Governing boards of higher education institutions are responsible for governance actions such as appointing and evaluating the president, clarifying institutional mission, ensuring financial solvency, and preserving institutional independence. Typically not included within these responsibilities is the oversight of intercollegiate athletics (ICA), which is primarily delegated to institutional presidents. Thus, many trustees are uncertain about their role in the governance of ICA. Semi-structured interviews with 29 trustees from 23 different governing boards were conducted to provide a first-hand account of trustee perspectives on their role in providing oversight to ICA. Data were analyzed through an ad hoc approach where it was found that trustees were generally supportive of athletics while being concerned about the overemphasis compared to other aspects of institutional mission. They also had mixed viewpoints on the effectiveness of formalized board structures and processes around athletic governance, stressed the importance of trust in administrative leadership and informal consultation processes, and were challenged by the financial realities of supporting Division I athletics and the external spheres of power in college sports. The study contributed to the literature on stakeholder theory by examining how governing boards, as the stakeholders with ultimate fiduciary responsibility for institutions, provide oversight to an area of higher education with an extremely high profile and considerable financial and reputational risk. The study also contributed to the understanding of shared governance in higher education by analyzing how governing boards effectively assert authority in a high profile area of institutional governance. Implications for policy and practice included the importance of governing boards developing clear expectations with presidents about which athletic issues require board consultation and which require formal board approval.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2015. Major: Kinesiology. Advisor: Lisa Kihl. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 191 pages.
Higher Education Governing Boards and Stakeholder Governance of Intercollegiate Athletics.
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