In Pursuit of Satisfaction and Fortification: Stakeholder Perceptions of NCAA Wrestling Rules and Regulations

By Cooper, Coyte G.; Weight, Erianne A. | Sport Marketing Quarterly, September 2009 | Go to article overview
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In Pursuit of Satisfaction and Fortification: Stakeholder Perceptions of NCAA Wrestling Rules and Regulations


Cooper, Coyte G., Weight, Erianne A., Sport Marketing Quarterly


Abstract

During the past 25 years, NCAA wrestling has experienced a significant decline in the number of programs offered at the intercollegiate level. Amid the current economic landscape facing intercollegiate athletics, it appears that the only sure way to enhance the longevity of college wrestling is through increased fan support and revenue. The purpose of the research was to survey stakeholders of college wrestling to determine their level of satisfaction with the rules and regulations implemented in NCAA wrestling competitions. Utilizing customer satisfaction theory, a national survey was conducted and completed by 1,095 respondents. Regression analysis is used to examine the impact of age and sport affiliation on group satisfaction with current rules and regulations. In addition, open-ended responses are explored. Results indicate that current stakeholders are not satisfied with many of the current rules and regulations. Significant findings and implications are explored.

Introduction

In today's intercollegiate athletic environment, athletic departments have the unique challenge of balancing Title IX compliance issues while attempting to maximize the revenues realized by their department. In an effort to maintain financial sustainability, several athletic directors have publically stated that the elimination of men's nonrevenue programs is the only way to balance their athletic budgets (Arizona State, 2008; Steinbach, 2007). Despite this claim, Marburger and Hogshead-Makar (2003) have instead argued that the trend to eliminate men's nonrevenue sport teams in Division I athletics is driven primarily by profit-motivated athletic programs and not by tight budgets. Regardless of the reasoning for program eliminations, with rising costs in men's basketball and football (Marburger & Hoghead-Makar, 2003), coupled with state budget deficits and higher education cut-backs which may reduce the amount of institutional support available to sustain unprofitable athletic programs (Brady, 2009), it is clear that men's nonrevenue sport teams will be facing declining financial support in future generations (James & Ross, 2004).

The direct examination of past men's nonrevenue program eliminations at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) level provides insight into the dire circumstances facing college wrestling. While there were 363 wrestling programs at the NCAA level in 1981, the number of men's wrestling programs offered by the NCAA had diminished to 234 programs in 2005 (Student-athlete, 2006). Similarly, during the 24-year time frame, there was not one year where there was a positive net program gain realized by college wrestling (Student-athlete, 2006). This trend of program discontinuation does not appear to be slowing as 18 programs have been eliminated throughout the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years alone, (Carlson, 2008; Frauenheim & Skoda, 2008; Moyer, personal interview, January 26, 2009).

As the financial support provided to men's nonrevenue sport teams is likely to diminish in the future, one might argue that the sustainability of this sport is contingent upon its ability to seek additional, and increase existing, sources of revenue in order to supplement athletic department allocations. As a strong fan base is paramount to the raising of additional funds, it is imperative that current consumers are satisfied with the core product being offered so that new supporters of the sport can be generated. As such, an investigation into the current rules and regulations being utilized within college wrestling is warranted to inquire whether they are delivering a product with maximum consumer appeal. Thus, the purpose of the research was to survey stakeholders on their level of satisfaction with the rules and regulations currently implemented in college wrestling.

Conceptual Framework

When focusing on the potential influences of rule changes on consumer interest, several scholars have illustrated the point that "in game" regulations must be implemented to enhance the entertainment value realized during sport events (Aylott & Aylott, 2007; Partovi & Corredoira, 2002).

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