Student-Athlete Development, University Enhancement, and Winning: The Institutional Logics of an NCAA Division II Athletic Program



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There has been a great deal of research conducted which examines the development of student-athletes on college campuses. However, there has been limited investigation into how the institutional logics (i.e. the belief structures and related practices) within an athletic department may affect the manner in which athletic administrators and coaches perceive and approach the development of their student-athletes. The purpose of this study was to understand the institutional logics of an NCAA Division II athletic department and how those logics may affect student-athletes. In order to address the purpose and research questions of this study, I conducted a qualitative case study at a private university where I interviewed thirteen members of the university including eight members of the athletic department and five university faculty members and administrators. Additional data were obtained through various documents such as the university's mission statement and the NCAA Division II Handbook.

It was found that the athletic department operates under certain institutional logics wherein they are expected to foster student-athlete development. These include the academic, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of their development. Additionally, the athletic department is expected to enhance the university by building community and promoting the mission and vision of the university. Finally, winning athletic competitions is an important expectation of members of the athletic department. Further exploration of the data reveals that certain aspects of these logics may conflict. Primarily, the participants acknowledged that they were expected to foster the development of their athletes in other aspects beyond athletics; yet their primary job performance evaluations were based on wins and losses. Additionally, the logic of enhancing the university may also contend with the academic development of the student-athletes. This is significant because research has suggested that conflicting institutional logics within an organization may lead to confusion as to which logics are paramount. Though the specific findings of this research may be contextually bound, this provides insight into how the institutional logics of an organization may influence the actions of its members and key stakeholders who are influenced by the processes within that organization.