Exploring the Direct Impacts of Geography on Sport Organizations through Athletic Association Movement

Dylan Williams – University of Alabama
Brian Soebbing – University of Alberta
Chad Seifried – Louisiana State University


Scholars acknowledge the geographical location of a firm possesses unique characteristics organizations use to sculpt their identity. Further, the proximity of competing organizations can drive firm administrators to conduct organizational altering decisions such as affiliation changes. For higher education, both geography and affiliation play important roles as firms attempt to acquire institutional legitimacy and prosperity in intercollegiate athletics. The purpose of the current study is to examine how geographic differences associated with changing intercollegiate athletic associations have on total applications (i.e., reclassification effect) to the university. The present study measures outcomes of the assumed reclassification effect through applications received annually by all National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II and III members between 2003 and 2012. Many institutions that were formerly associated with the NAIA left for the NCAA based upon the actions of their geographic peers and for identity improvement. Results broadly do not support the claim by university officials that a change in association will lead to an increase in applications. Other factors related to the number of sports offered, presence and performance of football and men’s basketball teams, and certain university identities significantly affect applications.