Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Human Communications

First Advisor

Erin K. Willer, Ph.D.


Collegiate sport, Culture, Dialectics, Sport, Structure, Student-athlete identity


Albert Einstein famously stated that the definition of insanity is to continue to go about a process in a similar manner while expecting different results. This is the current state of collegiate athletics. Reformers and community members have high hopes for meaningful change in light of the numerous and ongoing issues of impropriety and scandal that continue to grace the sports page in daily current events. Yet, in spite of nearly one hundred years of reform efforts, the structure of collegiate sport has changed very little. How can we expect a change in the culture without making concentrated effort to change the structure? Through my dissertation project, I looked at discursive struggles within student-athlete identity and collegiate sport structure to theorize identity and structure with respect to the multiple and often competing discourses that constitute collegiate sport culture. With an eye toward envisioning structural change, I posed the following questions: 1) What are the competing discourses that animate student-athlete identity through everyday collegiate sport practices and how does their interplay constitute the meaning(s) of student-athlete identity? 2) How do the competing discourses invoke the structures within collegiate sport culture? 3) How can the interpenetration of competing discourses that construct student-athlete identity inform community members in efforts to (re)develop everyday practices?

Taking an ethnographic approach and employing relational dialectics theory (Baxter, 2011), I found structures of collegiate sport practice to complicate student-athlete identity. Specifically, the policies detailing everyday practices of collegiate sport (i.e., academic advising, tutoring, academic textbooks, study hall) claim to center the educational experience, yet the implementation of those practices in daily processes and procedures largely centered the athletic experience and de-centered the educational experience. My findings challenge present claims by the NCAA and Universities that the experience of the student-athlete are academically centered. My findings also contribute to ongoing conversations that point to the structure of collegiate sport as problematic. Specifically, findings reveal important discrepancies between policy and practice within collegiate sport structure as well as an important link between student-athlete identity and structure through everyday practices. Given the disconnection between policy and practice, the link between structure and identity has significant implications regarding the complexity of student-athlete identity. Drawing on the findings, I offer suggestions for (re)developing and (re)envisioning everyday practices and structure.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Marissa Metala Yandall

File size

303 p.

File format






Included in

Communication Commons