New book explores college athletics and institutional values

March 26, 2020

A new book by University of Washington College of Education faculty member Jennifer Hoffman, “College Sports and Institutional Values in Competition,” delves into the intersection of athletics and higher education, exploring how college athletics departments reflect many characteristics of their institutions and are susceptible to many of the same challenges in delivering on their mission.

Hoffman, an associate professor and researcher with the UW Center for Leadership in Athletics, said her book was motivated by a desire to challenge narratives that college sports are disconnected from the broader enterprise of higher education and driven solely by media interests and large corporations.

“What I found unsatisfying about that narrative is it really lacks this wider context of higher education and really doesn’t contribute any kind of rich understanding of the ways colleges and universities work,” Hoffman said, as well as “the ways in which colleges and universities think about and then also navigate and manage their college sports programs.”

Listen to podcast with Professor Hoffman

Hoffman’s book is intended for students and faculty in both sports management and higher education administration programs and its chapters cover the historical contexts and background of campus athletics, issues and institutional tensions over market pressures, the spectacle of college athletics and how this spectacle influences athlete experiences, as well as the ways in which leaders are navigating these issues.

Through her teaching in the College’s Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership program, Hoffman said she’s had the opportunity to have conversations with hundreds of leaders in higher education and collegiate athletics. Those insights are shared through stories that focus on the ways in which athletic departments leverage their institutional values, and the book encourages readers to examine the purpose, mission, and academic values of their institutions to evaluate the role of their athletic programs, and to improve outcomes and experiences on campus for students and student-athletes alike.

One of the current issues that Hoffman’s new book explores is college athletes’ control of their name, image and likeness.

“We’re wrestling with the ways in which we have these amateur ideals around college sports and an educational purpose around college sports, but the reality for college athletes today is much more professionalized and the media landscape is much more commercial,” Hoffman said. “These amateur ideals college athletes have adhered to are really being called into question when they don’t have access to the commercial means that their institutions have access to.”

One of the key messages of the book, Hoffman said, is that anyone who works in higher education, whatever their role, has an obligation to be more than simply a spectator of college athletics.

“We have an obligation to not just wait and wonder what might happen in the future but be mindful and attentive about the ways in which we can shape college sports to be more educational and more purposeful on our college campuses.”


Jennifer Hoffman, Associate Professor

Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications