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Perceptions of influence over funding decisions in interuniversity athletics Long, Julie A.

Abstract

Political behaviour and decision-making have been central themes in the organizational theory and organizational behaviour literature for decades (cf. Bass, 1983; Hickson, Butler, Cray, Mallory, & Wilson, 1986; Pettigrew, 1973; Pfeffer, 1981, 1992; Riker, 1964). As Mintzberg (1983) suggested, " i f we are to improve the functioning of our organizations from within...then we must understand the power relationships that surround and infuse them" (p. 1). Many researchers have studied the concept of power as it pertains to intercollegiate athletics in the United States (cf. Fleisher, Goff & Tollison, 1992, Frey, 1982, 1985a, 1985b; Koch, 1982; Nyquist, 1985; Padilla & Baumer, 1994). However, literature with respect to power and the Canadian interuniversity athletic system is somewhat more limited in its scope (Armstrong-Doherty, 1995a, 1995b; Hill, 1996; Hill & Kikulis, 1999; Inglis, 1991). Using a framework developed by Hickson et al. (1986), this study examined the perceived level of influence exhibited by senior administrators and Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) head coaches over funding decisions in an interuniversity athletics department. This study revealed how power is wielded by various individuals and interest groups who are affected by strategic funding decisions. "Retrenchment and the reallocation of resources have changed the complexion of Canadian universities and their athletic programs" (Schneider, 1997, p. 88) and as athletic departments realign their budgets and seek funding from non-traditional sources in the face of further financial cutbacks, more research was needed that addressed this issue of influence over funding decisions. This study helped to fill some of the gaps in the current literature by answering the following three questions: (1) who is perceived to influence funding decisions, (2) what means of influence are used, and (3) to what extent do policies and procedures dictate funding decisions. In order to fulfill the purpose of this research, a single-case study approach involving the use of semi-structured interviews, observations and document analyses was used to collect data at a large university in Western Canada. A qualitative data analysis software program was used to analyze the results of this study. Results indicated that head coaches of high priority sport teams tended to be perceived as having more influence over funding decisions than coaches of low priority teams. As well, an individual's position in the department appeared to affect his/her perceived level of influence in the department. The methods of influence most commonly used by individuals in the athletic department included displays of emotion and reason. Finally, results indicated that in this particular organization, policies and procedures did not impact on the decision-making process. These results have important implications for strategic decision-making in interuniversity athletics departments.

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