The Role of Athletics in the Future of Small Colleges: An Agency Theory and Value Responsibility Budgeting Approach

Claire Zvosec – Louisiana State University
Nathan Baer – Louisiana State University

Using Agency Theory and Value Responsibility Budgeting as frameworks for strategic decision-making in small college athletics, the authors sought to gain a deeper understanding of the increased popularity of marrying the tuition-driven model of small colleges and the non-athletics scholarship model of NCAA Division III athletics as a pragmatic approach to help address financial uncertainty in the small college segment of higher education. Considering the continued increased pressure on fiscal solvency in higher education, this study has ramifications for small college athletics and, more broadly, small colleges. Authors conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews at 11 small colleges in seven states. Three interviews were conducted per institution (33 interviews total): athletics director, university administrator (e.g., President, Provost, Vice President for Enrollment Management), and faculty athletics representative. Findings indicated that strategically seeking student-athlete tuition dollars as a means for institutional financial stability and enabling a quality student-athlete experience are not mutually exclusive.