Have a Question?
Ask the Graduate
College at our new
Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Harold Thomas Swift
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Educational Leadership, Research, and Technology
Title: Understanding the Career Paths of Division I Athletic Directors: A Phenomenological Study
Dr. Donna Talbot, Chair
Dr. Andrea Beach
Dr. Jody Brylinsky
Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 10:00 a.m. to Noon
3208 Sangren Hall
A Division I-A Athletic Director position is the top position in college athletic administration. There are only 120 of these coveted positions in the country. The limited research on how to obtain this position led to this investigation. The focus of this study was to understand the career paths and experiences of Division I-A Athletic Directors. The second objective of the study was to examine what effect, if any, race had on the career paths of the Division I-A ADs.
The research examined the career paths of ten Division I-A ADs male (five African American and five White) and their experiences reaching their position. A qualitative phenomenological approach was used as the methodology. One-on-one phone interviews were conducted using open-ended interview questions that elicited information from each participant. The Social Cognitive Career Theory was the framework used as the lens in the data analysis process.
Data analysis produced several themes, some of which supported previous research. It was discovered that a majority of the participants were former college student-athletes and coaches and also held graduate degrees. Other necessary skills and experiences to obtain an athletic director’s position were business acumen, networking skills, and volunteering opportunities. Although the participants agreed that the skills and experiences were important to acquire, some participants’ acknowledged that they were “called” to the position.
Also, the data revealed several factors pertaining to the lifestyle of an athletic director. ADs work extended hours, have supportive families, and must have thick skin and a sense of humor to handle the negative criticism from fans and alumni. Moreover, an emerging theme for holding this position was having the “right fit” with the university and the athletic department. According to the participants in this study, race was found not be a factor in obtaining their current athletic director positions.
According to the Social Cognitive Career Theory, all the participants had high self-efficacies based on their education, skills, and experiences they acquired in the pursuit and obtainment of their Division I-A Athletic Director positions. Finally, there is a relationship between Division 1-A Athletic Directors and their self-efficacy, education, skills, and experiences.