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.