Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Impact of Sport Discontinuation on the Experience and Identity of First-Generation and Non-First-Generation NCAA Division I Wrestlers
by Roppeau, Michelle, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2015, 193; 10036193
Abstract (Summary)

The discontinuation of intercollegiate athletics teams at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I, II, and III institutions has been tracked by the NCAA national office for decades. From 1988-89 through 2014-15, the men’s sport with the greatest net loss of teams throughout all NCAA divisions was wrestling. While a body of research exists that examines factors cited by campus and athletic administrators as reasons that lead to the discontinuation of NCAA sports, the actual lived experience of college student-athletes in the wake of sport elimination has garnered little attention. After a sport is discontinued, the NCAA also ceases to examine the academic progress, retention, or persistence to degree of those Division I student-athletes. Retrospective interviews with twelve Division I wrestlers provide insight into their experience and changes in identity following sport elimination.

The contextual framework includes a review of the role of intercollegiate athletics in higher education, summary of current NCAA structure, discussion of the economics of Division I athletics, overview of the ancient origins of wrestling, and examination of the structure of modern intercollegiate and club wrestling programs.

First-generation college students negotiate and construct multiple identities while navigating the university experience. Since participation in athletics is commonly used as a springboard for social mobility and access to the cultural capital of higher education, this project explored the experience of both first-generation and non-first-generation NCAA Division I wrestlers. This research privileges the voices of college student-athletes who candidly shared personal insights after the elimination of a sport that provided a significant source of their identity. Research was designed to expand the literature on the experience and identity of first-generation college students, contribute to the development of a robust body of work on the specific experience of first-generation college student-athletes at NCAA Division I institutions, and provide recommendations for campus and athletic administrators considering the elimination of an intercollegiate sport.

While sport discontinuation is usually considered to be an event (the elimination of a team on a particular date), findings in this study suggest that sport discontinuation might be better viewed as a process with ripple effects that last for years. The decision to eliminate a team requires thoughtful consideration of the effect it will have on the experience and identity of individual student-athletes. To mitigate the short-term and long-term effects of sport discontinuation, it is recommended that institutions establish and maintain support services specifically for the affected student-athletes in the months prior to and years following the announcement of the elimination of the team.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gonzalez, Cristina
Commitee: Gill-Fisher, Pam, Perrault, Sarah
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Sports Management, Educational psychology, Counseling Psychology, Higher education
Keywords: College, Discontinued sport, First-generation, Ncaa division i, Student-athlete, Wrestling
Publication Number: 10036193
ISBN: 978-1-339-54368-0
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