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Title:Decision-making in higher education and intercollegiate athletics: case study on the Big Ten Conference realignment
Author(s):Guin, Jeffrey S.
Director of Research:Baber, Lorenzo
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Baber, Lorenzo
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Ikenberry, Stanley O.; Tainsky, Scott; Trent, William
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Higher Education
Intercollegiate Athletics
Rational Decision-making Model
Conference Realignment
Abstract:This study focuses on the decision-making institutional leaders use during the process of conference realignment at the Division I level. Intercollegiate athletics has existed within higher education for well over a century. Conflicting values and objectives have persisted between intercollegiate athletic departments and the institutions of higher education with which they are affiliated. The publicity an institution receives from intercollegiate athletics, however, is more than any academic achievement can provide, so how college presidents make decisions that involve intercollegiate athletics is critical to higher education. The literature reveals that the economic climate has little to no significant impact on institutions’ spending when it comes to intercollegiate athletics (Frank, 2004; Smith, 2008; Fisher, 2009). In fact, many institutions and athletic departments at the Division I level lose money every year (Knight Commission, 2010). Thus, if not financially, then how do decision-makers in higher education weigh the costs versus the perceived benefits when it comes to intercollegiate athletics? Intercollegiate athletics at the Division I level has recently seen a wave of change in conference memberships. Over a two and half year period (June 2010 to December 2012), 77 Division I institutions changed conference affiliations for either their entire athletic departments or at least their football programs. Traditionally, conference membership has been determined by geography and by shared institutional values and objectives, and so this high number of changes over a 30-month period is a departure from these traditions. Examining conference realignment sheds insight into the decision-making process institutional leaders use when analyzing the costs and benefits of intercollegiate athletics to higher education. Max Weber’s rational decision-making model (Weber 1956), which analyzed the cost-benefit value of alternatives as well as the extent to which the alternatives reflected shared cultural values and beliefs. This model evolved when March and Simon (1958) proposed the common model for rational decision-making, contending that actors enter into decision-making situations with known objectives and that the cost-benefit value for each of the alternatives is determined by those objectives. The actors gather information on alternative solutions and then select the optimal alternative. Chaffee (1983) suggested five criteria for examining the rational decision-making process. They are (1) values and objectives, (2) alternatives, (3) centralization of decision-making, (4) understanding of consequences, and (5) value maximizing choice. Chaffee’s criteria guided this case study on conference realignment in the Big Ten Conference. This study found that presidents identify values and objectives prior to making decisions of whether or not to realign and expand conference membership, and then they evaluate alternatives in terms of how well their institutions match Big Ten leaders’ stated values and objectives The affirmative decisions of the presidents studied resulted in increases in revenues and brands at each institution. This research contributes to the process of decision-making by leaders in intercollegiate athletics, particularly at the Division I level. From a broader scope, the results contribute to the rational decision-making model and the criteria used to test it.
Issue Date:2015-04-15
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Jeffrey Guin
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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