Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Collegiate Athletic Directors' Perceptions of Academic Research: A Qualitative Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Collegiate Athletic Directors' Perceptions of Academic Research: A Qualitative Analysis

Article excerpt


Collegiate athletic programs are built and equipped with the resources for competition and the development of student athletes through the leadership and management of the athletic director (AD) (Carodine, Almond, & Gratto, 2002).

Collegiate ADs are the chief executive officers within the athletic department of the colleges and universities they serve. ADs in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) lead nearly 35,000 employees in addition to more than 18,000 head coaches, 40,000 assistant coaches, and more than 430,000 student athletes; these athletes compete in 25 sports across three divisions (Irick, 2011; Zgonc, 2010).

ADs surround themselves with a staff to help manage the athletic department; however the administration of the entire organization and the social, emotional, academic, and athletic development of student-athletes is the ultimate responsibility of the AD. ADs are certainly in the public eye, by the nature of their position, much like any other top-level executive and maybe more so due to the passionate fan base that follows collegiate sport. Decisions made by ADs not only have an impact on student-athletes and athletic department staff, but the millions of collegiate fans. Ultimately, ADs are the decision-makers in regards to policy, budgeting, personnel, and governance of athletic departments. ADs also comprise the Division I Board of Directors within the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The Board of Directors' responsibilities include establishing policy, serving on subcommittees, budgeting, championship governance and overseeing the Legislative and Leadership Councils (NCAA Academic Affairs and Membership Staff, 2011). ADs are certainly in a position where they must make many decisions regarding the direction of Division I collegiate athletics.

ADs have unique perspectives and experiences within intercollegiate athletics and higher education in general. Their insights have been a focus of academic research during the past several decades. ADs were the respondents in multiple studies with the following topics: AD perceptions of public relations (Ruihley & Fall, 2009), job satisfaction, (Davis, 2002; Hoch, 2003; Robinson, Peterson, Tedrick, & Carpenter, 2003), career progression (Fitzgerald, Sag aria, & Nelson, 1994), job stress (Copeland & Kirsch, 1995), managerial behavior (Davis, 2002; Hoch, 2003; Ryska, 2002; Seidler, Gerdy, & Cardinal, 1998), and demographic characteristics (Lapchick, Hoff, & Kaiser, 2011; Quarterman, 1992; Sander, 2011). In addition to being researched, ADs may find research useful because of the rise of business aspects in collegiate sport, the more time demands placed on them, and the increased media attention placed on their decisions (Copeland & Kirsch, 1995; Ryska, 2002). Some ADs are no longer able to interact directly with student athletes or staff members on a regular basis because of the time it takes to deal with "big picture" concerns such as budgeting, fundraising, department policy, personnel, compliance and public relations. ADs are often forced to take on the roles they feel are most important or essential and delegate additional tasks to others (Cunningham & Ashley, 2001). A purpose of research can be to gather data to further inform the everyday practice of ADs. This study's aim was to explore AD's participation in and perceptions of academic research and understand whether or not they apply this research in their everyday practice and decision-making.


In order to better understand AD's participation in and perceptions of academic research, it is first necessary to discuss both theoretical as well as applied research. Theoretical research is based on the idea of explaining or increasing understanding of some sort of phenomena whereas applied research is generally used for decision-making (Wimmer & Dominick, 1997). A function of theoretical research is to observe and make conclusions about a phenomenon and then develop a theory based on those observations and conclusions (Patten, 2002). …

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