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Expectations of an Athletic Director


Athletics is a very popular sport since it stands distinctly from others like football, basketball, table tennis, hockey, golf, or even swimming. It involves aspects like walking, jumping, and running in the form of cross country running, race walking, road running, and track and field running. Athletics has become a resourceful sport in different countries due to the image it creates and the revenue earned from it. Many have taken it as a profession and earn their living primarily from athletics for example the athletes, the athletic director, and other staff concerned with the running of athletic programs at different levels. An athletic director is an individual in charge of the management of the athletic programs and activities in schools especially universities, colleges, and secondary schools. The athletic director works with coaches and trainers in the institution of learning or may work with the teams where possible for example if the institution is relatively small in size (Bocco, 2010: 1). An athletic director acts as an administrator and should be passionate in his/her work to help coaches and trainers achieve their goals and develop their careers and also help the athletes achieve both academic and athletic successes. The biggest challenge of an athletic director is usually to bring everybody on the winning track (Fuller, 1998: 88).

Background Information

In 1905, the National Collegiate Athletic association (NCAA) was founded due to the many conflicts and disputes that surrounded the sports and athletic field. The need for qualified professionals to run the schools and institutions’ athletic programs was felt and administrators of the institutions suggested the creation of the post of an athletic director. It was after the Second World War that the national collegiate athletic association commenced the regulation and monitoring of financial and recruitment issues associated with sports and athletics. There was a lot of improvement and the college and university athletics programs had greatly progressed during the mid of the 20th century due to the efforts of the athletic directors towards the growth and advancement of athletics. Although the positive impacts of the athletic directors were too evident, it took a lot of time to form professional organizations that are very essential to all professions. However, after two national conferences on athletic management in institutions one in 1959 and the second one in 1962 the athletic directors started thinking of forming a professional association to govern their practices. It was not until 1965 that the National Association of Collegiate Directors (NACDA) was formed at a conference to deal with the needs of athletic directors in colleges. This association attracted a lot of people and has more than 6,000 members among them athletic directors, associates, and assistant athletic directors from the National Collegiate Athletic association (NCAA), National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), and National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) in the United States. To promote the participation of women in intercollegiate athletics, the Council of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators was founded and later renamed in 1992 as the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA) as a means of showing a better representation of women (Lowe, 2008: 3).

Requirements of the Athletic Director

The requirements of an athletic director vary from one institution of learning to the other depending on its level, for example, an athletic director in a secondary school should have a minimum of a degree with skills in physical education, accounting, administration, and supervision. He should also have knowledge of legal liability. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are essential as the athletic director is involved with various interactions with the students, instructors, coaches, school heads, and other outside bodies in regard to various aspects of sports and athletics. In a higher institution of learning like in a college or a university, the athletic director should possess a master’s degree in business-related fields like finance or marketing in addition to the other skills (Christian, 2000: 3421).

Athletic Director’s Responsibilities and Expectations

Field (2009: 121) asserts that “an athletic director in a secondary school is charged with the duties of designing, overseeing and supervising a school’s athletic program and activities of the sports department, coordinating and administering the practices and activities of coaches, physical education teachers, and other instructors”. He or she should ensure that the athletic and sports programs of the particular institution run effectively and efficiently under all circumstances. Supervision and administration are the key issues of concern in the work of an athletic director. The athletic director works together with other responsible administrative people to ensure that the whole process of sports excel. He or she is responsible for the construction, development, and administering, and supervising the physical education curriculum of the institution or organization he or she is charged, he or she is responsible for the recruitment process in the sports department including making advertisements for the posts, undertaking interviews and recommendation of the personnel to work in the sports department after which he or she takes them through the orientation process and also oversees and evaluates the performance of the staff in the athletic sector. He or she is also charged with the duty of planning and controlling the physical education budget for supplies and giving specifications of the supplies to be purchased since he or she is the one that really understands the requirements, and confirms their conditions after purchase to ensure that they are as per the specifications and in good order. He or she also organizes other budgets and allocates spending, for instance, on team’s traveling disbursements, buying and repairs of apparatus and facilities, and remunerations of the personnel in the athletic and sports department. He or she is responsible for recommending new textbooks and other materials used for physical education, reviewing and appraising them as well as developing new and modern physical fitness programs and improving the status of the existing ones. He or she organizes and plans for all athletic activities to ensure success. It is also the responsibility of the athletic director to maintain a good relationship between the school and the surrounding community by informing them of the progress of sports activities of the school. In some instances, the athletic director is charged with some teaching and coaching duties apart from the administrative roles and directs school and extracurricular athletic and sports programs to have a good blend of the two. He or she in addition works in collaboration with leagues and conferences, for example, on sports scheduling and other issues like the organization of fields and compiles reports on the various sports and athletic teams indicating their strengths and weaknesses and sometimes recommending for changes as well as resolving disputes that may arise among the athletes or coaches. The athletic director also takes part in the formulation of the institution’s athlete policy. He or she is expected to stimulate people to actively participate in athletics; plan and aid in fundraising activities, join national and state athletic directors associations, and attend meetings and conferences to be up-to-date with what is happening in the field of sports and work with the press. The athletic director is highly placed in the sports and athletic sector such that many decisions in regard to sports must be done after the athletic director’s approval (Baechle and Earle, 2008: 581).

Importance of an Athletic Director in a School Athletic Program

The athletic director is a crucial element in a school athletic program as he or she is concerned with the provision of leadership services, in regard to the wide variety of sports, which are very vital in the running and execution of any program or process. The athletic director makes sure that the staff and all the people involved in the athletic program uphold the integrity and hard work in their practices to ensure that the goals and objectives of the athletic program are attained. The goals of the athletic program include; developing skills, promoting physical fitness, enhancing self-motivation, encouraging participation by all, promoting sportsmanship and teamwork among members, enhancing personal and social growth and development, and promotion of self-esteem and spirit of success to all. The objectives of the athletic program include; giving students the opportunity to exploit the potential of their changing physical make up realizing the potential for further physical growth, making participation in athletics available to any student with a desire in athletics, continuous stressing of the values of good sportsmanship and the dynamics involved in teamwork, incorporation into practices and games the importance of teaching athletes how to give and receive recognition and challenging the students to struggle for the highest level of excellence in their participation and competition (Barnhill, 1998 : 2785).

Change of University Programs

According to Sperber (2001: 202), there have been many changes in the universities’ programs as sports and athletics have been given much emphasis than in the earlier years. Many students have developed interests in athletics and hence the need to change the university programs and more especially the athletic program. There have been major arguments on the relationship between academic and sports issues in institutions of higher learning. This is because athletics has received high recognition in universities and other institutions of higher learning especially in the United States bringing the question of whether strong athletic programs add any value to the university education. A high-quality athletic program has been proved to have positive impacts on the image of the university as it is associated with prestige and hence adds to the value of university degrees. Due to the importance attached to the athletic programs in many universities, there has been stiff competition among the universities as no particular university wants to be left behind. The competition leads to improvement of the athletic programs as each university aims at having the best program. The major problem linked with the competition of the athletic programs is the increase in budgetary allocations which cannot be justified. A study directed by the NCAA to evaluate the reasons for increased budgetary allocations bore little fruits as there were few justifications for example contribution of revenue for general operations of the university. The revenue generated by the athletic programs is almost totally consumed by the programs cutting down the net revenue greatly. Successful athletic programs increase the application and enrolment levels of students in universities a good example seen the case of Boston college following quarterback Doug Flutie’s Heisman Trophy. In summary, a high-visibility athletic program promotes the prestige of the university and its graduates although not all leading universities have great athletic programs. There are controversies as many people believe that there is no connection between high-visibility athletic programs and academic success in the universities although it is clear those high-quality athletic programs promote the prestige of the universities (Lovaglia and Lucas, 2005: 1).

Ethical Dilemmas in Sports

The field of sports is governed by various ethics and values, for instance, there is a high attachment to the values of competition and achievement. Some of the characteristics that a person in sports should possess are; respect, fairness, responsibility, trustworthiness, and citizenship. The ethics of sports can be illustrated using the two models of ethics in sports which are the sportsmanship model and the gamesmanship model. The sportsmanship model stresses a commitment to the principles of integrity where one should always adhere to the stipulated rules even when there could be a chance to violate them without being caught. It also teaches that a true sportsman would rather lose than win by using unethical means and that true competition should attain victory with honor. Honor is emphasized in all sports activities and true victory is considered not in winning but in fair participation. In the gamesmanship model, the only issue of concern is winning. Unethical practices are justified unless someone is caught and it is acceptable to undertake any activity irrespective of the means with an aim of gaining a competitive advantage. There are no criteria for distinguishing between what is acceptable and that which is unacceptable in this model. The field of sports is faced with a lot of problems associated with corruption especially in regard to the gamesmanship model for example the athletic director or other staff receiving money unlawfully by the name of the university and sports. The athletic directors and coaches sometimes engage in corrupt activities and are rewarded heavily if they win without considerations of how they attained success. This is a bad attitude where winning is considered as the only aim of sports irrespective of circumstances under which it is gained taking for granted the importance of moral values. Sports should not be seen as a means of getting money and should be highly valued as it is an extracurricular activity as it affects the values of many people including participants and spectators (Anonymous, 1995: 1).

College Sports as a Business for Top Programs

Due to the economic crisis, colleges find themselves with insufficient funds to support their practices and maintain their sports facilities. They for this reason find themselves involved in business dealings in search of money. Under any circumstance, the means of obtaining funds should be ethical. It is however argued that even when the funds are available, they tend to exploit situations that arise for instance, according to Lewis (2010: 1), the NCAA has a lot of revenue generated from the sports activities and yet the people concerned with its success do not enjoy the benefits as they are not usually paid. Some players also go to colleges with other hidden agendas. For example, some students will remain in college for too long and fail to graduate at the expected time without any concrete reason just to gain money from the college’s sports. This should not be the case as the main aim of joining the college was to have access to higher education and not take advantage of the situation. Many top athletes are not usually students but undertake the college’s sports so as to raise the prestige and image of the college and take it as an entertainment-oriented business since they get paid. It is argued that if the paid players are not students, it is better to distinctly separate the business from the school and make it a separate entity. Some colleges pretend that the whole aspect of the sport is academic even when students are not involved and thus they draw recognition and favors from various organizations for instance sponsorships. This is a form of attaining money, making the sports issue a business.


To curb this bad idea of business in sports the NCAA should take action and make the success linked with the sporting activities beneficial to those involved especially the students. For example, universities with a high-visibility athletic program should be mandated to offer free education to students who are athletes and those working be given a chance at the university which is redeemable to benefit as regular students in the university. This will give the poor student-athletes an opportunity to go back to school and pursue education hence retaining the initial intent of the scholarship which is usually interrupted by the business idea of college sports. The student-athletes should also be offered the opportunity to make their choices of degree courses rather than being isolated from the regular academic community and being offered courses that are not of their choice. Any form of exploitation should be avoided under all circumstances and fairness and justice maintained. The university should rationally decide on whom to play to avoid people having to stay for so long in the colleges for purposes of making money out of the sports. The university management should look for alternative aggressive and creative but ethical sources of attaining money required to run and maintain the sports activities for example getting funds from the university alumni and friends. The sportsmanship model should also be adopted to ensure that ethics in sports are strictly followed (Chelladurai and Ogasawara, 2003 : 62).


From my research, it is evident that there has been an increased interest and participation in athletics and sport and hence the need to improve and upgrade the school athletic programs, by all means, to cater to the increasing needs. Athletics has become the most attractive extracurricular activity because of its simple nature and use of inexpensive equipment among other factors. Leadership qualities are essential for all athletic directors since they need to coordinate the emerging roles and responsibilities in their profession. The athletic director should ensure that the aims and objectives of an athletic program are achieved under all circumstances.

Reference List

Anonymous (1995). Sport and American Values Symposium Paper. San Angelo, Texas: Angelo State University pp 1.

Baechle, R.T. and Earle, W.R (2008). Essentials of Strength Training And Conditioning. 3rd Ed. USA: Human Kinetics pp 581.

Barnhill, R. M. (1998). An Assessment of the Leadership Skills of Athletic Directors. Dissertation Abstracts International, 59(08), 2785A.

Bocco, D. (2010). What Is An Athletic Director? Web.

Chelladurai, P., and Ogasawara, E. (2003). Satisfaction and Commitment of American and Japanese Collegiate Coaches. Journal of Sport Management, 17, 62-73.

Christian, H. R. (2000). Leadership Styles and Characteristics of Athletic Directors. Dissertation Abstracts International, 61(09), 3421.

Field, S. (2009). Career Opportunities in the Sports Industry.4th ed., New York: InfoBase Publishing pp 121.

Fuller, V. (1998). Contemporary Black Women. Ebony Magazine Vol. 53(5) pp 88.

Lewis, M (2010). The Business of College Sports. The New York Times pp 1.

Lovaglia, J.M. and Lucas, W.J (2005). High-Visibility Athletic Programs and the Prestige of Public Universities. The Sport Journal. Vol 8 (1) pp 1.

Lowe, A.G.D. (2008). Athletics. New York: Read Books pp 3

Sperber, M. (2001). Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education. New York: Henry Holt pp 202.

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