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A Case Study of the Diversity Culture of an American University Athletic Department: Perceptions of Senior Level Administrators

The topic of diversity has received considerable attention from scholars who study sport within the context of higher education in the USA. But despite this interest in the topic, an in-depth focus on how college and university athletic departments effectively manage diversity is missing from the literature. Therefore, we conducted an intrinsic case study of an American university athletic department in efforts to highlight its unique diversity culture (i.e. how it creates and sustains a culture of diversity and inclusion) and the potential impact this culture could have on its various educational stakeholders, and how they interact in this organizational or workplace setting. Findings from our qualitative case study with senior level administrators uncovered two major interrelated themes. First, this institution of higher education has a history and culture of valuing diversity, and this in turn has positively impacted the athletic department’s commitment to diversity. Second, the integration of the athletic department into the broader university culture, particularly because of its organizational structure, has enabled this department to better embrace diversity and avoid some of the educational challenges many of its peers face. Research and practical implications are discussed in this study.