Reflections on College Sport Research Institute Competition

by Dr. Leonard Samborowski

CSRI ProgramFor the last four years, students from the Sports Management Program at Nichols College have participated in the Case Study competition held each year during the annual meeting of the College Sport Research Institute (CSRI). In 2013, we competed at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. For the last three years, and into the foreseeable future, the CSRI conference will be take place at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Our involvement with CSRI has been positive. It has been beneficial for faculty and students alike. As the academic advisor for the Case Study team, I have grown as a teacher and learned how to better mentor students competing at the National level. Our students have gained too from the face-to-face competition, understanding, first-hand, the talents and skills of their Sport Management peers. Additionally, participation in this national level competition is great exposure for the Bison brand.

The first year of our CSRI involvement (2013) was a laborious experience. As the faculty advisor, I provided too much input into the creative process and edited far beyond minor format and structural recommendations. We finished the first year competition in the middle of the pack for our oral presentation and toward the bottom of the group for our case study solution paper. Overall, the students enjoyed the experience of visiting UNC and I learned that I needed to start earlier in the preparation process for the team.

In 2014, Tim Liptrap energized the resources of the Sport Management Advisory Board to provide input to the case study team’s solution paper and presentation. The Advisory Board immeasurably added a level of professionalism to the competition. The critique from leaders in the sports industry, while stressful for the team, was the right level of “tough love” needed to improve upon performance. The pregame practice helped the team and, importantly, brought alumni and outside talent into the support structure for our students. The result was a much better performance from our case study team than in 2013, both with the paper and oral presentation.

In 2015 we took two teams to South Carolina, one all men and the other all women. The team members were selected in the fall semester during a case study competition organized and run by our Sport Management program. The competition between the two teams was both productive and detrimental to team cohesiveness. Both teams were comprised of highly competitive students who wanted to excel and sometimes this resulted in team tensions instead of collaboration. However, once again, product improvement was noted. Both teams’ solution papers and presentations were solid works. Our oral presentations were strong. The result was a 3rd place finish by the Gold team (women) and 5th place by the Green team (men). The lesson learned during the 2015 competition was that in order to increase our team’s standings, greater emphasis was needed in preparation of the 1,500-word solution paper.

Team, 2nd picIn 2016, we took one team to South Carolina. The team was all men, comprised of two seniors and two juniors. Three of the four students were veterans of past CSRI case study competitions. Without question this team was most prepared and easiest to work with of any group from the past. The four students (Ethan Godfrey, Anthony Rodi, Austin Weber, and Justin Doyle) were self-motivated achievers that only needed the case study topic and minimal suggestions to get started on their project. After CSRI released the case study topic on 1 March, the team worked independently for three weeks on their solution paper, addressing the issue – “Should College Athletes be Paid?” The team stated that they worked over 40 hours in writing their paper. As one student said – “More than we did for some of our other Nichols’ courses.” (Ouch!)

In late March the team asked for a review of their work. I looked at their paper along with Drs. Frank Hendrick and Andrew Smith. A review of their product revealed the best research paper submitted by any case study team over the last four years. Hendrick, Smith, and I were confident that the team had put their best effort forward in the construct of their argument that – yes, college athletes should be compensated.

Their plan, the National Collegiate Athletic Compensation Plan (NCACP), provided for equitable payment of ALL Division I college athletes based upon a financial equation that included: stipend + revenue proportionality + sponsorship distributions. Their plan was brilliant in its simplicity and feasibility. It could work. An unbiased administrator of the NCAA, one that was not concerned about lost corporate profits, might actually adopt the NCACP as a step toward fair worker compensation. In general I was very pleased with the team’s solution paper. However, I still believe we can do better in the incorporation of scholarly references to support our writing. As the faculty advisor I will work with Andrew Smith to improve the quality of our paper submission. Overall I would grade the solution paper at a 93/100.

Teams AssembledThe verbal presentation by our team was equally professional and compelling. The team worked seamlessly to present their position. Each student spoke clearly, confidently, and without note cards, engaging the judges in a conversation about the fair compensation of college athletes. The slides/visuals they developed supported their argument and added to the flavor of their message. On the negative side, the team was roughly 90 seconds short of their allotted time, time which could have been used to further develop or embellish their discussion. Furthermore, during the Q&A, I do not feel as if we answered the judges’ concerns that ALL athletes would be compensated, not male football and basketball athletes. I blame these shortcomings on me as their faculty advisory. I should have demanded + or – 10 second perfection on the length of their pitch and practiced more thoroughly with our team in regards to Q&A. I need to find the right balance between my tendency to direct the team’s actions (based upon my experience) with the need to allow students freedom to discover and err on their own. Overall, I would grade our team’s presentation at a 92/100.

2016 TeamThe Nichols team came in a “close 2nd” to Marist College in the undergraduate competition. Among the teams they bested were teams from the University of South Carolina and Florida University. Regardless of our finish, the lessons learned and the long-term academic impact of the CSRI case study competition were valuable; well worth the effort and time put into the event. Ethan, Tony, Justin, and Austin were proud of their performance at CSRI. They have every right to be. They attacked a challenging problem, primarily by themselves, working collaboratively as a high-functioning team. These gentlemen showed what determined Nichols students can accomplish when they set their mind to a task. They well-represented the Bison Herd on a national level stage. We can all be proud of their remarkable achievement. Thank you gentlemen. You are the template of our future success.

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