Escalation of Commitment in United States Collegiate Athletic Departments: An Investigation of Social and Structural Determinants of Commitment

in Journal of Sport Management
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  • 1 University of Memphis
  • 2 Texas Tech University
  • 3 University of Tulsa
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Amid evidence of limited financial benefit, universities in the United States continue increasing their commitment to the NCAA’s highest level of competition. Consequently, it is believed that such behavior is the result of more intangible motivations by university decision makers. Using escalation of commitment theory as a framework, the authors explored social and structural determinants of increasing commitment, specifically examining the role of organizational status, former performance, and side-bets in commitment escalation. Applying a collective case study approach, the authors examined institutions (N = 10) having increased their commitment to Division I athletics within the last 10 years. Serving as the primary data source, participants (n = 35) included decision makers involved in the implementation of escalation initiatives. QSR International’s NVivo 10 software was employed for data analysis in the application of a three-step coding process. Findings revealed unique theoretical advancement in the emergence and role of organizational status in commitment escalation. Further, decision makers identified the impact of former organizational performance in the decision to increase athletic commitment. Finally, findings revealed the increased significance of organizational side-bets serving as the sole means for sustaining course of action commitment.

Michael Hutchinson is with the University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee. Calvin Nite is with Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas. Adrien Bouchet is with the University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Address author correspondence to Michael Hutchinson at

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