Media, Marketing and Identity in College Sports
Instructor: David Welch Suggs, Jr., Ph.D.
@welchsuggs on most social platforms
Office: 423F Journalism
Office hours: 10.30am-11.30am T/Th or by appointment
Intercollegiate athletics are an institution unique to American higher education. They play three critical roles in the life of the university. First, in the context of mass communication, sports contribute to the public face of the university and a unique opportunity for colleges to connect with stakeholders in their community, their region, and the country as a whole. Second, from a higher education perspective, sports play a critical role in enrollment management and recruitment for many institutions. Finally, as administrators and student development scholars know, sports can play an important role in personal development and education for student-athletes. These three benefits are real, but they vary significantly from college to college and from team to team within institutions. Moreover, pursuing these goals often leads to conflicts and tension within institutions.
In 2022, the world of college sports is changing at a dizzying speed. Players have the right to earn money in ways that would have been unheard of a decade ago. The value of televised college sports has taken off for institutions with popular teams. And conferences are engaged in (yet another) mad scramble for member institutions to boost their public profile and marketability. Finally, people are questioning the basic structure of many aspects of college sports, noting the difficult history of exploitation and underrepresentation of women and members of minority groups common to most institutions with college sports teams.
This graduate topics class will appeal to students across a variety of fields and disciplines, including mass communication, higher education, sport management, and student development. It will meet seminar style with students responsible for developing a research paper, an industry case study for presentation, or a collection of reported stories. Students also will lead and participate in class discussions over the course of the semester.
As a seminar, the success or failure of this class will depend on the active participation of students involved. The format is extremely flexible to accommodate a wide range of interests and backgrounds, but students must be prepared to keep up with readings, work independently, and stay engaged throughout the semester.
Over the course of this class, students will:
Solidify their knowledge of the commonalities and differences in athletic programs across different types of institutions Learn about the fuzzy boundaries between institutions and its publics when it comes to sports, as well as the fuzzy boundaries between academic and athletic entities on campus Develop theoretical approaches to understanding issues in college sports Understand the benefits and costs of athletics programs to universities as a whole Understand the benefits and costs of athletics programs to athletes who participate Understand how such benefits and costs vary among participants, coaches, and others by gender, race, and other ethnographic considerations. Work independently and with peers and the instructor on a semester-long project related to the student’s topical and professional interests Work in coordination with classmates to respond to issues both in the readings and as they crop up on the news