The Sports and Society Initiative
In 2003, Professor of Economics Lucia Dunn introduced The Economics of Sports into the curriculum at Ohio State. Trevon Logan, also professor of economics — and current chair of the department — was developing two large areas of research on sports, sports betting markets and college football polls.
A series of conversations between Dunn and Logan about expanding the reach of sports research beyond economics developed into a concrete project and in 2015, they founded The Sports and Society Initiative.
The core team, in addition to Dunn and Logan, includes Christopher Knoester, Ohio State professor of sociology and Nicole Kraft, Ohio State assistant professor and clinical faculty in communication.
The Sports and Society Initiative is an interdisciplinary collaborative of faculty and students devoted to studying the role of amateur and professional sports in the economy and society. In addition to scholarly and research-based work, the initiative is a resource for critical debate on policy and issues impacting society at every level.
“When you think about sports from the most basic level — individual decision making — all the way up to how sports drives memory, how it impacts gender, race, education, neighborhoods, communities and beyond, all of these issues have broad societal implications,” said Logan.
Why a Sports and Society Initiative
“Other universities have sports-related research programs but Ohio State’s Sports and Society Initiative is different because it is deliberately broad,” said Dunn. “Many other universities with these kinds of initiatives lack our expertise, prominence and reputation in athletics and academics.”
In fact, affiliates of the Sports and Society Initiative include faculty and researchers from the fields of psychology, sociology, decision-sciences, neuroscience, communication and political science, to name a few.
“We have a world-class academic reputation in the Arts and Sciences,” said Dunn. “Combine that with Ohio State’s athletic stature, and the Sports and Society Initiative can become preeminent in the country - a model for all universities.”
Tackling the Issues
The Sports and Society Initiative launched its public persona in February 2016 with its first panel event, Pay to Play: Who’s In, Who’s Out and How Much? Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted and Ohio Senator Cliff Hite led a public conversation around the issues around of ‘Pay to Play’ for students in secondary schools and the financial burden on Ohio families.
In April, the initiative sponsored a national forum on the controversy swirling around college athletics – whether and how much to pay college athletes. Vince Doria, former senior vice-president and director of news for ESPN, Matt Mitten, professor of law and director of the National Sports Law Institute, Marquette University, New York Times sports business columnist Joe Nocera and Andrew Zimbalist, economist at Smith College along with notable former Buckeye football players Shawn Springs and Maurice Clarett, former Ohio State and retired NBA basketball player Lawrence Funderburke, former women’s basketball stars Kristen Watt and Marscilla Packer and former women’s golfer Kelly Trent discussed and debated the issues.
There are thousands of students at Ohio State participating in intramural sports and on intercollegiate athletic teams, yet only a fraction of them will go on to play professional sports. What are the options for those left behind? In September, the Sports and Society Initiative brought together professionals from around the country in the fields of sports data analytics, sports law, public and media relations, sports management for a workshop on alternative careers in sports.
Since sports is such a draw for the university and a key way in which the community connects to Ohio State, the Sports and Society Initiative is collaborating with Ohio State’s College of Social Work, Department of Athletics and the Department of Recreational Sports on the LiFE Sports Initiative — Learning in Fitness and Education through sports — a program to teach young and at-risk students, vital life skills and social competence through sports.
“Our goal is to channel the enthusiasm that these young students have for sports into education and, at the same time, teach them skills that translate in a variety of places in the economy,” said Logan.
Already on the agenda is a workshop to show young students the possibilities for a future in sports reporting, writing and broadcasting across all media. Also being planned is a Life Skills Course.
“We will be bringing in people for workshops and classes throughout the summer who will show the value of an arts and sciences education and that sports and liberal arts can give you tools to be successful in any aspect of life,” said Dunn.
The goal of LiFE Sports is to teach young people life skills, motivate and inspire them to stay in school and help them grow socially.
“This will change their horizons,” said Dunn.
In December, the Sports and Society Initiative received an Ohio State Connect and Collaborate Grant for its work with Ohio State’s College of Social Work on the project, “LiFEsports Youth Leadership Academy: Helping Underserved Youth Be College and Career Ready.” The project is a comprehensive youth development Initiative at Ohio State serving more than 600 young students, ages 9‐18 annually in year‐round programming focused on building financial literacy, enhancing leadership skills, promoting college access and fostering 21st-century skills.
Sports and Society Initiative Board of Advisors
Janet Box-Steffensmeier, divisional dean, social and behavioral sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, The Ohio State University
Steve Chappelear, senior litigator, Frost Brown Todd
Vince Doria, retired senior vice president and director of news, ESPN
Archie Griffin, former director, Ohio State Alumni Association; college football's only two-time Heisman Trophy winner.
Linda Logan, executive director, Greater Columbus Sports Commission
Matthew Mitten, professor of law and executive director of the National Sports Law Institute, Marquette University
Marscilla Packer, assistant athletic director, Columbus School for Girls; director, Ohio Youth Girls Basketball
Shaun Richard, associate director, athletics, The Ohio State University
Greg Strizek, director of research, Strategic Analytics, Inc
Jim Treleaven, president and CEO at Via Strategy Group, LLC
Kristin Watt, partner, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP; Ohio State Alumni Association Board of Directors
Learn More about the Sports and Society Initiative
Each week, the Sports and Society Initiative sends out an e-newsletter on sports news, research and upcoming events. To sign up for this free newsletter, go to go.osu.edu/SSInews.
Follow the Sports and Society Initiative on twitter, @sportssociety
The Sports and Society Initiative
The Sports and Society Initiative