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Sport Management Review

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Sports administration, Organizational behavior



• Sport governance associations remain intact despite predictors of demise.

• NCAA learned to control boundaries, practices, and institutional cognitions.

• Expanding membership boundaries increased institutional dominance.

• Flexible practices allowed for multiple interests to coexist in institution.

• Cognitive understandings are strategically built, adjusted, and defended.

High-profile sport governance associations tend to remain intact despite numerous issues that would predict their demise. As such, these types of associations offer valuable contexts for understanding institutional maintenance work. The authors conducted a historical case study of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the U.S. More than 7000 pages of documents spanning more than 100 years were analyzed to document how the NCAA rose to dominance in a contested field and cemented its governance as the taken-for-granted model of collegiate and amateur sport in the U.S. despite numerous issues that would predict the association’s demise. Findings suggest that the NCAA evolved its methods for controlling institutional boundaries, practices, and cognitions as means for maintaining its dominance. By expanding its boundaries, adjusting its practices, and framing member and public cognitions, the NCAA has been able to create an institution that is responsive to members and defensible against legitimate contestations.


Copyright © 2022 Informa UK Limited

Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Sport Management Association of Australia and New Zealand.

This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher:


At the time of publication, Marvin Washington was affiliated with University of Alberta.



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