Final Paper- The Specialization of the Athletic Department

The topics of collegiate athletics always raise not only questions but also controversy. Collegiate Athletics have been one of the main focus points of several faculty/administrators meetings across the country, especially during these tough economic times.

So, let’s start from the beginning, collegiate athletics started in 1843, when Yale created a boat club, not much later Harvard created their boat club. (Is it by irony that the Ivy League actually started collegiate athletics??!!)   The creation of these organizations set the stage for the first intercollegiate sporting event in the U.S. This event took place in 1852, when the rowing team from Yale competed against the rowing team from Harvard at Lake Winnipesaukee, NH Lake Winnipesaukee (Wikipedia). That was the beginning and this race set off numerous colleges athletic organizations. Track, baseball and football were soon established as collegiate sports and the rest is history.

Nowhere else in the world collegiate athletics is take so seriously like here in the U.S. that is why the positions in the athletic department became more and more specialized. Take, Bucknell University, as an example, until ten years ago, all the head coaches had another job within the university, but as the competitiveness in the Patriot League and in the recruiting field increased, coaches had to chose between the two jobs.

This was a major change inside colleges and universities from an organizational theory point of view; based on the contingency theory, these entities would re-shape their organizational structure to better suit its needs.

While the athletic department grew, so did the student-athlete numbers. Entities such as NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA were created to sanction and regulate the student-athlete activities. Today, it is estimated that four hundred thousand men and women student-athletes participated in these sanctioned activities.

It did not take long for the news media to realize that intercollegiate sports were a great investment particularly because intercollegiate sports serve as a feeder to the professional level. In 2003, CBS television network began an 11-year, $6-billion contract for the broadcast rights to the division I men’s basketball tournament.

This differs greatly from nearly all other countries in the world, which generally have government-funded sports organizations that serve as a feeder for professional competition.

In this paper, I want to explore how history of the Athletic Department at Bucknell University and how the changes in the environment affected the university’s  organizational structure.

4 Responses

  1. I think it is fascinating how as a country we do focus so much on collegiate athletics, I would be interested to see just how much we do devote to collegiate athletics. Even to go as far as how much monetarily we give to certain collegiate sports, like we had been talking about the other week with big name schools and scholarships with athletics.

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  4. I am really interested to see what ideas you come up with for your paper. I took a class this semester about Commercialization in Higher Education, and clearly athletics were a huge topic to talk about. We also looked into how schools were affected by athletics and it was crazy to see how many rules people would bend. There was also a problem with schools lowering standards and creating special schedules and majors for the student-athletes. I’m not sure if it was in a movie we watched, or an article we read, but there was a lot of talk over whether people should be called student-athletes, or if they should just remove the title of student and call them an athlete because that was basically what they were. Good luck with your paper!

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