This case study illustrates the complexity of decision making in public organizations, specifically highlighting the public health concern of drowning disparities in the United States. Using escalation of commitment theory, students must consider various factors in evaluating the overextended commitments of a local government in a complicated sociopolitical environment and with vital public needs that must be addressed through a local parks and recreation department. Facing a reduction in allocated resources, the department director, Claire Meeks, is tasked with determining which programs will receive higher priority despite the varied feedback from the management staff. To ensure students are provided a realistic scenario, this case offers a combination of fictional and real-life events from Splash Mid-South, an innovative swimming program in Memphis, Tennessee. Students must critically evaluate not only the merits of the swimming program, but the other sport, recreation, and parks programs that also merit an equitable share of the limited resources. Therefore, students are placed in a decision-making role that is common to managers of both public and private organizations. This case study is appropriate for both undergraduate and graduate sport management courses, with specific application to strategic management, organizational behavior, and recreation or leisure topics.
Brennan K. Berg and Michael Hutchinson are with the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN. Carol C. Irwin is with the School of Health Studies, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN.