A Method to March Madness Reading and Review Read the article then write a review. These reading reviews should give a general synopsis of the article, 2-3

A Method to March Madness Reading and Review Read the article then write a review. These reading reviews should give a general synopsis of the article, 2-3 key lines from the article, and a proper APA citation. These reviews should be formatted as an article review note-sheet, which gives the reader the basics of the article should they need to retrieve information on it quickly. Journal of Sport Management, 2008, 22, 677-700
© 2008 Human Kinetics, Inc.
A Method to March Madness? Institutional
Logics and the 2006 National Collegiate
Athletic Association Division I
Men’s Basketball Tournament
Richard M. Southall
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mark S. Nagel
University of South Carolina
John M. Amis
University of Memphis
Crystal Southall
University of Northern Colorado
As the United States’ largest intercollegiate athletic event, the National Collegiate
Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I men’s basketball tournament consistently
generates high television ratings and attracts higher levels of advertising spending
than the Super Bowl or the World Series. Given the limited analysis of the organizational conditions that frame these broadcasts’ production, this study examines the
impact of influential actors on the representation process. Using a mixed-method
approach, this paper investigates production conditions and processes involved in
producing a sample (n = 31) of NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament broadcasts, examines the extent to which these broadcasts are consistent with the NCAA’s
educational mission, and considers the dominant institutional logic that underpins
their reproduction. In so doing, this analysis provides a critical examination of the
2006 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament broadcasts, and how such broadcasts constitute, and are constituted by, choices in television production structures and
Southall is with EXSS, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. Nagel is with the Dept. of Sport
and Entertainment Management, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC. Amis is with the Dept.
of Management, Fogelman College of Business & Economics, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN
38103. Crystal Southall is with the Dept. of Sport Administration, University of Northern Colorado,
Greeley, CO.
678   Southall et al.
“Our mission is to ensure that intercollegiate athletics participation is an
integral part of the higher-education experience…Using ‘business’ and ‘college
sports’ in the same sentence is not the same as labeling college sports as a business.
It is not. College sports exhibits business aspects only when it comes to revenues
– the enterprise is nonprofit on the expenditure side.…[W]e will be inflexible in
our devotion to principles and in our commitment to higher education”—NCAA
President Myles Brand’s Presidential Message, September 11, 2006 (Brand, 2006,
para. 2, 10, 16, emphasis in original).
“How does playing major college football or men’s basketball in a highly
commercialized, profit-seeking, entertainment environment further the educational purpose of your member institutions?”—Representative Bill Thomas,
Chairman, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means October 2, 2006 letter to NCAA President Myles Brand (Thomas, 2006, p. 2).
Coming less than a month after National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA) President Myles Brand’s presidential message, U. S. Representative Bill
Thomas’ eight-page letter, excerpted above, questioned whether the NCAA, with
its $6 billion men’s basketball television contract, fulfills an educational mandate
and thus deserves its tax-exempt status. Such congressional scrutiny into the
NCAA’s educational legitimacy was unprecedented. Clearly Thomas’ letter questioned whether there is an educational purpose to the current manifestation of
major collegiate sport, and the extent to which the NCAA in fact achieves its
stated purpose of retaining “a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate
athletics and professional sports” (p. 2). Not surprisingly, an NCAA spokesperson, Erik Christianson, challenged the letter’s fundamental assertion that big-time
college sport is a business, unrelated to higher education, saying, “We educate
student athletes; they are students first” (Associated Press News Service, 2006,
para. 4).
While NCAA Division I athletic departments, often the largest or second
largest operational units on a college campus, have increasingly been labeled separate corporate entities, they are still, ostensibly, university departments under the
direction and control of university presidents (Padilla & Baumer, 1994). Within
this structure, university administrators contend that athletic contests, as representative events, reflect and convey messages consistent with their universities’ overall institutional mission (Gerdy, 2006).
Without question, many Division I university administrators view their men’s
basketball programs as not only revenue-generating subunits but also as excellent
advertising and public relations platforms through which educational messages
can be conveyed (Brown, 2002; Washington, 2004). As the United States’ largest
intercollegiate athletic event, the 2006 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament drew 670,254 on-site customers (an average of just over 19,150 per session),
generated consistently high television ratings, and attracted higher levels of advertising spending than the Super Bowl or the World Series (Bosman, 2006; National
Collegiate Athletic Association, 2006a). Despite, or perhaps because of, this commercial popularity, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee officially
recognizes its mandate of “…exemplify[ing] the educational mission of intercollegiate athletics” and explicitly acknowledges the need to “…balance the principle
of student-athlete welfare with its attempt to maximize exposure and revenues
from the championship” (National Collegiate Athletic Association, 2006b, p. 7).
A Method to March Madness?   679
While the “student-athlete welfare” component is undoubtedly viewed as
highly important by many university and NCAA administrators, today’s highprofile college sporting events are more than just visible components of collegiate
life. They are advertising and public-relations vehicles through which television
networks garner audience share and promote their programming, advertisers reach
potential consumers, and universities directly (e.g., from rights fees) and indirectly (e.g., from future student fees and alumni donations) generate income.
Thus, the final product that is consumed by, in particular, television audiences is
heavily mediated and the result of apparently contested institutional pressures and
negotiated arrangements among stakeholders (Riffe, Lacey, & Fico, 1998; Silk &
Amis, 2000). However, despite the vast amounts of money involved, and the significant amount of academic and popular press research devoted to intercollegiate
athletics in general and men’s Division I basketball in particular, scholarly inquiry
into the construction and delivery of televised NCAA events remains lacking.
Thus, using both content and semiotic analyses this paper explores the ways
in which competing institutional logics—belief systems that essentially work to
constitute appropriate and acceptable courses of action (Friedland & Alford, 1991;
Scott, Ruef, Mendel & Caronna, 2000)—shape the (re)presentation of the NCAA
men’s Division I basketball tournament, popularly referred to as ‘March Madness.’1 In particular, we identify two perceived institutional logics, ‘educational’
and ‘commercial’, and assess the consequences of the dominant position held by
the commercial logic. In so doing, we provide a critical examination of the institutional mechanisms that constitute, and are constituted by, choices in television
production structures and practices.
Theoretical Background
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament broadcasts are heavily mediated events
resulting from choices made by influential actors involved in their production. As
Riffe et al. (1998) noted, “Communication content may be viewed as an end product, the assumed consequence or evidence of antecedent individual, organizational, social, and other contexts” (p. 8). Such organizational or institutional contexts affect decisions regarding a televised game’s representation. Silk and Amis
(2000) have argued that a broadcast organization’s actions stem not only from
choices based on internal arrangements and predetermined objectives, but also
“…from a comparatively narrow range of options that have been deemed legitimate by influential actors within the firm’s organizational field” (p. 269).
As such, decisions pertaining to the construction of sport broadcasts are
dependent upon extant institutional logics. As Friedland and Alford (1991) pointed
out, institutions “…have a central logic – a set of material practices and symbolic
construction – which constitutes its organizing principles and which is available
to organizations and individuals to elaborate” (p. 248). The institutional logics in
a field determine what are considered acceptable or unacceptable operational
means, guide the evaluation and implementation of strategies, establish routines,
and create precedent for further innovation (Duncan & Brummett, 1991; Friedland & Alford, 1991; Nelson & Winter, 1982; Washington & Ventresca, 2004).
These logics become manifest in a particular field as shared typifications or generalized expectations that allow individuals to engage in coherent, well-­understood,
680   Southall et al.
and acceptable activities. In this sense, then, institutions become “encoded in
actors’ stocks of practical knowledge [that] influence how people communicate,
enact power, and determine what behaviors to sanction and reward” (Barley &
Tolbert, 1997, p. 98). Eventually, these institutional logics become reified as
unquestioned, taken-for-granted “facts” reflected in particular courses of action.
Over time, contestation among different institutional logics usually results in
the emergence of a dominant logic. This works to establish local-meaning frameworks that guide strategy and structure by focusing the attention of decision-makers toward those issues that are most consistent with the logic and away from
those issues that are not (Thornton, 2002). O’Brien and Slack (2003, 2004), for
example, demonstrated ways in which a shift in the dominant logic that governs
professional rugby, from amateurism and voluntarism to professionalism and
commercialization, substantially altered what were considered to be acceptable
activities at the individual, organization, and field levels. Similarly, Cousens and
Slack (2005) highlighted how the cable broadcasting industry’s deregulation in
1977 resulted in an industry-wide shift from a “sport-specific” logic to “…a logic
that emphasized the entertainment aspects of sport and its value to corporate and
broadcast buyers” (p.39).
Understanding the dominant logics that underpin ‘March Madness’ broadcasts involves examining game broadcasts as culminations of many negotiated
decisions and actions among prominent stakeholders or actors (e.g., the sanctioning body [NCAA], the broadcast entity [CBS], and corporate sponsors and advertisers). It is apparent that influential actors in other settings have been able to exert
pressures that constrain the broadcast representation of a given sport event
(Duncan & Brummett, 1991; Silk & Amis, 2000). These pressures may be exerted
explicitly in formal or legal regulations, or may be taken-for-granted assumptions
usually ensconced in institutionally-prescribed codes and values (Silk & Amis). It
should also be noted that such institutional pressures exerted on a broadcast organization involved in televising college athletics may come not only from the sponsors/advertisers specifically doing business with the network, but also from the
sanctioning body (NCAA) and its members, as well as sponsors and/or licensees
aligned with it.
Bourdieu (1996) has held that free-market competition has created a variety
of mechanisms that have resulted in television-production homogeneity. He suggested that this outcome is a result of pressures exerted at the macro- and microlevels. These pressures combine to create the institutional logics that define legitimate activities by key decision-makers. Silk and Amis (2000) demonstrated how
macro-pressures are exerted at the field level through coercive, mimetic and normative mechanisms (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983). Coercive pressures can be
exerted formally (e.g., through established rules) or informally (e.g., by cultural
expectations). Silk and Amis noted the ways in which established broadcast entities Channel 9 (Australia) and the BBC (Great Britain) used their commercial
power—allied with the threat of legal action—to ensure the host broadcaster of
the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur delivered a product that conformed to expected industry norms. In the same study, mimetic processes were
observed when the host broadcaster attempted to overtly copy established overseas broadcasters’ on-air techniques. Finally, normative mechanisms became
apparent when western-educated and trained television personnel—including
A Method to March Madness?   681
producers, camera operators and other personnel—were used to train a local-­
television workforce capable of producing broadcasts that complied with established industry broadcast production methods and standards.
While field-level forces are important, it is also necessary to consider the
cognitive, or microlevel, processes that emanate from the ways in which individuals interpret accepted rules to make sense of the world around them (Berger &
Luckman, 1967; Scott, 2001). In this respect, activities become institutionalized
through a process of “reciprocal typification of habitualized action” (Berger &
Luckman, p.54). This leads to the creation of routines: repetitive, recognizable
patterns of interdependent actions involving multiple actors (Feldman, 2000;
Feldman & Pentland, 2003; Nelson & Winter, 1982). As routines become established, they become conduits through which acceptable courses of action are
spread. These routines result in a shared belief structure that in turn leads to the
appropriateness of established courses of action being unquestioned and takenfor-granted (Barley & Tolbert, 1997; Jepperson, 1991; Nelson & Winter; Seo &
Creed, 2002; Zucker, 1983). Silk and Amis (2000, p. 288) provided evidence of
the outcomes of microlevel processes in the ways in which television broadcast
personnel, “in the chaotic and frenzied environment of live televised sport production relied on a subconscious naturalized code” to guide courses of action.
Altheide and Snow (1979) identified a media logic involving chosen forms or
patterns, habits of thinking and processing that “…has become so taken for granted
by both communicator and receiver that it has been overlooked as an important
factor in understanding media” (p. 10). Duncan and Brummett (1991) further
elaborated the central elements of this media logic as including type of content,
grammar, time-structure, tempo, organization, special techniques, camera angles,
or graphics. Consequently, since televised spectator-sport broadcasts have been
heavily mediated by institutional logics, the broadcasts should always be studied
in connection with the institutions to which they are heavily linked. Such an analysis may reveal how the organization has resolved organizational-level ambiguity
and adopted a dominant logic (Duncan & Brummett).
The macro and micropressures outlined above work to facilitate and constrain
the array of options perceived as available to decision-makers and act to shape a
particular broadcast. This process of repackaging and/or representing a mediated
event involves not only the decision to broadcast some sports and not others, but
also the decision to accentuate particular aspects of the sporting event for listeners
and viewers (Sage, 1998, Silk & Amis, 2000). Because the producers of such a
mediated event have consciously or subconsciously selected the information
viewers receive, the viewers’ experiences of any such event are restricted and
consist of mediated event highlights portrayed in the broadcast. Editors and/or
journalists decree which event aspects viewers will experience. Producers,
directors, and sanctioning organizations often telescope events, magnifying or
minimizing certain elements of the occasion or personalities to fit into the
parameters established by the network, sponsors, and/or the sport’s sanctioning
body or league. Little surprise, then, that Gruneau, Whitson and Cantelon (1988)
contended that sport-media representation occludes the social and historical
“character” of modern sport, with economic pressures and informational
possibilities combining “to produce conventions about what constitutes ‘good
television’” (Gruneau et al., p. 266). By definition, all televised (or mediated)
682   Southall et al.
sport broadcasts are representations of a reality not directly witnessed by television
viewers. Television-sport producers intentionally compose, light, write, frame,
crop, caption, brand, target and/or censor each broadcast’s content to satisfy
various stakeholders’ needs, wants or desires. Each broadcast thus becomes little
more than a simulacrum (Harvey, 1990) of the actual event.
According to Hall (1980) a sport-broadcast analysis should focus on how an
audience or individual viewer may operate inside the dominant code, apply a
negotiable code, or substitute an oppositional code to a represented broadcast. A
broadcast is not passively accepted by an audience; readers/viewers interpret the
broadcast’s meanings based on their individual cultural background and life experiences. As a result, each represented event comes to have many meanings,
depending on how it has been constructed by the major stakeholders, represented
by the broadcasters, and interpreted by viewers through their cultural lens (Sage,
1998). The variation in viewers’ backgrounds explains why some viewers accept
a certain representation of an event text while others reject it. It follows from this
that producers’ representations may be designed to satisfy certain constituencies,
but that any specific viewer’s reception of that meaning is contextually based.
However, any individual interpretation or decision made by a viewer or broadcast
decision-maker is, as Lawrence and Suddaby (2006) point out, still made within a
particular institutional context. Thus, the actions of key decision-makers—event
organizers, directors, producers, graphic designers, commentators, script writers,
and so on—will inevitably constrain the range of available interpretations of those
consuming the broadcast. Further, and perhaps more importantly from the purview of this paper, the decisions made by these ‘cultural intermediaries’ (Bourdieu, 1984; du Gay, Hall, Janes, Mackay, & Negus, 1997) will themselves contour, and be contoured by, the dominant institutional logic. Guided by this
theoretical background, the next section details the data-collection methods used.
To uncover possible links between, and outcomes of, the macro- and micropressures discussed above, a mixed-methods approach including content and semiotic
analyses, which allowed both quantitative and qualitative data collection, was
used. The 2006 edition of March Madness—CBS’s exclusive coverage of the
2006 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship (N = 63 games2)—began
on Thursday, March 16, 2006 and culminated with the national-championship
game between the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Florida. To ensure our conclusions were not based on single broadcast
idiosyncrasies, while still allowing for manageable data collection and analysis,
the study’s sample consisted of (n = 31; 49.2%) randomly selected 2006 tournament game broadcasts. In addition, to contextualize the sampling unit and gain
insights into the labor production…
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