Institutional Adaptation to Technological Innovation: Lessons From the NCAA’s Regulation of Football Television Broadcasts (1938–1984)

in Journal of Sport Management
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The effective management of innovation is important for sport organizations seeking to maintain dominance within their respective fields. However, innovation can be problematic as it threatens to alter institutional arrangements. This study examined how technological innovation impacted institutional arrangements within U.S. intercollegiate athletics. Adopting the institutional work framework, we studied the emergence of television and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) struggle to maintain centralized control of television regulations. We drew from historical data that discussed the NCAA’s regulation of television from the 1940s until the mid-1980s. We found that disparate perceptions of the impact of live televising of college football games and the NCAA’s protracted regulations resulted in tensions among its members. This led to large universities forming strategic alliances and openly defying NCAA regulations. The tensions culminated when universities sued the NCAA in a case that was ultimately ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court. This resulted in substantial institutional change that saw the NCAA losing regulative authority of college football television contracts. The findings of this study have implications beyond the context of U.S. intercollegiate athletics.

Nite is with the Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion, and Recreation, University of North Texas, Denton, TX. Washington is with the Department of Strategic Management and Organization, Alberta School of Business, Edmonton, AB.

Address author correspondence to Calvin Nite at calvin.nite@unt.edu.
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