Show Less
Restricted access

Communication and Contradiction in the NCAA

An Unlevel Playing Field


Edited By Mike Milford and Lauren Reichart Smith

Communication and Contradiction in the NCAA: An Unlevel Playing Field is a critical examination of the contradictory nature of the NCAA, and how the inherent contradictions impact the communication activities of its constituents, supporters, and challengers. At the heart of the NCAA is the student-athlete, born out of an idealistic collection of communal values that is often at odds with institutional practices. The rhetorical negotiation of the student-athlete’s identity informs and confuses communication practices on a number of levels, from interpersonal interactions to organizational apologia. Because the student-athlete is critical to maintaining the collegiate athletics orientation, the NCAA works overtime in promoting, maintaining, and defending it in the face of public scrutiny. The NCAA and its member institutions, like any organization, are compelled to answer public accusations, often working to defend inconsistent policies to an increasingly hostile audience. In an effort to solidify its power, the NCAA uses public discourse to maintain its position by establishing and enforcing proper codes of conduct for participants, and rationalizing unfair labor practices, athletics budgets, and rising tuition costs designed to boost athletics. In response they often rely on familiar rhetorical and organizational practices, such as branding, mascots, and heroic stories of student-athletes, all of which come with issues of their own. All of these communication phenomena, from interpersonal support-seeking to organizational scapegoating, are informed by the central student-athlete mythos. This puts the NCAA at a contradictory crossroads as they work to reconcile inconsistent practices and messages.

"This valuable volume studies sports communication in the United States with a focus on the NCAA. Scholars of Interpersonal, Rhetorical, and Organizational Communication will find much of interest here. Rarely do we find a book that integrates fields across Communication so well. As collegiate sports, as well as the professional ranks, change, this book will be an important tool for understanding this new world." Barry Brummett, University of Texas

"Communication and Contradiction in the NCAA is a unique, and in a lot of ways refreshing, take on the various competing values and narratives present around the largest collegiate governing body. The collection of studies approach this examination from a number of different theoretical, contextual and methodological perspectives that make for a great read for sports communication, sports management and sports sociology scholars. What results from this collection is a sometimes supportive, sometimes damning, and always thoughtful discussion on the struggles the NCAA faces with its narrative." Kenon A. Brown, University of Alabama

"As questions and concerns continue to arise about the role of athletics in universities across the United States, the role, purpose, and responsibilities of the NCAA must be examined thoroughly, with clear-eyed analysis and thoughtful critique. This important book fills that space beautifully. Including contributions from some of the most prominent scholars in sports communication, Lauren Reichart Smith and Mike Milford have deftly pulled together a broad range of perspectives to help define and inform these important debates moving forward." Danielle Coombs, Kent State University