Collegiate Sports Programs: A Comparative Analysis

By Rosandich, Thomas | Education, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Collegiate Sports Programs: A Comparative Analysis


Rosandich, Thomas, Education


The United States Sports Academy has a unique perspective on this issue, having delivered sport education and training programs in some 60 countries around the world. These programs have ranged from short-term seminars and symposia of a few days duration, to multi-year agreements whereby the Academy has had full-charge development and administration of national level sports programs for an entire country. The Academy is thus uniquely positioned having developed a perspective on this topic that has been gained through both research activities typical of an academic institution combined with pragmatic observations of an organization developing and administering a variety of sport programs in the field.

What distinguishes intercollegiate sport programs as they exist in the United States as opposed to those conducted elsewhere in the world? Are there even any significant differences between the "American model" and those found elsewhere? The answer is yes, there are many differences and they are very significant by any measure.

First is the very important role that intercollegiate sports play in the overall hierarchy of sport organizations within the United States. When I refer to the term "hierarchy", I am alluding to what is often called the "performance pyramid", the feeder system that provides athletic talent to the apex of the sport organizational hierarchy which are the high performance athletes representing the United States on its national teams and in the Professional ranks.

Second is the extent of participation and competition conducted in the intercollegiate setting. The pervasiveness of intercollegiate sport competition can be judged by just about any measure selected be this the number of schools involved; the number of sports played--both male and female; the number of athletes participating; or the number of people who derive their livelihood from full-time employment in intercollegiate sport program.

Third, and related to the two foregoing points, is the sheer economic impact created by interscholastic sports in the American economy. The economics of intercollegiate sport competition is one of the most significant aspects of what truly distinguishes American style intercollegiate sport from those of the rest of the world. Both expenditures and revenues are huge as well as related factors such as the number of spectators and coverage in the mass media. Very simply, sanctioned intercollegiate sport in the United States is big business.

Examining these topics in detail could easily consume a week long seminar or even a specific graduate level course on the topic. As my time here today is limited, we'll look only briefly at each of these main characteristics in turn, so that you might gain some understanding of the scope of intercollegiate sports in the United States. I will also close with some observations with respect to intercollegiate sports which I hope will put things into perspective.

Before we proceed any further, however, it would be useful to define the term intercollegiate sport and how this is distinguished from club sports. Most colleges and universities do, after all, have intramural or recreational club sport programs to provide opportunities to their students to engage in sport activities. For the purposes of this presentation, intercollegiate sport can be distinguished from other types of activities by the following criteria.

First is the degree of institutional support provided to intercollegiate sport teams. For example, institutional support includes access to quality facilities and equipment. Very simply, the intercollegiate sport competition and training facilities at most large American universities rival that of even the best equipped national sport programs or sport clubs in other nations. Next is personnel, both administrative and program specific, such as coaches and athletic trainers. …

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