this contract extension. Schools such as Alabama, Arizona State, Kansas State, and Miami were
reportedly interested in Leavitt’s services (Donahue, 2006). Leavitt often cited his allegiance to the university as the main reason he stayed in Tampa.
His allegiance was rewarded with a new contract, an uncommon policy for the school that only a few years prior had become a Division I program.

Crisis: Leavitt has altercation with player

The Jim Leavitt case mirrors Leach in many ways. Leavitt coached USF from 1997 to 2009 to a 94-57 record. Like Texas Tech, USF never made a BCS bowl appearance
even though it came very close. To stay competitive in an extremely difficult market, USF gave Leavitt a raise to keep him as its football coach. This raise
came just before a controversial incident, as was the case with Leach. On November 21, 2009, during halftime of a game against Louisville, Leavitt apparently struck
one his players, sophomore Joel Miller, a claim that Leavitt denied to school officials. first reported the story of the halftime incident (McMurphy,
2010). Afterwards, Leavitt responded: “It’s absolutely not true. It’s so wrong. It’s so far out there. I’m very disappointed something like this would
be written” (Auman, 2009). Leavitt contended that he was trying to raise the spirits of an upset player.

When first contacted by the media following the breaking story, South Florida representatives neither supported nor criticized Leavitt. “The University
of South Florida is aware of the story and will review the matter promptly,” said Michael Hoad, USF vice president for communications. “We’re committed
to ensuring due process for everyone involved. To ensure fairness, the university doesn’t comment during a review” (Auman, 2009).

An investigation followed and it was concluded that Leavitt grabbed Miller by the throat, slapped him in the face and then lied about it (, 2010).
USF made the findings first known to the media through a press release. The investigation conducted by the school also revealed that Leavitt lied to investigators
and had encouraged players and coaches to do likewise. In the wake of the report, Leavitt said he did not hit the player or ask others to lie on his behalf. USF
President Judy Genshaft and athletic director Doug Woolard asked Leavitt to admit to the incident as a result of his momentary loss of control. The coach
refused to do so, saying he was “sticking to his guns.” Just hours after he refused to admit to his misbehavior as stated in the investigation
to the school’s top administrators, Leavitt was fired on January 8, 2010 (Peterson, 2010). In a press conference announcing the firing, “neither
Genshaft nor Woolard took questions and specifics about Leavitt were not discussed” (Fox Sports, 2010).

Financial considerations were also present in the Leavitt firing. reported in January 2010: “Leavitt just finished the second season of
a seven-year, $12.6 million contract extension that calls for a base salary of $800,000 in 2010. The terms of the contract stipulate that if fired with
cause Leavitt is entitled to one month’s base pay, in this case $66,667. If fired without cause, the university would owe him 75 percent of what he’s owed
for the remainder of the contract.”


Table 1. Themes of press coverage surrounding firings of Mike Leach and Jim

Themes of Press Coverage of Leach and Leavitt
1. Coaches are praised for putting their programs on the national stage.2. For the first time, Texas Tech and USF must keep renegotiating contracts
with coaches.
3. Texas Tech and USF get close to BCS game but fail to make it.
4. Focus on Leach and Leavitt immediately goes from praise to their scandals.
5. Firings become national stories as journalists look to explain the situations.

6. Both schools attribute the firings to just the incidents in question.

7. Both coaches were due raises but were fired before they were paid.
8. School administrators characterize both as difficult or odd – other motives
regarding firings emerge.
9. Coaches who get schools to BCS games can encounter multiple offenses
and not lose their jobs.

Even though both Texas Tech and USF in their press conferences and reports to the media stated that the firings were a result of the way the two coaches
handled the players in questions, other motives clearly emerged in the press. The amount of national media coverage regarding these two regionally based coaches
indicates journalists were in search of deeper meanings behind their dismissals. To answer RQ1, the other reasons appear to be financially motivated, along with
administrators from both schools growing discontented with the coaches’ behaviors.

In the Leach case, there is an email trail that clearly displays the displeasure Texas Tech administrators had with giving Leach so much money and prestige.
If Leach brought BCS riches, it’s likely the school would maintain its relationship with him despite its displeasure. Since Leach did not provide the
school with its ultimate goal of being in a BCS game, Texas Tech was unable to take the national criticism it received as a result of Leach’s actions
(Jonsson, 2009). Spencer Hall (2009) wrote” It makes sense in a world where Leach, an oddball among oddballs, finally reaches the limit of tolerance
both on his part and on the part of his bosses in the TTU administration. Leach’s contract negotiations were, to put it politely, contentious. His flirtations
with other jobs were brazen. The university’s patience with his high-profile antics was running low.” The idea that there was more to Leach’s
firing than just his behavior with James was further supported by Magary (2009), “Just last year, he was nearly dropped by the school in the wake of contentious
negotiations. Just as the James saga was likely the last straw for the school to keep Leach around.” Based on attribution theory, Texas Tech explained
Leach’s firing for just one reason, not for the multiple reasons as stated in the media.

This rationale also holds true for Leavitt, a coach without a BCS bowl game to his credit who got a big pay raise right before a controversial incident.
South Florida was unwilling to tolerate national criticism created by a high paid coach that did not deliver the school the coveted BCS prize. As deplorable
as it is for a coach to hit a player, conflicting stories about the incident, including statements by Miller, make Leavitt’s abrupt firing questionable
in its motives (Schad, 2009). Even though Leavitt listened to other job offers, it does not appear that the ill will between him and the school ran as deep
as it did between Texas Tech and Leach. Rather, Leavitt’s biggest mistake was not winning a conference championship prior to the incident with Miller.

		"If his team was coming off a Big East title he might be able to survive 
	  this (for right or wrong), but when his teams routinely fizzled over the second 
	  halves of seasons, and with the way his team was a disaster in the classroom 
	  (with one of the nation’s worst rankings according to the Academic Progress 
	  Report), this wasn’t that tough a call for the university” (College 
	  Football News, 2010)."

Richard Cirminello echoed these sentiments with

		"Leavitt had become a caricature in recent years, racing around the 
	field as if he was that team trainer with less than all of his faculties. While 
	it was a cute act when USF was climbing up the ladder in the early days, it 
	stopped being endearing when the program stopped improving. The Bulls peaked 
	in October of 2007, rising to No. 2 in the country. Since then, they’ve 
	gone just 16-14, slipping into the middle of the Big East pack. As a program 
	builder, Leavitt had an epic run. As a program elevator, he appeared increasingly 
	out of his league. The incident involving Miller may have been just the ideal 
	opening the administration needed in order to make a change” (College 
	Football News, 2010)."

This “ideal opening” correlates with attribution theory since it allowed USF to tell a particular persuasive story about Leavitt’s firing
that was in the best interest of its stakeholders.

Comparison of Leach and Leavitt with BCS winning coaches

Around the same time Leach and Leavitt faced intense scrutiny from their employers; several other major coaches were also found to have violated rules. The coaches
used for comparison to address RQ2 are Pete Carroll (USC), Jim Tressel (Ohio State), Urban Meyer (Florida), and Nick Saban (Alabama). The media coverage
of these four coaches demonstrates each repeatedly violated NCAA rules and regulations. However, unlike Leach and Leavitt, these four coaches had success in bringing
their schools to BCS games. Also, these coaches did not lose their jobs after breaking the rules. Based on the research, as it relates to RQ2, there appears
to be a double standard for college football coaches. Winning coaches can withstand a crisis or rules violation unlike those coaches without the same BCS success.

For example, Carroll, the former coach of USC, was able to maintain his job from 2001 to 2009 even though he presided over the program that committed a
number of major NCAA violations. So much so, that in June 2010 the NCAA put USC on a two-year post-season ban while also forcing the program to eliminate
30 scholarships and forfeit a number of wins from 2004 to 2006 (Klein and Wharton, 2010). Most of the illegality of Carroll’s program came during the recruitment
of Reggie Bush.

Noted Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke (2009) criticized Carroll’s tenure and his knowledge of the recruiting illegalities by writing “he
goes from saint to scallywag. Carroll says he didn’t know about the Bush violations. That now seems impossible… …he made $33 million from violations that will
cost his old school its reputation, and folks here will never look at him the same.” Carroll was able to keep his job during a period of time the NCAA
was “troubled” by “the campus environment” that he created at USC (Lev, 2010). The NCAA also criticized USC for disregarding Carroll’s
blatant use of allowing influential visitors access to his team by stating in a critical report of the school “”the institution’s failure to regulate
access to practices and facilities” (Gardner, 2010). Clearly, Carroll’s BCS accomplishments helped insulate him from the immediate and harsh punishment
given to Leach and Leavitt.

Ohio State’s Tressel guided his team to three BCS championships, winning one, during his 10 years in Columbus. Those impressive numbers included five
straight Big 10 conference titles. Because of this success, he was one of the top paid coaches in the country with an annual salary that eclipses $3.7 million
(Berkowitz, 2010). However, Tressel faced scandals several times during his Ohio State tenure. Longman (2007) wrote that both his career first at Youngstown
State and then OSU have been tarnished by a number of issues. “At both colleges, his top quarterback took money from boosters in violation of NCAA
rules. Maurice Clarett, the running back who played a vital role in Ohio State’s national championship in 2002, sits in prison after a sad descent. A number
of other Ohio State players have encountered legal or disciplinary problems since Tressel became head coach in 2001, and his academic record, while improving,
remains mixed.” Longman (2007) also wrote that Ohio State’s athletic director was a “staunch ally” of Tressel. As it relates to Leach,
he certainly was not an ally of top Texas Tech officials.

There was a similar relationship at Florida between Meyer and athletic director Jeremy Foley. Meyer was the recipient in 2005 of a seven-year contract worth
$14 million handed out by Foley (Low, 2009). This salary was a result of Meyer’s two national championships and the highest winning percentage in the BCS. However,
during this time in Gainesville, 27 of Meyer’s players were arrested. The charges varied from larceny, stalking, to assault. The arrests forced Meyer
to defend himself by saying “it’s not a dirty program” (Associated Press, 2010). Tressel was fired by OSU in 2011 and Meyer retired in late 2010.

Alabama’s Saban, a winner of three BCS games and a national championship, encountered scandal in the summer of 2010 when a number of his players were
involved with illegal dealing with agents (Mandel, 2010). Saban did his best to distance himself from the issue, but this followed another scandal where
a number of Alabama players were caught in unauthorized selling of their free textbooks as a result of their scholarships (Miasel and Schlabach, 2010). During
his time at Alabama, Saban has dealt with “text book scandals and felonies” (Brizendine, 2008). While Alabama was forced to vacate 21 wins and placed on
three years-probation, Saban’s job was not in jeopardy as a result (Hooper, 2009).


The one-dimensional storytelling via the media conducted by both Texas Tech and South Florida regarding the firings of Leach and Leavitt has a direct relationship
with attribution theory. Since these schools omitted other relevant and significant factors, such as disputes with administrators, uneasiness about renegotiating
contracts, general odd behavior, and poor academic performance by the players, their messages to the media suggest they were doing so to protect themselves
and their stakeholders. These other factors were well documented by journalists.

For Texas Tech and USF, this protection was a manifestation of attribution theory in action. The rationale behind the firings of Leach and Leavitt was
public relations and marketing driven. Texas Tech and South Florida did not want to expand publicly on these other issues and instead focused their messages
on the intolerant behaviors Leach and Leavitt displayed in an effort to perpetuate the image that the schools are institutions of higher learning, not just football
academies. Also, by crafting a public story focused just on the singular activities of Leach and Leavitt, it gave the schools the rationale of firing a coach for
just cause. Texas Tech and South Florida called upon the persuasion techniques of attribution theory to create a story that would have fans, and some journalists,
believe the outcomes of the events were solely a result of the singular actions of both Leach and Leavitt.

These two schools were able to employ their crisis communication techniques of creating a favorable story line because so many media outlets were willing
to carry their message in an effort to gain more content and programming. The addition of ESPN’s Craig James into the story generated even more media
attention. Most of the coverage about the other issues surrounding the firings came from the national outlets. This finding is noteworthy as it underscores
the symbiotic relationship the local Texas and Florida news outlets share with Texas Tech and South Florida. The local media outlets may have shown restraint
in creating critical coverage of these two universities. The exception was the Lubbock Avalanche- Journal that did run a number of pieces illustrating the
problems between Texas Tech administrators and Leach.

In the context of this research, there appears to be a double standard within the highest ranks of college football. Coaches with BCS wins apparently can
withstand a crisis and receive greater support from their employer than those coaches without BCS wins. Unfortunately for Leach and Leavitt, they didn’t
have the same success as the likes of Carroll, Tressel, Meyer and Saban. Relating to the concepts of the attribution theory, a school is unlikely to make public
statements that a coach was able to keep his job because he won BCS games. The school would instead provide other reasons that supported its status as an institution
of higher learning.


The media coverage surrounding Leach and Leavitt in wake of their scandals demonstrates that the worst action a college coach can do is simply not win
enough. Universities, using the application of attribution theory, are not likely to publicly state this as it would tarnish their overall reputation. However,
it can serve as the foundation for a firing based on another incident that otherwise might not seem related. This idea of using an alternative rationale brings relevance
to this paper’s topic and attribution theory. As part of a school’s crisis communication plan, it might tell a public story that best serves itself
and its stakeholders.


This paper expanded the literature of sport communication to include attribution theory. As previously stated in this paper, attribution theory is not often
included in sports media literature. This paper is one of the few works to introduce attribution theory to sports public relations. A better understanding of this
theory as it relates to sports crisis communication will benefit both academic scholars and professional journalists looking to interpret and contextualize
the issues surrounding the firing of a major college coach. Since schools have so much money riding on the success of their teams, they will continue to dismiss
coaches who do not win enough games in efforts of finding someone who will. Such competition in the industry of higher education that is supposed to both
educate young people and profit from athletic investments will continue to create a constant flow of financial, ethical, and media issues worthy of deeper analysis.

Even though both Texas Tech and South Florida scaled back the amount of money invested in their football coaches, other schools are still pouring millions
of dollars into their programs in search of BCS riches. However, there only a select few games and only half the teams participating in those games can
prevail as the winner. So, there will continue to be more schools that fail in their BCS quest than win. This financial arms race and the adjoining media
coverage should continue to create worthy areas of academic exploration for future researchers. This paper could lead other researchers into examining the
rationale of how and why a football coach was fired by a college or university. As college basketball continues to expand in popularity, similar research could
evolve with that sport as well.


David Dewberry, Yun Xia, Cheryl Moore, Eliot Emert


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2014-11-24T05:48:54-06:00November 16th, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Facilities, Sports Management|Comments Off on Analysis of the Reasoning Behind the Firings of Mike Leach and Jim Leavitt

Female Athletes and Eating Disorders



Sports should prevent athletes from having eating disorders not develop eating disorders. There is evidence that female athletes are at a risk of developing
disordered eating. The purpose of this study was to find how prevalent eating disorders are in female athletes and examine factors that may have a relationship
with eating disorders.

A questionnaire containing two instruments was distributed to volunteer female athletes in a Midwestern university. The EAT 26 was used to measure the prevalence
of eating disorders. The ATHLETE questionnaire was used to inquire some factors that may have a relationship with eating disorders among athletes. Results showed
14.3% of the respondents scored a 20 and above on the EAT 26 and thus considered at risk of having an eating disorder. The ATHLETE questionnaire showed that
there were some significant negative correlations between the EAT 26 score and participant’s feelings about their body, feelings about sports, feelings
about performance, and feelings about eating. The negative correlations meant that the more the participants scored high on their feelings about their body,
sports, performance, and eating, the less likely they scored low on the EAT 26 indicating they did not have a risk of an eating disorder.

This study implies that when athletes feel good about their body, sport, performance and their eating, the less likely they will have an eating disorder. This study
makes an important contribution in understanding female athletes and eating disorders as well as factors that may have a relationship to eating disorders
in female athletes.



An eating disorder is a psychological disorder that many women can acquire, ncluding collegiate athletes. Participation in sports activity can be a healthy
and enjoyable experience that can enhance self-worth and self-image in female athletes (12). Many people may believe that because athletes participate in
sports and maintain high levels of physical activity, they are not as self-conscience about their bodies. Contrary to this belief, (1) stated in their study that
athletes are at a greater risk for developing eating disorders than non-athletes. Why female athletes have eating disorders when they are so active is a question
of interest to many people. The purpose of this study is to find how prevalent eating disorders are in female athletes and examine factors that may have a
relationship with eating disorders.

Incorrect weight perceptions are more common in young women, with persistent overestimation of weight and attempts to lose weight even when unnecessary (7).
(5) stated that female athletes are a group particularly at risk for developing eating disorders or engaging in unhealthy behaviors to control their weight.
These athletes not only face the typical social pressures to be thin, but they also are immersed in a social context that focuses on their bodies.

Eating disorders are behavioral syndromes associated with considerable mobility that present onset of the highest mortality rates among mental illnesses. The
prevalence of eating disorders’ has increased since the 1990s in both female athletes and non-athletes. Female athletes go through a lot of pressures
and conflicts playing collegiate sports. Female athletes are a group particularly at risk for developing eating disorders or engaging in unhealthy behaviors to
control their weight (13).

The western cultural emphasis given to weight and body shape points towards a “beauty standard” centered on thinness disorders (11). For some
female college athletes, college concerns and pressures may contribute to eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors (6). The sports environment can heighten
body and weight related concerns because of factors such as pressure from coaches and social comparisons, body dissatisfaction, physique anxiety, and perfectionism
(6, 11). A lack of professional guidance can make an athlete vulnerable to the onset of disordered eating (10). It appears that negative moods such as anxiety,
perfectionism, and negative comments about body shape or weight from coaches are related to disorder eating in female athletes (1). (9) found that social
pressure on body shape was strongly correlated with body dissatisfaction. Female athletes’ body dissatisfaction has shown correlation with bulimia (6).
According to (7), perfectionism, for example in sports has been found to be a risk factor for bulimic symptoms.

However, prevalence of clinical and subclinical eating disorders has been found to be higher-among female athletes than non-athletes (5). Young women, particularly
those in aesthetic sports are vulnerable to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and disordered eating (10). Situational factors specifically involvement in
individual sports or team sports, may put athletes in situations where social physique anxiety and disordered eating is likely to be heightened to manage
weight and shape concerns (13, 8).

This is an important topic because although physical activity enhances self-esteem and promotes physical and emotional well-being, there is evidence that female
athletes are at a risk of developing disordered eating. It is important to investigate some of the reasons why female collegiate athletes feel the need to have disordered
eating. Results of the study can assist in developing and executing suitable eating-disorder prevention and intervention programs for female college athletes.
The purpose of the study was twofold. First, it was to assess how prevalent eating disorders were among female college athletes. Secondly, it was to explore
some factors that may have a relationship with eating disorders.


There were 56 participants in total, including 11 freshman, 21 sophomores, 13 juniors and 11 seniors. The following sports were included: soccer (23.2%),
softball (23.2%), track and field (41.1%), and swimming (12.5%). The age range was between 18 to 22 years, with over 98% being between 18 and 21 years. The
entire sample was Caucasian with an exception of one participant.

A questionnaire was used to collect data, it included a demographic section on age, sex, height, weight and race of the participants. Two instruments were
included in the questionnaire, the first being the EAT 26 by (4), which measured prevalence of eating disorders among athletes. The EAT 26 has been used extensively
in research as a reliable measure of prevalence of eating disorders. The EAT-26 scale is comprised of these dimensions: dieting, bulimia and food preoccupation,
and oral control. Each item on the scale is rated on a scale of 0-6 as follows: never=0, rarely=0, sometimes=0, often=1, usually=2, and always=3, except for
item 25 which is reverse scored.

Second was the ATHLETE questionnaire, which was used to inquire some factors that may relate with eating disorders among athletes. The ATHLETE questionnaire
is a reliable and valid measure of factors that may relate to disordered eating in athletes (9). The ATHLETE questionnaire has the following factors that have
shown association with disordered eating: feelings about being an athlete, the athlete’s body and sports, feelings about performance, team support, feelings
about one’s body, and feelings about eating.

Both instruments showed acceptable reliability. The EAT 26 included 26 items and yielded a reliability value of .76. The six factors in the ATHLETE questionnaire
demonstrated the following reliability values: feelings about being an athlete included five items with a reliability of .71, athlete’s body and sports
included 12 items with a reliability of .87, feelings about performance included seven items with a reliability of .67, team support included four items with
a reliability of .73, feelings about one’s body included six items a reliability of .85, and feelings about eating included four items with a reliability of

The researchers first obtained Human subjects approval from the IRB before conducting the study. The questionnaire was distributed to the participants, and it contained
the demographic section of the questionnaire, the EAT 26, and the ATHLETE questionnaire. The questionnaire was given to volunteer female athletes at a Midwestern university.
A volunteer female athlete served as the monitor and distributed the questionnaires. The study was conducted in the absence of the coach and the researchers so that
the participants would not feel any coercion to participate in the study. The consent information for the participants was included at the beginning of the
questionnaire. The consent information explained that participating in the study was totally voluntary and that by completing the questionnaire, the participant
was giving consent to participate in the study. The questionnaire was completed anonymously and since there were no signed informed consent it was not possible
to identify individuals who participated in the study nor those whose scores indicated they were at risk of an eating disorder. Due to the sensitive nature
of the study, all participants were provided with referral information to their school’s health center and the crises hotline center, in case they realized
they were at risk of acquiring an eating disorder.

Statistical analysis
The data was entered into SPSS program – PASW Statistics 18. Reliability test for the EAT 26 and the ATHLETE questionnaire was analyzed. Descriptive statistics
were analyzed for the EAT 26. Those who scored EAT 26=20 were considered at risk of having an eating disorder. ANOVAs were computed to compare the means
of EAT 26 by year in school, age, weight, and sport participation. Correlations were completed between the EAT 26 and the factors of the ATHLETE questionnaire.


There were 56 total participants who responded to the questionnaire. Frequencies were completed for EAT 26. If the participant scored EAT 26=20, then they were
considered at risk of having an eating disorder. Results showed that 8 female athletes, (14.3%) scored a 20 and above and were thus considered at risk of
having an eating disorder. The EAT 26 mean was 7.9 and standard deviation was 7.6. Figure 1 shows details of how the participants responded to the EAT 26.

ANOVAs were used to compare the means of EAT 26 by classification year, age, weight, and sports participation. Only age showed a significant difference in
means for the EAT 26. Further, Cross tabs were completed between those who had EAT26=20 and age. Results showed all of the 8 participants who had EAT 26=20
were 19 years of age.

Descriptive statistics were conducted on how the female athletes performed on the ATHLETE questionnaire, which can be seen in Table 1. Pearson correlation
was conducted to see whether there was a relationship between EAT 26 and ATHLETE questionnaire factors.
These four factors in the ATHLETE questionnaire demonstrated significant Pearson correlation values with EAT 26: feelings about body and sports with a correlation
of -.53, feelings about performance with a correlation of -.51, feelings about your body with a correlation of -.50, and feelings about eating with a correlation
of -.31. These two factors in the ATHLETE questionnaire did not demonstrate significant Pearson correlation values with EAT 26: feelings about being an
athlete, and team support. Table 2 shows details about correlations between EAT 26 and the ATHLETE questionnaire factors.


This study found 14.3 % of female athletes were considered at risk of having an eating disorder. This study also reported that everyone found to have an
eating disorder was 19 years old. The ATHLETE questionnaire showed that there were some significant negative correlations between the EAT 26 score and participant’s
feelings about their body, feelings about sports, feelings about performance, and feelings about eating. The negative correlations meant that the more the
participants scored high on their feelings about their body, sport, performance, and eating, the less they scored on the EAT 26, indicating they did not have
an eating disorder.

Two of the factors in the ATHLETE questionnaire dealt with body image; the athlete’s body and sports, and feelings about one’s body. Both factors
had a significant negative correlation with EAT 26 scores. This indicated that the female athletes’ who scored high on the athlete’s body and sports,
and feelings about one’s body were likely to score low on the EAT-26. Hence, indicating they were not likely to be at risk of an eating disorders.
This finding concurs with the study by (2), which contended that body image dissatisfaction is the strongest predictor of eating disorder symptoms.

A study done (6) stated that sport-related pressures such as weight limits, teammates’ eating-related behaviors, judging criteria, revealing uniforms,
and coach expectations have been suggested as potential risk factors for an athlete to develop an eating disorder. Our study found that team support and
feelings about being an athlete did not have a relationship with eating disorders. Another study done by (10) stated that families, peers, and coaches can have
a major effect on female athletes. Our study did not show that pressures from the participant’s families, peers, and coaches had any effect on the athlete
and eating disorders.

This study found that ‘feelings about performance’ in the ATHLETE had a significant negative correlation with the EAT 26 total. This indicated
that the more the athletes felt good about their performance in sports, the less likely they were at risk of an eating disorder. This finding concurs with
(1) study that stated that negative moods such as anxiety and perfectionism were related to disordered eating in female athletes.

In the current study, all participants who scored EAT 26=20, were 19 years old, and were either sophomores or juniors in school. There were no freshman
or seniors found to have a risk of an eating disorder. This indicates that the female athlete participants felt more pressure or problems with their eating
in the middle of their college years. This finding concurs with the study by (2), which stated that eating and dieting problems in college freshman women
was fairly stable across the first year of college. The current study suggests that the female athletes develop some eating disorder as they try to lose weight
in the sophomore year and stabilize by the fourth year. More research is needed on eating disorders of female athletes through the four college years.

Since the participants is this study was were nearly all Caucasian, this study may have found higher levels of disordered eating concerns than a more diversified
sample. Future similar studies can build on this study by having a larger proportion of other ethnicities. In addition, future similar studies can have a wider range
of sport, especially sports where the athletes’ uniforms for competition are more revealing such as swimming, dance, and gymnastics.


This study shows that eating disorders are prevalent among female athletes. Some factors that have a relationship with eating disorders include feelings
about their body, sports performance, and eating. This study also shows that feelings about being an athlete such as being competitive and team support did
not show much relationship with eating disorders.
This study makes an important contribution in understanding females and eating disorders, as well the factors that may have a relationship in causing eating
disorders in female athletes.

Application to Sport

Eating disorders are still an issue of concern among female athletes. This study reveals that the more female athletes felt good about their body, sports,
performance, and eating, the more likely they would not have an eating disorder. Feelings about an athlete like being competitive and team support did not show
much relationship with eating disorders. To keep away from disordered eating, female athletes ought to have positive inner feelings about themselves.

Sports participation among college females should be encouraged because this will improve their ‘feelings about their body’ and in turn make
them less at risk of getting an eating disorder. Participation in sports activity can be a healthy and enjoyable experience that can enhance self-worth and self-image
in female athletes (12). Since body image dissatisfaction is the strongest predictor of eating disorder symptoms (2), then body image holds the most promise as a
focus for prevention programs of eating disorder among college female athletes.

Disordered eating prevention efforts offered by college counseling centers for female athletes should focus on promoting students’ acceptance of their own
bodies. Such efforts will counteract the media influences that propagates the extremely ‘thin ideal’ that is unattainable by most normal female
athletes. A school-based sport centered program can be useful in deterring females from disordered eating (3). For those working with athletes, they should avoid
equating thinness to sport performance. They should be encouraged to become more knowledgeable and responsible regarding the critical role of healthy eating
and nutrition in female athletes. Such knowledge will equip them to play a significant role identifying, managing, and preventing eating disorders among female athletes
and increase prospects of a positive sport experience for female athletes. Female athletes ought to be encouraged to regard their health first before sports performance.
Consequently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) emphasizes an athlete’s health rather than weight and body composition (12).


Many thanks to the anonymous volunteer female athletes who agreed to participate in this study.


1. Arthur-Cameselle, J., Quatromoni, P.(2011). Factors related to the onset
of eating disorders reported by female collegiate athletes. The Sport Psychologist,
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2. Cooley, E., & Toray, T. (2001). Disordered Eating in College Freshman
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4. Garner, D. M., Olmsted, M. P., Bohr, Y., & Garfinkel, P. E. (1982).
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5. Greenleaf, C., Petrie, T., Carter, J., Reel, J.(2009). Female collegiate
athletes: prevalence of eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors. Journal
of American College Health, 57(5) 485-495.

6. Greenleaf, C., Petrie, T., Reel, J., Carter, J. (2010). Psychosocial risk
factors of bulimic symptomatology among female athletes. Journal of Clinical
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7. Haase, A.(2011). Weight perception in female athletes: association with
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athletes: differences in team and individual sports. Journal of Clinical Sports
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9. Hinton, P. S., & Kubas, K. L. (2005). Psychosocial Correlates of Disordered
Eating in Female Collegiate Athletes: Validation of the ATHLETE Questionnaire.
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10. Kerr, G., Berman, E., Jane De Souza, M. J.(2006). Disordered eating in
women’s gymnastics: perspectives of athletes, coaches, parents, and judges.
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Figures and Tables

Fig 1- Eat 26 Performance

Figure 1

Legend: Figure 1 shows frequencies of the EAT 26 totals for the female athletes,N=56. If the participant scored EATS 26=20 then they were considered at risk
of having an eating disorder. Figure 1 shows that eight participants (14.3%) had EAT 26=20.


Table 2 – Descriptive Statistics of the ATHLETE Questionnaire

Legend: Table 2 shows the ATHLETE questionnaire which was used to inquire
some factors that may relate with eating disorders among athletes. The ATHLETE questionnaire
has six factors. Table 2 lists the six factors, sample questions on each factor,
as well as the descriptive statistics for the ATHLETE questionnaire.

Factors of the ATHLETE questionnaire Sample Question on the ATHLETE QUESTIONNIARE No of Items Total Possible Mean SD
Feelings about being an athlete I cannot imagine what I will be like when I am no longer competing
The athlete’s body and sports I would be more successful in my sport if my body looked better and I
often wish I were leaner so I could perform better
Feelings about performance No matter how successful I am, I never feel satisfied and my parents expect
more of me athletically than I do for myself
Team support It is hard to get close to my teammates because we are constantly competing
against each other
Feelings about one’s body My friends (non-athletes) make me feel I am too fat
Feeling about eating I feel uncomfortable eating in front of my friends


Table 3- Correlations between EAT 26 and the ATHLETE questionnaire
Legend: Table 3 shows the Pearson correlation values between EAT 26 and
the ATHLETE questionnaire factors. These four factors in the ATHLETE questionnaire
demonstrated significant Pearson correlation values with EAT 26; feelings about
body and sports; feelings about performance; feelings about your body; and feelings
about eating. These two factors in the ATHLETE questionnaire did not demonstrate
significant Pearson correlation values with EAT 26; feelings about being an
athlete, and team support.

Factors of the ATHLETE questionnaire Pearson Correlation
EAT 26
Feelings about being an athlete .139
The athlete’s body and sports -.530**
Feelings about performance -.507**
Team support .127
Feelings about one’s body -.502**
Feeling about eating -.313*

** .01 correlation is significant at the .01 level
*.05 correlation is significant at the .05 level

2016-10-20T14:59:00-05:00November 15th, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Exercise Science, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology, Women and Sports|Comments Off on Female Athletes and Eating Disorders
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