Making Sense of Competing Logics in the Collegiate Athletic Field: The Sensemaking Processes of College Athletes

Charles D.T. Macaulay – University of Massachusetts – Amherst
Laura J. Burton – University of Connecticut
Sarah Woulfin – University of Texas at Austin

The increasing shift towards professionalism, from amateurism, in the collegiate athletic field is due to several recent events forcing these changes including recent changes to name, image, and likeness policies and the Supreme Court decision in NCAA v Alston (2021) allowing college athletes to receive greater financial support for educational expenses. With the recent changes shifting the collegiate athletic field it is important to understand how actors in the field make sense of these contradictory and changing logics. This study focuses on how college athletes make sense of the contradictory and changing logics in the collegiate athletic field. Logics inform how actors think and behave as well as how they make sense of the world (Thornton et al., 2012). Drawing from interviews with 21 college athletes, we conducted a hybrid coding analysis and found six logics structuring college athletes thinking and behavior. Through a combination of six different sensemaking processes college athletes merge the professionalism and amateurism logics to create a hybrid logic; pro-am. We discuss the implications including the empirical articulation of how logics shape sensemaking and how stakeholders can utilize our findings to inform their own strategies.