Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.
GET A 40% DISCOUNT ON YOU FIRST ORDER
FORMAT FOR WRITTEN CASE ANALYSIS
Required Sections Guidelines
I. Executive Summary One to two paragraphs in length
Summarize the critical events from the case that will be covered in the analysis
Briefly identify the major problems facing the main player
Summarize the recommended plan of action and include a brief justification of the recommended plan
II. Identification of Key
Identify the key players in the case
Include stakeholders who are impacted because of the critical events
For each key player, identify events in the case that the stakeholder finds troublesome and would consider a
problem; in doing so, quote the case
III. Statement of the Problem State the problems facing the main player
Identify and link the symptoms and root causes of the problems
Differentiate short term from long term problems
Conclude with the decision facing the main player
IV. Causes of the Problem Provide a detailed analysis of the problems identified in the Statement of the Problem
In the analysis, apply theories and models from the text and/or readings
Support conclusions and /or assumptions with specific references to the case and/or the readings
V. Suggestions Identify criteria against which you evaluate alternative solutions (i.e. time for implementation, tangible costs,
acceptability to management)
Include two or three possible alternative solutions
Evaluate the pros and cons of each alternative against the criteria listed
Suggest additional pros/cons if appropriate
Using models and theories, identify why you chose these suggestions – how it would work and why
VI. Recommended Solution,
Identify who, what, when, and how in your recommended plan of action
Solution and implementation should address the problems and causes identified in the previous section
The recommended plan should include a contingency plan(s) to back up the ‘ideal’ course of action
Describe the difficulties you expect to encounter in actually implementing the course of action
under consideration, including how implementing the course of action you propose may create
Follow APA format.
Do not quote definitions from the text or outside sources. Synthesize sources to support points, provide proper in-text citations and references. Quote critical lines
from the case as evidence.
Reward, Identity, and Autonomy
Ethical Issues in College Athletics
This case examines scandals and fraud in several university athletic departments.
It explores the ethical tension in college athletics to pursue success while fostering
integrity. It also addresses important issues regarding the responsibilities of
coaches, athletic directors (ADs), and university presidents for compliance to
NCAA regulations, as well as the transparency by which decisions are made
Sports do not build character. They reveal it.
—Attributed to both Heywood Hale Broun and John Wooden
As I sit down to write this case study, in comes an e-mail from my doctoral alma mater,
the University of Texas. University president Bill Powers told the alumni that the campus has
cut a deal with ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) and IMG College, a
multimedia rights marketer; $300 million will flow to the university and IMG over the next
20 years. He observed, “I’m delighted to announce the creation of a 24-hour television
network dedicated to covering intercollegiate athletics, music, cultural arts, and academics”
(personal communication, January 19, 2011). My alma mater, one of the great public
universities in America, has effectively become a channel, a de facto entertainment outlet.
What will be done with the proceeds of this deal? For the first 5 years, the annual payout
of $10 million will be split evenly: $5 million apiece for academics/faculty support and
athletics. After that period, the allocations will be reexamined. Will there be some respite
for undergraduate students from the huge lecture classes that are the staple of this campus?
What are the responsibilities of the administration to the rank-and-file student? Will
there be a chance to take more classes taught by faculty as opposed to graduate students?
Time will tell. Immediately, however, there will be a pair of million-dollar endowed faculty
chairs funded in physics and philosophy to bring glory and prestige to the campus. While
the Longhorn Network would showcase campus features including the performing arts,
CASE STUDY 13
184 PART IV TRANSPARENCY
humanities, and sciences, can there be any doubt that its reason for existence is to televise
sports? If the University of Texas has made this choice, how many other universities will
eagerly follow suit?
This case study describes the myriad ways that college athletics have become big business
and inventories the ethical challenges that accompany this development. This emerging
reality brings with it vexing questions: What are the rights and duties of student–athletes
and, for that matter, coaches, in this “big business”? Who gets paid in this system, and who
does not? How are athletic identities created and with whose symbols? Who enjoys autonomy
within this system, and who does not? All of these questions reside at the intersection
of organizational communication and ethics.
It is a business concept that is behind the central term of the discussion. Legal scholars
examine the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) behavior in light of
the basic tenets of American labor law. They point out that the NCAA adopted the term
student-athlete in 1953 and, from that day forward, has insisted on that label. Why?
A 1953 Colorado decision, University of Denver v. Nemeth, allowed football players injured
or killed in the sport to apply for workers’ compensation. In other words, the athlete in
this case was also recognized as an employee of the university and could pursue benefits
under the law. The phrase student-athlete highlights the education-gaining part of the
process (regardless of actual graduation rates) while distracting from the entertainmentproviding
and profit-generating side of the equation.
This case study examines several high-profile issues regarding collegiate athletic programs.
The purpose, however, is not to assign blame. In the aggregate, these instances summarize
the challenge of ethical leadership at the highest level of universities. Coaches, ADs,
and university presidents pursue multiple objectives: build a better university, field winning
teams, educate and graduate athletes, deal with misbehavior of student-athletes, placate
alumni, and satisfy the rules of the NCAA. Can this system produce both ethical decisions
and a winning tradition? How can those two goals be harmonized? Ethics provides a framework
for working through these competing interests.
If these tensions are so common and so widely recognized, why do they persist? The
question highlights the ethical dimensions of leadership and the countervailing forces within
the academy: the athletic/academic tension, the exorbitant salaries paid to revenue-sport
coaches, and the thinly veiled demand that a new coach produce an immediate winner.
The late Charles Redding of Purdue University, father of organizational communication,
saw its inevitable and necessary linkage to the study of ethics. In a 1992 lecture at
the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, he highlighted the issue through his subtitle:
“When will we wake up?” Redding gives a call to arms: “We have remained oblivious to
an area that has enormous potential for serious research: namely, the ethical dimension
of organizational communication” (Redding, 1996, p. 17). He identified six categories
of unethical communication that deserve scholarly attention: (1) coercive (intimidating,
threatening), (2) destructive (being aggressive, abusing), (3) deceptive (being dishonest,
lying), (4) intrusive (using surveillance), (5) secretive (not responding), and (6) manipulativeexploitative
(hiding intentions, patronizing). Organizations take shape one conversation
at a time. What policies, decisions, and actions can universities promote to see that the
organization takes shape through ethical processes? These problematic communication
behaviors are illustrated in this case study.
CASE STUDY 13 Reward, Identity, and Autonomy 185
REWARD IN COLLEGE REVENUE SPORTS: WHO GETS TO BE A
As the University of Texas Longhorn Network deal confirms, college sports have become big
business in the first decades of the 21st century. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has a
deal with ESPN to broadcast football, men’s basketball, and some Olympic sports. Its term
covers 12 years at a reported total cost of $1.86 billion; this figure amounts to $155 million
per school per year. This arrangement more than doubles the ACC’s previous broadcast
payout of $67 million per school per year (Berman, 2010).
The ACC’s deal pales in comparison to the ESPN/CBS deal with the Southeastern
Conference (SEC). The 15-year contract struck in 2008 nets each conference school
$205 million per year. Coaches’ salaries have also risen geometrically. For example,
Mike Krzyzewski, men’s basketball coach at Duke University, received $4.2 million for
fiscal years 2008 and 2009, according to IRS forms. For the 2007 to 2008 season, Wake
Forest University’s football coach Jim Grobe was also paid $4.2 million, although the AD
explained that the more accurate salary figure was $2.172 million; the difference was
deferred compensation. In contrast, for the 2010 to 2011 school year, the state of North
Carolina pays a public school teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years’ experience
$42,010, which is 1% of either coach’s salary. Does this ratio say anything about the values
and priorities in American society? Of the 120 head coaches in the football bowl subdivision,
62 are paid more than $1 million per year including 28 who receive more than $2
million. Six coaches are paid more than $3 million; Alabama and Texas top the list with
salaries of $5.996 million and $5.1 million, respectively.
Athletic equipment manufacturers are adding to universities’ and coaches’ wealth, as
well. For example, Nike has an 8-year deal with the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill (UNC–Chapel Hill) that calls for $28.3 million in payments, including $18 million in free
products. The Chancellor’s Academic Enhancement Fund received $800,000. Every year,
$200,000 is given to the athletic department, $100,000 of which is designated for coaches’
bonuses. In addition, $175,000 is provided to enable five teams to make foreign exhibition
tours. Florida State’s deal with Nike totals $34 million for 10 years, including $50,000 per year
(1.5%) expressly for women’s sports. The Adidas deal with the University of Tennessee covers
5 years and totals $19.3 million; one half is in cash, and the balance in equipment. Some
contracts include performance bonuses: $15,000 for the team making the Sweet 16; making
the Final Four is worth $25,000 for the men’s team and $10,000 for the women’s team.
These ostensible gifts are actually marketing and publicity arrangements. Most require
a set number of appearances by football and basketball coaches as well as others, if
requested. The arrangements are exclusive, and no other sort of apparel may be worn. The
Virginia Tech contract specifies that the Nike logo on shoes may not be taped or polished
over; the first violation results in a 10% payment reduction for that year; the second, a
15% penalty; and the third cuts the payment by 25%. The Nike contract establishes the
market value of its deal with Virginia Tech: $2 billion.
Against this lucrative backdrop, the issue of paying student-athletes, many of whom
come from modest circumstances, emerges once again. The standard rebuttal is that students
are amateurs and are properly and completely compensated with tuition, room,
186 PART IV TRANSPARENCY
board, and books. As the world of college sports climbs higher and higher up a mountain
of money, those arguments come under greater strain.
Recent events underscore the economic tensions in what one noted sociologist has
labeled the “Athletic Industrial Complex” (Smith, 2009). A litany of high-profile cases
illustrates issues of rewards and ethics in college sport: charges of improper payments of
Reggie Bush while a student-athlete at the University of Southern California (USC) along
with the returning of the 2005 Heisman Trophy and the departure of coach Pete Carroll for
the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks; the disqualification of several football players at UNC–Chapel
Hill for accepting improper gifts from a sports agent and the resignation of an assistant
coach who had a sports agent on speed dial; the deferred suspension, to be served after the
2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl, of several stars of the Ohio State University (OSU) football team
who were found to have sold athletic memorabilia and to have received improper discounts
on services with local businesses; the repeated hiring of basketball coach John Calipari,
famous for bringing to universities (Massachusetts and Memphis) NCAA championships
and investigations that vacate them; and, finally, the issue of graduation rates for revenuesport
athletes, in general, and African Americans, in particular.
THE SUM OF ALL ETHICS: ORGANIZATIONAL LEGITIMACY
These examples illustrate how individual incidents can add up to serious problems for
coaches, schools, leagues, and even the enterprise of college athletics. Organizations can
survive in a society because they are deemed to be legitimate: They use their power in
ways that meet with public approval. The concern for ethics is not an abstract exercise. An
organization’s legitimacy lives or dies through the public’s response to its behavior. Classic
illustrations of legitimacy are the enduring public respect (and sales) that have followed
Johnson & Johnson since its handling of the criminal poisoning of Tylenol capsules that
resulted in seven deaths in 1982. The downside is exemplified by negative feelings toward
oil giant British Petroleum (BP) for its blown-out well and massive oil leak into the Gulf of
Mexico that began in April 2010 and was capped in July. In total, 11 lives were lost, and 205
million gallons of oil spilled.
Legitimacy is more than complying with law; it is satisfying social norms as they evolve,
even on questions such as compensating student-athletes. As college sports emerge as
a multibillion dollar industry and universities morph into entertainment networks, the
argument that those who fuel this money machine are completely compensated for their
contributions by “books and tuition” begins to sag. How these tensions will play out is
unclear, but as folk artist Bob Dylan once famously sang, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
Reggie Bush took cash and gifts from sports agents during his time at USC, the NCAA
concluded in June 2010. It found the school failed to monitor athletes closely enough and
administered a 2-year ban on postseason play by USC football and reduced scholarships
by 30 over 3 years. The school also forfeited all football wins in the 2004 to 2005 season
and two from the previous season. The coach and the athlete were beyond the NCAA’s
jurisdiction long before the verdict. In January 2010, 6 months before the NCAA’s ruling,
head coach Pete Carroll left his $4.4 million university position to lead the NFL’s Seattle
CASE STUDY 13 Reward, Identity, and Autonomy 187
Seahawks for $33 million over 5 years. Bush became the first athlete in 75 years to forfeit
the Heisman Trophy, though without an admission of guilt.
He led the Trojans to the 2005 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) championship game only
to lose to the University of Texas quarterbacked by Vince Young. A lawsuit by a pair of sports
agents asserted that they had given Bush $290,000 in gifts, including paying for the limousine
ride to the Heisman Awards. They sued when he signed with another agent; the case settled
for between $200,000 and $300,000. Bush pledges his continuing affection for USC: “I’m here
to lend a helping hand to USC and anytime they need me . . . I’m just a phone call away.” That
call will not be coming; the NCAA ordered USC to permanently dissociate from Bush.
Bush offered an analysis of the current revenue-sport environment:
Obviously something has to be changed. You’ve got universities making millions
of dollars off these kids and they don’t get paid. The majority of college athletes
who come in on scholarship come in [with] nothing. That’s where you have a
problem. You’re making all this money off these kids and you’re giving them
crumbs and then you’re surrounding these kids with money and telling them not
to touch it. (Associated Press, 2010)
At UNC–Chapel Hill, they know the perils of athlete-agent contact. During the 2010 to
2011 season, two football players were ruled permanently ineligible and a third dismissed
when gifts of jewelry and trips from sports agents were uncovered. An assistant coach with
close ties to a sports agent resigned mid-season. The NCAA investigation trumped the football
season itself. On December 30, 2010, the remaining players won a dramatic double-overtime
victory in the Music City Bowl over the University of Tennessee to end a season that tarnished
the school’s exemplary athletic program. Professor Robert Malekoff, a sports studies
scholar, summarized the impact of such scandals: “When there’s huge publicity about something
like this, that’s one more chink in the educational non-profit status” (Sander, 2010).
The Allstate Sugar Bowl played in January 2011 was a cutting-edge example of the
crosscurrents of economics and ethics in college athletics. The game was to pit perennial
powerhouse OSU against the University of Arkansas. Then came reports that five OSU players
had sold merchandise and/or received improper benefits. Of the players involved, four
were starters, including the quarterback and a leading receiver. The upshot was that the
five were to be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 to 2012 season but would be
eligible for the Bowl game. All are juniors who can declare for the NFL draft, so the ultimate
effect of the sanctions is a matter of conjecture.
How did they remain eligible despite these violations? Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan
defended his product: “I made the point that anything that could be done to protect the
integrity of this year’s game, we would greatly appreciate that.” He added his perspective
on the violations and the sanctions: “I appreciate and fully understand the Midwestern
values and ethics behind that. But I’m probably thinking of this from a selfish perspective”
(Gordon, 2010). OSU officials sought to explain the players’ actions by noting that the sale
of the Big Ten Championship rings and a sportsmanship award was intended to help the
players’ families. The OSU AD noted: “The time this occurred with these young men was a
very tough time in our history” (Lesmerises, 2010). One player’s mother observed that there
188 PART IV TRANSPARENCY
was no involvement with agents and no stolen property; what the players sold belonged to
them. The NCAA and OSU held that the athletes remained Bowl-eligible because they had
not been adequately educated about NCAA rules during the period of the violations and
thus were not aware that they were committing violations. OSU won a hard fought game,
beating Arkansas 31 to 26 as 73,879 watched in the Louisiana Superdome; quarterback
Terrelle Pryor was MVP. Tickets for the 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl went on sale on the website
immediately after the game.
In March 2011, it came to light that Coach Tressel had been alerted to the players’ actions
9 months before the story broke. Despite a specific clause in his contract requiring immediate
action on potential NCAA problems, he had told no one in the athletic department and
went through the entire “discovery” process in December without admitting what he knew.
OSU suspended him for the first two games of the 2011 season and fined him $250,000
(6.6% of his $3,777,000 salary). Tressel later requested the same suspension that the NCAA
meted out to the players—five games: “so that the players and I can handle this adversity
together.” The AD granted his wish. The players’ mistakes were attributed to immaturity, an
impoverished background, and lack of familiarity with NCAA rules. Which of these reasons
apply to Tressel? In May 2011, Tressel resigned as the head football coach at Ohio State; in
September, he was hired as instant replay consultant for the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL.
The legitimacy of the entire BCS was put under the spotlight in April 2011 due to an audit
of the Fiesta Bowl. The longtime director of the Bowl, John Junker, was fired when it came
to light that he had used the organization’s funds to improperly reimburse Bowl employees
for contributions to politicians, including two U.S. senators. The actions are under review as
possible violations of campaign finance laws. A 2009 investigation into these donations by
an attorney, formerly Arizona’s attorney general, turned up nothing; a host of Fiesta Bowl
employees had been prescreened and coached on their testimony by a hired lobbyist. Only
a whistle-blower brought out the truth. At the organization’s expense, Junker had hosted
a $33,000 birthday party for himself and a $1,200 trip to a strip club as well as memberships
in four private golf clubs. His annual salary was in excess of $680,000. The BCS is
considering severing its relationship with the Fiesta Bowl, which has contritely promised
The saga of Coach John Calipari is a morality tale about the compromises that come
with a university’s ambition to win a men’s national basketball crown. His championships
won at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Memphis were both vacated
for serious rules violations. Nevertheless, in 2009, Calipari was selected to lead the storied
program at the University of Kentucky and given a contract for 8 years and $31.65 million
plus incentives. Kentucky was attracted by his career record of 445 wins, 140 losses, at the
time. Former coach Bobby Knight commented on the hire and the state of college basketball:
“We’ve gotten into a situation over the years where integrity is really lacking and in a
way I’m glad I’m not coaching” (Associated Press, 2009).
GRADUATION FOR STUDENT-ATHLETES: REALISTIC GOAL OR LONG SHOT
As many of the preceding cases illustrate, the financial rewards for revenue-sport coaches
and student-athletes present significant ethical challenges. Most student-athletes in football
CASE STUDY 13 Reward, Identity, and Autonomy 189
fully expend their eligibility, often including a fifth, or “redshirt,” year. Yet the saddest truth
is that for all that time spent on campus the graduation rates of athletes are often disgracefully
low, and this is especially so for African American males.
There are many ways to compute graduation rates; the NCAA compares student-athletes’
performance against all students. In this process, the performance of revenue-sport athletes
is mixed in with cross country runners and swimmers to dilute problems and elevate
the aggregate graduation rate. In fact, revenue-sport athletes have relatively little success
with graduation. The NCAA’s numbers say that 79% of all athletes graduate within 6 years
of enrollment, based on the performance of 2000 through 2004 enrollees. According to
a 2010 NCAA report, in football, 18 of 25 schools in the BCS standings graduate at least
60% of their football players; Miami, Iowa, and Virginia Tech had success in the 79% to
81% range, and Oklahoma and Arizona’s rates were below 50%. In basketball, the NCAA’s
reported overall graduation rate is 66% with African Americans moving up from 57% to
60%; 12 of the past year’s top 25 football teams had rates at 50% or lower with California at
30% and Connecticut at 31%, though Villanova and Illinois graduated everyone and Duke
and Butler hit 83% (Schilken, 2010).
Other studies show that, among basketball players, African Americans graduate at a
58% rate compared to 81% for whites. In the 2010 NCAA men’s tourney, programs such as
Marquette University, Brigham Young University, Wofford College, Wake Forest University,
Utah State University, and the University of Notre Dame graduated 100%; powerhouses
like the University of Pittsburgh, Duke University, Villanova University, the University of
Kansas (KU), and Georgetown University were in the 67% to 100% range. Schools like the
University of Maryland; the University of Texas; University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV); and
the University of Kentucky represent real problems. The University of Maryland’s overall
rate is 8%, and it has graduated no African American player in the past 3 years; over the past
decade the rate has never exceeded 25% and has been 11% four times. Graduation rates
for African American basketball players at the University of Texas over the past 3 years are
poor: 29%, 14%, and 22%. Over the past 4 years, the graduation rate at UNLV has ranged
from 10% to 14% for African American basketball players. The University of Kentucky’s
6-year graduation performance rates for African American basketball players range from
0% to 18%. The University of California, Berkeley has a campus graduation rate of 85% for
all students and 62% for African American students: “The graduation success rate for both
its black and white players is zero” (Jackson, 2010). This claim is based on the single year
of men’s basketball in question; to take a longer view, the NCAA reports that, for the 1999
through 2002 cohort of student-athletes, male basketball players graduated at a 20% rate.
Would we accept these percentages as case closure rates for a local police department or
success rates for surgeons or even as a class-wide graduation rate from a university? If not,
what makes these figures acceptable in this context?
Student-athletes’ graduation rates matter for many reasons; only 1.3% of senior players
will be drafted by the NBA. William C. Friday, chairman of the Knight Commission
on Intercollegiate Athletics, described the problem: “When you see poor graduation
rates, recruiting violations and instances of academic fraud, any thoughtful sports fan
can see that we’ve created an entertainment industry and, in the process, it has eroded
the integrity of the university” (Drape, 2004). Friday is clearly inventorying the markers
of a shift and then condemning that shift in the organizational culture of contemporary
190 PART IV TRANSPARENCY
universities. Countervailing pressure comes from those with an appetite for glory and the
$750,000 that each round of the men’s tournament brings. U.S. Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan, who played basketball at Harvard, decried this exploitation and has informally
proposed that schools with less than a 40% graduation rate should be barred from
postseason play. That standard would have barred 15 of the teams in the 2010 NCAA
IDENTITY: SWOOSHES, SEMINOLES, AND STADIUMS
While graduation is the long-range goal for student-athletes and universities, on the path to
graduation there are persistent ethical questions regarding athletics and identity that both
groups must confront. There is no more fundamental notion for people and organizations
than identity. “Who are you?” may be the first question; “I am ______” might be the first
answer. Identification choices are a big part of the world of college sports. At UNC–Chapel
Hill, fans will sing, “And when I die, I’m a Tar Heel dead.” At the University of Tennessee,
“Rocky Top” will bring a chorus of 10,000 voices. Loyalty to an institution means lifelong
identification. But what are the implications of commercial encroachments on those
identifications? Can you even buy a T-shirt for State U that does not bear the mark of its
Issues of organizational ethics and identity appear in many forms: the requirement to
wear in contractually specified ways the gear of the official supplier; the use of players’ likenesses
and numbers in athletic video games, thus appropriating their likeness and behavior
with no compensation to the athlete; the sale of jerseys displaying the athlete’s name and
number again without compensation; the use of Native American tribes’ names and symbols
for logos and mascots without permission; and the realignment of conference memberships
in service of television ratings without concern for tradition, geography, or safety.
As Nike’s contract with Virginia Tech made clear, the coaches and players are to be mannequins
for specific brands. There can be no obstruction of the corporate image. James
Keady, an assistant soccer coach at St. John’s, claimed that he was fired for refusing to wear
Nike gear; he objected to their treatment of overseas workers. His lawsuit was dismissed.
Adidas and Nike were at loggerheads over Jordan—not that Jordan but his son, Marcus.
When he was being recruited in 2009, Marcus, a 6’3” 200 lb. guard, told officials at the
University of Central Florida (UCF) that, for reasons of family sentiment, he wanted to play
in Air Jordans although Adidas had the $1.9 million sponsorship deal with UCF. Officials,
after checking, told him that would not be a problem and he enrolled. As the season
neared, it came out that Adidas did not approve of this arrangement even though all of
Jordan’s other gear would be Adidas. The sports blogosphere was abuzz with myriad opinions
of who was at fault and what should be done. An associate AD chirped the hope that
things could be “worked out amicably.” That was not to be. Ultimately, Adidas asserted,
“The University of Central Florida has chosen not to deliver on their contractual commitment”
and ended the relationship that was estimated to be worth $3 million at its next
renewal (Penner, 2009).
CASE STUDY 13 Reward, Identity, and Autonomy 191
In July 2009, former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon filed suit against the NCAA and
licensing and video game firms seeking damages for the use of his image and likeness from
his playing days. In January 2011, hall-of-fame basketball star Oscar Robertson joined the
suit as have other former college basketball and football players. The suit against the NCAA
and the others argues that student-athletes’ images and likenesses were being licensed for
commercial use without their permission. The stakes are high; collegiate licensing and
merchandizing is a $4 billion per year business. For their contributions to these products,
NCAA student-athletes are paid nothing. The former players have argued that the NCAA
requires all athletes to sign away their licensing rights without benefit of counsel; the NCAA
insulates itself against such claims by declining to license athletes’ names for use with
video games. The virtual players are not named but have the same number, physical characteristics,
and home state as the actual player. In addition, game players can download
rosters from online services and upload the players’ names into the game. The plaintiffs
have argued that the NCAA is violating antitrust laws and the players’ rights of publicity and
have looked to force the NCAA to compensate players’ for the use of their images and likenesses.
In May 2011, the suit was dismissed against the video game maker on the grounds
that it had not been part of any alleged conspiracy against the players’ interests; the NCAA
and its licensing agent remain targets of the suit (Associated Press, 2011).
Logos and mascots are central elements of universities’ identities, but their meaning and
origins are matters of serious ethical deliberation. The issue centers on appropriation of
Native American tribes’ names and symbols to represent an institution or its sports teams
without the approval of the relevant group. Proponents of the practice assert that this
usage represents a tribute to the indigenous peoples and should cause no offense. Can this
framework be understood as virtuous or ethical? What sort of assumptions must one make
to normalize these practices? Opponents of the practice, including representatives of the
groups in question, argue that it reflects unwarranted dominance and insensitivity. Take, for
instance, the North Dakota “Fighting Sioux.” The controversy has raged for three decades
even as most Sioux tribes do not support the university’s use of the name and logo. The
argument that appropriating Native American tribes’ names and logos is inconsequential
is belied by the strong and persistent opinions on the topic.
AUTONOMY: FREEDOM TO CHOOSE AND THE REVENUE-SPORT
For many students, college is the time of transition between dependence on family and
adult independence. It is a time for trying out behaviors and learning from the consequences.
Attending classes (or not), building relationships, living in an apartment, managing
time, and doing a host of other life skills are worked out through these experiments in
daily autonomy. For college students who are athletes, this process can be very different,
often in ways that delay their adult learning and invite them to remain dependent on others,
at least until their eligibility runs out. Then they are often turned out on their own
but without the growth experiences their peers have had. There are a number of specific
192 PART IV TRANSPARENCY
issues related to autonomy: scheduling of free time, “voluntary” athletic activities and
mandatory events; surveillance and control by authorities; and discipline, conformance,
The first ethical issue relating to autonomy is the issue of time itself. NCAA rules
limit in-season time demands on student-athletes to a maximum of 20 hours per week
and 4 hours per day; the actual time burden seems to be much greater. NCAA athletes
responding to a survey noted long hours in-season; for football it is 43 hours per week
and only slightly less for baseball and men’s basketball (Wieberg, 2011). How is it that the
actual hours spent double those allowed by rule? Professor Murray Sperber, of Indiana
University, has studied college athletics and taught student-athletes for 30 years. He said,
“I’ve encountered very few dumb jocks. I think that’s a media myth. But I’ve met many,
many young men and women who are physically and mentally exhausted from working
this tremendously hard job. And as a result, academically underachieved” (Merz, 2004).
Incidentally, trust between athlete and coach is in remarkably short supply. Can that
development be good for any of the parties? Has this relationship been corrupted by the
high-stakes, big money atmosphere of college sports? The survey of NCAA athletes revealed
that only 39% of women basketball players say that their head coach “defines success by
not only winning, but winning fairly” (Wieberg, 2011). Male athletes are only slightly more
positive about their coaches; to the proposition that their coach is as interested in fairness
as in winning, there is agreement by 43% of baseball players, 50% of basketball players,
and 57% of football players. What sort of ethical compromises might these players have
seen their coaches make in order to reach these judgments?
The time and trust issues blend easily into the topic of “voluntary” versus mandatory
training activities for student-athletes. In the past season, football programs at the
University of Michigan and East Carolina University were both found to have conducted
off-season activities that were improper because athletic officials were observing. What is
a student-athlete to do if a coach directs him/her to do something improper? Do conventional
organizations really reward whistle-blowers? Does the coercive authoritarianism
in athletics encourage athletes to confront abuse? In announcing “voluntary” activities,
coaches are prone to observe that playing time is also “voluntary,” thus making it clear to
the player the consequences of skipping them. What are the ethical implications of this
sort of communication?
Surveillance and control are persistent features of the student-athlete’s life. Study halls,
grade and attendance monitoring, and course selection by an advisor are all constraints
that apply to athletes but not to other students. These activities might be described as helpful
but also serve the primary purpose of maintaining the athlete’s eligibility. In any case,
they preclude the individual’s developing those skills on their own. A related question of
control deals with discipline, including its functions and limits. In college athletics, even
extreme instances of discipline are virtually unchallenged.
At KU, the athletic department employs class checkers to be certain that athletes attend
classes. They stand in the hallway with notebooks full of photos that identify their targets;
when athletes arrive, they sign in on a clipboard before entering the classroom. Such surveillance
is hardly unique in the life of college athletes. KU has added a twist, however; in place
of student class checkers, they use senior citizens who are less likely to let athletes “slide”
CASE STUDY 13 Reward, Identity, and Autonomy 193
if they offer up a good excuse. But signing in is not enough; the checkers hang around to be
sure that no one leaves early. From the hallway, the checkers even “peer through windows
to make sure that the athletes are still in their seats and aren’t sleeping, shopping, Googling,
or Facebooking on their laptops—offences that can be reported to academic counselors as
well” (Karp, 2011). One grandmother among the checkers refers to the basketball players
as “her babies.” While nominally chagrined by these practices, the associate AD in charge
defends them: “19-year olds don’t always make the best decisions” (Karp, 2011).
Consider the case of Julia Finlay, a member of the UNC Wilmington women’s basketball
team. For an unspecified violation of team rules, she was to run as punishment. Since
she suffered from plantar fasciitis, an assistant coach devised an alternative punishment:
Julia was ordered to log roll from end to end of the gymnasium for 30 minutes, making
12 trips along the floor. In the course of this punishment, she vomited three times; no
trainer was present for the first half of this time. The men’s basketball team was practicing
in the gym while the punishment was being carried out; no one intervened. The
women’s head coach, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, a Naismith Hall of Fame inductee, was out
of town when the punishment happened. She apologized for it: “It was never meant to
demean or degrade or in any way hurt anyone” (Mull, 2010). The assistant coach was
given an undisclosed punishment; the coaching staff remains intact. The AD, whose
fund-raising skills had been criticized, resigned within a week of this incident. Julia Finlay
has left the team though she remains in school. How does unchecked authority influence
judgment so that this kind of “punishment” could ever be seen as appropriate? Why
did no one intervene after Finlay’s first, second, or third attack of nausea? What are the
ethical dimensions of this story? Who, if anyone, was held accountable for this debacle?
Who should have been?
University leaders face ethical challenges in managing successful athletic programs and
maintaining the institution’s integrity. The issues appear to be perennial because the
tensions between ethical means and success-driven ends are perennial. In the realms of
reward, identity, and autonomy, we can find notable failures and some successes as universities
promote ethical behavior on the part of the organization and its members. In a
greater or lesser way, you have probably seen these very tensions at work on your campus.
1. What clear examples of ethical lapses do you find in these cases?
2. Does a president need a different perspective on the institution from that of an AD
or coach? If so, why? How would one be established? Enforced?
3. What is the best action to be taken for the preservation of the institution’s reputation
in the cases recounted here?
194 PART IV TRANSPARENCY
4. How can ethical standards be maintained and defended in an environment where
there is a strong sense that other competitors are bending/breaking the rules?
5. Do you know students who cheer for the team on game days but roll their eyes if a
student-athlete struggles with issues in the classroom? What are the ethical dimensions
of behavior such as that?
Associated Press. (2009, December 18). Bob Knight calls out John Calipari over integrity. USA TODAY.
Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/2009-12-18-knightcalipari_N.htm
Associated Press. (2010, September 16). Reggie Bush: Giving up Heisman not an admission of guilt.
USA TODAY. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/saints/2010-09-16-
Associated Press. (2011, May 5). EA dismissed from antitrust lawsuit. ESPN. Retrieved from http://m
Berman, Z. (2010, July 9). Under new TV deal with ESPN, ACC schools to see increased payout.
Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content
Drape, J. (2004, March 24). N.C.A.A.: Men’s Round of 16; Graduation is secondary for many in Final 16.
New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/24/sports/ncaa-men-s-roundof-16-graduation-is-secondary-for-many-in-final-16.html
Gordon, K. (2010, December 29). OSU football: Players sorry; Sugar Bowl isn’t. Columbus Dispatch.
Retrieved from http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/sports/2010/12/29/players-sorry-sugarbowl-isnt.html
Jackson, D. Z. (2010, March 17). Poor graduation rates show NCAA still shortchanging athletes.
Karp, H. (2011, February 8). Making some athletes go to class. Wall Street Journal.
Lesmerises, D. (2010, December 23). Terrelle Pryor among five Ohio State players suspended for
first five games of 2011. Retrieved from http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2010/12/
Merz, S. (2004, February 16). NCAA news archive: Seminar debate opens perspective on academic
reform. National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved from http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/
Mull, B. (2010, September 21). UNCW women’s basketball coach apologizes after player punishment
goes too far. StarNews Online. Retrieved from http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20100921/
Penner, M. (2009, November 8). Marcus Jordan’s school gets no reward for brand loyalty. Los Angeles
Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/08/sports/sp-random8
Redding, W. C. (1996). Ethics and the study of organizational communication: When will we wake
up? In J. A. Jaksa & M. S. Pritchard (Eds.), Responsible communication: Ethical issues in business,
industry and the professions (pp. 17–24). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.
CASE STUDY 13 Reward, Identity, and Autonomy 195
Sander, L. (2010, October, 1). Game over for 3 UNC football players who accepted agents’ gifts. The
Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/players/game-over-for3-unc-football-players-who-accepted-agents-gifts/27557
Schilken, C. (2010, October 27). NCAA reports record graduation rates for athletes. Los Angeles Times.
Smith, E. (2009). Race, sport and the American dream (2nd ed.). Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
Wieberg, S. (2011, January 14). NCAA survey delves into practice time, coaches’ trust. USA TODAY.
Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/2011-01-14-ncaa-survey_N.htm