Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Motivations for Changing Athletic Associations: An Athletic Department's Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Motivations for Changing Athletic Associations: An Athletic Department's Perspective

Article excerpt


College athletics are an important part of United States society. In the United States, there are two main athletic associations. These two associations are the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). For schools within the top division of the NCAA, fans, students, and alumni of these schools wear school colors, watch their school play athletic contests on television, and can travel hundreds of miles to watch their team compete in athletic contests (Gibson, Willming, & Holdnak, 2002). These schools accrue higher benefits compared to -lower level universities" within the athletic association including increased revenue from the university's state government (Humphreys, 2006) and media outlets showing athletic events.

With benefits increasing for universities that are in a higher athletic association classification, many administrators have discussed the potential to reach a higher athletic association. Since 1980, three hundred universities moved from the NAIA to the NCAA (Summers, 2010). In 2009, fifteen institutions within the United States and one from Canada applied for NCAA membership. The reasons universities stated for making a change included a desire for an increase in status, additional athletic department revenues, an increase in university applications, and a desired for an increase in student enrollment (Dwyer, Eddy, Harvard, & Braa, 2010). Due to the hierarchical structure and dominance of the NCAA as an intercollegiate athletic association (Washington, 2004-2005), a university also could receive additional social benefit in affiliating with a higher classification or a different association. A move to a new association or higher classification does not mean that the change will be ?successful'-measured by the university maintaining that level. According to the data provided by the Office of Postsecondary Education, universities sometimes returned to their original level of membership with the NCAA or return to the NAIA.

The purpose of the present research is to e xamine one university's motivation to apply for NCAA membership. The present research examines Suburban University (a pseudonym). In order to investigate SUBU and its move from the NAIA to the NCAA, we conducted interviews with members of the SUBU athletic department to further understand how the movement to the NCAA affected the organization. Three themes emerged from the interviews: affiliation and status, culture, and finance, which we believe provides additional insight for researchers examining different aspects of change in college athletics as well as practitioners that may consider moving athletic associations.


Two main umbrella associations compose intercollegiate athletics for four-year universities in the United States, the NAIA and NCAA. The NAIA is an athletic association that organizes college and university level athletic programs. Membership in the NAIA consists of smaller colleges and universities across the United States. The NAIA has six members in Canada and at one point in time, had one member in the Bahamas. The international membership made the NAIA the only international intercollegiate athletic association in North America. The purpose of the NAIA is to promote the education and development of students through intercollegiate athletic participation. Member institutions, although varied and diverse, share a common commitment to high standards and to the principle that participation in athletics serves as an integral part of the total educational process (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, 2010).

The NAIA embraces the concept of the student and recognizes the importance of the individuality of each member institution, the value of the conferences and Association of Independent Institutions structure, and the benefits of membership in a national association. …

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